Up until this thought, most of my Immanuel characteristics made sense to me right away. I could understand Jesus as a Shepherd, Jesus as the Light, Jesus as the Word. But I had never thought of Jesus as an orphanage, so where did that come from? Then, in my wondering, God once again gave confirmation. The next day the news broke that Vladimir Putin enacted a law in Russia which would ban people in the United States from adopting Russian orphans. Thousands of children who await adoption were cut off from their expectant parents.
Hmm. Sound familiar? Perhaps a story from the beginning of the Bible? Or any of the stories that follow after it? All of us, as God’s children, have been cut off from Him. By law. The law that is God’s holiness, righteousness, and justice. The law that reflects back to us our complete and absolute inability to go and be with our Heavenly Father on our own. There’s not a child in a Russian orphanage now that can simply stand up, leave the country, cross the ocean, and find their adoptive family on their own. They cannot. They are bound by the law. So what can they do? What can we do?
Well, when we look in the Old Testament, there is a lot more laid out for the Israelites than only the Ten Commandments. Chapter after chapter follows the giving of the Ten Commandments with more instructions on how to live. Sabbath laws, laws for personal injury, protection of property, and much more. There is also a section titled “Social Responsibility.” When you read through all of the laws and ordinances that were spelled out at that time, you should extend a sincere, heartfelt “thank you” to Jesus for summarizing the law into Law 1A & 1B – love God, love people. Tucked into the “love people” commandments is this passage, which many of you may have heard before: “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” Exodus 22:22-24
It should not surprise us that God is passionately protective of those who cannot defend themselves, because that is all of us. God’s words to Moses for the Israelites was a shot across the bow, a bold warning to the enemy that attempts to claim us. We have all been cut off from our Father. We are all helpless to defend ourselves. And we cried out. God heard our cry. His anger was aroused. And He took His sword, plunged it into the heart of the enemy, and it flowed with the love of God’s sacrifice for us – Jesus. So what now?
Well, as orphans, we need a temporary home. We need an orphanage. Your Heavenly Father is waiting for you to come home, and one day you will. Once the place that is being prepared for you is ready, your Abba Father will call to you, “Come look what I have for you!” What a day of rejoicing that will be! But God will not leave you without a home in the meantime. We need an orphanage. And we have one. Read the words of Jesus as he promises the Holy Spirit, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” John 14:18-19
Isn’t it curious that Jesus told grown men that he would not leave them as “orphans”? Have you ever thought of yourself that way? It was Shane Claiborne, in his book Irresistible Revolution, that flipped on the light switch for me about our orphan status. He wrote very eloquently about a social problem that I have often noticed – fatherlessness. But as he wrote he pointed out that no one really is fatherless. Everyone – everyone – has a Father. But it is true that some have not met Him yet. Framing it that way puts the weight of social responsibility back on the brothers and sisters of that person who have met the Father. We must tell them! But to do that, we must recognize that we are orphans in an orphanage. The difference between us and those who are not there is that the adoption paperwork has been completed. We’re just waiting for our permanent home. Until then…
Until then what?
Until then you, who have a promised permanent home, must tell other orphans about the Father with waiting arms. About the Father with an infinite home and rooms just waiting to be filled. About the Father who has a big, big family.
So let me challenge what might be stopping you from telling other orphans about our Father. It’s what sits sinisterly within me: I’m not an orphan; I belong automatically. For all of my life, I have been blessed to know of God. I was in the church before you could see me. I was digesting the Word in utero – seriously. I have known no differently. It is a blessing to be given such a home, but so was the Garden of Eden. And the enemy whispers to me, “Did God really say you’re an orphan? You don’t need an orphanage – you already have a home – your family here.” Tempting to believe, right? Sounds almost accurate, right? Almost. But if you decide to build a home for yourself here, what will happen when the Father goes to the orphanage He built – the place where He expects to find you? What if the Father goes to the orphanage – Jesus – and asks, “Have you seen ______?” And what if Jesus’ response is, “They were here at the beginning – brought here by other children – but left to have a different home.”? God has an only son. And it ain’t me. I, too, need a “forever home,” and I cannot build one of those on my own.
Jesus called his disciples, those who daily walked with him, saw him in the flesh, saw him perform miracles and heard his voice…”orphans.” Don’t you dare think that you’re not. We are. And if we remember the words of Jesus, we will see the home that the Father has promised. Read these words spoken, as Jesus continued to comfort, “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” Don’t miss the depth of that statement by Jesus. When God heard the cries of His orphans, He was angry. Satan was taking advantage of us. God plunged His sword into him. His sword is His Word. The Word is Jesus. The Word won. And Jesus told his disciples that they would not be left as orphans. By the working of the Holy Spirit, Jesus leaves his life inside of us. We live in him – Jesus – our orphanage, as the ones who undestand our helplessness and await the promise of our permanent home. “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” John 14:21 Jesus, our orphanage, is in God, so that when the day comes for your adoption to be finalized, God will find you right where you belong – in the orphanage.
Understand that you are an orphan. Understand that you are not left that way. Understand that Jesus lives in you and you live in him. And Jesus, our orphanage, lives in our permanent home.
Now, once you understand that, you go back to the words of Exodus 22. “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” Exodus 22:22-24
You will see orphans all around you. Every day. The only question you need to ask is whether or not they have been adopted. If not, tell them about your Father who has promised you a forever home.