The body of this editorial was given as a chapel speech at the PRC Seminary a few years ago, now edited for the SB to mark the Advent of Christ.
“What is man…that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels: thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands…”
“…wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.”
The birth of our Lord, Mary’s firstborn, God’s own Son.
Visited by God.
No small honor.
Revelation of God as Jehovah God, God of promise, God of friendship, God of love. Mind you, revelation of a love for a fallen human race.
Christ’s birth is the very heartbeat of God’s love for a people chosen in Him from before the foundation of the world.
“For God so loved…,that he gave…” ().
In that connection, consider that phrase found in, which reads “…wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.”
The more one reflects upon this phrase, the more astonishing it becomes. Not only astonishing, but moving!
And instructive as well.
In fact, the more we reflect on this phrase, the more we are convinced that it is one of those texts that could be inscribed on a plaque and placed upon one’s wall, like the text, “But as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord” ().
Appropriate for a believer’s kitchen; a constant reminder to self and others of whose presence looms large in that home and whose Word rules.
So with the phrase “…wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.”
It is a phrase, we are convinced, that would be particularly well suited for the wall of a minister’s study.
It would serve as a constant reminder of what a wonder God’s grace is—when you consider with whom Jehovah God is pleased to identify Himself.
And also, when you consider who it is God is pleased to use to represent Himself to His people, His church!
To be sure, when the text speaks of those of whom God is not ashamed, it is speaking of His people. But let every minister (and really every officebearer) remember, we also are numbered with those people of whom—wonder of wonders—it is said that God is not ashamed!
Which brings this reminder: how shall we repay Him who is not ashamed of us? By bringing shame upon His Name? God forbid!
A phrase that certainly has great application to ministers.
It is a declaration and reminder of how to look at those to whom one ministers. These are a people whom God is not ashamed to call His people. Whatever their sins and weaknesses (which are not a few, and often anything but small), yet for all that, these are those whom God is not ashamed to call His people, with whom He identifies Himself. It is with this understanding that ministers are to labor in Christ’s church.
“Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.”
Quite a statement! A statement that sets forth what one is inclined to call “the largeness and graciousness” of Almighty God.
Quite the declaration when you consider both with whom God is not ashamed (shall we say “embarrassed”) to be identified, and who this God is who is not ashamed to have us be identified with Him.
Hebrews 11:16 is an astonishing statement in light of who Jehovah God is. He is the Great Creator.
If you recall, this is the truth with which Hebrews 11 begins. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God” (v. 3). God Triune spoke, “Let there be!” And there was! The creation with its sun, moon, and myriad of stars in the vastness of a universe, which, the more we learn about, the more staggering its vastness is, all brought into being by His almighty word, a world and universe displaying the splendor of His mind.
That Almighty One.
And we have not even spoken yet of the wonder and glory of His Son, whose radiance outshines the splendor of the sun, in whom He visited us.
It is this God who is not ashamed (embarrassed?) to have it known: “These are my people.”
It would be one thing if the text read, “Wherefore a remnant of men are not ashamed to call Him God,” or “We are not ashamed to be called His people.”
That would be understandable, that God’s people are not ashamed to call Him their God, but consider it a singular honor, a privilege to be known as His people.
That would be one thing, that we declare ourselves to be those who want the world to know, “This sovereign, holy, righteous God is our God! This God of Scripture, whose words of truth in Scripture (for all your professed loved of God) you so despise and hate, this is our God with whom we openly identify ourselves. And we do so without embarrassment or shame.”
That would be one thing.
But that is not the text.
Rather, God is not ashamed to be our God and to be known as such.
That is the astonishing thing.
All you have to do is read the Scriptures and consider with whom, that is, with what kind of sinner-saints, God identified Himself throughout history, and the wonder is brought home.
Just consider the ancestry of Christ Jesus.
