How do a faithful people apply the principle of beit ab to their daily lives and walk? That is a fundamental question for each of us as we apply each of God’s instructions for life to our daily living. God calls us to believe, but as importantly, he calls us to live obediently.
Beit ab is both a picture of life in shalom with our Father now and forever, and it is also a picture of the desire of God for his people to live in shalom with each other. It is a both/and, not an either/or.
In Galilean societal structure, living areas of the first century villages and towns were organized into insulas. An insula could best be described as an extended family community. It was a microcosm of beit ab.
The head of the insula family community was the Father (patriarch). As each son reached the time of marriage, the father would instruct the son as to where to build his dwelling rooms onto the father’s house. When the son found his bride-to-be and the marriage was arranged by the fathers, the son would begin his building project. Only when the father determined that the rooms were ready did the son and his entourage go to the bride’s house and bring her to her new home in the insula.
The insula was a means to structure family community. Each member of the household worked within the insula for the good of all. The patriarch owned the property and was responsible for all of the members and for the provisions that each needed. The patriarch also was the keeper of the faith and its traditions. He insured that the family was faithful to God and to his ways.
When a member of the insula rebelled and broke community, it was devastating. The entire community suffered. Individualism was shunned in the community. Anyone who chose it over the good of all was ostracized. It was like the individual never existed.
Jesus often used parables to teach, and Luke 15 records him teaching through the parable of the prodigal son. It would better be titled the parable of the loving father. Rabbinic teaching had a multitude of commonly taught parables, and this was one of those. It was not original to Jesus, but Jesus offered a different ending.
The common parable concluded with the return of the son, but when the son came back to the father, the father rejected him, because the son had first rejected the insula. The son was sent away. He was no longer the son of the father and a member of the community. Protecting the community was the greater responsibility of the father.
Jesus turned the ending upside down. He said that the father looked for his lost son every day. He said that the father longed for the son to return. And when the father saw the son returning, he ran to him. (It was very frowned upon for a patriarch to run.) He hugged him. He loved him. He threw a grand party for him.
Jesus was teaching about the love of our Father for his lost children.
We are all lost. By our own merit, we all deserve for the Father to turn away when we come back, and to tell us he never knew us.
But our loving Father is not like that. His mercy and grace are amazing. He is not like the traditional patriarch in the first century. Instead, he is a loving Father. He runs to welcome us back. He wants to throw the finest banquet for his children. All he asks is that we repent of our sins and seek him.
The parable of the loving father is a beit ab picture. It is a picture of what our Father in heaven is like and his love for us. It is a picture of God’s Son, building rooms onto the Father’s house that will be completed at the time of the Father’s choosing and ready for us when the time comes.
First-century Jews truly desired to create faithful beit abs. Insulas were their attempt to live in beit ab. We have no such structures. Our societies and living communities are different. But God’s purpose for us is the same. He desires for his children to know the love of the Father’s house. His desire is for believing communities to find ways to live together in obedient communities, which imitate the love of the Father’s house.
Those who are called to lead are called to figure it out. How can we bring beit ab into our homes, our churches, and our Christian schools? How can we create welcoming and enfolding places of shalom? How can we be like the loving father in the parable? How can we be like our Messiah, God’s firstborn and only Son, and how can we lead those we meet to beit ab?
It is more than our challenge. It is the kingdom mission to which we are called.
Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services