Joseph is torn between doing what is just under the Law and showing Mary compassion and love. Deuteronomy 22:23, 24 makes plain that under the Law, Joseph could have brought Mary before the public court and had her stoned to death. According to God's Law, sexual unfaithfulness during engagement is a form of adultery, and adultery was a capital crime, as serious as premeditated murder.
Joseph knew that Mary was pregnant and that he was not the father of her child, yet Joseph loved Mary and did not want to see her publicly humiliated and executed.
Joseph's tension between justice and compassion is taken away when an angel of the Lord tells him the truth of the Virgin conception of Mary's child.
However, the tension between justice and mercy that Joseph initially experienced at the knowledge of the Lord Jesus' conception is ultimately resolved only at the Cross, the Cross that displays God's holiness and justice as well as his love and compassion: that God "might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:26.)
After serving Grace Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Louisiana, Bob was honorably retired on Sunday, September 27, 2015, and given the title "Pastor Emeritus." This was forty years to the day after he became their pastor. He now works for the Presbytery of the Gulf South as...