God’s story begins with a dream. God dreamed of a creation that would live under His benevolent rule, express His glory, and experience all the attending joys and security. Therefore, God created the heavens and the earth. He placed Man, His ultimate creation, in a beautiful garden to be His representative and cooperatively govern the rest of creation. God’s dream experienced a conflict, however, when man betrayed Him and sought to live independently of Him. This led to God having to judge His creation that had gone so terribly wrong.
God, however, is not One to be thwarted. After the initial conflict and resulting judgments, He began a plan to recover His dream. Although the road was long and somewhat uncertain, God began to move things in a direction resulting in the fulfillment of His divine intention. In this post we want to look at how the recovery began.
God began His process of recovery by calling a man.
1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1 – 3
Notice the three-fold nature of Abram’s call:
Go from your country: At the time he was called, Abram lived somewhere in the vicinity of modern day Iraq. It is quite possible that he was also a moon worshiper. God was calling him out of his previous culture so he could be initiated into a new culture: the Kingdom of God.
Go from your kindred and your father’s house: God was separating him from his past for the sake of his future and, indeed, the future of the whole world.
Go to the land that I will show you: Here it is revealed that Abram and his family would have a new base of operation.
The result of Abram’s obedience would be blessing. Blessing is the positive release of God’s resources to promote the overall well-being of the one receiving the blessing. It is important to note that this blessing would extend to all nations, not just Abram and His family. The only requirement of Abram was his absolute loyalty, which would be the true sign of his faith in God (Genesis 17:1). Through the extension of this blessing, God was beginning to reverse the curse that had come through mankind’s rebellion.
Through Abram’s obedience, God began to supernaturally expand his family.
Isaac was born when Abraham (as Abram’s name was changed by God to be) was 100 years old. This was a miracle that resulted from God’s quickening activity (see Genesis 21).
Esau & Jacob were born after Isaac had prayed for his wife over a 20 year period (see Genesis 25).
Through the divine favor shown to Joseph, God brought Abraham’s family to a place where they could grow in numbers large enough to occupy the land promised to Abraham (see Genesis 41 – 50).
Three Significant Events
There are three events in the history of Abraham’s family that play a significant role in God’s story as it unfolds.
Abraham’s family, the nation of Israel, eventually came under the rule of a cruel Pharaoh in the land of Egypt. He made their lives miserable as he put them to forced labor in building his cities. Israel cried out to God in their misery. In response to His people’s cry, God raised up Moses as a deliverer. Through mighty demonstrations of His power, God brought his people out of the land of Egypt. Only later did He declare His purpose for doing so.
1 On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. 3 Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” Exodus 19:1 – 6
In the context of this covenant relationship, God would establish their conduct and mode of worship as they prepared to inherit the land that God had promised Abraham, and become the nation through which all nations would be blessed.
Israel started out with no central government or standing army. They were a loose confederation of tribes united by their worship of the One True God, who was also their Ruler.
Israel eventually began to clamor for a king so they could be like all the other nations. In response, God gave them Saul. The kingdom, however, was consolidated under David, Saul’s successor. Because of his faithfulness, David received a promise from God that one of his sons would reign on his throne forever (2 Samuel 7:12 – 13).
The kingdom continued to prosper under the reign of Solomon, David’s son, with the building of God’s Temple. Unfortunately, everything began to fall apart after that. While Israel should have been a microcosm of what life looks like when lived under God’s benevolent rule, they failed miserably as they began to slide into ever worsening forms of idolatry.
After many years of patiently enduring Israel’s faithless idolatry, God eventually sent His people into captivity for 70 years.
8 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, 9 I am going to send for all the tribes of the north, says the Lord, even for King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these nations around; I will utterly destroy them, and make them an object of horror and of hissing, and an everlasting disgrace. 10 And I will banish from them the sound of mirth and the sound of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Jeremiah 25:8 – 11
Although God was terribly displeased with His people, we once again see His mercy in the midst of His wrath. He assured His people that one day He would gather them up and restore them to their homeland.
10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29:10 – 14
And in the midst of all the prophets talk of judgment and retribution, there were prophetic statements about God once again become His people’s King.
7 How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
8 Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
9 Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God. Isaiah 52:7 – 10
The Stage was Set
A humbled Israel did eventually return to their homeland. They restored the walls of Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple. They were never again, however, a sovereign state, except for one short period. Through all of God’s dealings with His people, He was still moving things toward the recovery of His dream. The stage was being set for His ultimate act that would make it possible for every nation to know what life was like when living in the Reign.
The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.