The angel who delivered the remarkable news that Mary was to become pregnant with God’s Son disappeared as quickly as he had arrived leaving her alone. Who could she tell? Surely, no one would believe her. How could she tell Joseph? She needed time to process what had happened. She would visit her cousin Elizabeth. Surely Elizabeth, who also carried a miracle baby, would understand.
When Mary arrived and greeted her cousin, Elizabeth felt her baby leap within her. The Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth and she proclaimed, “Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43 NASB)
Mary’s hope rose; she didn’t even have to tell her! What a relief, someone understood. Perhaps God would tell Joseph just as he had Elizabeth.
Yet that was not God’s plan. Three months later Mary returned home and dropped the bomb, “Joseph, I am pregnant, but it is not what you think. I am carrying God’s child.”
Isaiah 55:8 tells us that God’s ways are not like our ways. Because we don’t think like God we can wrongly believe our ways are better than His. If I had been directing these events, I would have sent the angel to Joseph before Mary came to him, bypassing all tension and pain. After all, God had let Mary’s cousin Elizabeth know, He certainly could have let Joseph know too. Yet God waited.
Joseph was betrothed to Mary — which means they were in a formal covenant relationship that could only be broken by death or divorce. How would you have responded if you were in his place? Would you have understood? Joseph’s good heart was unwilling to disgrace her, but, from his limited perspective, her pregnancy revealed a problem too big to overlook, so he decided to divorce her secretly (Matthew 1:19).
Even in the midst of his churning emotions, Joseph’s righteous character guided him to privately and graciously sever the relationship. Joseph wanted to shield Mary, not shame her. The angel finally appeared to Joseph in time to stop him from divorcing her. In the meantime Joseph modeled how the righteous relate with someone who has betrayed them or chosen a life of rebellion. Because he showed grace, when Joseph learned that Mary was indeed pure, their misunderstanding was easily healed.
Sometimes God’s perfect timing amazes us. Other times, however, God seems to be late. Where does God seem to be running late in your life? The Creator of time is never late, but He is often misunderstood.