An Angel Visits
Matthew 1:18–21 “She will bear a son, and
you shall call his name Jesus, for
he will save his people from their sins”
(v. 21).

Matthew wishes his Jewish audience to see — through the
structure of his
geneology — that Jesus is the Messiah. Beginning with
Abraham (Matt. 1:2), two
of the three sets of fourteen generations in the
list of ancestors find
conclusions in David (v. 6) and the exile (v. 11). Of
course, Abraham, David,
and the deportation of Israel to Assyria and Babylon
(2 Kings 17:7–23) are
pivotal points in the story of God’s people. David
fulfilled, in shadowy form,
the Abrahamic promises, but his sons lost the
kingdom. Yet Yahweh pledged to
send His servant, a greater son of David, to
end Israel’s exile (Amos
9:11–15). The placement of Joseph’s family at the
end of the third set of
fourteen generations (Matt. 1:16) tells us that they
will be the people God
uses to restore the kingdom.

Joseph is the
adopted father of the Son who fulfills ultimately all of the
Lord’s promises.
Righteous Joseph is a fine choice to raise the Christ, for he
loves and
delights in God’s law. According to the custom in Joseph’s day
(circa 4
B.C.), he and his bride-to-be would be engaged for a full year
cohabitation), and would require a legal divorce to dissolve their
bond. Mary
becomes pregnant during this period (v. 18), which implies the
couple has had
sexual relations unlawfully before the proper time. Joseph is
not guilty of
this sin and needs to initiate a divorce to preserve his
righteousness and
good name. He is unwilling, however, to put Mary to shame,
and so he pursues
a private divorce, an acceptable provision according to the
law of Moses
(Num. 5:11–31), in order to avoid embarrassing Mary publicly

Neither Mary nor Joseph has sinned, and an angel is sent to tell
Joseph not to
divorce her. Mary has become pregnant by the power of the Holy
Spirit and will
bear One who will “save his people from their sins” (vv.
20–21). This Jesus,
John Calvin tells us, delivers His people in two moves.
“Having made a
complete atonement, he brings us a free pardon, which delivers
us from
condemnation to death, and reconciles us to God. Again, by the
influences of his Spirit, he frees us from the tyranny of Satan,
that we may
live ‘unto righteousness’ (1 Peter 2:24).”

Coram deo:
Living before the face of God
mercy, Joseph did not call for the Law’s harshest penalties on the wife
thought unfaithful (Deut. 22:13–21). Depending on the offense and
circumstances, while the church is always called to discipline, it is
always required to exact the harshest penalty. Applying God’s Word
involves much prayer. Matthew Henry wrote: “Were there more of
deliberation in
our censures and judgments, there would be more of a mercy
and moderation in

For further study:

Lamentations 3:58

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