The Family of Yahweh
Being a Part of the Kingdom
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 15 July 2000
More than anything else to be a Christian is to be a member of a family. And that is why Yahweh created the family unit as the basic building-block of society. In the ideal society, where everyone is true believer in, and worshipper of, Yahweh-Elohim, the Most High God, everything is family: noone can ever, at any time, say that they are single and alone. Everyone belongs to someone in marriage as an adult or to a family as an unmarried child or adult. As one thumbs through the pages of Scripture, the recurrent theme is always togetherness. To be single and alone is a curse, so much so that Yahweh went to extraordinary trouble to make a companion for the first man, Adam. Loneliness is not a part of the divine order of things.
Life on this earth begins at birth when we become a part of a biological family. We belong to our parents as a stewardship. It is their responsibility to take care of us, to meet our basic physical needs and to teach us in the ways of truth and righteouess. As children, young or old, our responsibililty is to obey them in righteousness and hold them in the deepest respect always. In fact, we remain their stewardship in the eyes of God until we have become married and leave home. Nowhere in the law of Yahweh do you find any concept of young unmarried people leaving home to settle down alone as singles: a young man remains at home, subject to his or her parents until he or she gets married. At that point the father "gives away" his daughter to the new bridegroom and releases his son to start his own family. The daughter's head is now her new husband even though she will continue to deeply respect and honour her father and mother all the days of her life. Similarly, the son becomes a new head, yet he too will continue to deeply respect and honour his parents att the days of his life. Only in the next world does the stewardship end and everyone becomes bothers and sisters, parents as well as children.
Because family is so central to Yahweh' plan for the happiness of the human race, it is God's intention that famileis should not be scattered everywhere, though sometimes this is necessary in special cases. The basis of a stable community is the family, which grows to be a clan, which grows into a tribe, and thence to be a nation. When Yahweh created the ideal nation, Israel, He divided it into twelve areas or territories, one for each of the twelve sons of Israel, though there was a special arrrangement for the tribe of Levi which I shall not discuss here. If, for example, a man was born in the tribe of Ephraim, he was expected to continue to live in his tribal territory. If his bride came from another tribe, for example, Benjamin, then she would emmigrate from her own tribal land to her new husband's. Her husband would start his own home within his tribal territory. Ideally, he would remain within the same village or town as his parents so that the clan would remain cohesive. Yahweh gave Israel special inheritance laws to ensure that the tribes would remain intact as distinct entities. When the tribe of Benjamin was nearly exterminated in a fraticidal war, drastic action had to be taken a Shiloh to ensure the tribe did not become extinct.
Now why would the Lord go to such great trouble to preserve families in clans and tribes? This is so very different from the ideals of our secular world - most especially in the West - where secular governments have done their utmost to fragment families. Families, once strong and happy, have become weak and unstable. In Great Britain, a third of all marriages fail. In Scandinavia, one half of them do. And of those that do survive, many are unhappy, couples not always staying togethe for love or covenant but because they feel they have no other option. Parents get neglected and end up in old peoples' homes. In God's holy plan, there should be no people's homes. Parents should be taken care of by their family on old age.
I was born and raised in Asia, and indeed my parents spent a good deal of their lives there, whereas almost everyone else here today was born and raised in Europe or North America. Asia is a completely different existence when it comes to the family. There, family loyalty is strong. And the family is more than simply father, mother and children - it consists also of parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and cousins. Blood ties are strong. And as a result, the Asian personality is much stronger, much happier and more stable than the European and North American one.
But it was not always so in Europe and North America. There was a time when families were strong like in Asia. People cared for one another. There was a time when the West was a less selfish world, where family togetherness meant a great deal. And because the family was strong, the nation was strong and robust as well. Children had no desire to get away from home as quickly as possible to "do their own thing" because they knew and understood how valuable the family was, whether rich or poor. They knew that that was where they could always find love and security. Having large families was considered desirable because they knew and understood from generations of experience that the essence of happiness lies in togetherness.
