This post has been hiding in my drafts folder for just about two years. I was busy with a series on adoption in the Bible when our own adoption story took off unexpectedly and ended just as suddenly with devastating heartache. After wrestling, pondering and praying I decided there is no better time than Christmas to wrap up this story and share it with you as a symbol of my own progress through this chapter.
The theme of adoption is weaved throughout scripture, starting with God’s adoption of the Israelites, through to the adoption of Jesus by his earthly father – Joseph, and ending in the assurance of our adoption as heirs of the Father, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Other examples of adoption in the Bible are the stories of Esther and Moses.
I have to be honest – I did not consider Jesus “adopted” until I read Hidden Christmas by Timothy Keller a few Christmases ago. (Nettie’s Book Club did a thorough study of this book in 2021.) Keller’s book as well as Adopted for Life by Russel Moore convicted my heart about the adoption cause. In his book, Moore explains that Jesus shared no DNA with his earthly father, Joseph, but was under his guardianship. Joseph had to take care of his earthly needs as well as educate Jesus in the Jewish faith as a young boy. Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, but as a little lad, he called Joseph Abba/Dad and obeyed him as a son should obey a father. Jesus even followed in Joseph’s footsteps as a carpenter as was the custom at that time.
When Mary tells Joseph she is expecting a child, he is not exactly thrilled and makes plans to end the engagement quietly. However, God intervenes and speaks to Joseph in a dream, revealing the identity of Jesus. Joseph recognizes the voice of God and makes one of the toughest decisions any man in ancient Galilee can be expected to make. Remember, for the rest of his life people will whisper about how Mary tricked him with a premature pregnancy. He walks away from economic security when they fled to Egypt to save Jesus’s life, giving up his business and his family for the sake of his adopted son. Joseph demonstrates the true definition of religion expressed by James in his epistle:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.James 1:27
The more we get to know Joseph, the more we realize that he was chosen by God to adopt baby Jesus. “Jesus’s identity as the Christ…is tied to his identity as the descendant of David, legitimate heir to David’s throne” (Adopted for Life, Russel Moore).
Many of the prophets in the Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would descend from the line of David. Both Matthew (Matthew 1:2-16) and Luke (Luke 3:23-38) record the lineage of Jesus, but these two family lines do not read the same. Jackson Son explains that Matthew starts the lineage of Jesus on his father’s side with Abraham and names each father in 41 generations ending in Matthew 1:16: “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” The genealogy in Luke is recorded with Joseph’s name, but this lineage was Mary’s line. It follows the family line back to Adam who was the first son of God. Seventy-seven generations are recorded. Luke 3:23 states: “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.” Since Joseph was head of household, he was listed in Luke as the son of Heli but Mary was actually the daughter of Heli. Therefore, Mary was also from the house and lineage of David since she descended from David’s son Nathan.
Both the lineages of Joseph and Mary match with the same names from Abraham to David. Joseph and Mary were very distant cousins. They each fulfilled the prophecy that the Messiah would descend from the house and lineage of King David. Jesus’ legal title to the throne of King David was through Joseph, but his blood title to the throne was through Mary. Therefore, the adoption of Jesus by Joseph is a double confirmation of the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah.
Russel Moore further develops the typology of Joseph’s adoption of Jesus to show how this is also a picture of God’s fatherhood to his children. This relationship is “personal, familial” and protecting. Elsewhere in the Bible, we see similar symbolism. David writes about God as “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows: who settles the solitary in a home” (Psalm 68:5-6). Just as God adopted his chosen tribe of Israel and led them through the desert to their promised land, those who follow Jesus are adopted as heirs by God, the Father, and look forward to spending eternity with God in the perfect Promised Land.
David Garner develops the definition of adoption in this thorough article.
“Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God.”Westminster Shorter Catechism, 34
Paul explains to the Galatians that Jesus Christ, the Son sent by the heavenly Father, came to this earth to redeem us from the curse of the law (Galatians 4:4-5) so that we can be adopted as sons. Jesus took on flesh and died on the cross to make our adoption possible. Since the beginning of time, God planned that Jesus would restore our relationship with the Father to secure our adoption. (Side note: It is important to understand why we are adopted as sons and not sons and daughters. In ancient Israel, the son would inherit the full estate and the daughter would be left with nothing. She would be dependent on her father, husband or brothers. She could not earn money or own property. Therefore, to be adopted as sons and heirs mean we get the full inheritance of Jesus.) “Christ came, suffered and died for our full and final adoption” (David Garner).
The picture of adoption is spiritual warfare. Whether it is adopting orphans this side of heaven, or looking forward to being in heaven with our Father forever. Satan hates adoption. I believe that is why it is so hard to go through the process and also why it is wrought with heartache and struggle. In his wisdom and experience as an adoptive father, Russel Moore encourages us not to be put off adoption by the possible depression and anxiety produced by the process. “What if in so doing, you’re protecting yourself from more than possible sadness and grief? What if you’re protecting yourself from love?” (Adopted for Life, Russel Moore) Through adoption, we mirror the Father’s heart to fight for orphans and make them sons and daughters.
Having said all of the above, I don’t know if I will have the courage to walk this path again. I wholeheartedly believe in the beauty of adoption and sincerely want to love a child who does not know love, but I don’t know if I can survive another heartbreak. Perhaps the Lord will still perform a miracle for us. Perhaps I will just inspire someone else who is on the fence about adopting.
Only God know.
This sermon from Ligpunt church reminded me of the beauty of adoption. It is in Afrikaans but it is very powerful:
For a bit of fun, here is Andrew Petersen’s version of the lineage of Jesus: