One of my favorite verses in the Bible these days is Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” (ESV) I find so much in this verse about the fatherhood of God and the story of my own adoption in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
With Father’s Day this past weekend in most places around the world—and coming up in Egypt on Thursday—here are 4 ways that sponsors step into aspects of that fatherly role God first invented by adopting us.
#1 – God’s Love Finds Us First – and So Do Sponsors
Hosea 11:1 says that God loved Israel as a child, in Egypt. That’s to say that God loved Israel before Israel was a great nation, when it was still young and small and an ethnic minority in a nation not its own.
In childhood, life isn’t yet clear. God meets us as His People before we’re even aware of Him or able to return His love:
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of compassion, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. (Hosea 11:3-4, RSV)
Sponsors also step into a relationship with children that is giving, and has nothing to do with these children’s’ ability to give anything back.
Sponsors do say they get much more back than they give, but you’ll see why a little later.
#2 – God Calls His Children into Freedom to Reach Their Potential – and So Do Sponsors
When God called his people out of Egypt, it was from slavery to Freedom. Galatians 4:4-8 also says about being called God’s son:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
How do you picture what it is like in this passage to be a slave versus a son? Here’s one picture.
Morcos lost his father at 9 years old. He had a mother and three sisters.
Morcos had to go to work after school. He worked until 11pm every day until his grades dropped.
At 10, his grades forced Morcos to drop out of school completely. His 12-hour days at the mechanic shop were long and hard. He lifted tires over and over again. He also crawled into the tight spaces of trucks and cars to reach where adult hands could not. He had to move fast when eavy iron parts and equipment dropped. He once hurt his hand so badly he couldn’t use it for a week, and it still hurts. But he told himself that at least he can still work. Another boy, Adel, hurt his leg so much he never came back to the shop, and Morcos heard from another boy that Adel was still in bed at home.
Morcos makes about a fourth of what an adult made at the shop. He brought home only enough money in his pocket at the end of each day to fill the stomachs of his family so they had enough strength to keep going the next day.
Without his father, Morcos is certainly in a situation a lot like slavery. He works in taxing physical labor that left him with little energy for anything else. He earns enough only for food; he can’t help himself or his family get out of their situation by saving money. With no education, Morcos’ future looks a lot like his present.
Morcos is not fatherless in this universe, though. God loves him. And God desires to show Morcos that love in the flesh. How?
#3 – God Goes to Tough Places to Find Us – and So Do Sponsors
Hosea 11:1 contains a picture of Christ’s becoming man. Luke 9:31 calls the passion of Christ his “exodus” in Greek. Just as surely as he led us out of the Egypt of this world, Jesus came into Egypt to be with us us when he became a child.
So Jesus goes to Egypt. But since He is now in us, every time we go to the fatherless we go with Christ.
When sponsors show children that they are not alone, they bring the Spirit of adoption that God gave us when he called us out of the Egypt through our own exodus in baptism. So part of the answer to God’s desire to show Morcos His love in the flesh is Morcos’ future sponsor once we reach him.
#4 – God Gives Us a New Identity – and Sponsors Share that Identity with Children
In the scriptures, you’ll always find orphans, widows, and strangers together. God says to pay attention to them “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19, NKJV) In other words, we’ve been there, and we know what it’s like. Old Testament Isrealites were strangers in a strange land. We were once orphans and strangers, too, before we knew the love of God.
As sponsors bless fatherless children through their correspondence, prayers, and support, they do awaken to children to the truth that they are, in fact, not alone: they are children of a very loving Father, from whom every family is named. (Ephesians 3:15)
But it also goes both ways.
Every volunteer or sponsor we send to Egypt comments about how full of love the children are. These children give us the Spirit of adoption, too! Sponsors find their own identity as God’s beloved in the Egyptian children they get to know. He has called them out of a spiritual Egypt and given them the richest gifts of unconditional adoption.
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”