Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Measure of a Man

Sunday, many of us thanked God for an earthly example of His Fatherly love. Unlike some, I was blessed to grow up in a home where I never doubted that both my earthly and heavenly fathers loved me completely. My “daddy” and I still spend time together each week; he knows the depth of my love for him, so Father’s Day has never seemed like a big deal. But yesterday seemed different to both me and my husband, perhaps because it’s the first Father’s Day where we can see how much our lives impact our two-year-old son, the first one where we’re acutely aware of setting the right example for our own children.

When searching for characteristics of a godly father, obviously, one would look at God, Himself, as the perfect example. The Old Testament also gives several fatherly examples, but most had serious parenting issues a father today would be wise not to emulate.Then, there is the New Testament's Joseph, God’s choice to be Jesus’ earthly father. Have you ever asked yourself when God planned to send Jesus to earth as a tiny baby, what qualities He saw in Joseph that made him the perfect earthly father?

Scripture doesn’t say much about Joseph. He was a carpenter, a laborer, a Jew, a lower-class man. Yet, the few verses about him speak volumes about what a father should be. Consider just a few of Joseph’s character qualities that made him a good father:

1. Joseph was immediately obedient to God’s words: When the angel appeared to Joseph, telling him to take Mary as his wife despite the present circumstances surrounding her pregnancy, Scripture says, “And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife” (Matt. 1:24). Later, when an angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt because Herod was seeking Jesus’ life, “So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt” (Matt 2:14). Note that Joseph doesn't question God. He simply and immediately obeyed—even middle of the night. He followed God’s commands at all costs.

2. Joseph did not let personal pride or anger determine his actions: After learning of Mary’s pregnancy and knowing he wasn’t the father, Matthew 1:18 says, “And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” Can you imagine a world where pregnancy before marriage was punished by a public stoning? Joseph would have been completely within his rights to make Mary a public example and sign her death sentence.

Imagine his first thoughts before the angel explained the true nature of Mary’s pregnancy—anger, hurt, and humiliation. Accepting her as his wife now that she was pregnant would mean he would be treated differently by the community for the rest of his life, perhaps even ostracized. Thankfully, Joseph believed the angel and put God as well as the baby's and Mary’s well-being before his own personal pride.

3. Joseph put aside a career as well as left home, family, and country for his child’s welfare: Joseph obeyed God’s command to flee to Egypt and live there until the death of Herod. Later, God told him to return to Israel, but still not to his hometown: “Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth” (Matt. 2:22b-23).

Imagine Joseph—a carpenter by trade, possibly looking forward to taking over a family carpentry business in a small town where everyone knew his reputation and name. We can be sure that having a baby this way and then leaving town were not the career moves Joseph had planned.Imagine him having to find work as a foreigner, a Jew, in Egypt. Sure, he had a useful trade, but he had no reputation in Egypt, no portfolio of work to show potential clients, no family to provide helpful emotional or monetary support. It was just him, Mary, and Jesus relying on God above for their daily bread. We know of Joseph's poverty because when he and Mary went to church to present Jesus to the Lord, they offered a poor-man’s sacrifice to God, “‘A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS’" (Luke 2:24). Obeying God and putting his family before his own personal dreams of success were very costly choices.

The lessons here are simple but deep and eternal. To be a good father (or even a good mother), one must hold fast to these three truths: Put God first. Put family second. Put self last. That’s how you tell the measure of a man.

I ask your grace today in allowing me this repost from the archives so that I can spend a little extra time with my husband on Father's Day.

I thank God for the father of my children, the man who shows tender affection to his little ones when they are sick... who slows his pace to walk hand in hand with shorter legs...who makes time for a rollicking game of Candyland after a hard day's labor...who joins his family in silly backyard Berry Blossom Festivals (and anything else he would never have dreamed of participating in), all to make his children smile.Thank you God for fathers who show their love daily, who show us the Father.

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