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 Godís 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.