Each of us bears a family name and bearing that family name connotes a context into which you have been born. There are stories about your parents, stories about your aunts and uncles, stories about your grandparents and even your great-aunts and uncles that put a context into which you have been placed as their child. There are things about those stories that are very fulfilling and things that are very frustrating.
Those stories contain things that are very tragic and those stories contain thing that are very triumphant. Those stories proclaim about the rugged things that had to be accomplished in order to get where they have been arriving, but they also tell about great, restful things along the way. These stories in this history you have been told and have been nurtured on are a part of your identity.
This morning I want to tell you about your other family’s history and from where you have come. This family is not a blood and flesh family, but rather a spiritual family into which you have been born. It is the context into which you have been placed. It preceded you, just like your earthly family, and it will follow you, just like your earthly family. You are just here for the moment.
This morning’s text talks about our family. The God whose name we bear and in whose name we have been baptized…this God is the same God who brought flesh and blood joined to Himself and allowed Mary to give birth to Him who is God in the flesh. This is our God, but this same God who allowed Himself to become flesh is the same God who raised up and allowed a man named Herod, a megalomaniac, to exist and to do horrific things.
The God in whose name we’ve been baptized, the God of whom we are a part…the family known as the church, for whom God cares and provides…is the same God who allows earthly human beings to care for Him and even has to warn them from this man whom He raised up and allowed to be ruler at that time, to prevent Himself from being killed.
So Joseph… Last Sunday we heard the angel come to him and we heard last Sunday about the angel telling him, “The child which Mary is to bear is the Son of God, the Holy One.” The angel comes to him again and says, “Herod is going to kill Jesus. Therefore, go to Egypt.” That’s God’s will for Joseph and Mary and Jesus. It’s part of your history.
Lest Mary and Joseph and the child get so romanticized that we forget they are still flesh and blood and primarily, Mary and Joseph are sinful creatures, consider what God does to His children and His family. Mary and Joseph were in Nazareth and Mary was being cared for by Joseph in Nazareth. When this registration is called, they have to move from Nazareth and the economic tribulation that’s placed upon them… They leave their source of income and have to travel to Bethlehem, which is not his home. It is his historical home, but it’s not his home.
Now God is taking them from Nazareth to Egypt, which is not just not their home, but it’s not even their homeland. It’s another country, another culture, another language. This is the same God who is in enfleshed in that child, whom God is then moving to go to Egypt, of all places. This is the same God who out of Egypt not only did call His Son to fulfill this text, but called the church.
The great salvation story of the Old Testament is the people of Israel being rescued from Egypt. God is the same God who opened those seas and parted them and allowed them to pass through, is the same God, paradoxically, who raised up the wicked Pharaoh. Well for that matter, He’s the same God who put them there to begin with, with Joseph. He’s the same God who fed them along that path, feeding them the bread from heaven, fulfilled in us in Christ. Feeding them and providing for them along the way, bringing them not to their home until they arrived at the Promised Land.
As the Old Testament text said, these people, which are God’s people, His children, makes for Himself a glorious name in their life. Wasn’t of their own choosing. God chose it for them, and that’s sometimes a pill that’s difficult for you and me to swallow, the things that God has chosen for us.
Now none of us are arguing with the inheritance of heaven that God has chosen for us. God be praised. We’re all about that. It is really the other things that God has laid in our lap that causes us to stop.
Consider the people of Israel. God had already revealed Himself to them in a magnificent way and yet they still struggled with the fact of what God was doing in their lives. “Lord, we’re not like what we were when we were back home in Egypt. Lord, You’re causing discomfort in my life. Lord, You’re stretching me and pushing me and expanding me in places and areas I don’t necessarily appreciate. I know You’re providing for me, Lord. I know You’re giving me all this, but do we have to eat the same bread, eat the same meat? Can’t we have something else?”
The way of our God in the flesh is the way of our family, the church, of which you and I are a part. The way of our family, the church of which you and I are a part, is a way of humility. It is a way of sacrifice, and it is a way of submission, like our Lord…the way of the flesh, God in the flesh, the incarnation. That’s your and my identity now. That’s the family into which we’ve been born.