As such, this was a terrible nuciance to Satan who can only ever destroy God's plan by dividing mankind into competing and, ultimately, warring factions. In the beginning, tribes, clans and nations lived happily side by side in obedience to God's laws. A couple of centuries ago you could travel between nations without a passport and settle down in a foreign country so long as you obeyed its ruler and its laws. Satan worked on many fronts. Firstly, he got mankind to disobey God's laws. This stirred up trouble not only in the home but in the clan and in the tribes. Clans and tribes started going to war with each other in order to impose their own rule based on their own man-made laws. Family members quarrelled, and so did families. Clan warfare in Scotland, such as between the Campbells and MacDonalds, and in other nations is well known, feuds lasting centuries. The result of all this was that famileis, clans and tribes were either held together by force - using man-made rules - or they started fragmenting and fighting. The United States, for instance, was founded by Europeans feeling from religious persecution. As a result of disobedience to Yahweh's laws, families, clans, tribes and nations have constantly been on the move, searching for somewhere "better" to live. But as soon as they settled down anywhere, they became as troubled as they were before. Without God's Law, they could find no peace wherever they went. And so they went to war, seeking by bloodshed and by force what they could not find by settling down in one place in obedience to Scripture.
The same thing is happening today. People are restless - they are constantly on the move. They change careers, change homes, change husbands and wives, as they desperately seek to find peace and happiness. But all along, what they are really looking for - what would really make them happy - is right within themselves.
There is a famous proverb which reads: "Sometimes one must travel far to find what is near". Many of you have heard the story of the man who left home in search of his fortune. He had heard that there was a famous treasure in a distant land and he was determined to go and find it. We've all read similar stories, haven't we, about buried pirates' treasure on remote islands, and the like? Well, he searched and searched and used up nearly all his money trying to find this treasure, returning home virtually penniless, having wasted years of his life. He had sold everything, including his farm and land. So he went meekly to the man to whom he had sold his land and asked meekly if he could purchase a small plot of land and there eek out a simple living. He built a tiny little wooden hut and worked hard to till the land by hand, since he could not afford an ox or a horse.
One day as he sweated his life's energy away digging up the little field, his spade hit something hard and metallic and, you've guessed it, he found a treasure right on his own small patch of land! And so he settled down happily every after, married, and raised a family. What he had been looking for was right under his feet all along and he need not have wandered the ends of the earth in search of a fool's paradise.
The moral of this story is simple. Happiness is to be found at home, but to get it you have to put a little bit of effort into it and dig. No matter what you do in this life it's going to require effort. And yet people in our modern, naïve society believe that all you have to do is find a boyfriend or a girlfriend, make love, and you will find bliss and happiness. It's a terrible lie. Building human relationships is not easy, and because it is difficult, requiring that you give of yourself, Yahweh has created the family so that you can learn all the skills and habits that will give you a good foundation for happiness. It means responsibility, effort and sharing above all else.
Today, young people want to escape home as quickly as they can, making as little contribution to the family as possible, expecting their perants to do everything, and then they wonder why, when they find lovers and marry, things go so terribly wrong. The great illusion is that people today think that their lovers or marriage partners will solve all their problems for them! They think that the mystical thing called "love" - that warm glow in the heart - will solve all their problems for them. And what is ironic is that generation after generation makes the same mistake again and again.
I suppose that's why I love Asia so much, where family life is still strong, even though in many cultures it is being undermined by western secular ideas. And I suspect why Asian values are so strong is in some way connected with the fact that the Gospel of Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) is, in its essence, an Asian one. It was built within a Hebrew culture in a Middle Eastern, Asian nation.
At school you are taught that the cradle of civilisation was in Mesopotamia, and that is absolutely correct. In fact, North America, Africa and Europe were uninhabited for centuries. Everyone lived in what is now the Iraq area. Only after the rebellion of Nimrod, whom we have talked about already, did Yahweh cause people to scatter. The next great civilisations we hear of are in Egypt, the Indus Valley and in China. Europe and America do not come onto the scene as great civilisations until much, much later. Of course, Egypt, India and China were pagan nations. Whilst they retained many of the values and family ideals of their Mesopotamian past, their rebellion against Yahweh led them into false religion and moral disintegration for millennia. My point, however, is that we are all, ultimately, descended from Asians, and that therefore there is no shame in seeking for the roots of truth amongst our Asian forefathers.
