The angel tells Joseph that his beloved Mary is pregnant not by another man as he has supposed, but by the Holy Spirit of God (Matthew 1:20). Matthew lines their situation up with Isaiah’s prophecy, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,” (1:23/Isaiah 7:14). Joseph has two things to do: accept Mary and her pregnancy and keep her a virgin until after the birth of Jesus. The first is explicit while the second is implicit. After all, “The virgin . . . will give birth to a son.” It’s the virgin birth— not just the virgin conception.
I find all of this utterly remarkable. Mary conceived before she and Joseph were to come together as husband and wife in sexual union—I get that. Joseph’s plan to divorce her reinforces the fact to the world around them that they hadn’t been together and the child isn’t his (even though he was going to divorce her “quietly,” people would still find out). I understand that as well. But that God has them marry and then refrain from sexual relations so that the virgin will give birth to a son, well . . . that’s an unbelievable risky strategy, don’t you think?
This means that God is placing the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning His Son’s entrance into the world in the hands of two young, hormonally charged, newlyweds and their ability to abstain from sexual relations with each other! We rightly speak about having faith in God but we don’t say enough about God’s faith in man! God trusts a bride and a groom to remain abstinent. If you believe what many authorities say today, such a belief for unmarried young people is ridiculous and totally out of touch with reality. But God didn’t think so—and praise Him, neither did Joseph and Mary (Matthew 1:24-25)!
Some day in the future, when the great deeds of faith are rehearsed and celebrated, they’ll rightly speak of David slaying Goliath, and Paul traveling all over the world to share Christ with others. They’ll be talk of the anointing of Jesus by a different Mary, or Noah’s boat-building, Abraham and Sarah heading off to who knows where, and Daniel surviving the lions. And at some point, someone will say something about the two young newlyweds who for the sake of God postponed a marital privilege so they could partner with their Father in His plans for the world.
And I suspect all conversation will cease as everyone pauses to ponder this honoring of God in the lives of two young people with tender hearts and true spirits.
May their tribe increase.