By Dr. Drake Adura
Happy Father’s Week! I want to speak to you about a father, who is very often overlooked and overshadowed by the prominence given to his wife. I’m talking about Joseph, the husband of Mary and the adopted father of Jesus.
I believe it is a significant thing that even as God chose Mary to be the one who would give birth to His Son, so in His mighty providence He chose Joseph to be a father to Jesus and to raise Him into manhood.
God clearly demonstrates for us that the role of the father is a most important one. Fathers are not only needed for the physical act of conceiving a child; they are also needed for the spiritual act of raising a child.
The child was conceived in the womb of Mary “by the Holy Spirit” - a miracle took place so there was no need for a man to be involved in the conception. But a man was still needed to fill the role of father in Jesus’ childhood. And what an inspiring model of fatherhood Joseph was. Let’s look at some things the Bible tells us about this man Joseph.
Firstly, he was a loving man, wonderfully caring and affectionate to both Mary and Jesus. Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant and he hasn’t had any great revelation yet. What is he to think? What would you think guys? You have fallen in love with this pretty young girl. You do all the right things. You pursue her in the proper customary way.
In stolen moments you have talked with her about dreams for a future together. A happy marriage, a house with a white picket fence, nice children, a business. And then out of the blue you learn that this sweet girl (you thought you knew so well) is pregnant. Newly pregnant. And you don’t know who the father is - but there is one person you know you can rule out! How does it make you feel? Angry? Betrayed?
The penalty for adultery in the Old Testament was death by stoning. And this penalty applied to infidelity during betrothal as well as marriage. Now by New Testament times things had changed somewhat, but the matter was still treated as a grave offence. Upon discovery that Mary was pregnant, Joseph would have been obliged to divorce her, and this would expose Mary to public shame and humiliation.
But, even before God spoke to Joseph - Joseph didn’t have any vengeance or bitterness in his heart. The Bible says (Mathew 1:19) Joseph “was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly”. Joseph was kind and his love for Mary was based on a real commitment. And husbands, the Bible says to us today that we must love our wives with all that we have. We must love our wives sacrificially, even as Christ loved the church and lay down His life for it.
Joseph was a loving man toward Mary. But we also see that Joseph was a loving man toward Jesus. When the child came along - the child he had not conceived - there was no attitude in Joseph that “this boy isn’t my flesh and blood”. There was no resentment or indifference toward Him; no lack of love at all. Joseph adopted Jesus as his own Son. He protected Him from the hatred of Herod. He nurtured Him and cared for Him.
Evidently he taught Jesus his own trade of carpentry. He adopted the one that the rest of the world would reject. Today, by contrast, we see men who are prepared to abdicate their role even toward their own children. Men are opting out of the father role because of its costs. Do you know what the Bible says? “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever,” (1Timothy 5:8).
Secondly, Joseph was a devout man. He was a man who obeyed God. He explicitly followed the Lord’s leading and direction. He didn’t follow his own marked-out plan for life - he wanted God’s plan for his life. So when God spoke to him in a dream and told him to marry Mary (even though she was pregnant) he obeyed. Then when God spoke and said: “Take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt for safety” - he immediately obeyed. He closed up his business and left. Then when God said: “It is Ok. now, head back to Israel”.
Again he did as he was directed. He was a man of obedience. Joseph was also a man of faith. It takes faith to pack your bags and head off to a foreign country with no prospects and no planning; simply on the basis that God said so.
He had faith and obeyed the dream. He could have made excuses to stay where the prospects looked good, but no - he was a man of faith. Fathers, your faith will speak to your children! Raise them in an environment of faith toward God. And one more thing, Joseph was a man who was faithful in spiritual duty. He set an example for his family - going to the Temple; attending the feasts. He was regular in going to God’s house, (Luke 2:41). Our kids are watching our faithfulness.
Finally, he was also a wise man. Joseph was wise because he lived as one who redeemed the time. By all accounts it seems that Joseph had a shortened life. We don’t read of him after Jesus’ childhood, and at the Cross Jesus charged John with the care of His mother - so it seems that Joseph was taken from them prematurely.
But Joseph had used what time he had been given honourable - wisely! He had provided for his family. He has set an example for them that they would remember. He had raised them in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. Jesus was not the only child he had; he raised other boys for the Lord also, and possibly daughters as well.
He had other sons - two of them (at least) were greatly used by God. They wrote books of the Bible (James and Jude). James was leader of the church in Jerusalem. Joseph raised his children in the ways of the Lord, and He left behind him a legacy after his lifetime.
In conclusion, Fathers! None of us know just how much time we have left with our children; with our families. You may only have a year. Two years. Five years. Who knows? Only God! Are we redeeming the time as Joseph did? Encouraging our families at every opportunity; setting an example; providing for their needs. Some say, “Oh yes. I provide for my family” - when what they mean is that they put a few notes of money on the table every week. But what about the other provisions they need from you? Affection? Example? Godly counsel? Laughter and warmth? Loving concern?
We must provide for our own, men! Let’s be challenged together. This man, Joseph, inspires me. I’m sure that he wasn’t perfect - but he was devoted, and he was doing his very best - redeeming the time. He was a loving man toward his wife, toward his son and toward his whole family. Yes we can.
The writer is a father, a senior consultant gynaecologist, a Church Missions and Evangelism Coordinator