(c) Copyright 2008 Rev. Bill Versteeg
This is what the LORD says:
and do what is
for my salvation
is close at hand
righteousness will soon be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
the man who holds
who keeps the
Sabbath without desecrating it,
and keeps his hand
from doing any evil.”
Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say,
LORD will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let not any
only a dry tree.”
For this is what the LORD says:
eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what
and hold fast to
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a
better than sons
I will give them
an everlasting name
that will not be
And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD
to serve him,
to love the name
of the LORD,
and to worship
all who keep the
Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast
to my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy
in my house of prayer.
offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted
on my altar;
for my house will
a house of prayer
for all nations.”
The Sovereign LORD declares—
he who gathers the
exiles of Israel:
gather still others to them
Brothers and sisters in Christ
We have been looking at the biblical
teaching on marriage, first for three weeks in the month of January and
then another three weeks in the month of May. You have maybe
noticed that the glorious scriptural teaching concerning marriage makes
marriage a calling that is spiritual, sacred, a relationship created
and designed to portray a divine relationship between Christ and his
bride the church. Again, these messages are available to you
on the internet from our church website in both print and audio
format. With some time this summer, I may make them available
on a set of CDs that will be available in the Church Library.
With all the effort that we have put
into reasserting a biblical view of marriage into a culture which has
let marriage as a word and a concept and a relationship decay into next
to nothing, I have been acutely aware that I am also speaking to
singles in Christ.
Now for some of the statisitcs of this
sermon and some of its themes, I am endebted to a paper written by
Barry Danylak entitled “A Biblical-Theological Perspective on
Statistics indicate that the number of
individuals over 17 years of age who are single/widowed or divorced and
remaining single, in the time of one generation has increased from 33%
to 44%. The number of people who remain single for the
variety of reasons that there are has in one generation increased
9%. And George Barna in his research of Christian churches in
North America has indicated that singles are 30 - 50% less involved in
every aspect of their own church’s activities and lives then
their married counterparts and contribute 65% less to church budgets
then their married counterparts even though they may have more funds
available for discretionary spending.
I ask myself the question:
Why? Not, why are the numbers of singles increasing, but why
are they less involved, less supportive in general than those who are
A variety of answers can be given, my
intent this morning is not to look at all the reasons, my focus will be
on a much more perennial problem that has plagued being single and in
the church for as long as I know and frankly, a problem that existed
already in the OT. Often, people who are single in the church
feel like they do not belong. That is the most common comment
I have heard from singles throughout my entire ministry. This
morning, we want to see where that feeling arises within the context of
the OT and then see how dramatically the ministry of Jesus ought to
have changed that!
Being single becomes a problem already
for Genesis 1.
Note only were Adam and Eve created to compliment each other and be
company to one another, they were also given the creator’s
command to procreate, multiply. Part of the blessing which
included delegated rulership in the world was hinged on this
The promise of blessing to Adam and Eve for their role in this world
included kids and first creation achieved its completion with a
marriage. Singles don’t seem to fit in the picture.
When we get to Abraham, the promise and
the problem are compounded. As God starts over with Abraham,
the blessing is that his name will be great, that he will inherit a
land and that this will be accomplished through his offspring if he
simply believes and obeys God.
You see the problem don’t
you. Abraham is going to have a land, he is going to belong,
he is going to be extremely significant. He is going to have
a great name and the nations will be blessed through him. But for this
to occur, he needs descendants, which he is promised, as the sand of
the see shore. The covenant is with him and his
descendants. God chooses to pour out his blessings
to a man with a family! Now that to our ears might sound a
little strong, but that is the way that Israel understood it.
In the mind of Israel, there was very little room for the plan of God
with a person who was single. The entire blessing of God was
characterized by marriage, by offspring and children. So in
Israel there were some very clear consequences.
It was through children that a
person’s name became great. They were remembered
through the living memory of their offspring. To
die childless was the same has having your name blotted out of
And so the whole concept of Leverite
marriage, where a brother would marry his widowed sister in law for the
very purpose of making sure that his name would not be blotted out of
Israel, that his name would be remembered. The entire plot of
the book of Ruth hinges on Boaz’s faithfulness to obeying
this Law of Leverite marriage.
This is why Saul, when he realized that
David would become king whether he liked it or not, begged David not to
kill all of his offspring - so that his name would not be wiped out, so
that he would be remembered. From there comes the
Mephibosheth story in 2 Samuel.
