Summary: Fourth in a series taken from Ephesians 1, this series delves into the riches that we know through our relationship with Christ.
Remember, if you can, the glory days of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Yes, there’s a fog there, isn’t there? But in 1979, led by Willie Stargell and fueled by Sister Sledge’s disco hit, the Pirates were “fam-a-lee”, and they slipped past the Orioles to claim what remains to this day their latest championship. It was the sense of family that pervaded the clubhouse that contributed to their victory. Bonds of support and love and shared purpose and encouragement were necessary ingredients, as they are to any family. We should find those same things going on in the family of God because we have been adopted by God in Christ.
To understand this week’s message more fully, we have to go back to our last message, because it begins the theme of God’s unfolding plan. We spoke, if you remember, of the fact that God loved us and planned before the beginning of the world to choose us to be holy before Him. Today’s text continues that theme; read it with me (Ephesians 1:5,6).
Note as we look at the outline today that it all begins and ends with God—and it is for His glory and our benefit.
1. God’s Plan
His plan is described as “unchanging”—this is not some Johnny-come-lately idea that God had; it’s not Plan B or Plan K or anything else. It is the plan God had in mind from the very beginning; it has never changed and never will. Though it is all to His praise and glory, it’s also a thrilling thing to recognize that our names and our lives were designed as part of the plan of God from eternity past.
2. Our Adoption
Imagine the stark terror of a five-year-old little boy, fleeing from unseen enemies that have taken the life of his father and that threaten his own. At the very dawn of his understanding, the tragic news comes to his caretakers, and they quickly grab up the boy and begin to flee. One day, all is well in the little boy’s world; the next day, tragedy comes, and terror is written in the eyes of his nurse. This little boy was the son of Jonathan, grandson of King Saul, with the given name of Mephibosheth. And yet even more tragedy was to follow, for in the process of flight, the little boy was dropped and likely trampled, with the result that his legs were useless for walking for the rest of his life. In the span of a few short minutes, his lot had gone from the carefree life of a happy little boy to the horrifying prospect of being a crippled orphan.
We don’t know anything, really, of Mephibosheth’s adult life; he’s pretty much forgotten, until David asks a question that is recorded in II Samuel 9. David is now king, and one day he is remembering his best friend, Jonathan; he is recalling how, as the Bible says, their very souls were knit together, their friendship through thick and thin stronger than iron. And David remembers a promise that he’d made to Jonathan, to show kindness to the family of Jonathan; it’s time to make good on the promise.
Only Mephibosheth isn’t in on the promise; wasn’t likely very aware of the depth of friendship between his late father and King David. Undoubtedly, he’d been told of his grandfather’s attempts to take David’s life, of David’s vindication before God; undoubtedly, he knew that David was a warrior known for shedding the blood of his enemies. And when he is brought before David, he comes trembling in fear that David will now wreak final retribution upon the line of Saul, once and for all doing away with the lineage of the one who was his enemy. Now listen as I read the rest of II Samuel 9 (:7 and following).
And the question is, “why do we have this event recorded in Scripture”? This is the last we hear of the story; Mephibosheth doesn’t pay David back in any way that Scripture records. The story ends with Mephibosheth taking his place at David’s table, making his residence in the king’s palace in Jerusalem; we’re left to speculate as to any further details. Why is this event recorded in Scripture? I believe it’s because God moved in David’s heart to act in this way as a lived parable of the grace of God in His dealing with us. David effectively adopted Mephibosheth as one of his own sons. God adopts us for the sake of Christ as His children. In imperfect, human terms, David did for Mephibosheth what God does perfectly for us.
David freely chose to adopt Mephibosheth; he was under no obligation except to his own character. God is not obligated to me in any way, shape, or form; His only obligation is to His own character and nature; God must and will be true to Who He is. But it was out of His love for us—consistent with His character and nature—that He loved us and set in motion in eternity past the plan by which He would adopt us through Christ. Some translations of Scripture move the words around from verse four so that verse five is prefaced by the words, “In love”; in other words, God’s adoption of us as sons is said to have been prompted by His love. Whether or not those two words belong in this position in the text, the fact is that they are certainly implied: it’s because God chose to love us that He chose to adopt us as His children.