This is what the Lord says . . . let not any eunuch complain “I am only a dry tree.” 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 – to them I will give . . . a name better than sons and daughters (Isaiah 56:3-5).
Then the word of the Lord came to me: “You must not marry and have sons or daughters in this place.” (Jeremiah 16:1-2)
Yesterday I watched my daughter jump off the diving board. I watched her delight in the act of splashing around aimlessly in the pool. And for just a few seconds I sensed blessing deep within myself. Sure, I’ll readily admit on any day of the week that I’m blessed, but in those moments yesterday as my daughter swam I felt it like something weighty in my chest.
Tomorrow I will go to pick up my son after his two weeks away at Camp. I can’t wait to see him. Again, the sense of blessing and grace is so real right now. Marnie returns from the General Assembly on Saturday, meeting up with us in North Carolina. All of us will be back in one car and under one roof. Yes, the sense of blessing can quickly dissipate in one car – but I’m still eager and ready for all of us to be close enough to get on each other’s nerves again.
Sons and daughters are a blessing. And even the ordinary rhythms of family life are a gift of grace. But there is something greater. There’s a name better than sons and daughters.
That’s what God spoke through the prophet Isaiah. God’s word was aimed at eunuchs who felt themselves excluded from blessing. A eunuch would never see his daughter swim or anticipate the sight of a son after a two week absence. The eunuch might be tempted to say of his life, “I am only a dry tree.” Lacking life. Unfruitful. God answered: “Don’t say that. There’s something more to your life than that. There is a name better than sons and daughters.”
Another prophet, Jeremiah, was commanded not to marry and have children. Jeremiah probably grew up assuming marriage and parenting would be a part of his life . . . until God said “don’t do it.” Why? Because there was something more significant happening in Jeremiah’s world. God was at work in some powerful ways and Jeremiah had a role to play in what God was doing. That role took priority over marriage and family.
A name better than sons and daughters. God at work in the world and inviting us to participate.
The greatest name by which we can be known is God’s name. The name better than sons and daughters is given to all who live for God, choose what pleases God, keep fellowship with God. And the highest calling is to be a part of what God is doing in the world. Our God is on a mission and invites us to join. Marriage is a not a prerequisite for participation.
For those married and those not married, this name and this calling tells us who we are. This is how God gathers his family together. And this is the source of our greatest blessing.
Gracious God, through this day remind me of who I am and to whom I belong. Help me to keep company with you and do what pleases you. Thank you for including me in your family and for the gift of your Spirit that makes me yours. Wherever you place me today, use me as you see fit, in Jesus’ name. Amen.