As part of my Bible-in-a-year schedule I’ve been going through the Old Testament again. As I read, I am reminded of the relationship between God and the nation of Israel. One thing that has occurred to me is that Israel in the Old Testament as an archetype of the present day believer. The whole story of Israel’s relationship with God has several important characteristics:
- Israel becomes God’s own people and they follow God beginning with Abraham and his descendants
- God watches over Israel by providing for them in Egypt when famine comes to their land
- Israel is rescued by God and delivered from Egypt after the Egyptians enslave them
- Israel turns away from God and worships a golden calf of their own making when they feel lost and don’t know what happened to Moses
- God chastises them through Moses and they repent and return to God
- Israel complains about their lot in the desert and say they were better off in Egypt
- God provide them with food and water in the desert, but because of their grumbling their time in the desert is longer
- God finally brings them into the promised land and they have an abundant life where they worship God
- Israel enjoys prosperity and wealth in the land the Lord gave to them
- Israel, under the rule of various kings, strays from God and begins to worship the pagan gods of the nations around them
- God becomes angry and punishes them with defeat by their enemies and eventually exile from the promised land
- Israel returns to the worship of the One True God and God brings them back from exile and restores them to the land they were promised
It is a recurring theme of Israel straying from God in both good times and bad, then God would chastise and punish them, but then they would repent and He would save them. Through it all, Israel never ceased to be His people. He never ceased to love Israel. The prophet Hosea recorded the word of the Lord regarding His anger towards unfaithful Israel and His undying love for her:
13 I will punish her for all those times
when she burned incense to her images of Baal,
when she put on her earrings and jewels
and went out to look for her lovers
but forgot all about me,”
says the Lord.
The Lord’s Love for Unfaithful Israel
14 “But then I will win her back once again.
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there.
15 I will return her vineyards to her
and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.
She will give herself to me there,
as she did long ago when she was young,
when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.
16 “In that day,” declares the LORD,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master. ‘
17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;
no longer will their names be invoked.
23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one. ‘
I will say to those called ‘Not my people, ‘ ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ “
So how is this like the present day believer? There is a point in the life of each believer when we first accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. But as time goes on, we forget the initial joy we had when God saved us from the state we were in. We might encounter trouble and complain that God is not there for us. We turn away from God and seek our own answers, our own gods to worship such as power or money. Then God will somehow show us the error of our ways as those other gods truly fail us and we repent and are restored in our relationship with Him.
At other times, we may be prosperous and living a life that is going better than we ever imagined. We may forget God’s hand in our prosperity and pride may cause us to turn from God and worship our own abilities and strength. But because He loves us and is more concerned about our relationship with Him and our eternal destiny, God may not allow the prosperity to last as a means to bring us back to Him.
For some believers, this may happen several times throughout our lives as we, like Israel, forget what God has done for us and how much He loves us.
But once sealed with the Holy Spirit we will remain God’s chosen ones, we will remain His beloved people. As Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus:
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14.
Just as He did with Israel in the Old Testament, God will do whatever it takes to bring us back to Him because He loves us even when we are unfaithful, because “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13. He has given us His Holy Spirit to teach us and convict us of sin so that we will return to Him when we stray. Israel had only the law to keep them in line with God’s will, but we have the Holy Spirit and the power of His grace to keep us safe and in His will.
Do you know how much God loves you? Do you continue to worship and love Him only in good times and bad? Do you hear His Holy Spirit say to you “you are My people” and will you always respond “You are my God”?