The whole concept of salvation was tied
to an inheritance in the land of Israel which in tern had to do with
descendants. The promised land was like heaven to an
Israelite. To own a piece of the promised land, to have an
inheritance in the promised land, that was the equivalent to having a
plot of land, a home, a house guaranteed for you in heaven, the
blessing of the Lord. But if you had no children, then your land would
go to another, your name would not be remembered, you were cursed to
homelessness in God’s country. Listen to Psalm 127
1 Unless the LORD builds the
its builders labor
Unless the LORD
watches over the city,
the watchmen stand
guard in vain.
2 In vain you rise
and stay up late,
toiling for food
for he grants
sleep to those he loves.
3 Sons are a
heritage from the LORD,
children a reward
4 Like arrows in
the hands of a warrior
are sons born in
5 Blessed is the
whose quiver is
full of them.
They will not be
put to shame
when they contend
with their enemies in the gate.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is
full of them had everything to do with the covenant blessing of God, a
place to live in the land of promise, an eternal future.
Now we come to the prophecies of Isaiah.
Right away in the first chapter of Isaiah, we discover judgement - the
kids are crappy, this whole business of a promised inheritance through
kids, a people for himself through generations is not
working. They deserve the curse, their name deserves to be
cut off, they will be exiled from the land.
But the Lord also gives a message of
hope through Isaiah. The Lord gives through Isaiah a promise of a new
covenant - a new seed, a new progeny and it will come from the stump
(the cut off stump) of Jesse. And irony of ironies, this new
covenant will come from a virgin!
14 Therefore the Lord himself
will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth
to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
A young unmarried girl! A
virgin! Someone who in the mind of Israel had no future
without a husband. A single person. She will give birth to a
child and this child is the seed through which the promise of
God’s blessing will be carried forward. This child
will be Immanuel, the prince of Peace, the government of God will rest
on his shoulders. We have heard enough Christmas sermons to
know that this seed, this child promised was Jesus. Now
according to Isaiah 54, the barren women sings.
Now according to Isaiah 56 which we read at the beginning of this
message, the foreigner who has no rights in the land, no future in
God’s plan, and the eunuch who is a dry tree, who has no
sexual relations, they have a memorial better than sons and daughters,
better than a quiver full of them. And their name will never
be cut off. I will give them an everlasting name.
Now when we hear the promise of the
Spirit in Acts 2 - the spirit which is our inheritance guaranteeing
what is to come, you remember the words
39 For the promise
is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as
the Lord our God will call.”
As we hear these words, we have to remember how God deals with us, as
families, but now those who are far off - those are the foreigners of
Isaiah 56 who have an eternal memorial, whose names will not be cut
off, those are the singles who had no inheritance, they too are called,
they too belong, yes, even more than belong, they have a name that is
better than sons and daughters.
Ever since Mary was a virgin, ever since
Jesus, her seed was single, there is a very special, a very blessed
place in the church for single people. You belong.
No longer is the family of God defined by physical brothers and
sisters, now it is defined by those who have faith and their faith is
demonstrated through living in obedience to God.
Remember the time that Jesus mother and
brothers were wanting to speak to him in Matthew 12.
48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is
My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And He stretched out
His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother
and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is
My brother and sister and mother.”
And so all are called to
repentance. We are called to repentance and faith.
Our baptized children are called to repentance and faith. The
stranger, the foreigner is called be God to repentance and
faith. The single person is called to repentance and
faith. Because, when we come to Jesus in repentance and
faith, when our lives start demonstrating the obedience that arises
from faith - then we are Jesus brothers and sisters and mothers and
fathers and we belong together around his table.
So let me come to some
practical conclusions on this.
First, if you have faith in Christ and
are single, you belong here and have the right to influence and
leadership as much as anyone else does.
Second, if we as a church in any way
communicate that single people, whether they be single, or widowed, or
divorced do not belong, have not arrived, do not have equal status in
the church, then we need to repent. Remember the words of
Isaiah - they have a memorial and a name that is better than sons and
Third, yes marriage does display the
relationship between Christ and the church in creation, but being
single and in love with Christ displays the goodness of our savior in
an immediate and relational way that marriage as an institution
cannot. Being single in Christ can display a passion for him,
a dedication to him, a service to him, that is more blessed than the
institution of marriage.
Fourth - married, single, widowed,
divorced, a guest among us also - if your faith is in Christ and your
hearts desire is to live in obedience to him, then you are
Christ’s mother, brother, sister, father, his
family. Come to the table. Lets have dinner
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great
mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an
inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in
heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by
God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready
to be revealed in the last time.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY
BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible
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