When God does things that do not make sense to us and, in fact, push us and even cause us to say, “That’s not fair, Lord,” we rebel. Now we might rebel in very quiet and passive-aggressive manners or we might rebel in a very openly rebellious manner, but either way, it’s still rebellion, whether it’s outwardly shown or inwardly thought, just like the people of Israel as God led them and cared for them. The God whose name we bear, the God who has made a name for Himself in you, is the same God who raised up that Herod and allowed those dozens or hundreds or maybe even thousands of infants to be slaughtered. That doesn’t make sense, and yet that’s our God.
The same God who saved you…and that seems to make sense to you and to me. Interesting, isn’t it, our logic? We can make sense out of grace, but we can’t make sense out of God’s divine power. Aren’t they both the same God and is it not His same divine power? Isaiah brings up a thing about our family and Isaiah talks about our family very, very clearly. He says, “For [God] said, ‘Surely they are My people, children who will not deal falsely.’ And He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted.”
Boy, that’s beautiful. Paul picked it up when he said, “Suffering in every way as we are, yet without sin. He who knew no sin became sin for us.” Exactly what Isaiah is talking about. “And the angel of His presence saved them.” The angel of God’s presence is the Word made flesh who saved us. “In His love and in His pity He redeemed them”…bought them back…”lifted them up and carried them [on His shoulders] all the days of old.”
What a beautiful shepherd scene about the one left out into the wild that the shepherd goes and finds and puts it on his shoulder and says, “Rejoice.” That’s our story. That’s our family history.
Isaiah brings up something else. This stuff, we’re good with. This stuff makes sense to us. This stuff, for whatever reason, we say “Yea and Amen” to. It’s the other part that bites us. “But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit;”…here it is…”therefore He turned to be their enemy, and Himself fought against them.”
That’s paradoxical and extremely difficult to grasp, and in fact, I don’t have the answer for you. No different than I don’t have the answers to why God allowed Herod to be raised up in power, or why God allowed all those children to be slaughtered innocently. I also don’t have the reason as to why God saved someone like me or like you, why God turns and pushes us down paths which we do not choose, yet He chooses for us, compresses us, sifts us, refines us in ways that are not pleasing and yet is still loving.
I do not know, but I do know just as He made a name for Himself in the body of Christ, He made a name for Himself in you because it’s not about you. It’s about Him. Now obviously, you are affected by His name being made in you. It affects you. You’re His offspring. As Paul said, we are adopted as His sons and daughters, that we might become heirs. You can’t be an heir unless you are blood. You are blood and He’s made a name for Himself in you, but it’s not about you; it’s about Him.
Now it does involve you. He uses you to make a name for Himself, uses you in ways that you’re going, “Thank you, Lord, for using me,” and uses you in ways when you say, “Lord, why?” and “For what reason?” and “I’m not doing a very good job of bearing this name.” It’s not about you, though. It’s about Him making His name glorious in you.
It benefits you, absolutely. You are the beneficiary of His beneficence, His love and His mercy, His great gift of adopting you. You are His child, no different than why you are receiving the benefit of your own parents. My son and daughter receive the benefit of being my son and daughter. Your sons and daughters receive the benefit of being your sons and daughters. We are sons and daughters of the King and we receive the benefit of that King, but it’s not about us. It’s about the King.
Just like our earthly family has stories of skeletons in the closet of which we don’t always understand and know, the church has things about which we don’t always understand and can explain…why God raised up Pharaoh and allowed him to do to the people what he did, why God raised up Herod and allowed him to do to the people what he did, why God raised us up as His children and does to us and for us what He chooses…but it’s not about us; it’s about Him.
Nobody has the perfect family, but in Him, you are a part of the perfect family. We come from dysfunctional families and we ourselves pour our dysfunction upon our children, but in the body of Christ, it’s functional because it’s about Him and not about the people who make it up. It’s about Him. Yes, brothers and sisters, in us He has made for Himself a glorious name because it is about Him. Thanks be to God, it is about Him and not about me or about you. In the name of Him who made us His…glorious name, Jesus, Amen.