10: The Big Picture Understanding
Portraying God's Design
Working with a Primitive People, an Embryonic Nation
I have worked on the actual judgments in the following chapters, I
have become more and more aware of the need to accentuate certain
aspects of the whole thing which, although mentioned in the following
chapters and briefly mentioned in the chapters before this, really
go to the heart of this subject in a way that perhaps I have not made
sufficiently clear for you the reader.
chapter, therefore, seeks to summarise and emphasise the underlying
principles that are behind all that we find recorded in the Old Testament
especially, as to WHY these judgments occurred. Before we move on
it might be worth while reiterating what I said in chapter 1 about
our approach throughout this book:
am going to state four propositions as foundations for this book:
We will see what the Bible states about the character of God
We will consider what are the LOGICAL things that MUST flow from them
if they are true
We will examine the judgments in the light of both those things
We will see that the end conclusion MAKES SENSE like nothing else
this chapter we will examine various facets of these things, emphasising
how they work together to bring understanding of the rationality of
the judgments of God found in the Bible.
spent some time in the early chapters highlighting the character of
God as revealed in the Bible, particularly focusing on His love,
His goodness, His perfection and
His holiness (His utter different-ness).
this revelation that is unique to the Bible is crucial for, I say
again, it is unique to the Bible for nowhere else in ANY religious
texts are these four characteristics portrayed of a single Supreme
Being who is the omnipresent, all-powerful, all knowing and all-wise
Creator of this world.
there is a further characteristic of this Supreme Being that I believe
I have not emphasised sufficiently so far, and that is His
desire to be made known. I did cover something of
this in Chapter 9 of my previous book, ‘God's Love in the Old
Testament' in the chapter entitled, ‘God and the Rest of
the World' . In that I sought to make this same point that is
seen again and again in the whole of the Old Testament.
Gen 12:3 God says to Abram (reiterated in Gen 18:17,18
and 22:15-18), “all peoples on
earth will be blessed through you.” Now it is not
spelled out at that point just how that will be but it does show,
from the earliest parts of the Bible, God's intent to bless the whole
‘all nations' thing is reiterated to Isaac (Gen 26:2-4) and Jacob
(Gen 28:13,14) and Moses (Deut 2:24,25 and 28:8-10) and Joshua (Josh
4:23,24) and David (1 Chron 16:8,24) and Solomon (1 Kings 8:59-61).
Perhaps just one or two of those references will suffice here to emphasise
all the peoples on earth will see that you are called
by the name of the LORD,”
Kings 8:60 “ so
that all the peoples of the earth may know that
the LORD is God and that there is no other
first of those two quotes is about Israel being a special people called
by God, and the second is about God Himself. The former should have
revealed the latter.
Portraying God's Design
not only was the idea for Israel to reveal God's character in the
four aspects above – love, goodness, perfection, holiness – but also
the intent was to reveal to the world God's design for humanity which
had been largely lost as Sin entered the world at the Fall.
have sought to convey this as we covered it in chapter 1:
the world perfect,
beings rejected Him so that the way we live is less than perfect and
makes the world ‘go wrong', and
works to draw us back to Himself and back to a way that restores us,
in a measure at least, to what we were designed to be.
the key point is that the world has rejected God and God's design
for humanity and Israel were supposed (it seems at first sight) to
reveal to the watching world how that could be changed and the world
could see what it meant to be living under God's blessing. The greatest
example of this was in Solomon's reign, blessed by the wisdom of God,
and revealed through the words of the visiting and powerful Queen
She said to the king, "The report I heard in my own country
about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe
these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even
half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report
I heard. How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who
continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the
LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne
of Israel . Because of the LORD's eternal love for Israel , he has
made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness."
at her words of testimony:
even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded
the report I heard .
(Wow! I could never have guessed
how good God has been to you!)
happy your men must be! How happy
your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!
