“It shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God.”
(Romans 9:26; Hosea 1:10)
November is National Adoption Awareness Month: a good time for couples and families to think seriously about the possibility of welcoming an orphan into the warmth and security of a permanent, loving family. Put another way, it’s an excellent occasion for taking to heart the message of The Drop Box by finding creative new ways to emulate the selflessly heroic example of Lee Jong-rak, the South Korean pastor who celebrates the inestimable value of human life by receiving abandoned children into his orphanage through a baby drop box in the front wall of his home.
November is also a great time for believers to remember that there’s something uniquely and powerfully Christian about adoption. From a certain perspective it would be fair to say that the Bible, like The Drop Box, is centered around this theme. But having said this, it’s important to add that adoption isn’t necessarily present – at least not in a clear and recognizable form – throughout Scripture. You can’t really trace it like a thread from Genesis to Revelation. Instead, it’s almost entirely a New Testament concept. And it makes its appearance pre-eminently as a vital element in the transition from the Old Covenant to the New. Thereby hangs a tale.
Biblically speaking, adoption is the Big Surprise. It’s the Good News nobody expected to hear. The Hebrews never gave it much thought. What mattered to them was their pedigree as “Children of Abraham.” They believed it was their blood-connection with the Founding Fathers of the Israelite race that made them true Heirs of the Kingdom. But God had something different mind.
The prophets were granted an inkling of this new plan. Isaiah, for instance, foresaw a time when “all nations” would flow into “the mountain of the Lord’s house” (Isaiah 2:2, 3). Amos, too, predicted that Gentiles as well as Jews would one day be called by Yahweh’s name (Amos 9:7, 12). But for the most part, the Old Testament authors didn’t understand this paradigm shift in terms of a newly formed parent-child relationship. Instead, they likened it to marital reconciliation – as in the story of Hosea and Gomer. Thus it was through the mouth of Hosea that the Lord declared, “I will call them My people who were not My people, and her beloved who was not beloved” (Hosea 2:23).
But with the advent of Messiah came the dawning of a new day. And in the fullness of that moment the apostle Paul found it necessary to give the message of reconciliation a revolutionary twist.
He did this by appealing to a whole new idea – the idea of adoption. We’ll explore this idea in Part 2.