To be continued...
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
A banquet of grace, part 5
Wow. Well, where do I begin? For the past few weeks I have been studying everything I can find on "adoption"; "fatherless"; "orphan" and the related in the Scriptures, and chewing until it has laid me low once again. I've been leveled by God's grace and filled with joy and gratitude and mission. He reveals Himself to be "Father of the fatherless" in Psalm 68:5; the "Helper of the fatherless" in Psalm 10:14, etc. In Deuteronomy 10:12-22, He describes Himself to Israel and tells His people what He requires of them and why...go read it and anticipate how the Lord will do more great things in and through us to the praise of His glory as we walk by faith in obedience. Will we fear the LORD and serve Him who "administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing"...will we "therefore love the stranger," remembering our own rescue?
A verse often quoted by adoption advocates is James 1:27 which says, "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." How many of us tend to think of religion as a set of rules to live by? Or a system of faith? Its etymology suggests it means to reconnect (re = again; ligare = bind/connect). From Adam to us [apart from His amazing reconnecting grace] we're separated from God because of our sins...not separated in the sense of just being in a different place, but separated from His love and positively due His wrath/awaiting His just judgment. Before the foundation of the world, He chose many to show compassion to, sent His son who bore His full wrath in our place, and justly/lovingly/mercifully reconnected us to Him. If we've really been reconnected to God through Christ, He assures us we will grow in His likeness. Pure and undefiled "reconnectedness" is observable...with heart and soul and mind and strength we begin to properly fear and serve the Living God, therefore loving the stranger [visiting orphans and widows in their trouble], remembering our own rescue.
Why are we told to be holy? (1 Peter 1:15,16) Because He is holy.
Why are we told to walk in the Spirit? (Galatians 5:16-25) So we'll bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives in contrast to busying ourselves with the works of the flesh. Our reconnectedness is made visible.
Why are there many exhortations to administer justice for the fatherless, widow and stranger? (Deut. 10:18) Because God administers justice for them. In Hosea 14:3, God's people pleaded with Him for help on this basis: "For in You the fatherless finds mercy." He has also commanded provisions be made for them via gleanings and tithes, often reminding Israel to remember "you were a slave in Egypt." He wanted His people to take special care via free will offerings during the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles to make sure the fatherless, widow and stranger were also able to rejoice within their gates (Deut. 16:9-17). There are seven references in the book of Job to the fatherless...Job uses his care for them as an example of his righteousness and his "friends" accuse him of mistreating them as examples of his unrighteousness, but either way there is a connection between righteousness and how we treat the fatherless. Why is that? Because pure and undefiled religion (reconnectedness) is observable...God has made it known that He cares for the fatherless and therefore, if we are united to Him we will too. If we don't, that is a problem...in fact it is such a problem that a number of verses relative to the fatherless are declarations of judgment by God against those who have failed to plead the cause of the fatherless (see Jeremiah 5:28 for one example...God describes this failure as wickedness) and God specifically calls His people to repentance in this arena (see Jeremiah 7:3-7 for an example).
In the story of Zacchaeus, Jesus tells us He "came to seek and to save that which was lost." We were not out of sight, out of mind. How thankful I am! If you do a concordance search for "adoption", the only references you will find relate to adoptions of people by God...He continues to seek and to save, and those of us who are sought and saved have been "predestined to adoption", we've "received the Spirit of adoption," and "we are eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body." I mentioned in part 4 of this series that "the Bible isn't an encyclopedia; it is a story, the great origin-to-destiny story of redemption (quote by Paul Tripp)." There are individual stories, but they/we are all a part of a much greater story. The kingdom of God is at hand...His Kingdom is the ONLY future of this world...the glory of the Lord will cover the earth; He shall have dominion from sea to sea. He is the King of all kings. He has come to seek and to save that which was lost...individually and globally. His command word, in all its glory, communicates His will for His kingdom and that command word tells us among many other things to visit the orphans and widows, to administer justice for them, to please their cause, etc.
Some people want to keep the fatherless as someone else's ministry, out of sight, out of mind...God apparently equates our "visiting" them with being reconnected with Him. I, for one, want to keep learning what visiting the orphans and widows in their trouble looks like so I can do it. How about you?
David Platt said: "Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they're not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes." Get to know their names, turn your eyes to their faces, hold them in your arms...that is what God does so you'll be right where He is, and there is no better place to be than with Him. Reconnectedness is observable.
To be continued...