A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.
Frank A. Clark
READ: Matthew 1:18-25; 2:13-15; 2:19-23.
Today is FATHERS’ DAY. I want to speak to you about a man – a FATHER – who is very often overlooked, I think. In some quarters he is overshadowed by the prominence given to his wife. I’m talking about JOSEPH, the husband of Mary and the adopted father of Jesus.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else preach a sermon on Joseph. (Have you?) But I believe it’s a significant thing that even as God chose Mary to be the one who would give birth to the Son of God, so in His mighty providence He chose Joseph to be a FATHER to Jesus and to raise Him into manhood. Mary and Joseph were chosen together to be parents.
[ILLUSTRATION]: I remember a film that was on television several years ago. One of those depressingly sad movies that your wife forces you to sit down and watch with her as she systematically cries her way through an entire box of Kleenex, and then at the end says: “That was so sad – wasn’t it just wonderful?!” But this particular film I remember was entitled something like “WHO WILL LOVE MY CHILDREN?” The story tells of a poor family – hard-working parents with a large number of children – where the woman discovers that she has an incurable illness and will die within a year. Her husband is a good man, but obviously incapable of looking after the large number of children alone – particularly in those days when there was no government assistance or social security. And so the heartbreaking tale is of this mother who goes out searching for loving parents who will care for all of her children; she wants to have them all placed before she is taken. (If you ever intend to watch this movie, be warned – it’s definitely a king-size Kleenex movie!)
But as I recall this film, it leads me to thinking about the birth of Jesus. Just like that woman who loved her children so much that she wanted to personally choose parents for them, and not leave it to chance, Father God in the same way went looking for parents to raise His beloved, only-begotten Son. He searched the earth, and He found a young girl – a teenager engaged to be married – of whom the Bible says: she “found favor with God”. She was a choice young lady. A God-fearing young lady.
But NOTE: God also went looking for a father. He called Mary AND JOSEPH as a couple. And here is the point of it – 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 Ghost” – 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.
(HAVING SAID THAT – let me say a word to single parents here today. Please don’t despair that your children are beyond hope because their father is gone, or their mother is gone – that is NOT the case. God is SO gracious. “Though my father and mother forsake me, yet the Lord will take me up.”)
Nevertheless, the normal pattern is for children to be raised with father and mother. And those single parents, I know, will testify tot he multiplied difficulties when one parent is gone. (Single parents, today, we salute you. We honour you. God bless you for your diligence with those children!)
So, Joseph was chosen. And just as God had looked for a godly young woman to bring forth the child, so He looked for a godly man to be the father. And what an inspiring model of fatherhood Joseph was. God made a good choice! (He is a WISE God.) Let’s look together, for a few minutes, at some things the Bible tells us about this man Joseph.
Firstly, would you note with me that he was:
1. A LOVING MAN.
The Scriptures draw the picture for us of a wonderfully caring and affectionate man. And we can see this, firstly, in his relationship toward Mary.
a.) TOWARD MARY.
Look at MATTHEW 1:19 for example. [READ.] Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant. He hasn’t had any great revelation yet. What is he to think? What would YOU think guys> You’ve 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’ve talked with her about dreams for a future together. A cottage with a white picket fence. A family. 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 (DIVORCE WAS REQUIRED TO BREAK OFF A BETROTHAL ENGAGEMENT), 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: he “was minded to put her away secretly”. (There were ways in which a divorce could be enacted very quietly, without the involvement of a judge, and Joseph was already considering the best way to do this.
Joseph was kind. He LOVED Mary. Forget the MILLS AND BOON” romance novels – this here is a fair-dinkum love story. It’s based on a real commitment. And husbands, the Bible says to US today that WE must love our wives with all that we have. [READ: Ephesians 5:25.] NB – the example is that 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 in his relationship toward Jesus.
b.) 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. 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 it’s costs. Do you know what the Bible says? [1 TIMOTHY 5:8]: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever!”
Joseph was a LOVING man. That’s the first thing that is clear. SECONDLY: Joseph was . . .
2. A DEVOUT MAN.
a.) 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’s O.K. now, head back to Israel”. again he did as he was directed. He was a man of obedience.
For another thing:
b.) He was 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 here this morning, your faith will speak to your children! Raise them in an environment of faith toward God.
[ILLUSTRATION]: I read the story of a farmer who had toiled over a bumper crop of grain – a badly needed crop of grain – a badly needed crop that was going to pay off many creditors and secure the family for another year. But just a few days before it was due to be harvested a freak wind and hail storm ravaged the property, and the harvest was lost. The man stood with his little boy looking over the fields of destroyed grain. The boy expected to hear his father cursing in despair. But instead his Dad began to softly sing: “Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” Years later that boy, grown into manhood, said: “That was the greatest sermon I ever heard!” His father had shown him FAITH where the rubber meets the road!
Joseph was leaning on God. He was a man of FAITH. And one more thing:
c.) He was a man who was FAITHFUL IN SPIRITUAL DUTY.
He set an example for his family – going to the Temple; attending the feasts. (We read about it in LUKE 2:41) He was regular in going to God’s house.
[ILLUSTRATION]: Did you hear about the little boy who was playing on a Sunday morning while his Dad was in a lounge chair reading the paper. And the father said: “Son, get yourself ready for Sunday School”. The little boy asked: “Are you coming with me today Dad?” The man replied: “No, I’m not coming. But I want you to hurry up and get ready”. The little boy then said: “Did you used to go to Sunday School when you were a boy, Dad?” He said: “I most certainly did!” As he walked away the boy mumbled: “Yeah, and I bet it won’t do me any good either!”
Our kids are watching our faithfulness.
So, let’s just re-cap for a moment. Joseph was a LOVING man. (Toward his wife. Toward his son. Toward his whole family.) Secondly, he was a DEVOUT man. ( A man of obedience and faith, and being faithful in spiritual duty.)
Finally, he was also:
3. A WISE MAN.
Now listen to me carefully here. 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.
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.
I mentioned that verse earlier (1 TIMOTHY 5:8) – “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those f his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Some say, “Oh YES. I provide for my family” – when what they mean is that they put a pay cheque on the table every week. But what about the OTHER provisions they need from you?
Laughter and warmth?
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.
HAPPY FATHERS’ DAY.
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