Before and after Moses led the children of Israel out of captivity (see “the Exodus”: C-4, P-III), God performed many miracles on their behalf: the plagues upon Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the pillar of cloud and fire to guide them, the manna from heaven, the water from rocks, the awesome appearance and voice of Almighty God on Mount Sinai, and the defeat of their enemies. But their memory was short. They turned away from God because they soon forgot how severe their oppression was in Egypt, plus the stunning impact of each miracle quickly wore off (Psalm 78:10-20,37,40-57).
The children of Israel grumbled and complained, and they rebelled against Moses and his brother, Aaron, both of whom had been selected by God to lead and guide them. They freely and frequently broke God’s laws and commandments; and they began worshiping and sacrificing to gods other than the one True God, who had saved them out of Egypt and cared for them along the way.
In this segment of a song (Deut. 32:1b-43) which Moses recited to the children of Israel before he died, he described their turning away from God and their embracing of false gods and ungodly ways:
Jeshurun [“the upright one” or Israel] grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior. [The children of Israel] made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. They sacrificed to demons, which are not God—gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your fathers did not fear. You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth (Deut. 32:15-18).
God had promised the forefathers of the children of Israel a large amount of land (Canaan) to be divided among the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob (see “Israel’s inheritance”: P-II). The generation of Jewish people which escaped from Egypt, under the leadership of Moses, themselves would have inherited this “promised land” had it not been for their revolt against Moses and God. (The entire account is included in the Bible Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.)
God provided and cared for His people by giving them food, water, and shelter; He even prevented their clothes and shoes from wearing out. He gave them chance after chance to turn toward, love, and obey Him. God repeatedly forgave the children of Israel for their transgressions against Him, as Moses pleaded with Him to do. However, as a result of their insurrection and disobedience, God caused them to wander aimlessly around the desert for 40 years (Num. 14:34,35). Although He told Moses that He had forgiven the people, as Moses had requested (14:20), God added,
Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested [complained and rebelled against] me ten times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it (Num. 14:21-23).
This meant that none of the people who had witnessed the appearance of God on Mount Sinai (see “God’s descent upon Mount Sinai”: C-4, P-IV), as well as all of His other miracles on their behalf throughout the years, would be allowed to enter the “promised land” on the other side of the Jordan River. In fact, anyone age twenty or older who had grumbled and complained against God would die in the desert (Num. 14:27-29). Even Moses, who had led them the entire way, allowed his anger and lack of faith to cause him to disobey God one time (20:7-12); as a result, he was not allowed to go into the land God had promised to their forefathers.
Fortunately, for many of God’s decrees and rules, His grace seems to allow for a small minority of exceptions to “slip by,” particularly people who demonstrate unswerving faith in and allegiance to Him. In the case of the children of Israel, God made two exceptions to the rule that no one of the older generation would enter the “promised land.” Joshua and Caleb, two of twelve men who explored the new land (Num. 13:1-33), were the only ones who trusted that God would protect the people, upon entering the new land, from the dangers they had found there (14:6-9).
Joshua and Caleb believed in God’s promises and were faithful to God, just as they knew He would be faithful to them. They alone were allowed to enter the new land (Num. 14:24,30). Joshua became leader of the children of Israel after Moses’ death. He miraculously led the people across the Jordan River, during flood stage, on dry ground (Josh. 3:15-17); and he was in charge of the siege upon Jericho, where all the walls fell down when all the people sounded their trumpets and shouted, and after which they took over the city (6:1-21). Of course, these events would not have taken place without God’s supernatural, miraculous intervention.
Once the people reached the new land of Canaan (subsequently Israel), God helped them defeat all the enemies in their way (Josh. 8:1–12:24). These enemies were subdued because none worshiped the one True God. Then, as God had promised, the land was apportioned to the children of Israel, tribe by tribe (13:8–21:45). In fact, “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled” (21:45). Renewed by the faithful fulfillment of God’s promises, the people assured Joshua that they would serve and obey the Lord (24:19-24). However,
After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress (Judg. 2:10-15).
A dark period in Jewish history followed when the people forgot what Moses and Joshua had taught them. Instead of rejecting paganism, they embraced it, bringing it into their religious practices and worship. When they were disobedient to God and rejected Him for other “gods,” He would cause difficulties (particularly foreign nations) to overtake them.
The people would cry out to God for help and relief; and God would send judges (such as Deborah, Gideon, Samson, and Samuel) to lead and deliver them. A judge would drive out a foreign oppressor, and the people would turn to God. Then the judge would die, the people would backslide, and the cycle would repeat. (All of this is detailed in the biblical Book of Judges.) The last judge, Samuel, ordained Israel’s first king.
The first king of Israel was Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin (1 Sam. 10:20,21ab, 11:14,15a). Saul disobeyed God numerous times (see “injurious, tormenting spirit”: C-8, P-II), he exalted himself, and he was covetous of the success of David (who would succeed him as king). He was more preoccupied with getting what He wanted than with glorifying God. So God brought him down; Saul ended up killing himself (1 Sam. 31:4c).