There is a great deal of pride in the nations. We all know what nationalism is. But few realise that the modern nations are pretty fluid sort of things. What, after all, is an Englishman? We are a cocktail of Angle, Saxon, French, Norwegian, Dane, Roman, Celt and much else besides. What is a Scandinavian? What is a Norwegian or a Swede? Norwegians are a mixture of all sorts of tribes, as are the Swedes who originally consisted Goths, Vandals and other groups. Or the Germans? Hitler thought they were a pure race but they are a mixture of almost everything, including the much despised Slav. Indeed, to his horror, Hitler discovered, after his scientists had done anthropological studies on the occupied Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia, that the Slav Czechs were more "Germanic" in physical characteristics than the Sudeten Germans! What is a Malaysian or a Singaporean? They are a mixture of Malay, aboriginal tribes, different Chinese tribes (Cantonese, Hainanese, etc.), Indians (Tamils, Sikhs, etc.), and Europeans (English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Australian, Dutch, etc.) The nation is not so much a race but a cultural entity based on man-made traditions. Not even language is necessarily a definition of a nation. In Britain people speak English, Cornish, Welsh and Gailic - and more recently, Urdu, Punjabi and other "foreign" languages. In Norway they speak Danish-Norwegian (Bokmål), New Norwegian (Nynorsk) and Lappish (Samisk). In Malaysia, Malay, Cantonese, Hainanese, Tamil, Punjabi, and English.
This last century people have tried to escape the truth of themselves in nationalism and socialism. Nationalism exalts the state - the race, the tribe, the nation. Socialism exalts the lowest common denominator - the working man - and tries to make everyone the same. Today's 21st century religion is the Self. Family, clan, tribe, and nation mean little or nothing anymore. Today's religion is the exaltation of the Self. And its consequences are disasterous. It is the very opposite of the truth - for self should be at the very bottom of our scale of priorities. God's recipe for happiness puts others at the top of our list of priorities and Self on the bottom. And the modern, selfish, egocentric world hates it. And in the end, as a result, they end up hating thenmselves because we weren't built to be that way. So what happens? Our society has become a violent one. Senseless muggings and murders are common place. People don't even know why they are doing it any more because in truth they are at total war with themselves. They hate the family - they first want to run away from it and then destroy it. In short, they want to do anything but follow the Lord's commandments and recipe for happiness. You Norwegians here will know about the Blitzers in Oslo - left-wing youth who have turned away from all social conventions and live together as squatters in abandoned blocks of flats living a sexually immoral, drug-infested, and God-hating lifestyle.
What must we do? We must go back to the basic of our forefathers who, inspite of being less technologically advanced than we are today, make the modern world look primitive when it comes to human relationships. And the further back in time you go, to the very beginnings of man, to that age when men and women lived together in perfect harmony, the more you come to the ideal way of life. And the recipe is very simple - God's ways always are. And to end my sermon today, I am going to briefly list some of them.
Rule 1. Life begins and ends at home. The home is the foundation of human life. It's where we learn almost everything that is important in life. Recent studies have shown that 70% of all the skills we learn for life are acquired in the family - only about 30% come from school.
Rule 2. The family exists from cradle to grave. You can't run away from it. It's a continuous thing. Your blood ties can't be escaped so long as you are in the flesh. The family is everything, from a place of refuge to the place where we learn to be fully happy. If you can't find happiness at home you are not very likely to find it in marriage later without a considerable amount of suffering first. By being selfless, working hard, contributing to the wealth, running, recreation, discipline and worship of a family we require almost everything we need to be happy in life.
Rule3. The family without Christ is an imperfect, incomplete family. Family by itself, whilst good, is not enough if we are to prevent families from fragmenting and warring with one another. Yah'shua (Jesus) taught that one consequence of rebelling against God was that family members would war against each other, and that when they fight it is evidence that someone is in rebellion against the Truth which he taught. Fathers are the heads of their families with wives and children in subjection to him. Furthermore, irrespective of what the state or government says, children remain under a father's authority until they marry. Today, the government lis to you and says: "When you are 16 or 18 you can leave home and do what you want." But that is what man-made government teaches. And because man-made government is ungodly, there isn't much Christian parents in a pagan world can do when their children decide to rebel and go away. However, it is important that they know that they are in rebellion against Yahweh if they do contrary to what they father tells them until they marry and start their own lives. You see, new life begins at mariage, not at 16, or 18, or when you start a new career. The world has lied to you, and encouraged you to be a part of the world-wide rebellion.
Rule 4. The biological family isn't enough. It's important - very important - just as spiritual things are more important than physical things - but there is another family that's even more important, and that's the family of God. As Yah'shua (Jesus) warned us, though, the demands made by the spiritual family often cause members in the biological family to fall out with one another. This is what He said: "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death" (Mt.10:22, NIV). Also: "Do not suppose I came to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daugher-in-law against her mother-in-law -- a man's enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anybody who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Mt.10:34-39, NIV):
Now these sayings trouble alot of people. They would like to paint Christ as a vicious divider of families. And indeed some Church groups have totally misunderstood the Lord's teachings and done just that. We think of the Jehovah's Witnesses for one, where members of the same family will have nothing to do with each other because some don't belong to the Witnesses. But what Yah'shua (Jesus) is actually saying is that the division is already there when people do things their own way. When people rebell against Yahweh, they have aleady created the seeds of war in their own lives.
