Friday, May 27, 2011


The Bible presents the story of divine-human relationship throughout all time: a grand tapestry which humans often view only from the reverse perspective as a mere tangle of loose thread-ends. But... it is history woven from God's perspective: His-Story from Genesis' origins to Malachi's final promises, working all things together for good!
Its grand scope reveals God – eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent; relating with man – finite, remarkably ignorant at times, especially when professing wisdom, limited, and very weak when confronted with the truth of who he truly is. How can these two possibly dwell and walk together? The Bible presents this God-man story: Creator and Creation and both their efforts to restore their broken relationship.
However, man perceives this historical journey and its events very differently from God. Frightened, driven by fear, greed, lust and power, history reveals man has constantly fallen short of all God has offered him. He initiates, we react. He builds, we destroy. He loves, we retaliate. How such differences can be overcome for restoration to truly take place is His-Story. God has never been frustrated. He has always steadfastly stuck to Plan A and never reverted to Plan B, although He might well have been justified to abandon this pitiful dust that we are. Such is God’s Love that He never gives up on mankind, but continues always with His Original Plan, regardless of our failures.
Old Testament history in particular outlines His-Story from The Beginning to one of the darkest times in human history: the 400 years just before the dawn of His Messiah! Right from the moment Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, God's plan to save, reconcile and restore us to Himself was set in motion. However, man has not always understood God's ways and resisted His attempts to draw us close. We have been rebellious chicks, quite unwilling to be gathered under His wings! But His Genesis 3:15 Promise stood firm: the seed of woman would one day crush the head of the serpent’s seed and all the devil’s work would be undone!
First, mankind had to see his need for broken relationship to be restored with God. All man-made substitutes needed to be exposed as poor counterfeits indeed. Man cannot make God in his image; God made man in His! Nor could man advise God about how to fix this broken trust; that is God's part. Man fell from the inside when they ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The corrupt seed took root, defiled their heart and bore not only shame, guilt and fear in Adam and Eve's generation, but murder in the next: Cain slew his brother Abel. But Cain's further lineage reaped a fuller harvest of 'only evil continually'.
Until God intervened. The Flood destroyed the entire human race, except Noah and his family. However, even with this destruction, man continued in his own devices and built Babel to 'make a name for ourselves'. Again God intervened, broke their proud schemes and scattered them as 70 nations over all the earth.
Then the process of re-gathering by faith began. God chose Abram, a former idolator, called him out of Ur of the Chaldees, and promised to bless him and make him a blessing to all nations. Abraham (father of many nations), became a pilgrim model of what it means to be a true worshiper and 'friend of God' here on earth. He
'went out, not knowing where he was going...
looking for a city which has foundations,
whose builder and maker is God.'
He walked with God, looking for life beyond himself. Then followed Isaac, the promised son, and after him, Jacob who became Israel (prince with God) and, through his 12 sons fathered 12 tribes. However, this dysfunctional family eventually ended up in bondage in Egypt, slaves for the next 400 years.
Seemingly forgotten, but not by God, Israel was persecuted in Egypt until God answered their cry for deliverance and raised up Moses to miraculously free His people. Israel now became a nation, birthed through a series of 10 Plagues that totally decimated Egypt, destroyed every one of its 1st-born males and ultimately drowned its armies in the Red Sea. The Law-Giver then led them to Sinai to receive the Old Covenant, specifically embodied in The 10 Commandments, to teach them how to approach, dwell with and worship their God.
From the Exodus, Israel's history chronicles the nation's inconsistent walk with their God. It is the oldest and most detailed record of any people's history. The Greeks and Egyptians have their mythologies. However, the Bible records Israel's history in often minute detail, outlining not only the nation's triumphs, but also its many failures. God does not spare even His heroes from the whole truth. In not always literal or chronologically-ordered themes, we find God patiently pouring out His heart to His people, seeking their heart repentance and reconciliation. But to no avail. Rather than believe God's good report and enter The Promised Land, they wandered 40 years in the wilderness. A generation passed. Joshua eventually finally led in a new generation, but their unbelief persisted. It was easier to get Israel out of Egypt than Egypt out of Israel.
Israel stumbled through the next 850 years in cycles of sin-addiction: sometimes walking in faith + blessing, then recurrent sin + idolatry, subsequent conquest + servitude, followed by repentance + restoration. But neither judges, prophets, priests nor kings were able to save Israel from themselves. A zenith of power under kings David and Solomon was short-lived and Israel fragmented in two.
10 tribes led by Ephraim separated to form the Northern Kingdom of Israel with its capital at Samaria, while 2 tribes remained with David's dynasty in the Kingdom of Judah, still centred in Jerusalem. The two kingdoms often warred against one another, sometimes allied against their neighbouring kingdoms of Syria, Moab or Edom, but rarely repented and served the God of their fathers with all their hearts. Both peoples eventually lost their focus on God and ultimately their kingdoms. God Himself put an end to their unfortunate cycle.
First, Israel: the Northern Kingdom, after 9 dynasties of ungodly kings, was defeated and its 10 tribes scattered among the nations by Assyria in 709BC. Just over a century later, in 586BC, Jerusalem and its temple were also destroyed and its people led captive to Babylon for 70 years. The land would finally have its Sabbaths.
Empires pass, but God’s Promise always stands faithful. In 539BC, the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon under Darius and shortly thereafter, Cyrus decreed the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its Temple! Beginning in 536BC, true to Jeremiah's prophecy of 70 Years' Captivity, 3 remnant waves of exiles returned to the land under Joshua + Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah. Together with the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, they rallied the nation in rebuilding and revival, but the people soon became disheartened, discouraged and addicted to dead religious forms. Idolatry had been broken, but a more formal legalism now took its place. Malachi trumpeted a final prophetic message: hearts needed to turn back to the Father. God spoke again, but his people apparently had no ears to hear and 400 years of silence followed!

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