Little is said about the life of Joseph, the Foster-father of Christ. However, this does not mean that we won’t learn any lesson from His life. After all, he is the foster father of our Lord and Savior. In this post, let me share with you three profound lessons that we can learn from His life.
A brief background of the life of Joseph, the foster father of Christ
The name Joseph means “God will give the increase,” signifying the promised blessings of God for those who will obey Him. Joseph lived in Nazareth in Galilee (Luke 2:4). He is a carpenter (Matthew 13:55), a profession that he passed on to Christ.
The last mention of Joseph was when Jesus was twelve years old, the time when they traveled to Jerusalem and brought an offering to God. The early absence of Joseph suggests that he died before Jesus entered into his public ministry. Joseph wasn’t mentioned during the wedding in Cana and even during the crucifixion of Christ. These were further pieces of evidence that he died early.
Joseph fathered at least four sons and two daughters (Matthew 13:55-56). This proves that Mary wasn’t a perpetual virgin as larger churches would teach us.
Lesson no. 1: Forgive rather than avenge
Imagine if you are in the shoes of Joseph. You were engaged and after a few weeks, you found out that your fiancé is already pregnant. How would you feel? How would you handle such betrayal? How would you be able to contain your anger, dismay, frustration, and most of all, the desire to get revenge?
It is written in the law that those who played the harlot is punishable by stoning to death (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Mary, in the eyes of man, is guilty of harlotry. She was found pregnant before she even got married.
Joseph could have easily invoked this law to his advantage. However, what did the Bible say?
“Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly” (Matthew 1:19).
Joseph chose to forgive Mary. Instead of exposing the “great sin” of Mary, he wanted to put her away secretly and to avoid public shame. This is significantly contrary to Judah, who was in the same situation, immediately passed on the sentence to Tamar, who played the harlotry. He exclaimed, “Bring her forth and let her be burned! (Genesis 38:24).
In this situation, we can see the tremendous mercy that Joseph had shown to Mary. This type of compassion does not come from weak and spineless men. It comes from a strong man who chose to forgive rather than to exact revenge.
Lesson no. 2: Obey God and trust Him fully
In the situation of Joseph, it would have been very easy to follow what his heart dictated and took heed to human reasoning. After all, he had all valid reasons to put away Mary and even punish her for her perceived betrayal.
Thankfully, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said:
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).
What was the response of Joseph? HE OBEYED GOD (Matthew 1:2-25). In a time when he was confused, and a lot of uncertainty may have been bothering him, he just obeyed God and put His trust, not to himself or to somebody else, but to God!
That is the type of obedience that we must all have as Christians. Though things might not seem to make sense, we can have the confidence that God is always in complete control. We may not know what the future holds, but God does. He is the One, who will direct the path of a righteous man.
Lesson no. 3: It takes courage and faith to obey God
Christianity is not for the weak. It is a way of life that demands lots of courage and faith! Joseph had these two qualities.
In a society where adultery and harlotry come with a high price, it would have been easier for Joseph just to put away Mary. However, we Christians are not called to do the easy things. We are called to do the right decision. The right choice in Joseph’s case is to follow the instruction of God.
It is not long for everyone to know about the miraculous conception of Christ. In one occasion, Christ has been called to be an illegitimate son (John 8:41). Before Joseph followed the commandment of God, he very well knew how it would damage his reputation and credibility as a man.
It does not stop there, soon after the birth of Christ, their lives were threatened by one of the highest authorities of the land! King Herod ordered the killing of all male child in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16).
Truthfully, Joseph is an unsung hero of Christ’s early life. I’m sure that Joseph put his life on the line just to protect His family.
These are 3 of the many lessons that we can learn from the life of Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus Christ. His life also sets a good example for all stepfathers out there.
Joseph, though he knew that Jesus is not his real child, he still accepted him as if one of His true sons. He also took Mary as her beloved wife even though she was found with a child before they even got married. He showed what a real Christian man ought to be in the 21st century. We need to live with integrity, respect, and most importantly, godly fear. It is my sincerest hope that we learn these lessons from the life of Joseph.