By Olive Tree Staff: LaRosa Johnson

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Christmas is right around the corner, so I decided to have us take a look at Matthew’s gospel to show how we can use the Life Application Study Bible  (see previous post for an introduction to the Life Application Study Bibleto help us dive into a familiar passage of Scripture and draw some personal application from it. The passage that we’re taking a look at is Matthew 1:18-25.

In this passage we encounter the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. We all know the story; we hear & read it every year, so let’s not waste time going over the account. With the help of the LASB, let’s take a look at some of the specific details we might have overlooked because of our familiarity with these verses. In verse 19 we find Joseph ready to break off his engagement with Mary, which is a fact that we typically gloss over. This is what the LASB has to say:

Joseph was faced with a difficult choice after discovering that Mary was pregnant. Perhaps Joseph thought he had only two options:divorce Mary quietly or have her stoned. But God gave a third option—marry her (1:20- 23). In view of the circumstances, this had not occurred to Joseph. But God often shows us that there are more options available than we think. Although Joseph seemed to be doing the right thing by breaking the engagement, only God’s guidance helped him make the best decision. But that did not make it an easy decision. Consenting to marry Mary surely cast doubt on his own innocence regarding the pregnancy, as well as leaving them both with a social stigma they would carry for the rest of their lives. Yet Joseph chose to obey the angel’s command (1:24). When our decisions affect the lives of others, we must always seek God’s wisdom and then be willing to follow through no matter how difficult it may be.

After receiving the dream, we find that Joseph awoke and did as the angel told him. Again, let’s see what the LASB has to say:

Joseph changed his plans quickly after learning that Mary had not been unfaithful to him (1:19). He obeyed God and proceeded with the marriage plans. Although others may have disapproved of his decision, Joseph went ahead with what he knew was right. Sometimes we avoid doing what is right because of what others might think. Like Joseph, we must choose to obey God rather than seek the approval of others.

In looking at the notes from the LASB we find some important details that we otherwise would have glossed over. First, given that we’re dealing with Jewish culture, Joseph could easily have chosen to have Mary stoned for adultery, but his initial reaction was to take the more righteous approach and simply divorce her. Yet, once the Lord spoke to him in the dream and revealed the truth behind her pregnancy, Joseph chose the third option of marrying her, the one that he had not even considered. As the notes point out, we don’t realize that marrying a pregnant woman came at personal cost & ridicule to Joseph, with people now believing that he had sinned & was the one who had truly gotten Mary pregnant. All of this helps to paint a more vivid picture of the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth, which was not as calm and stress free as we often times make it out to be.

Now that we better understand the passage, we can look to find personal application, and probably more application than we had originally bargained for in a nativity narrative. The two immediate ones that are mentioned from the LASB notes are: 1) When our decisions affect the lives of others, we must always seek God’s wisdom and then be willing to follow through no matter how difficult it may be, and 2) Sometimes we avoid doing what is right because of what others might think. Like Joseph, we must choose to obey God rather than seek the approval of others. Those are the two obvious ones and there are plenty more to be had, especially when you look at Joseph’s personality profile and look at the notes and points of application to be had there.

Ultimately, what we see here is the value of the Life Application Study Bible. It doesn’t matter what passage of Scripture you’re studying, this study Bible will help you to understand what you’re reading and then help you to apply the truth of Scripture to your life. What more can you really ask of your study Bible? If you want to be able to make this kind of application while studying the Bible then add the Life Application Study Bible to your Olive Tree digital library today.