3— 9 December 2007

Issue No. 45          

Christmas is coming, and the focus will be on Jesus Christ, and rightly so.  Few will spare a thought for Joseph, the husband of Mary, the man God trusted to raise His precious Son.  What kind of man was Joseph?


By human wisdom, we would entrust our only child to a wealthy and influential person able to provide our child with the best of everything.  So was Joseph a wealthy man?  By all accounts he was a carpenter, making an honest living in the little town of Nazareth. If Joseph had been rich and influential, would there have been no room for him in the Bethlehem inn?  Wouldn’t the innkeeper have bumped someone of low status out to accommodate Joseph?  And would a wealthy man have made an offering of only two birds when the baby Jesus was presented to God (Luke 2:24)?  Two birds could be offered if the mother could not afford a lamb (Leviticus 12:8).


Joseph was a descendant of King David.  Did that confer on him any special status or respect?  Mary, as his wife-to-be, apparently gave him scant respect.  For, after the angel spoke to her about Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Mary “got ready and hurried to a town in Judea” (where Elizabeth lived; Luke 1:39), apparently without Joseph’s permission.  Which sane man in that time and culture would have allowed his young wife-to-be to go so far away from him and for so long?


Mary was already pregnant when she met Elizabeth.  We know this from Elizabeth’s greeting: “Why am I so favoured that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  As soon as your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”  Surely it leaped at Jesus’ presence, not Mary’s?  So, counting the preparation for the long journey, the three months spent with Elizabeth, and several weeks’ traveling time, Mary must have been over four months pregnant when she returned to Nazareth.  Her morning sickness, if any, would have stopped, and her belly had not yet started to swell.  Good timing for a return.


What did Joseph feel when Mary’s pregnancy began to show, making him a laughing stock?  Did Joseph, in fury at being betrayed, denounce Mary as an adulteress?  No.  Joseph, was different from most men.  He “did not want to expose her to public disgrace”. He tried to save her from public disgrace when she had brought him disgrace.


It was actually more than this, for stoning to death was the penalty for adultery in those times, hence Jesus’ famous quotation, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone [at an adulteress]” (John 8:7).  Thus Joseph saved Mary’s life.  He “had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19).


How many righteous men would accept a supposedly illegitimate child as his own, to protect the mother presumed to be unfaithful to him?  Here we begin to see how special a man Joseph was.  Perhaps he loved her very much, but surely he had compassion on her. The Bible calls him “ righteous”; the Greek word dikaios can also be translated as “upright”, what we might call a good man.


It was only after Joseph had considered protecting Mary that the angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20).  In the days before artificial insemination and cloning, how difficult it must have been for Joseph to accept the idea of virgin pregnancy! Yet when he awoke he accepted her as his wife, in obedience to God.  Here we find another special quality of Joseph: immediate obedience to God, even though he did not fully understand the matter.  What a fine example Joseph has set for us.


Joseph was also a man of great self-control, for “he had no union with Mary until (after) she gave birth” (Mt 1:25); he understood that the child in Mary was holy, the Son of God.  And in the family’s night-time flight to Egypt, we see Joseph’s total trust in God to take care of everything, for the most dangerous time to travel was at night.  Moreover, Joseph did not wait to buy provisions, to join a caravan for protection or to ask around for the best route and whether there were provision shops, inns and oases along the way.  He just went, trusting in God.  What trust, what faith!


So when we see the Christmas skits this Christmas, and see the actor playing Joseph standing in the background saying not a single word, let us remember that far from being insignificant, Joseph was a man chosen by God, a man whose actions were louder than words.



Mickey Chiang: Joseph the Father

Text Box: Chapel Summary: 28th November

Chapel on Wednesday 28 Nov was “in the hands” of our MTh students with each playing a part: Joseph and Immanuel played the guitar and drum, Joy was the main speaker and Khamh did the closing prayer.


Joy spoke about God’s great love. He began with his own story of his childhood years when he and his siblings were sent to live in different hostels due to their mother’s sudden illness. He was lonely and missed very much the affection of his parents, but finally he came to know the love he much longed for in God himself.


He then went on to speak about human love and told a funny story to illustrate how selfish we are even with love:



The Hidden Face

Is this really my face?
That I now doubt
For the one I have today
Will be gone tomorrow.
Just as the ones that once were
Are now gone forever.
But of this face I mind not,
For this is not the thing
That makes me what I am.

Do others really see my face?
That I now doubt,
For who knows what they see
Is what they are?
For I know for sure
No two persons
See my face the same.
To one I am this
To another I am that.
I now wonder
If any ever saw my face.

But one thing I am certain of is –
I ought to have a face;
For what am I without my face?
But who has hidden my face
That neither I nor others should see?
Somebody must have created me:
Was there a sign on Calvary?
But then
Somebody must have cheated me:
Was there a clue in Eden?

Why is my face still in murk?
Why is my face still denied?
How long should I bow in shame?
How long should the Mocker mock?
"O this wretched faceless life!"
Was this also the agony of Paul?
Did I hear the same from Lewis?
O to see that wondrous day
When His glorious light
Burns the veil that hides my face
That once adorned my joyful soul!



(Venusa Tinyi, full-time student, wrote this poem, inspired by the recent talk given by Prof James Houston on C.S Lewis’ Till We Have Faces)

“A young man wrote to his sweetheart, “I love you devotedly. I would be willing to walk around the world, to crawl on my hands and knees across the country, or to suffer any way just to be in your lovely, enchanting presence.” And then he closed his letter by saying, “I will see you tomorrow night if it does not rain.” Then he compared human love with God’s selfless love which, according to Joy, was uniquely shown in his incarnation (universal love; a timely reminder as Christmas is fast approaching) and his personal relationship with us in everyday life (covenantal love). Joy closed his message with an exhortation that we  love one another as God loved us.  (Dr Aquila Lee)


(Speaker at Chapel on 5th Dec is Dr Philip Satterthwaite. Following that, on  12th Dec the MCS students will be in charge of Chapel. We welcome you to join us during these last few weeks of 2007.)



Faculty News


· Dr Quek Swee Hwa is leading a series of Bible Lands trips (3 in all) over November and December.


· Dr Philip Satterthwaite will be on leave from 7 Dec to 7 Jan 08 and Dr Augustine Pagolu will be away in India from 10 Dec till the end of the year.


· Dr Aquila Lee spoke at 3 English services at Kg Kapor Methodist Church on 25 November. He will be speaking at the 9.30 service at Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church on 9 Dec.


Let us remember our faculty staff in prayer as they travel, minister and bring the spirit of BGST with them wherever they are.

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