Author Kent Nerburn once wrote, “It is much easier to become a father than to be one.” As Father’s Day approaches, I’m ever mindful of my shortcomings as a dad. Thankfully, God hasn’t left us to figure things out for ourselves; the Scriptures are ripe with wonderful (and not so wonderful) fatherly examples.
Whether or not one has actually fathered children, godly men can be fatherly examples to the assembly. Joseph, the adoptive father of the Lord Jesus, is a wonderful example to all Christian fathers and would-be fathers. Although not a word of dialogue is recorded of Joseph, his conduct speaks volumes.
A Christian father is pious
Every time Joseph received a message from the Lord, however irrational it may have seemed, he rose to the occasion (Mt. 1:24; 2:14, 21-22). How many Christian men do you know would jump into a marriage with a woman of ill repute? What mattered most to Joseph was what God wanted, not his own reputation. Likewise, Christian fathers must be led by God’s Word rather than their own instinct.
Not much is given about Joseph and Mary’s home life, but we can see the godly results. We know that when they weren’t home, they were in God’s House (Luke 2). In the same way, Christian fathers need to lead the family into assembly life.
A Christian father is pure
The thing that impresses me most about Joseph isn’t so much what he did (impressive as it was), but what he didn’t do. You’ll recall that he didn’t consummate their marriage until after the Lord Jesus was born (Mt. 1:25). Thankfully, that is not a condition most husbands now face but it tells me that if Joseph had been around today, he wouldn’t be surfing the internet for pornography or get caught in a compromising position with another woman. It would be disingenuous to claim to be a good dad while being a horrible husband; both roles must function together.
Joseph knew that he was of royal blood (Luke 2:4) and acted accordingly – in many ways surpassing the conduct of his own patriarchs! As members of God’s royal priesthood (1 Pt. 2:9), Christians – especially fathers – must represent the King at all times.
A Christian father protects
I hate to say it, but if Satan hasn’t attacked your household now, he will. Family subversion is his game, and he’s been at it from the beginning (Gen. 3). Satan’s attack can come on a number of levels, including physical loss, personal loss and the loss of possessions (see Job).
In Matthew 2 alone, Joseph makes three important decisions which determined his young family’s well-being. Instead of panicking or taking matters into his own hands, he calmly but swiftly removes his family from harm. While we may not have the benefit of an angel of the Lord alerting us, we do have the
guidance of His Word and the opportunity to surrender our difficult circumstances to the Lord (1 Pt. 5:6-9).
A Christian father provides
We all know that Joseph was a carpenter, and I reckon that he was an honorable one. I imagine that father and Son spent valuable time together in Joseph’s workshop in Nazareth. While the Lord didn’t grow up in a wealthy family, they were a blessed family. The Lord would use the interplay between a father and his son as an object lesson during His ministry:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Mt. 7:7-11)
When likening the generosity of our Heavenly Father to that of earthly fathers, I reckon that Joseph was who the Lord had in mind. Of course, all of the above can only be achieved by God’s grace. Thankfully, he wants me to be a faithful and loving father more than I do! May we rise up to the challenge together.
Dedicated to the memory of my uncle George Webster, a “Joseph” among men, who entered Heaven on May 17.