8:18

A place and permanence

A place and permanence

I never asked my parents why they bought this print.

I assume they picked it up on their trip to Japan in the 60’s.  But since they’re both gone, I’ll never know what drew them to it.

But I have my guess.  It hangs in my house now and I am often struck by the simple, inviting doorway, contrasting to the night outside.  It reminds me of how my mother loved to have people join us for dinner.  They ran the gamut from international scientists -- colleagues of my dad -- to neighborhood kids, coming in from playing backyard football with my brother and me.

Ours was a welcoming house.

So is the Lord’s.  He announces in Isaiah 56:

3   Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
    “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain,
    “I am only a dry tree.”

These two “outsiders” represent two very distinct needs.  Foreigners need a new home, where they are accepted as a part of the community.  Eunuchs need what a family would provide: a connection to coming generations, a lasting impact.

I’m not sure where these would fit in Maslow’s Hierarchy, but they’re pretty fundamental needs, in my mind.  As the chapter continues, God addresses each.

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…
I will give them an everlasting name
    that will endure forever.

Eunuchs saw themselves as dry trees.  But God promises to give them an everlasting name.  They won’t have need of children and grandchildren to carry on their names – God will ensure their permanence.

And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
    to minister to him…
these I will bring to my holy mountain
    and give them joy in my house of prayer.

Foreigners saw themselves as excluded from God’s people.  But he promises that they will be integrated into the very heart of his kingdom – the joyful worship of his people.  They’re no longer second-class citizens, catching crumbs off of the table.  They’re sitting at the feast.

They’re home.

But these two groups are not just casual tourists.  These are eunuchs who hold fast to the covenant and foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord.  They have made the decision to be all in – I suppose, like my parents who moved as newlyweds from their native Canada and committed to building a life in America.

In blessing these two groups of outsiders, God also enriches his people.  For those former fringe dwellers are the best teachers of hospitality.  They know what It’s like to be “the least of these.”  They’ll be the first to invite an outsider over for a meal.

They’ll be the ones with the bright doorway lighting the way home.

Merciful God, we see your heart in these verses.  You are always watching out for the lonely, the brokenhearted, the friendless, the outsiders.  Make us aware of those in our midst who still long to belong.

Reader: What new ways have you learned to reach out and include others during this pandemic?

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.