The History of God's Family
a theology of the family
Most of us have heard of the song, "I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God," but few of us have really understood the deep truth that the family of God represents. We find that God has always been working with families, blessing or judging them. We tend to forget that the blessing of God falls on an individual and then is passed onto His family.
How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways.
The multiplication of blessing or curse for that matter has everything to do with the leader of the home. As we look through the Bible, we will see how God carefully worked through families. He even started His own. Because His own family did not rightly respond, He started what we know as a spiritual family. The original promises to His earthly family, Israel, were still carried out, but in a way that they fulfilled God's rich blessings. He always wanted a great big family including members from all the people of the earth.
Let's take a closer look at the development of the family in the Bible.
In a sense, we can look at this world as a runaway family. God gave life, sustenance, authority, work and rules to the first family. The first couple, Adam and Eve, were packed full with great potential, for good or evil. From them everyone would gain their lives. In a real way, all of us, no matter what nation we are from, can trace our roots from Adam and Eve. God is the Father of us all (1).
God has kept faithful in providing for the families on earth. This at times is hard to comprehend because of at least three reasons.
' Daily strain of life that arose because of our sins (cf. Genesis 3:13-19).
' God's judgment of us sometimes includes things like famine (Ezekiel 14:13).
' We have lost affection of our God our Maker and provider (Romans 1:21).
God in Matthew 6 simply reiterates His care for creation and mankind. He cares for the birds, the flowers and of course He cares for the needs of man. God is a good Father.
Each family is responsible to obey the Lord. However, the families for the most part went astray. In a real sense they deserted their true Father and adopted a cruel tyrant for a father.
When we look back, it seems as if the Lord had lost His family through the craftiness of the devil. God's wisdom is far greater than all, however. He was just beginning to unfold HIs plan to develop His own family. In Genesis 3:15 we see the definitive distinction between "your seed" referring to the devil and "her seed" referring to Eve.
We see God's family planning clearly worked out. He told Abraham that He had a clear purpose in winning back the families that had by then had stretched out over the face of the earth.
He chose to do this through the making of a family or nation within the context of the lost family. First of all, we see that God preserved a godly seed. The early genealogies showed how God protected this seed. We see key verses that gives us an insight to God's plan.
This godly seed was being overwhelmed, so God brought judgment and saved only Noah and his family because he was a righteous man (Genesis 6:9). The genealogy was carefully traced down from Noah right to Abraham. Abraham would be the 'father' of a new family of men that was by faith. It was from him that God would reach out to all the nations.
God would form His own extended family that would carry out His purposes. His family seemed to get lost in the country of Egypt, but He devised a scheme to bring them out alive. He would show them that obedience to Him brought freedom while servitude to the world (non-father) was slavery.He would specially instruct them an they would ideally follow His ways. Note the intensity with which God spoke on this matter.
God had every right to do what He wanted with His son. At this point He demanded that they be set free from Egyptian slavery. These sons with their sons became an extended family which of course is the same thing as a nation.(2) This can be easily seen in two ways.
1. In early Genesis we see how many nations were formed by the descendants of one influential father. Israel for example, was actually Jacob with his twelve sons. Another example was Edom. Edom came from Jacob's brother Esau and his descendants. Certain men with strong grouping power and many children would form into a nation.
2. The other way we can establish this is by language. After God split up the people by confusing the languages (Genesis 11), we have tended to forget that we are all of one family (from Adam). Evolution has distorted this concept even more. But language like a dye marked off a group of families that had common roots. Noah's three sons, Ham, Japheth and Shem with their families were split up by area and language. We can trace today's nations back to the original (3).
God formed Israel as His big family. Her roots go back to the twelve tribes, that is, his twelve sons and their families. They are clearly delineated in the scriptures (Numbers 1:1-16). Matthew's genealogy (see Matthew 1:1-16) traced Christ's roots back to Abraham's promise. Luke's promise goes right back to Adam! (see Luke 3:23-38). The family connection couldn't be stronger!
The Israelites went greatly astray when they demanded a king. God was their Father. God was to care for them and watch over them. Afterall, was it not God that specially formed and instructed them with His Word?! The people were stubborn however and insisted on being like the world and having a king to rule them.
At this point God's family took a step away from His instruction and started modeling themselves after the world. God called His nation (extended family) to be a witness of God's way to all their distant 'cousins.' However, they refused to reach out. In the end God had to judge them. He briefly resussitated Israel but only so that He could fulfill His former promises to Israel.
So how was God going to form His family, a group of people that would love and cherish Him? God through the Messiah, Christ Jesus, completed these promises. Jesus was His true Son.
So although God worked through the Old Testament promises to the Jews, He yet fulfilled His promises in a way no one could ever understand. Jesus is again and again pictured as the faithful Son. He would always do what His Father wanted.(4)
Jesus started a new family of God. This did not go counter to God's promises through Israel, but worked on such a greater and more lofty way. How do we become members of God's family. John says it ever so clearly in John 1:12-13.
The allusions of the physical family with the spiritual family seem without number. John 3 speaks of the new birth. How else would one be part of God's family than to be born into it?! Nicodemus should have understood this, but He missed the message. God's family from the beginning was one of faith. They would receive instruction from God and therefore would be His sons.
Those who did not receive instruction from God were not of Him. They remained ensnared to the devil's evil plot. And so we see there are in the end only two seeds, the holy and unholy seed (descendant). We need to be born from God to have the new nature with a new life so that we could receive instruction from God.
Perhaps in light of this, we can better appreciate God's call for us to shun worldly pursuits. We are not to get caught up in the world's ways. We can live far above that through His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit within us.
Just as a nation is composed of many families, so God's kingdom is a grouping of all of God's family members. God's family is the local church on a very localized level; they are the children of God. Worship together is a gathering of God's children around their Father. They are to receive instruction and be blessed as we live out God's ways on earth.
What about family spirit? Surely, we must not miss out the close communion and fellowship that is present in God's family. We see the Son of God, give His life so that others might be adopted into God's family. Otherwise, even if we tried doing God's ways, we would still be part of the devil's group. The close communion and fellowship that God wants for Him and us is written all over the scripture, starting with the family walks in the Garden of Eden, right to the end when He calls us to be finally separate from this world (1 John 2:1-3). Interestingly, even in the most severe chapter of the Bible that describes five groups to be judged for their waywardness, even there we see God's great hope for His people, even for His family.
Perhaps there is no better conclusion than Paul's summary in Romans 5:12-21. The contrast was between Adam's family and Christ's family. Through Adam, death came, but through Christ life. Adam's family lived under the curse through one transgression while Christ's family members experience abounding grace. Adam's family was ensnared in a life of sin whereas Christ's family lived in righteousness. Instruction through the Law in the end couldn't help those caught in Adam's family. We needed Christ to give us life, even eternal life for the creation of a wonderful and everlasting family.
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Biblical Foundations for Freedom