by Thomas Egger
God wants a large family!
From the beginning of the world, God has been creating and gathering for Himself a beloved people. In His wisdom, He designed parents to participate with Him in His creative powers and purposes, bringing forth new sons and daughters, generation after generation — and teaching them to know their God.
Statisticians tell us that, around the world, some 250 children are born every minute. That’s more than four children born every second. Yet the Scriptures leave no doubt that God Himself is deeply interested in and directly involved in the creation of each one of these lives, and that it is He who knits us together in the womb (Ps.139:13).
The Creator’s original blessing upon the first man and the first woman was accompanied by these words: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). Although these words are often read as a command, they are best understood as a blessing and a promise. God had created Adam and Eve, but He was not yet finished with His project of creating a vast people for Himself — a people to know, to love and to bless.
After the fall into sin, God promised that one day the stain of human sin, the curse of death and the power of the devil would be crushed by the “offspring” of the woman, a promise pointing forward to the birth of one particular child, our Lord Jesus. Even though death had now come into the world, God’s plan to multiply and redeem humanity would continue. So Adam gave his wife the name Eve, a Hebrew word meaning “life,” thus acknowledging God’s plan that she would become the mother of every human to ever live (Gen. 3:20).
After the Flood, God’s blessing to Noah and his family again begins and ends, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 9:1, 7), followed by promises that will extend through the generations, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and with your offspring after you” (Gen. 9:9).
Generations later, God chose Abraham and promised to “multiply you exceedingly” and to “make you exceedingly fruitful” (Gen. 17:2, 6). God assured him, “I will fulfill my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you” (Gen. 17:7).
In fact, all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham and his offspring — ultimately and especially through his descendant Jesus (Gen. 12:3; 22:18).
In the fullness of time, from the family tree of Eve, of Noah and of Abraham, God sent His promised Savior. Jesus came to bear the sin of the world on the cross, to reconcile the descendants of Abraham and the whole human family to God their Creator. To all who receive Him, to all who believe in His name, Jesus gives “the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12–13).
After Jesus’ resurrection, on the day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed the good news of Jesus to the crowds in Jerusalem, and the Lord added 3,000 believers to His family that day. The apostles baptized them, declaring, “The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39).
God is still at work in our world today, working the miracle of every human birth, and the miracle of re-birth through faith in Christ. Across generations, adding generation to generation, God is forming and gathering His own numerous people. His Church. His beloved. His bride. Each individual child known and beloved by God. Each one called by God to belong to Him and to “proclaim his excellencies” to others (1 Peter 2:9).
God wants a large family because His love is so enormous! And the day is coming soon when we will actually see and hear just how large God’s family is and has become. One day, our eyes and ears will experience what the apostle John describes: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Rev. 7:9–10).
In the meantime, we embrace God’s gift of life and of children. We serve and care for our neighbors, knowing that God has made each one. We tell the good news of God’s love and saving work in Jesus — to our children in each new generation, and to all of those around us. And we praise God that He creates and loves so many, including us.
The Rev. Thomas Egger is assistant professor of exegetical theology and serves as an academic adviser to first-year students at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He is currently completing his Ph.D. dissertation on the phrase “visiting iniquity of fathers upon sons” from the book of Exodus.
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of The Lutheran Witness magazine.