Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. – Matthew 1:18-19
Mary, having left to go see Elisabeth immediately after the angel visited her, has returned three months later. We do not know when she told Joseph that she was pregnant but the history picks up here, in Matthew, with Joseph knowing that his fiancee is pregnant and he is struggling with what to do.
According to the law, as found in Deuteronomy 22, Joseph had the rite to bring Mary before the elders of the city and accuse her of not being a virgin when they got engaged. If this accusation were found to be true, the the men of the city would bring her out of Heli’s house and stone her to death.
However, Matthew records that Joseph is a just man. He had the right to divorce her and have her stoned to death, but chose to have a private divorce rather than make her a public example. This shows his deep love for her and great mercy on his part. A public divorce, even one not leading to death, would have been a great embarrassment to Mary.
Joseph did not fully understand what was happening at this point. The angel of the Lord had not spoken with him yet. However, Joseph does not respond in haste or judgment. His own reputation could be harmed as well, but he chooses to be patient and show mercy.
What an excellent example of how God’s children should show forth His love by showing love and compassion to others!
There have been several covers of this song the past few years, but Skip Ewing sings his song the best. Please follow this link and listen.