2-15-3 God and Israel

" Some" Jews didn't believe (Rom. 3:3); the majority, actually, but the Father is more gentle than that. The whole tragic history of God's relationship with Israel is a sure proof of His essentially positive character. Right at their birth by the Red Sea, the Almighty records that " the people feared Yahweh, and believed Yahweh, and his servant Moses" (Ex. 14:23). No mention is made of the Egyptian idols they were still cuddling (we don't directly learn about them until Ez. 20). Nor do we learn that this " belief" of theirs lasted a mere three days; nor of the fact that they rejected Moses, and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. " There was no strange god" with Israel on their journey (Dt. 32:12); but there were (Am. 5:26). The reconciliation is that God counted as Israel as devoted solely to Him. The Angel told Moses that the people would probably want to come up the mountain, closer to God, when in fact in reality they ran away when they saw the holiness of God; almost suggesting that the Angel over-estimated their spiritual enthusiasm (Ex. 19:21-24 cp. 20:18). Likewise the Angel told Moses that the people would hear him, " and believe thee for ever" (Ex. 19:9). Things turned out the opposite. At this time, God saw no iniquity in Israel (Num. 23:21). He fulfilled His promise at Sinai that if they were obedient, He would make them His people; and He did, counting them as obedient. Yet the events of the intervening forty years hardly sound like Israel being obedient; He " suffered their manners" forty years (Ps. 95:10; Acts 13:18). And yet at the end of that period, they were counted as having been sufficiently obedient to be made God’s people (Ex. 19:5 cp. Dt. 27:9).

Even when God punished Israel, He seems to later almost take the blame for their judgments; thus He says that He left some of the Canaanite nations in the land to teach Israel battle experience (Jud. 3:2 NIV). Yet elsewhere the presence of those remaining nations is clearly linked to Israel's faithlessness, and their survival in the land was actually part of God's punishment of Israel. He almost excuses Israel's apostasy by saying that they had not seen the great miracles of the Exodus  (Jud. 2:7). " The portion of the children of Judah was too much for them" (Josh. 19:9) almost implies God made an error in allocating them too much; when actually the problem was that they lacked the faith to drive out the tribes living there. Likewise " the coast of the children of Dan went out too little for them" (Josh. 19:47), although actually " The Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley" (Jud. 1:34). When Dan fought against Leshem, this one act of obedience is so magnified in Josh. 19:47 to sound as if in their zeal to inherit their territory they actually found they had too little land and therefore attacked Leshem. But actually it was already part of their allotted inheritance. Yet God graciously comments: " all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel" (Jud. 18:1).

Further such examples at the time of the conquest could be furnished; they are summarized in the conclusion: " The Lord gave unto Israel all the land...and they possessed it, and dwelt therein...there stood not a man of all their enemies before them" (Josh. 21:43,44). But their enemies did stand before them, they didn't possess all the land. Yet God puts it over so positively, as if it's a story with a happy ending- when actually it's a tragedy. Even when rebuking them, God sees Israel as in some ways " perfect" (Is. 42:18-20). Israel were like Sodom, and yet they weren't treated like Sodom (Is. 1:9,10). They were Jeshurun, the upright one, but they kicked at God (Dt. 32:15). Their request for a human king was, as God Himself mightily demonstrated to them, an utter rejection of Him, and He grieved because of it. And yet when God gave them a King, He expresses His decision in quite a different tone: " I will send thee a man (Saul)...that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me" (1 Sam. 9:16). God speaks as if the gift of Saul was akin to the provision of Moses, to save poor Israel from their unwarranted persecution. Actually, Saul was slain by the Philistines- in His foreknowledge, the Almighty knew all about Saul. But in His pure grace, He doesn't reflect this in the way He speaks at this time.

This God of absolute grace and enthusiasm for our redemption really is our God, just as He was Israel's God, and is manifested in our Lord Jesus. When finally He appears, we shall be able to say that " Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him" ; He will be the character that we expect Him to be. The believer who thinks his Lord is a hard man will find Him like this; but to us who know Him as the Lord of all grace, this is how He will surely be. In the meantime, our experience of Him and His character will in itself lead us to the positive expression of His Name in every aspect of our daily lives: from our objection to violent military activity, to our speech, even right down to our body language.

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