If there’s one aspect of God which we might all agree upon it might be His faithfulness. The Old Testament Scriptures repeatedly confirms that this small piece of land in the Middle East is the land God has given to his Chosen people in perpetuity. Others who lay claim to it do so in error.
Image by J F
By Steve Hall
Many who read the Old Testament have problems with the image of God there revealed. Take, for example the God-image presented last week:
“You were sold to the nations . . . because you angered God [Because] you provoked your Maker with sacrifices to demons, to no-gods [Because] you forsook the Eternal God who nourished you.”
What we are presented with in the text from Joel today is markedly different:
“The LORD is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the children of Israel. Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall pass through her no more. And then, on that day, the mountains shall drip new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk; The LORD is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the children of Israel.”
It’s not always easy to follow and understand what God is or was doing; in fact, it’s likely to be impossible. But what is of particular interest is both the consistency in the relationship and the two principles that provide for its continuity.
In one of the Psalms the revelation of the Lord is celebrated in these words:
“He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances.” (Psalms 147:19-20)
The statement can, at first, seem peculiar. ‘God gave us a bunch of difficult rules to follow; and he gave those rules to no one else. So let’s celebrate!’ Unless we understand the foundational truth of this God/Israel relationship we can understand nothing of how it all unfolds. To put things simply: God entered into an agreement with Israel that was based on two principles. God agreed to be their God, the one who provided for them and protected them. Israel, for its part, agreed to follow the Lord’s precepts—the principle one being ‘You are our Lord and God. We will have no other gods before you.’ This familial agreement comes early in the Scriptures. The rest of the Old Testament centers upon God trying to get Israel to fulfill their side of the agreement and how God went about doing so. This tenuous relationship continued to the time of Jesus. But what about after? What was the relationship then? Paul has our answer.
“Has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Eli'jah, how he pleads with God against Israel? But what is God's reply to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Ba'al." As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.” (Romans 11:1-2, 4, 28)
If there’s one aspect of God which we might all agree upon it might be His faithfulness. His faithfulness then; his faithfulness now; his faithfulness forever. And so it is that we come to today when the tiny nation of Israel has begun a new battle for its existence. The Old Testament Scriptures repeatedly confirms that this small piece of land in the Middle East is the land God has given to his Chosen people in perpetuity. Others who lay claim to it do so in error. The length of their ancestral occupation cannot change the facts. And those who fight against God’s will may cry ‘Allah Akbar’ but the character of their battle tactics more readily indicates a burnt offering to Ba’al.
In the turmoil which will most assuredly come Christians must remember the origin of the Jewish claim: “God gave this land to me.” As well as the teaching of Paul: “As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.”