Judah and Tamar come to mind. A story so sordid that one hesitates to teach it to little catechism children. Wasn’t Judah married? And he went to bed with whom?! And then, when Tamar was found to be with child, he was ready to do what to her, until he was also exposed in the sin?
And then there is Rahab the harlot. And Ruth the Moabitess. But Moab was the son of whom? Of drunken Lot and his daughter! The Christ coming from such?! And of David and Bathsheba, who committed what together? And then to cover it up, David murdered whom?
The ancestry of Christ. Not exactly something of which to boast.
And God is not ashamed to be called the God of such?
And the time would fail me to tell of Samson and of Solomon and of who knows how many other stumbling ‘saints’.
It is about such that we must speak in catechism classes and from pulpits, and then identify ourselves with them.
One might think Almighty God would want to keep this secret. “I stand in a covenantal relationship with you, but I would just as soon that not be noised abroad. I will be your God, but let’s not let everyone know about it, shall we?!”
It is like having an unfaithful spouse or wayward children. Who cares to noise it abroad and have everyone talking about it? It is rather embarrassing, don’t you think?
And yet Hebrews 11 declares of such God that He is not ashamed to be called their God. Which is to say, He considers it, in the end, to be an honor to be identified with them; and by implication, with those to whom we minister. And with ourselves as well.
Maybe ‘astonishing’ is too weak a word.
Andsays something along the same lines: “…for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
This speaks of Christ, of course, as the great Son of Man, who is God come in our flesh. And calling the likes of us His brothers. And not embarrassed to do so and having the world know that it is so. “These are my adopted brothers and sisters, with whom I am happy to share my inheritance and all the rights and privileges of my Father’s house. They are sons of God. And you, worldlings, had better recognize them and treat them as such, or you will have Me to answer to.”
Indeed, what is man? And who are we?
Such is the implication of the phrase “not ashamed to be called their God.”
And we sometimes are hesitant, embarrassed, and ashamed to identify ourselves openly with Him and His cause and truth. Why? Because if we do in this increasingly anti-Christian, anti-biblical age, some may scoff or mock, or even hurl invectives at us, “You fundamentalist, hyper-Calvinistic, Christians you!”
After all, our reputation and name is involved. What will people think!
What people may think?
We, ashamed of God and of Christ whom He sent, who, as almighty God, is not ashamed of us and of having it declared in the world? Yet we, at certain times, embarrassed to be identified with Him and His truth? Beginning with a virgin birth and the appearance of angels and so on. Just as you find in the gospel accounts and also beginning with Genesis 1 (six-day creation?) and ending in Revelation 22 (which speaks of a return of this Jesus in glory with His holy angels and in final judgment).
“You still believe those things? Literally? How childishly simple you folk are.”
What such men think of us rather than what Jehovah God thinks of us, according to which ‘thoughts of love’ He sent His Son into the world and visited us? That governs our conduct and witness?
Rather, let us be like those sinner-saints listed in Hebrews 11, who by faith counted the promised heavenly land and city of greater value than the earthly and worldly. How does Hebrews 11 characterize Moses? As “…esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than [all] the treasures of Egypt, for he had respect unto [an eye for] the recompense of the reward.”
Of such a believer God is not ashamed, and with such He will be identified in this world.
It was exactly to make such a man, such a believer out of Moses (and later, out of a fearful Simon Peter, out of a Pharisaical Saul of Tarsus, and out of a timid Timothy), that God visited mankind some 2,000 years ago, entering our flesh in the Person of His Son.
God sending His Son into this world, because out of the likes of us, by His sanctifying power, He would make unto Himself a people of whom He would not be ashamed but glad to have identified with Himself.
And if He could sanctify to His service the likes of those of whom you read in the Scriptures, then He can sanctify whom He wills to be His ministers, as well as those with whom we labor and to whom we bring His Word.
Astonishing is the power of God who saves.
And, when you consider for whom the Lord God sent and gave His Son, amazing is His love.
When it comes to the gospel, how sweet the sound.