By Philip McCarty
Philip retired from Shelter Insurance and has a Masters in Christian Thought (which is Christian apologetics) from Bethel Seminary. For over twenty years he has taught the Bible and theology at Woodcrest Chapel in Columbia, MO and, now that he is retired, he is looking forward to spending more time teaching and writing.
It was a very cold day in February, and the weather was a little nasty, but we had to go see her. The picture was just too cute to pass up. We entered the Central Missouri Humane Society and met Dolly for the first time. (They had named her Fried Rice, but we changed it to Dolly.) It was love at first sight for all parties involved. We adopted her. While adopting a dog Is not as significant as adopting a child, having Dolly makes me think about those brave and loving people who adopt children.
The Bible shares some stories about adoption. In the book of Exodus, chapter 2 we find the story of Moses. In chapter 1 we learn that the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt. The Pharaoh commanded that all the male Hebrews babies be killed by drowning them in the Nile River. Moses’s father and mother kept him safe as long as they could, but eventually, the heart wrenching day came when they had to do something about Moses. He was too big to hide. According to Exodus 2:3, Moses’s mother made a little boat for him out of a basket and set him in the Nile. Technically, she was obeying the law; Pharaoh just said to throw them in the Nile, he did not say you couldn’t provide a boat.
I can’t imagine the pain and suffering Moses’s mother and father went through in giving him up to an uncertain future. God was looking out for them, and Moses was found by Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses’s mother was able to care for Moses as and nursed him for Pharaoh’s daughter. Then came the day when Moses was adopted into Pharaoh’s family. It must have hurt the parents to give Moses up, but they knew he was going to have a better chance in life than if he had stayed with them. The only options Moses had as a male Hebrew were death or slavery. At least as a part of the royal family he would have a better life. Many, if not all, adopted children wonder why their birth parents gave them up for adoption. It can be a source of pain for them, especially if they do not know the full situation their parents were facing. I believe that most people who decide to place their children for adoption do so with pain and suffering, like Moses’s parents, but with the idea that the child will have a better life with someone else.
A second adoption found in the Bible is one we do not think about. The first sixteen verses of Matthew and Luke 3 23-38 show us the lineage of Jesus through Joseph. But these genealogies differ in who Joseph’s father was. Matthew states that Joseph was the son of Jacob, while Luke declares that Joseph was the son of Heli. But how could Joseph be the son of two fathers?
This question is often answered by saying that the genealogy in Matthew is that of Joseph, and Luke relates the lineage of Mary. But this explanation seems to be stretched thin. For one thing, blood lines were not rendered through the mother, only the father, so Luke would have no reason to render the line through Mary. Second, both Matthew and Luke say they are presenting the genealogy through Joseph, not Mary. At this point we may be thinking that one of the two gospel writers got the lineage wrong. An early church theologian named Augustine pondered this question in the early 400s and came to a very simple conclusion that fits with the common customs of the culture of first century Judaism and remains true to what the Gospel writers recorded. He suggested that Joseph was adopted. In this case, Joseph could claim his lineage through both fathers as he could claim his adoptive father’s bloodline as his own. Both men may have lived in Bethlehem. It is possible that Joseph’s biological father died while Joseph was very young, leaving a child and a young mother to fend for themselves. (I believe this may have been Heli as that line has the name Joseph in it several times.) Joseph’s adoptive father, possibly Jacob, then married Joseph’s mother and adopted him as a full son. Therefore, Joseph would have two fathers, and two genealogies.
With this knowledge we can see why God would choose Joseph to be the adoptive father of Jesus. Based on his own family experience, Joseph would be more accepting of adoption, and treat Jesus as his own son. Many people today have been adopted, and many of them adopt children of their own because of their experience. They know the complexities and complications that adopted children face, and are able to help them work through those challenges. How would this world be different if Jacob had not adopted Joseph, or joseph not adopted Jesus? People who adopt children make a huge difference in that child’s life, and in the life of others.
The Apostle Paul relates this idea of adoption with our relationship with God. In Romans 8:15 he says, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Like Moses, our adoption into the family of God brings us out of a life where all we have is slavery; it brings us into a life of being a child of the King, like Joseph. God wants all of us to be a part of His family, and this is done through adoption as we enter a relationship with Jesus.
We thank God every day for the joy, love, and life we experience from having Dolly. I can only imagine that adoptive parents experience joy, love, and life from their children. And, hopefully, the children can be thankful for the joy, love and hope that the parents provide for them.