In thinking about different forms of “keeping" and “keepers," we might think about God as a “keeper," and remind ourselves of His “keeping," which flows forth from His love, like a river of pure water of life, to the whole human family. He is the keeper of the whole earth, "in him we live and move and have our being” (1). He is also the keeper of the whole universe. We do not often think of this. Without God and His love for mankind, mankind would not have life sustained for us now in the present, nor throughout all of eternity to come.
We are dependent on God for every breath of air and every morsel of food for our whole lives, now and for all of eternity. This is true of spiritual food also. Christ is the "bread of life" given to mankind to feed our hearts and souls and spirits now, but also to keep sustaining us for all the eternal ages. He is mankind’s “keeper” forever.
If no angel or human being had ever sinned, God would still be the sustainer and keeper of life for men and for angels. Sin has not changed this need by God’s creatures to be “kept” and sustained by God. Sin has only changed the extent to which God would need act in order to “keep” us for eternity. For the joy of “keeping” mankind for all of eternity to come, God, embodied in Christ, “endured the cross" (2). This was a new level of “keeping” that neither men nor heavenly angels or fallen angels ever anticipated. It was required by the nature of sin. This sacrifice of love, by God for His children—all mankind, is what is to keep the human family inside divine love for eternity; taking us into forgiven life, redeemed life and eternal life. This divine gift of love reaches to everyone throughout human history from before our births. We were loved from before our births.
From before the conception of this earth in God’s mind, such a “keeping” commitment was in His heart for His future children. From before “the foundation of the world,” God’s love was the same. He would die for His creation—and God is unchanging in nature for all eternity to come.
God Himself is willing to give up His own existence, if He could, to give his children life—just as loving human parents will die for their children, but God's commitment to us is even greater. Thus, "the Word became flesh" (3). Jesus said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give . . .” (4). We can extend this idea by saying, “and if you, though you are evil, love enough to give up your own lives for your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give up His own life for you?”
God’s love, and His keeping, is far far greater than human love and human “keeping” and human willingness to die for our own children. The idea of God as our keeper can take us in many directions in Scripture, and this theme is found in various places throughout the Bible. "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want" (5) is one example. This shepherd “keeps" looking for the one lost sheep, until he finds it (6). This is a rather heartwarming form of the divine "keeping." Jesus said: “‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (7).
God as our “keeper" is a rich area to contemplate and focus on, and to inspire us to love each other even more, and to “keep” on loving each other. Our love for others, and our “keeping” of others, and of each other, springs from the Source of all “keeping." The whole story of redemption in Scripture reveals that God has committed himself to sustain and feed and “keep” all of His “sheep," not only physically but spiritually—for all of eternity. God’s “keeping" lasts forever. God is love and His character does not fluctuate or change throughout eternity. “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever" (8). God’s “keeping-love” will continue, unabated and undiluted in its flowing abundance and richness, for all of eternity. Humanity is assured of safety and security for all of eternity.
The depth of God’s commitment of “keeping-love” towards the human family is demonstrated even further in the fact that this love was given to all mankind while we were still enemies towards God in our minds, and enemies of righteousness, and then even further: that this forgiving love was given through the death of His own Son. This was all done so that we might live inside this divine love and “keeping”—and experience this love in our hearts (9). The death of the Son of God for the human family means that none of us will ever doubt or fear, but always be ”kept” trusting in such divine love for us, and this was needed in order for redeemed sinners to be able to trust and feel safe in God for all eternity with all fear removed.
Human keeping of friends, and even family, may fail, but this divine “keeping” will not, and has not, it has died for us, even while we were “far away” in a distant country. The prodigal son was deeply loved by his father even while he was far away from his father (10). “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” said the apostle Paul (11), further indicating the Shepherd’s love for the whole human family, with none left out from the divine “keeping." We are looking at nothing less than the nature of divine love. The love of God has no wavering or flinching or varying in its desires and love for all mankind. The commitment of God, is a commitment that includes keeping and nourishing the whole human family with His divine love for all eternity to come.
God’s dwelling is to be with the human family for all of eternity. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them . . . there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (12). The Book of Revelation reveals that God in Christ the Lamb is to be “married” to the human family for all of eternity, never divorcing Himself from us nor leaving mankind for all of eternity (13). This is a sacred marriage, an unfathomable commitment indeed by the eternal God! This is what God pre-committed himself to, from, and before the creation of the world: and which he subsequently fully demonstrated by Calvary.
God is not only the “keeper", and shepherd of mankind, He is also the divine shepherd of angels. His love is no less for the family of angels above than for the human family on earth below. His name (character) is above all names, and above both men’s and angels’ levels of love. God’s “keeping-love” is above all earthly “keeping”, and all earthly love, and greater than the love of even the sinless angels. “Marvel O heavens, be astonished O earth!” At his “Name," at his “character," of divine love and keeping, “every knee shall bow, both on earth and in heaven" (14).
Mankind and the whole universe are to remain astonished by this love for all of eternity to come; and thrilled beyond measure, and richly nourished, and kept, and safe and joyful and rejoicing! Rejoicing for eternity in the love of God and His Son, “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (15). For the joy of “keeping” mankind for all eternity the divine Son of God endured the cross—which was also evidence of the Father’s love for mankind. Jesus said, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life” for the world (16).
What a wondrous divine Keeper mankind has to adore and worship! And to inspire all of us to love and serve each other better, and not to give up in discouragement, but to "keep on keeping on”, on the difficult pathway of life. "We have not followed cunningly devised fables" (17), but a divine heart that has died for each of us, to “keep," and not “lose” mankind—you and me. What more can be asked for, hoped for, prayed for?
The joy of those who wish to be loved and “kept” by God for eternity will know no bounds and the singing and rejoicing will be irrepressible. “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, all that is in them, singing: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power for ever and ever’ ” (18). “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes” (19). Our eternal “keeper.”
(1) Acts 17:28; (2) Hebrews 12:2; (3) John 1:14; (4) Matthew 7:11 (5) Psalm 23:1; (6) Luke 15:1-7; (7) John 10:11; (8) Heb 13:8; (9) Romans 5:6-10; (10) Luke 15:11-31; (11) 2 Corinthians 5:14; (12) Revelation 21:3,4; (13) Revelation 21:2,3,9;
(14) Philippians 2:6-10; (15) Rev 13:8; (16) John 10:17; (17) 2 Peter 1:16; (18) Rev 5:13; (19) Rev 7:17.
"Keepers" illustration by Joshua De Oliveira.
KEEPERS is a weekly One project devotional series exploring from a variety of angles the well-known rhetorical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9). This phrase expresses a central tension in our community lives. To what extent are we our brothers’ keepers? Even more crucial, to what extent are other people our keepers? Various cultures have different attitudes toward autonomy and interconnectedness, but probably few are as conflicted about the exact definition of community, its boundaries, and its responsibilities as Western culture is. We want help, but hate advice. We value friends, but resent obligations. We enjoy affirmation and seethe at rebuke. We want community, but only when it meets our intensely parsed criteria for what we deem helpful. Don’t you dare look at me and tell me what you think I need, our attitude screams. I’ll tell you what I need and you give it to me. Then you’re my friend. Then we’re a community. And when we offer help, we expect gratitude, maybe even adoration. We like being keepers better than we like being kept, but we’re pretty poor at both. Yet existing in community is essential to our humanity. How can we balance the tensions we experience in positive ways?
SHARE! Do you have a story to share related to the idea of keeping or being kept? Have there been times when other people have been your keeper with surprising results? Have you struggled with determining appropriate boundaries in your relationships with others? If you'd like to write a devotional for the One project Keepers series, email the editor.
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