MERCIFUL JUSTICE

by Nick Roland | Dec. 7, 2018

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

MATTHEW 1:21 ESV

Have you ever felt stuck in an impossible situation? I don’t handle conflict well, so nearly every conflict feels like an impossible situation to me! The miracle of Christ’s birth put Joseph in an impossible situation. He was engaged to be married to a young girl from Nazareth. In first century Israel, an engagement was a legally binding agreement. To break off an engagement required a full divorce.

When Joseph found out that his bride-to-be was pregnant (obviously not by him), he was in a bind that pulled at two parts of his character. Joseph was “faithful to the law.” He was obedient, fighting to maintain his integrity before God. To overlook the apparent infidelity would dishonor the law. To ignore it and marry her would imply that he was the father, which would be a lie and a public shame on his character. His clear path forward was to divorce Mary because of her perceived unfaithfulness.

However, this would require bringing the charge of her supposed unfaithfulness to light. He would be charging her with adultery, which carried the potential of a death sentence. Yet, Joseph “did not want to expose her to public disgrace.” Joseph loved this woman. Despite his perception of her sin, he felt compassion for her and wanted to extend mercy.

So, in an impossible situation Joseph came up with the best compromise he could. He would quietly divorce her. No public charge of wrongdoing. If he made no charge of adultery, no sentence would be carried out against her. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was the best he could come up with as a mere human. Until he learned of the miracle.

You see, there was no wrongdoing on Mary’s part because this was no ordinary child. An angel told Joseph he had no conflict and could marry his wife with integrity because “what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” This child was coming because humans are guilty. We are lawbreakers. This puts God in an apparently impossible situation. He is perfectly just, always doing what is right and in conformity to His character and law. He does call “good” what is wicked, as those whom He loves are wicked and guilty, worthy of a death sentence. He desires to show us mercy. For a mere human this is truly an impossible situation. Then comes the miracle. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Because Jesus came to die in our place, God’s mercy towards us is entirely just, and His justice is merciful. He can forgive sins without denying what is true. He can call wicked people “good” because when united to Christ, we are hidden in Him, and He is our righteousness.

Who in your life needs a word of merciful justice? Who needs to hear that in Christ, God forgives sins, and He is right to do so? Maybe you need that word yourself. Or maybe someone you know and love needs this gift of grace. Consider passing along that Good News today.

Today’s Reading: Matthew 1:18-21 ESV

8 Comments

  1. Darla Beller

    Nick, thank you for this beautiful parallel between the conflict Joseph had with Mary and God had with us. And now it is our gift to share with others.

    Reply
  2. Barbie

    Thanks for the beautiful reminder of the miraculous mercy of God, and the charge to extend it to others and ourselves!

    Reply
  3. Joy Newberry

    Nick,
    Thank You!

    Christmas and New Year Blessings

    Reply
  4. Adrienne Stone

    I love this.

    Reply
  5. Pierce McIntyre

    Thanks for your insights on these verses.

    Reply
  6. Robyn Yates

    Great words, Nick.

    Reply
  7. Mariae

    Thank you. This is soo good!!! What a beautiful insight and a reminder of mercy!

    Reply
  8. Josh Pankey

    Really cool perspective, Nick. A thoughtful view of Joseph. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Merciful Justice

BY: Nick Roland | Dec. 7, 2018

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

MATTHEW 1:21 ESV

Have you ever felt stuck in an impossible situation? I don’t handle conflict well, so nearly every conflict feels like an impossible situation to me! The miracle of Christ’s birth put Joseph in an impossible situation. He was engaged to be married to a young girl from Nazareth. In first century Israel, an engagement was a legally binding agreement. To break off an engagement required a full divorce.

When Joseph found out that his bride-to-be was pregnant (obviously not by him), he was in a bind that pulled at two parts of his character. Joseph was “faithful to the law.” He was obedient, fighting to maintain his integrity before God. To overlook the apparent infidelity would dishonor the law. To ignore it and marry her would imply that he was the father, which would be a lie and a public shame on his character. His clear path forward was to divorce Mary because of her perceived unfaithfulness.

However, this would require bringing the charge of her supposed unfaithfulness to light. He would be charging her with adultery, which carried the potential of a death sentence. Yet, Joseph “did not want to expose her to public disgrace.” Joseph loved this woman. Despite his perception of her sin, he felt compassion for her and wanted to extend mercy.

So, in an impossible situation Joseph came up with the best compromise he could. He would quietly divorce her. No public charge of wrongdoing. If he made no charge of adultery, no sentence would be carried out against her. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was the best he could come up with as a mere human. Until he learned of the miracle.

You see, there was no wrongdoing on Mary’s part because this was no ordinary child. An angel told Joseph he had no conflict and could marry his wife with integrity because “what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” This child was coming because humans are guilty. We are lawbreakers. This puts God in an apparently impossible situation. He is perfectly just, always doing what is right and in conformity to His character and law. He does call “good” what is wicked, as those whom He loves are wicked and guilty, worthy of a death sentence. He desires to show us mercy. For a mere human this is truly an impossible situation. Then comes the miracle. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Because Jesus came to die in our place, God’s mercy towards us is entirely just, and His justice is merciful. He can forgive sins without denying what is true. He can call wicked people “good” because when united to Christ, we are hidden in Him, and He is our righteousness.

Who in your life needs a word of merciful justice? Who needs to hear that in Christ, God forgives sins, and He is right to do so? Maybe you need that word yourself. Or maybe someone you know and love needs this gift of grace. Consider passing along that Good News today.

Today’s Reading: Matthew 1:18-21 ESV

8 Comments

  1. Darla Beller

    Nick, thank you for this beautiful parallel between the conflict Joseph had with Mary and God had with us. And now it is our gift to share with others.

    Reply
  2. Barbie

    Thanks for the beautiful reminder of the miraculous mercy of God, and the charge to extend it to others and ourselves!

    Reply
  3. Joy Newberry

    Nick,
    Thank You!

    Christmas and New Year Blessings

    Reply
  4. Adrienne Stone

    I love this.

    Reply
  5. Pierce McIntyre

    Thanks for your insights on these verses.

    Reply
  6. Robyn Yates

    Great words, Nick.

    Reply
  7. Mariae

    Thank you. This is soo good!!! What a beautiful insight and a reminder of mercy!

    Reply
  8. Josh Pankey

    Really cool perspective, Nick. A thoughtful view of Joseph. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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