John Paul II made a pointed statement concerning the way we read the Bible. He taught that neither the new nor the Old Testament is more efficacious than the other but that the book must be read as a “unity” with one section informing the other in order to give a picture of the whole. Jesus’ presence upon the earth was the fulfillment of a promise made to Moses and the Israelites and the story of the New Testament stands on the shoulders of the Old. This could have not been truer as can be seen in the story of Joseph.
Joseph of the New Testament was, of course, Jesus’ adopted Father and the one who was his teacher and mentor along with Mary. Curiously enough the bible has not one recorded incident of Joseph speaking during his pivotal role in the life of Jesus. His influential presence, however, is witnessed and affirmed in more ways than one. The “first” Joseph was the Old Testament young man who had twelve jealous brothers who tried their best to get rid of him because he was the youngest and most favored by their father, Jacob. Jacob was the son of Abraham whom the Lord promised would be the father of many generations. Joseph’s biggest sin, in his brother’s eyes, became the fact that Joseph was a visionary. He retold a vision that showed him as the Lord over all of his brothers; it was the last straw for them. They spitefully called him “The Man of Dreams” and sold him to a passing caravan. His vision was eventually affirmed by an unbelievable set of circumstances and in the end the family resolved their differences and became the literal embodiment of the twelve tribes living in the promised land of prophecy.
Joseph of the New Testament echoes his predecessor. He is guided by three dreams all of which he faithfully observes. In an elegant echo of the Old Testament story Mary’s husband gives all of his faith and trust to the Lord, as crazy as it might have seemed. In a stronger than coincidence occurrence, the Lord’s affirms the new Joseph as a pivotal member of prophecy fulfillment by sending the Holy Family back to Egypt as their very first action on earth. Joseph of the Old Testament wound up in Egypt as a result of the cruelty of his brothers, but Egypt was also the place that literally saved his kin for the future. It also proves to be the place that literally saves the Holy Family and the Savior of the world. All of this transpires without Joseph needing to say one word.
In an interesting twist it is significant to note that when Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant; his contemplation led him to “plan” to divorce her quietly. Have you heard the saying that goes like this: “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans”? This bit of contemporary philosophy always gives me cause to step back and take a breath. Sometimes we get too preoccupied by the importance of our “plans”. We have schedules, and parameters, time constraints and “locations” that we need to be at. If we take a more focused view of Joseph perhaps we could learn about living a life that cultivates more of a listening ear for God and less of a listening ear for our own ego. In first century Palestine being pregnant and unmarried was a “stoning offense”, no question. For Joseph to take Mary as his wife put him at great peril. However, once Joseph received God’s message in a dream, this was no longer a consideration. He blindly went forward to do God’s will. He immediately implemented the message of the angel. Talk about a leap of faith! What he was asked to do made no sense in the context of his culture. As a matter of fact, his obedience did not create smooth sailing. Consider the circumstances that followed; they had no shelter for the birth of the babe, they hastily departed for a foreign land with no prospects of home or job, they returned back home after years, they lost their son upon return and when finding him were greeted in a rather rude way.
At no time in this “ball of confusion” is Joseph recorded as complaining, criticizing or blaming God. His leadership and protection is steady and without question of the very odd directions that he kept receiving. “Whenever the divine favor chooses someone to receive a special grace, or to accept a lofty vocation, God adorns the person with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand.” (St Bernard of Sienna †1444, Italian Franciscan from his homily on the Holy Name of Jesus) Clearly Joseph “had what it took” to get Jesus to manhood and his ministry on earth.
If you are sincere about walking with the Lord, one of the things that you need to be working on is your discernment, the way that the Lord speaks to you. Do not limit God by expecting information that is handed to you in safe, comfortable, logical ways. As you can see from the example of Joseph, God does not always operate according to the human concept of logic. At each “crazy step” that God asked Joseph to take he should have “logically” declined. It would have been safer and easier for him. The most elegant characterization of Joseph is that he did not speak in the scriptural record. He was the one human in all of time and eternity to be entrusted with the care and protection of God’s only son. He simply listened and then acted. How could words top that? Maybe the phrase; "But that was only a dream." should be removed from your vocabulary.
Copyright©2011, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved.
Check out more of Kathryn’s logic at; www.atravelersview.org
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