The nation’s second (and greatest) king was David, first over the tribe of Judah (2 Sam. 2:4a) and later over all of Israel (5:3). Under King David’s leadership, Israel defeated considerable numbers of its enemies and gained much land. David wanted to build a temple for God (1 Chr. 28:2b); however, God told him, “You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood” (28:3). God made an extremely important promise to King David pertaining to the future of Israel and of the world (see the following section, “God’s promise to David”).
When David was old, his fourth son, Adonijah, proclaimed himself king (1 Kng. 1:5a); however, this was not recognized by David. Officially, David named his tenth son, Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba), as Israel’s third king (1 Kng. 1:32-35; 1 Chr. 23:1). Solomon also was Israel’s wisest king; in fact, he was the wisest mortal ever to live (1 Kng. 3:12b). Solomon was responsible for having the first temple built in Jerusalem (1 Kng. 6:1-38; 2 Chr. 3:1–4:22).
As has been shown (P-II), God made promises to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He also made an important promise to David, a handsome man with a fine appearance (1 Sam. 16:12b—see “pride in our appearance”: C-9, P-II) and a descendant of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. However, God’s promise to David was a little different from the others in that it involved the eventual coming of one person, an offspring of David, who would rule over God’s Kingdom forever:
When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring [seed] to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor [Saul]. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever (1 Chr. 17:11-14).
Now, David’s son, Solomon, did become king after David; and he also built the first temple in Jerusalem. However, Solomon was never “set over” God’s house (temple) as high priest, nor did his kingdom last forever; thus, this prophecy was only partially about Solomon. The positions of eternal high priest and king would be reserved for someone else: the coming Messiah of Israel (see “final Temple built”: C-5, P-III; “Lamb, Shepherd, and High Priest”: C-6, P-III; and “millennial Temple”: C-13, P-II). This ruler, in fact, would be God’s most important provision for the sins not only of Israel but of all the people on the earth who would accept the Messiah’s means for remission of sin and, one day, His universal kingship and dominion.
In Solomon’s old age, his heart turned away from the one True God and toward foreign gods (1 Kng. 11:4-8). As might be expected, this upset God; and, as a result of Solomon’s disloyalty, God told him that after his death the kingdom would be divided (11:9-13). Accordingly, after Solomon died, two kingdoms emerged: Judah (consisting of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi—2 Chr. 11:5-14) and Israel (composed of the remaining Israelite tribes). Rehoboam (a son of Solomon) became king over the land of Judah, whose capital city was Jerusalem (12:13ab); and Jeroboam (one of Solomon’s officials) became king (1 Kng. 12:20a) over Israel, whose capital city later became Samaria (16:23,24), located in the land of Ephraim. Both Rehoboam and Jeroboam were bad kings.
The two kingdoms of Rehoboam and Jeroboam fought each other constantly (2 Chr. 12:15b) and continued worshiping other gods and disobeying God, Who, understandably, was very displeased (1 Kng. 14:22-24; 2 Kng. 17:7-20). After God had done so much for them, the people largely turned away from Him and refused to acknowledge Him as Lord—a typical and ongoing response by mankind. What was God to do? He could have forced them to love and follow Him, but this would have been breaking one of His cardinal rules: letting people have free choice (with God, of course, always desiring them to choose Him, since His ways, means, and provisions are always best). Besides, what value is “love” if it is coerced? He also could have let them destroy themselves. Any nation which pushes the one True God out of its affairs becomes corrupted and contaminated by evil, and it eventually crumbles from within. (The Roman Empire was a good example of this. Could the USA be following in the same footsteps? I think the answer is evident.)
Yet God still had a great Love for them and had made promises to their forefathers of an eternal, peaceful kingdom which, if He were a God of His Word, He would be obligated to keep. God had described Himself to Moses, after the Exodus from Egypt,
The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin (Exo. 34:6,7a).
God, because He greatly loved His people, sent to them numerous prophets with strong warnings that, unless they repented of their rebellion and disobedience against Him, catastrophic things would occur to the nation in its future. Some of these prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Zechariah, and Malachi) wrote books which are included in the Old Testament of the Bible. (Hosea’s relationship with his wife is a typification of God’s relationship with the children of Israel, which in turn is an illustration of God’s relationship with all the other people of the world.) Notwithstanding all of God’s warnings, though, the people of Israel and Judah still insisted on alienating God.