(I didn't realise that
happiness was God's intent for us all!)
be to the LORD your God ,
who has delighted in you … (It even makes
me want to worship Him!)
of the LORD's eternal love for Israel , he has
made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness." (I
see the reason for all this is His love!)
was Israel at its best. Now we said above that that was how Israel
were supposed to reveal God and His will for mankind to the rest of
the world, but the reality of the history of Israel throughout the
whole of the Old Testament was that what was revealed was
- The sinful nature of Israel again
and again turning away from God
- God's grace and mercy persevering
with this people, to again and again seek to bring them to their
senses and back to Him so that they could continue to receive His
Working with a Primitive People, an Embryonic Nation
we might ask, did God not wipe Israel out because of their continual
folly? The answer surely has to be because even through their folly,
His love, goodness, perfection and holiness would be revealed.
we need to remind ourselves that Abram was a traveller from Mesopotamia,
the so-called Cradle of Civilisation. His initial experiences with
God were while he was still very much a pagan from that part of the
world. As his experience of God developed we see embryonic faith emerging,
a trust in the words he was hearing from God which were translated
into acts. These acts of Abram revealed the love and goodness of God.
we come to the amazing account of the Exodus, hundreds of years further
on, the Hebrew people, soon to become the nation of Israel, were simply
a people who were slaves within Egypt, aware of their history and
no doubt struggling with the superstitious occultic idol worship all
God delivers them and meets with them at Mount Sinai, He invites them
to share in a binding agreement or covenant:
yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt , and how I carried you on
eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey
me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations
you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine,
you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'
should not see the call to obey God and keep to the covenant as hard
things but simply the way for Israel to enter into experiencing God's
wisdom. If they did what He said, then that would work well for them
and He would add His blessing to the outcome to make it even better.
They would know in very practical ways His love and goodness.
any have a negative feeling about ‘obeying' God, simply observe the
first basic instructions God gave them, instructions we call the Ten
Commandments, which work for all nations. For example: “You
shall not murder.” (Ex 20:13) Who would be foolish enough
to say that is a bad law? How about, “You
shall not steal” ? (Ex
20:15) Who would be foolish enough to say that that is a bad law?
doesn't take much thought to see that disobeying those two laws, for
example, causes breakdown of society, or at the very least, a second-rate,
unjust and insecure society. In our largely godless societies of the
West today we find both these laws commonly broken and so we might
be in a good position to ask, what do you think a society would be
like where these two commands were kept completely?
command of “You shall not commit
adultery ” (Ex 20:14) is so widely abused in Western society
that the fruits of that abuse are so obvious that we almost don't
take note of them any longer and take them for granted, despite the
fact that TV portrays almost every night the folly of disregarding
it and the painful fruits that follow!
means rejecting God's wisdom
if God is the Creator-Designer of all that we know, then we would
expect Him to know best how we work and, even more, how we work best.
This assumes the characteristics we highlighted above. Looking at
the evidence, it is a fair assumption. Again and again God's intention
to bless Israel, i.e. bring them good, is revealed.
we come into the New Testament it is like that revelation is put under
a magnifying glass and magnified a dozen times. There can be no question,
looking at the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels and the outworking
of that ministry and life revealed in the remaining books of the New
Testament, that God intends good for us – and that is a major understatement!
acceptance of discipline
at school and look at, say, the Forces (army, navy & air force),
and you will see in every learning or training institution, forms
of discipline being applied. In schools that used to be the application
of the birch or the cane and today, detentions or being expelled.
Schools where the least learning takes place are those where there
is little or no discipline imposed. The absence of discipline is the
last thing that any commander in the army, navy or air force would
countenance. Crack troops are those who endure the toughest discipline.
dealings with Israel
we come to investigate the activities of Israel and God's dealings
with them we will note certain things in this embryonic nation:
- The rules are made very clear by
God and they are for the good of every person.
- His expectation is very high – those
rules will be kept.
- Failure to keep those rules will
- The purpose of discipline is to
bring to the fore the folly of the wrong activity – and change it.
- Where there is an outright refusal
to keep the rules, then removal becomes the only option if the nation
is to be preserved as the revealer of God's character and His wisdom.
last point becomes a crucial issue, not only for the ongoing life
of Israel, but also for revelation of who God is, and that must be
born in mind through the reflections on the judgments that we will
find in the following chapters.
and again we need to ask two questions in the face of foolish and
sinful activity we find recorded in the life of Israel (and the wider
world) in the Old Testament:
What would happen if no action were taken against this sin?
Is there any alternative to prevent that happening other than the
judgment we find recorded?
try not to repeat it again and again in any great detail in the following
chapters, but responses to the first question must include the following