Life in our New Building II
Is. 49:1-7, 1 Cor. 1:1-9, Jn. 1:29-42
Epiphany celebrates the fact that God is our Father who redeems us from sin, Satan, and death through His Son Jesus, and does so in order to train and equip us for His mission of bringing many more sons into the light of His glory.
The Texts: Isaiah 49 opens with a new “shema” to the nations. God had called Israel to “hear” and love the Lord God and to teach their children to do the same (Dt. 6:4-7ff), but this had always been intended for the blessing of the nations (Gen. 12:3). Israel was God’s chosen son from the womb (Is. 49:1, 5, cf. Ex. 4:22-23), like Samson and David and Jeremiah and John the Baptist. This emphasis on the care of God from the beginning of life underlines the thoughtful precision and design that has gone into preparing them to be His special weapon to serve Him and bring Him glory (Is. 49:2-3). Israel has every reason to fear that this labor has been wasted, but they choose to trust in their Maker (Is. 49:4-5). And not only will His servant raise up the tribes of Israel, he will also be a light to the gentiles and to the ends of the earth (Is. 49:6). Because of the faithfulness of Yahweh, the ones who formerly despised and rejected them will be drawn to them (Is. 49:7). When Paul writes the Corinthians, he is confirming that this has begun to happen. Jesus has been raised up as both the Redeemer of Israel and the true Israel not only to restore Israel but to be a light to gentiles, like the Corinthians, who now regarded as “saints.” John’s gospel gives Jesus two titles “Lamb of God” and “Messiah” (Jn. 1:36, 41). Both of these are highly Jewish titles reminding us of the Passover Lamb when Israel was “reborn” out of Egypt and all the anointed priests and kings and prophets who taught and delivered them. But even as Jesus is given these titles as the Faithful Son, He is gathering disciples and giving them new names because they are being reborn as sons (Jn. 1:42 1 Cor. 1:2). Simon will be a stone in the hand of the new David. Jesus has come to prepare the armory for God’s mission to be accomplished, so that all who call on His name will be fully equipped (1 Cor. 1:2, 5, 7). And He does this by calling you into the fellowship of His Son, making you members of His family (1 Cor. 1:9).
Weapons of Precision
To be called by God is to be named as His son and to have a place in His family. Israel was His “sharp sword”, His “polished shaft,” and though they were unfaithful, God is faithful and He is nevertheless preparing them, equipping them for the task that He has for them: bringing light to the nations. This is because He is the “Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One” – He is “faithful, the Holy One of Israel.” These are not merely generic “God-words.” A “redeemer” is quite literally a relative who comes to the aid of a family member who has fallen into debt (Lev. 25:25ff) or the avenger of blood who executes the murderer of a kinsman (Num. 35:12-27). Boaz is the most famous Redeemer who comes to the aid of Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 2:20). He buys back land, marries widow Ruth, and raises up a son for Naomi’s dead husband (Ruth 4). The greatest act of redemption in the Old Testament was the Exodus from Egypt (Ex. 6:6, 15:13). In that act, we see God the Holy One of Israel coming like a Warrior, like a Faithful Father for His family, to overthrow Pharaoh and his horses and chariots in the sea (Ex. 15:1-4). This is Yahweh “glorious in holiness” leading His people forth, the people He has “redeemed,” guiding them with His strength to His “holy habitation” (Ex. 15:11-13). God’s holiness is His fierce Fatherly presence acting to redeem and restore the whole universe to the beauty and glory it was meant for. God’s holiness is not merely an adjective; it’s an action verb. It’s His outstretched arm engaged in battle. He is our David, our hero, and when Jesus strikes the decisive blow and lifts up the head of the giant-dragon, all our enemies turn and flee, and we are caught up in the pursuit, caught up in His holiness. To be called into His holiness is to be called into His mission, His conquest. Because our God is our Redeemer, we cannot help but be redeemers, weapons of His mercy and love. This is what it means to be saints, to be Christians.
We could point this message in a number of different directions, but I want to aim this morning particularly at parents and the task of childrearing, with a few specific notes on our life in this new building.
First, let us be clear that one of the single greatest responsibilities that we bear in this life is the training up of our children. “Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is His reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate” (Ps. 127:3-5, cf. Mt. 10:42, 18:1-14).
Men, if you are so privileged to be a father, you have no business taking this duty lightly. You are not a dad on the side. This is one of the single most important ways you build the Kingdom of God. And you are called to lead in imitating God the Father, as the Holy One and Redeemer in your home. It is your job in particular to ensure that your children are brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). It is your job to make sure that your children receive a thorough Christian education.
Women, if you are so privileged to be a mother, do not misplace your priorities. You are by God’s design life-givers and life-protectors. But do not forget what true life is. “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Mt. 6:25) Jesus says, Do not worry about what you eat or drink or wear (Mt. 6:31). Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things, but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you (Mt. 6:32-33).
The center of our ministry to our children is here in Lord’s Day worship. But where in our former location, we had very few options for loving and teaching our children, we now have a number open to us: a room for dads, a nursery, a nursing room, and halls to walk toddlers that need to stretch their legs. Think creatively about how you can use these new facilities to welcome your children to worship. It’s not a contest to see who can keep their kids in the service the longest; we want to be a blessing to our children and to those around us. Practice with your children during the week, and then think of this new building as a way to bless your children as they are growing up to love Jesus with us.
One way you might think of parenting is like the disciple Andrew who first heard the call to “come and see” Jesus (Jn. 1:39), who then found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (Jn. 1:41). Our task as parents is to be constantly inviting our kids to come with us, to “come and see” Jesus, the Messiah, the Holy One of Israel, our Redeemer.