In the modern world the church and state are two separate things. Anciently they were not. It was all one theocratic order. Also, there weren't two separate families - the biological family and the church family. They were one. Today they have become separated because of man's rebellion and because of secular, socialistic ideas about democracy. And when you divide things, there are naturally problems. The only solution in our divided world, Christ says, is to get our priorities right - to do things in the right order. In short, we must abandon selfishness and follow Him first. We must, as He puts it, "lose out life" by putting Him first and serving others. Only in doing this will we then "find" our life - our real self, centred in Christ, and free from the slavery of trying to follow the dictates of the fallen flesh.
In our home Church and family are integrated, as they should be, but this is bound to cause stress when family members rebell. Many times I have heard the argument that this isn't natural and we should separate the family from the church family, just as we have been told to separate church from state. But the reverse is even worse. In the reverse situation, where the family is built upon no belief of God, or upon a false religion, and a a member of the family is following Christ, then you still have a war-like situation. A Muslim son who converts to Christ is at once an enemy of his family who have a duty to convert him back to Islam or, failing that, to kill him.
How different this is from the picture of the Way painted by Christ. You all know the story of the prodigal son, which Yah'shua (Jesus) to taught about the family of God, with the father representing God. A son wants to get out into the world and live a wild life, losing all his inheritance, the sweat and blood of his father. His father gives him the freedom to make his own mistakes, to let him go and risk his life in foolish living, in following the ways of the world. He doesn't try to kill him as the Muslim does. Instead he waits patiently, his heart broken, until his son comes to his senses and comes home. Yes, we are once again back to the eternal concept of the home. In the case of this parable, is is the family of Christ, the home to which all believers will go when they die, and the home they are already a part of here. In the ideal situation, the whole family are obedient, loving believers - and when you have that, you have Paradise.
In our kitchen there is a red placard which I have had since I first married, and its opening line is: "Christ is the head of this home". With Christ at the head we belong to the family of God, wherever we may be. Under Christ is the husband and father, who is the head of the home under Christ. Under his righteous government, we belong to our biological family. But the family of Christ is more than family by marriage or by birth - it is a family by adoption.
I have two cousins who are adopted children - their parents are not their biological parents - but they are still "family", because the parents have accepted responsibility for them. Similarly, not everyone in this room is biological family by marriage or by birth, but we, who are believers, are all the sons and daughters of Christ, for in accepting Him as Lord and Saviour, He has accepted responsibility for us too. We are therefore all one.
We've just had a couple of visitors from Malaysia who are born-again believers - they too are family. We are under the same head. And though they are 30 years older than me, and though I haven't seen them for decades, and though we are from different nations and races, yet because of Christ there was an instant fellowship. It felt as though I had always known them. And I was relaxed and completely comfortable with them. That's what true family does for you.
Do you feel uncomfortable with your biological family? Or with the family of Christ? If you do, then there is something seriously wrong. Do you want to escape - to run away? If you do, now is the time to seriously ask yourself the question, why? Because such is not natural at all. It is, in fact, a sign of domestic and spiritual rebellion. If that is how you feel, go and read the story of the Prodigal Son, for Christ told it for you. We have all been prodigals at some stage or another, so you need not feel that you have been singled out for criticism. Rather, be aware that there are contradictory forces in your life which have to be sorted out one day because until you have done so, you will be at war with your conscience and know no peace.
Today I have spoken about the foundation of life and true religion, the way of Yahweh. And that foundation is the family. Without it we are without roots, without an anchor in our life, at the mercy of the winds and tides of the ever changing world. Both before and after I was married I always had a home - I can truly say I have been blessed never to have been homeless. There are many who have neither home nor Christ - they need our help. And there are those who have homes but who can't see how richly blessed they are because all they want to do is get away from it at the soonest possible oppostunity. They are blind to what they must do to be happy.
May you give your heart to your home, both earthly and heavenly, and come discover as I have, that "There's no place like home." To have you all here, and to know Christ, is the most precious possession I have. I hope you feel the same way. Amen.
This page was created on 5 February 2001
Last updated on 5 February 2001
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