Sunday, June 8, 2014

Not "yet"

I have been reading the book of Isaiah lately. I started a couple of weeks ago just reading it from beginning to end, and it is a wonderful book with a great message of hope written in highly troubling times for God's people. Today, I came across the following passage from chapter 56:
For thus says the LORD,
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me,
And hold fast to My covenant,
To them I will give in My house and within my walls a memorial,
And a name better than that of sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off
 - Isaiah 56:4-5 (NASB), emphasis mine

Now, I've been reading a lot about singleness in the past week. A couple of friends have shared articles and blog posts about being single and how that fits into God's plan for some of us. Very encouraging articles. They talked about how we should be patient. That God can use this phase of our lives for his glory. We can draw closer to him and do great things if God has not yet brought us a spouse. All true.

But what if?

What if for some of us it's not a phase? What if God has called me to live a single life from start to finish? Does that leave me incomplete? God has not yet brought a spouse. But is the word "yet" necessary?

So I come back to the passage I read today. It uses a word we don't hear much...eunuch. What is that? I think most of us think it means a man who has been rendered physically incapable of having children. But the definition is broader than that. Wikipedia points out that in some ancient texts (like the Bible), it may also refer to a man who is "celibate, or otherwise not inclined to marry and procreate."

This is consistent with what Jesus said in Matthew 19:12, when talking to his disciples about marriage. After referring to the physical causes, he states that "there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." It's pretty clear that he is talking about a choice to forego marriage and remain celibate because God has called them to do other things with their life.

He then says not everyone can accept this. No kidding! A life of being single (and thus, for the Christian, forego sex) is not an easy one. It's no wonder that almost all the teaching for Christian singles emphasizes patience, with the idea that one day...we'll get to experience the joys of marriage.

Not only that, but in the Jewish culture of Jesus' heritage, having children was everything. Everything. The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) are full of long genealogies. Women were considered cursed when they could not have children. Abraham resorted to relations with a servant girl when Sarah went too long without having a son for him. On and on. "Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons is their fathers." (Proverbs 17:6)

So no wonder we want to say "yet."

And now (finally!) back to the passage from Isaiah. What a remarkable promise the Lord related through Isaiah. He is saying that even if we never get married, and thus never have children, he has a glorious purpose for us. If we obey him and choose to live a life pleasing to God, we will have a "name better than that of sons and daughters" and "an everlasting name which will never be cut off."

What does that mean? Isaiah (and later Jesus) turns conventional thinking on its ear. He says, it's not children that give your life meaning. It's faithfulness to the God of the universe. Be faithful, live your life the way he meant it to be lived, and your legacy will be great. You will claim a name greater than your own.

And so, if you are single like me, you don't need to fret over God's plan for you. Marriage may be (and for most of us, will be) in your future. It may be for me. But even if it isn't, we have a magnificent place in his kingdom.

And for me, that's a cool thing.

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