She was in some serious trouble.
It was her first pregnancy and she was young, so very young. How many times each day did her hand rest protectively over her womb and her unborn son as she whispered prayers of both gratitude for the gift of his life and fervent pleas for the courage and strength to face all that lay before her? She was vulnerable and exhausted for certain, but the worst was yet to come.
Her culture held serious consequences for the mothers of illegitimate children. She knew her very life was hanging in the balance. At the very least, she needed to brace herself for the floodgate of public shame which would be unleashed upon her at any moment.
How much could a young girl bear?
If only she had an advocate, someone who would believe her, and stand beside her in the face of it all…
But it impossible. Who would ever believe she had committed no sin, that she remained a virgin still, and the child within her was from the Holy Spirit? Who could possibly take her word as truth if she told them the fluttering in her womb, faint, frail, and small, was the Messiah?
Any day, her betrothed husband,Joseph, would initiate divorce proceedings against her. According to custom, he would hire a scribe to announce her illegitimate pregnancy in the streets.She and her father would be shamed.She could even be stoned. If she, indeed, escaped with her life, nothing would ever be the same. The stain of her reputation would follow her for the rest of her life. Her baby boy would be called names.
But, scripture tells us that isn’t what happened. Joseph, Mary’s betrothed husband, chose to do a very counter cultural thing. He chose to take care of the divorce quietly, There would be no scribe, no public shaming. We are told in Matthew 1:19, that he did this because he was “a just man”. (NKVJ)
Author Kenneth Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, says that Joseph here demonstrates he understands God’s idea of justice found in Isaiah 42:3:
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.” Isaiah 42:3
In the ancient middle east, reeds and wicks were every day items. If a wick began to smolder (cease burning correctly) in an oil pot, it was a fire hazard. It made perfect sense to snuff it out. If a reed became bruised, it was no longer any good for writing. It was only sensible break it and throw it in the fire.
God is telling us that he is so merciful and kind that He won’t even do what seems reasonable to us. His idea of justice is to be gentle with those who are bruised and exhausted.
Are you weary today? Is your heart wounded? Take comfort in the truth that God does not stand in judgment of you. His justice is to show mercy to people just like you, and He has promised to be faithful.