New Year. New House.
New Year is about a new start - having a new mindset and new goals. There was a time in the Bible where everyone was waiting for such a new start. They waited eagerly for a new will of God. A better future. A more complete, eternal manifestation of God's salvation for his people.
Travel with me to the time of Isaiah. This was the time when Israel was falling away from God and His will. So, the prophet’s message is clearly against this rebellion against God, but there also is a message of new hope promised. And, this new promise goes beyond the coming of "suffering servant (i.e. Jesus Christ)" as is well-documented in chapters 52-53. Chapters 54-55 expands on this promise of hope we have from God, and we finally come to chapter 56 where God tells us what OUR new calling/purpose/goals in life would be. It's like that new year's moment for the Israelites, and God makes sure they don't develop feelings of entitlement but be ever focused on the big picture of what God is doing in and through their lives.
“For my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (56:7)
What’s the operative word in this verse? Where is the emphasis? Is it on...
- “MY”? (i.e. among many possible houses, it will be MY house that will be called a house of prayer of all nations)
- “WILL”? (i.e. it’s not true yet, but my house WILL be called a house of prayer for all nations)
- “PRAYER”? (i.e. my house will start being called a house of PRAYER for all nations)
No, the emphasis clearly is on, “ALL NATIONS”. (i.e. my house will be called a house of prayer for ALL nations!!! - as opposed to being called a house of prayer for one nation - which is what was true at that time.)
And, I don’t think we really can fully appreciate the weight of this new declaration as well as it was for the people who first heard it. You might say, what’s so big deal about it? The house of God being a house for all peoples. Isn't it a good thing for everyone?
Or, let me put it this way. "God who is for you is now for all others".
Kathy and I were talking about a friend who has recently adopted a child. It’s not because they couldn’t have children of their own. They already had two beautiful children. One daughter and one son. A perfect picture. And they were getting older and out of your daily care. And, it wasn’t because they had some kind of baby blues. But, it was something they were talking about ever since they first got married. To them, it was a way to be engaged with the heart that God has for his people. The ones who are most vulnerable, they want to be an extension of God’s love. So, one day they told their two kids.
“You know, mommy and daddy love you so much. We will always be there for you. But, we will be a mommy and daddy for another child. No, your mommy is not pregnant. We will bring in a new child that doesn’t have home and will raise them as our own. Our house will be a house for not only you two but for others. Starting with this new baby.”
Kathy and I have twin sons who were born at the same time. Well, 7 min apart!
But, many of our friends who have a child and another few years later talks about sibling rivalry. The older child (maybe 3 or 4 yr old) becomes jealous of the new baby. He/she starts acting up. We adults might not understand and tell this 3-4 yr kid,
“Hey what’s wrong with you. You are an OLDER brother/sister. You should be nice to your new younger brother/sister. In fact, you should take care of him/her. Give all your toys to him/her. Don’t be so shocked but from now on your mommy and daddy would have to shift our love from you to him/her. I know it might be hard for you, but hey, you are whole 3-4 years older than him. You understand, right?”
“Huh…. What ARE you talking about? I want my mommy back! I want my daddy back! Who is this thing taking my place?”
You see, people are naturally, and rightly so, very possessive, territorial, and self-protective. It’s our survival skill. Our capacity to protect and take care of our personal interest and need. BUT, WHEN GOD ENTERS INTO OUR LIFE AS OUR SAVIOR, THE ULTIMATE PROTECTOR, THINGS ARE TO CHANGE. We no longer need to protect our interest as if our life depends on it (because someone else is taking care of it), and we can extend what we have to others and share with them (because it will never run out).
We are not only recipients of great things from our heavenly father, God, but also givers of this great things we’ve received from him! Sure, it won't always be pleasant (let's be honest. No one really likes their life to be disturbed by new thing/person). But, when you share (actually more than share but invite someone new into your existence at the prospect your life changing), you begin to understand the heart God had for you in entering into our life of suffering voluntarily.
"My house, one that’s been for you by my grace, will now be for all people, through you."
Now that we've been adopted by God into his family, who are the children in our lives that we can adopt into his family?