Finally God caused Assyria to take captive the people of Israel (2 Kng. 17:22,23); and, sometime later, He caused Babylon to destroy Jerusalem (25:8-10) and take captive the people of Judah (2 Kng. 25:11,21b; Jer. 52:27b-30). Some of the prophets’ predictions had dealt with these two upcoming invasions of Israel and Judah by the empires of Assyria (725-721 B.C.) and Babylon (605-587 B.C.), as well as later invasions by Syria (171-167 B.C.—see “Prince of princes”: C-8, P-I, S-1) and Rome (66-73 A.D.). Jeremiah, in fact, prophesied that Judah would be laid waste and the people taken into captivity by Babylon for a period of seventy years (Jer. 25:1,11), and this is exactly what happened, as noted by Daniel (Dan. 9:2).
However, many of the prophecies concerned a time, even further in the future, of ultimate destruction and ruin of Israel (after being recombined into one nation, which occurred in 1948, and having Jerusalem as its official capital again, which came to be in 1967). This yet future destruction will be followed by a complete restoration of the land and a presentation of the eternal promised inheritance to a remnant of the people brought back to live in it (see “regathering of the Jews”: C-12, P-IV, S-1), all at the end of the prophesied “70th Week” (see C-11, P-II, C-11, P-III, and C-12).
The admonitions of the ancient Jewish prophets are for all people on earth, not just for the children of Israel. Probably all nations, in some way or another, will be part of the end-time strife in the Middle East (Joel 3:1,2; Zech. 14:2a,12a; Rev. 19:19). (I pray that the USA somehow will be an ally of Israel at that time; any anti-Israel nation will regret being so— Zech. 14:12,13).
The repeating cycle of “acceptance and rejection” of the True God by the children of Israel has continued throughout history, even to the present time. Whenever the nation as a whole has embraced God (returning His Love and concern with acknowledgment and gratitude, praise and worship), He has protected them. In fact, out of His intense Love for them, He often has shielded and defended them even when they have turned away from Him.
But usually, when the Israelites have ignored and rejected Him, He has removed His protective hand accordingly (see “names for and attributes of the Messiah”: C-3, P-I); and they have been overcome by other nations. (This is not because God’s Love for Israel has lessened by any amount; it is because He has disciplined them like a loving father disciplines his children, hoping they will learn from his correction—Prov. 3:12; Heb. 12:6.) This pattern will continue right up until the end of this age. Referring to this future time, God has said,
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that [yet future] time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jer. 31:33).
God knows the minds and hearts of mankind. The very perceptive King David has pointed out,
The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one (Psalm 14:2,3).
And, according to the prophet Isaiah,
...your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things (Isa. 59:2,3).
Some of these (and other) sins apply to all of us because King Solomon, the wisest man, said, “[T]here is no one who does not sin...” (1 Kng. 8:46a), and, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins” (Eccl. 7:20). Therefore, at the first point of sin in each of our lives, God the Father (seeC-6, P-II) has turned away from us because, being perfect, He cannot condone sin.
Does this mean that God ultimately will allow us, the people of the world, to destroy ourselves? Will we be prevented from joining Him in a loving, committed, two-way relationship for all eternity as He originally had planned? Will we each be assigned to an eternity of spiritual oblivion, an existence of total separation from our Creator? Can that be fair?
I believe that if God had given us no hope of ever seeing Him, making it impossible to reach Him and to exist in His presence, this would be unfair—since He provided each of us with a choice, knowing that none of us always would choose Him. But God is fair. As there is no way, on our own, to stop sinning completely nor to remove the stain of our sins from our lives, there must be something or someone who can—if we are to be given the opportunity to reconcile ourselves to God and again have Him to be able to look upon us (and us, eventually, to be able to look upon Him). Isaiah declared,
The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice [in the world]. He...was appalled that there was no one [person] to intercede; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him (Isa. 59:15b,16).
God had (and has) in mind a way for any person—who wants and chooses—ultimately and permanently to be freed from his/her own corrupt, rebellious, disobedient, anti-God nature (which we all have). And anyone who wishes to accept this provision not only will be lavishly rewarded for choosing God (see “eternal rewards, heavenly treasures”: C-14, P-II) but also will gain wonderful spiritual renewal and Life forever in God’s presence (see “the New Jerusalem”: C-14, P-II).
The implication of Isaiah’s statement (Isa. 59:15b,16) is that salvation, not only for Israel but for all of mankind, would come by and through God Himself. He would make the intercessory provision for mankind to come back to Him. The state of sin has “cheapened” mankind; no created man is perfect (sinless) and, therefore, possesses enough value to mediate the terms necessary to bring mankind back into God’s favor and presence. Only God could make a provision for the remission of sin.
The phrase, “his own arm” (Isa. 59:16b) is an epithet for someone who would “reach out,” first to Israel and then to all of humanity, with a message of salvation (or redemption), making it available to all who would accept it (because, of course, people always have a free choice to accept or reject any good thing God has to offer). But who would be selected to be, figuratively, God’s “arm” to bring a message of salvation to Israel, as well as to the remainder of humanity? The next chapter identifies and describes this unique and amazing Person.
Proceed to Chapter 3
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Copyright © 1998– by Ted M. Montgomery, O.D. Most rights reserved.