A contrast of men


Contrast, n., – the state of being strikingly different from something else.

The contrast between two historic men became clear to me this morning as I was reading the account of Joseph, the step-father of Jesus Christ, and subsequently the account of King Herod the Great of Jerusalem.

If you recall the Christmas account, Joseph and Mary were engaged to be married, or betrothed – a solemn vow, and tantamount to a legal contract at the time.

Mary’s husband, Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  But as he considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him…  Matthew 1:19-20a

Joseph was not a political figure.  Rather, he was an ordinary man.  He had no influence in the land nor wealth.  Yet he was chosen to be the husband of Mary, and step-father of Jesus Christ.  Several traits are deduced from the text.

Joseph was just.  He behaved according to what was morally right and fair.  Further, he demonstrated mercy.  He was unwilling to put Mary to shame.  He was caring and willing to do the best he could do for her in the situation.

He was resolute.  He made a decision, but was not so strong-willed that he would not be logically persuaded to change his mind.  He was thoughtful and reflective.  He considered what was going on and thought about it.  Together these characteristics describe a man.  Here was a man that God could use for a historic purpose.  His heart was right.  He was prepared to hear the Lord.  He was humble and responsive to the direction God was leading.  This is all that God asks of each of us.

In stark contrast is King Herod, the Great.  Herod ruled at the time of the birth of Christ.  He was granted the title of “King of Judea” by the Roman Senate, and was a vassal to the Roman Empire.   Herod is described in the biblical account of the Christmas story as well.  The Wise Men came to him seeking the star in the East, spoke with Herod, but they never returned to Jerusalem after finding the Christ child.

The account sharply depicts Herod’s character:

Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.  Matthew 2:19

Herod lived a different life than Joseph.  He was ruler of the land.  He had political power and influence.  We can assume he had wealth.  He was a man of guile, ambition, anger, and vengeance.  He was willing to wrongly use his power to carry his selfish political maneuvering.  He was not just.  He did not seek nor recognize the truth.  There is no mention of him seeking God for guidance in this situation.

I want to emulate Joseph.  He is a man of character.  He is a man that acts justly and yet embraces mercy.  He is humble and willing to change his mind when given other guidance.  He is a man after God’s own heart.

There is no record of Joseph after Jesus became a young man.  We can assume that he died around the time that Jesus reached maturity.  However, Joseph fulfilled a great role.  Although he never reached greatness by political or financial standards, he left a tremendous legacy that will last an eternity.

This is how God uses each of us.  Not through “greatness”, wealth, or political influence.  Rather, through humility and just actions God uses us to live abundant and meaningful lives.  This is our legacy.  This is what matters – to live justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly.

How about you?  What character traits matter most to you?  Is there somewhere in your life where you can be less like Herod and more like Joseph?

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?       Micah 6:8

Blessings to you and your family throughout 2015.  Please drop me an email if you would like to suggest any topics for me to cover during the year or if you would like to submit a guest post.

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About John Forrest