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The Virgin Birth

Matthew 1:18-25 

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Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. [19] And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly.

We don't know much about Joseph, Mary's husband. We know he was a carpenter. We know he was alive at Jesus' 12th birthday and suspect that he preceded Jesus in death. We know that he lived in Nazareth, his hometown was Bethlehem, and he was a direct descendant of King David. We know that he was a righteous man, because verse 19 says he was. But we don't know much more about him.

How did he and Mary meet? Was their marriage based upon their love and respect for one another, or was it an arranged marriage? In the ancient near east, marriages were often arranged by a person's parents or by a marriage broker. Engagements were often arranged for a couple while they were still children without them ever meeting one another. Sounds like a strange custom to us, but when you consider how young they were when they married, it makes a little more sense. Rabbis fixed the minimum age for marriage to be 12 for girls and 13 for boys. Commenting on the practice, Barclay wrote, "Marriage was held to be far too serious a step to be left to the dictates of human passion and the human heart."

Later, the couple would ratify their engagement with a year-long betrothal. If the girl was unwilling to marry the boy, she could break off the engagement prior to entering into the betrothal period, but once the betrothal began, the relationship was binding and could only be severed by divorce.

This was Joseph and Mary's status when she became pregnant. They were betrothed. The NIV uses the word "pledged" to describe their arrangement, the KJV uses the word "espoused." During this one year betrothal, they had the legal status of husband and wife, even though they were not sexually active.

Quite a different standard than today's sexual ethic. Mary and Joseph had a legal, civic covenant with one another, that could not be broken without divorce, but abstained from sexual contact. Today, it isn't unusual for a couple to be sexually active without any type of commitment to one another-a recipe for disaster. 

Virginity was important to Joseph. And rightly so. The law was clear about this matter. 

Look at Deut. 22:13-21. "If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her, [14] and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her, and says, 'I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin,' [15] then the girl's father and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of the girl's virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. [16] And the girl's father shall say to the elders, 'I gave my daughter to this man for a wife, but he turned against her; [17] and behold, he has charged her with shameful deeds, saying, 'I did not find your daughter a virgin.' But this is the evidence of my daughter's virginity.' And they shall spread the garment Thank you for reading the free preview of this sermon.  The full manuscript is available to Premium Members use these resources in their ministry.
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