In Part 1, we explored “Who Is God?” In Part 2, we explored “What Is Man?” In Part 3, we saw that “Man Fails the Test”. In Part 4, we explored “What Are Angels and Who Is Satan?”
Now, we need to fast forward in time. We need to move past the Garden of Eden and past Noah and The Flood to a time when God called a special individual out of Ur of the Chaldees. It starts with a person named Abram.
The Physical Blessings
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.
~ Ge 12:1-4
There are several things we should note here:
1. God called. God always does the calling (cf. Jn 6:44).
2. God called Abram out of the middle of one of the most advanced civilizations at that time. He was called out of his “world”, even as we are called out of this “world”. The societies of this world are based upon the “way of get”, the way of Satan. We must come out of that world.
3. Abram was called out of it to leave it all behind. Abram had to forsake everything. Jesus said the Kingdom of God had to come first. Christians must be willing to forsake it all, if necessary. Compare this to Lot’s wife.
4. “Abram” means “exalted father”. God promises to make him a father of “a great nation”. Later, his name is changed to “Abraham” (Ge 17:5), or “father of a multitude”. He is then promised to be a “father of many nations”.
5. Abram is promised physical blessings. At this point, there is nothing about salvation, a Messiah or a spiritual mission of any kind. Many who read the Bible concentrate on the promise of the coming Messiah in Ge 22:18 and ignore the physical blessings also promised. Like many things in the Bible, the promises are dual: Physical and spiritual blessings.
6. The Bible records, “So Abram departed….” He didn’t argue or hesitate. He simply “departed”.
Herbert W Armstrong (HWA) stated in Mystery of the Ages (http://reluctant-messenger.com/HWA/Mystery/Chapter5.html) that “God also made another entirely different, most amazing national and material promise to Abraham which has been almost entirely overlooked.” First, he was promised to become “a great nation” and then that was expanded to “father of many nations”. Kings, plural, would come from him (Ge 17:6). These are not spiritual promises! These same physical promises were restated to Isaac and then Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel.
Later, after 430 years of slavery, the nation Israel would be brought out of Egypt. However, this was a physical nation. Although they had a rigorous religious system, it was not a spiritual nation. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that the vast majority did not have God’s Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit is what Adam and Eve could have partaken in while in the Garden of Eden where the Tree of Life was. An angel was posted at the entrance to the Garden of Eden to bar access to the Tree of Life. They were cut off from God’s Spirit! Later, God said just prior to the Flood, “My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Ge 6:3). Mankind in general did not have access to His Spirit, and it was going to become even more limited! Israel did not have the heart to follow God (Dt 5:29). Without God’s Spirit, we cannot be saved (Ro 8:9)! Israel was promised physical blessings, and only a very select few received His Spirit!
The Marriage Covenant
God broke Israel’s bonds of slavery, brought the Israelites out of Egypt and proposed a covenant with them.
God joined in a covenant with Israel. It is important to remember it was a covenant relationship. It is important to note that a covenant contains promises and conditions. God promised Israel all sorts of physical blessings, but only if they obeyed. God was obligated to keep His promises under the covenant, but Israel was obligated to keep the conditions of the covenant. However, both parties still had to agree to the covenant (Ex 24:3, 7). It was a binding agreement, just like a covenant between a husband and wife. In fact, God says He married Israel!
Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you
~ Jer 3:14
Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.
~ Jer 2:2
Hosea married a prostitute, in order to symbolize the relationship of God and Israel.
The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.
…Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine.
~ Hos 1:2; 3:1
God hints early on in the Exodus that the intent is a marriage covenant. God uses the language similar to a husband taking [laqach] a wife when He says He will free them from the Egyptians.
Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:
And I will take [laqach] you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
~ Ex 6:6-7
It was intended to be a close covenant relationship, just as a husband and wife join together have a close relationship within the bonds of the marriage covenant. It was a relationship by choice. God chose Israel, and He brought Israel out of Egypt. Israel could accept or decline, and they accepted.
Why Did God Do This?
God had a purpose, though. He was working something here on earth. Remember, the ultimate goal is to grow His family. Israel started off small. It was one family. It grew to be a tribe, and then that tribe grew to be a nation. God is doing the same thing in a spiritual sense. He is starting small. He is slowly growing His family. Later, it will become a nation, and He will restore His government on earth and remove the governments of Satan.
The Bible is full of types and archetypes. The Passover lamb was a type for Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice for sins. Circumcision was instituted as a type for removing the callous covering of one’s heart. The type is often physical and a symbol of the spiritual. Israel was to be a nation governed by God Himself. Israel was to obey the laws of its King. Israel was a type of the Kingdom of God. It was intended to be an example nation.
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
~ Ex 19:5-6
Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
… Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
~ Dt 4:1-2, 5-6
Yet, human beings cannot keep the Law of God. All were born into sin, all sin, and all pay the penalty for sin. Mankind is not complete. A human being needs God’s Holy Spirit to enable the individual to keep God’s Law. Israel failed to be an example of how to live God’s way of life, and instead was an example of the consequences of not keeping God’s way of life.
But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
~ 1Co 10:5-6
They failed. They did not have God’s Holy Spirit, and so they failed.
Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.
~ Dt 29:4
So, why would God do such a thing? Well, it always comes back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve decided to do an experiment. They formed a hypothesis that they would be like gods. They tested that hypothesis. The results are the world today. Human beings have been picking from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil ever since. Sometimes, the fruit turns out to be OK. Sometimes, it turns out to be a disaster. The trouble is, you don’t know until you experience it. The “knowledge” was an experiential knowledge. Rather than relying upon God to tell them if it was good or evil, they took to themselves the prerogative to learn it through experience. The lesson of Israel is really the same lesson.
In the Garden, the physical surroundings were perfect for human beings to work and play. God would walk and talk with them, even. In ancient Israel, they had God’s Law to guide them. God was to be their King, and His presence was to be in the Tabernacle (and later in the Temple). Yet, for all these things, both our first parents and ancient Israel fell into sin. They did not have God’s Holy Spirit to guide them, so decline was inevitable.
Christians, we cannot go it alone. We must rely upon God to guide our every step. We must pray for wisdom and strength in our daily struggles. We are utterly dependent upon Him. However, our hearts must be right, our minds must be open to His word, and we must be willing to obey. We must ask for His Spirit to give us the power to obey.
Why Israel? So we can break the cycle of trying to learn on our own, experientially. So we can learn from her bad example that we truly need God and His Spirit.
It would be short-sighted, however, if we simply left it at that. Israel should have been a good example. The one distinguishing characteristic other than the presence of God was His Law.
If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.
For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.
It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
~ Dt 30:10-14
God used Israel to record His writings, including the Law, and transmit them down through the generations. One set of laws is particularly interesting. It is a bit of theater. Tied to the agricultural cycles, it is something that is acted out on a yearly cycle. It has deep and precious meaning for those who would want to understand. It truly opens up God’s plan for all of humanity, and how He plans to gather in His harvests. But, to understand, you have to be willing to set aside traditions and obey God’s Plan 6: God’s Holy Day Plan.