Single for Christ
 Isaiah 56:1-8

(c) Copyright 2008 Rev. Bill Versteeg

Isaiah 56

This is what the LORD says:
“Maintain justice
and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
and my righteousness will soon be revealed.
 2  Blessed is the man who does this,
the man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it,
and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” 
 3  Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say,
“The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let not any eunuch complain,
“I am only a dry tree.”
 4  For this is what the LORD says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
 5  to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will not be cut off.
 6  And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD
to serve him,
to love the name of the LORD,
and to worship him,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant—
 7  these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”
 8  The Sovereign LORD declares—
he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.” 

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 Singleness.” (
    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 married?
    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 Israel. 
    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 house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves. 
(Slide 15)
3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
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 daughters.
    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 together! 

    3 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 Publishers.

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