TEXT: And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:19)
When I was taking college Greek, my professor pointed out something I did not realize. We usually read this verse to mean that because Joseph was a just man, therefore he was unwilling to put Mary to shame. However, the Greek grammar leaves the relationship of the phrases in question. It could just as easily be translated, "although he was a just man ..."
If we read the text this way, it suggests that Joseph was a man who followed the law of Moses-a just man, a law-abiding man. But in this situation, the law was uncompromising-a betrothed woman who had sex with another man would be treated as an adulterous wife and stoned. Joseph was tenderhearted; he could not face doing that to Mary, or even making her shame public. And so he settled on a quiet divorce. It was the best compromise he could think of between justice and mercy.
This kind of conflict happens so often in our world. Justice pulls us one way, but mercy urges us to go the other. God, too, faced a conflict between justice and mercy when He was dealing with us. Long ago humanity rebelled against God. We chose to go our own way instead of listening to Him. As a result we brought down trouble, grief, hatred, sickness, evil, and death upon our whole human race.
It would be simple justice if God decided to leave us in that mess-hurting, ruined, spiritually dead. But God still loves us, and He had compassion on us. He didn't want to see us destroyed.
So God found a way to satisfy both justice and mercy. He came into the world to be one of us, the man Christ Jesus. He took the penalty for our rebellion upon Himself, all the way to death on a cross-so we wouldn't have to pay that price. He broke the power of sin and evil on that day. And when He rose from the dead three days later, He broke the power of death over everyone who is willing to trust in Him.
THE PRAYER: Father, thank You for having mercy on us, and help me to show Your mercy to others. Amen.