14 April, 2007

Israel's Mission

What was Israel supposed to do with God's blessing? What was their mission? Their work?

Were they to conquer every foe? Should their kingdom have overspread the entire earth? Were they to learn the Torah from beginning to end? Should their holiness have redefined what it meant to be alive on earth? Were they to spread the good news of YHWH's salvation? Or was it all of the above?

Deut 33:26-29
There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun [Jeshurun = the upright one, Israel], who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.

None of the above.

After her enemies would be destroyed, Israel was tasked with dwelling in safety alone. They were burdened with enjoying the dew of heaven, and feasting on corn and wine.

And they failed.

Enjoying the bounty of God is more important than working for Him, and Israel did not get it.

Hebrews 4:1-11
Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

The gospel was preached to Israel, but it did not profit them, and not because they did not work, but because they did not rest. And they did not rest because they did not believe. They feared, and their fear caused them to work, but when they worked, they worked the works of those who must help God. It is God Who is our help.

I saved the very next verse of Hebrews 4, because context is everything.

Hebrews 4:12-13
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

How many times has this verse been read to Christians? And how many times has it been used to provoke Christians to work to know the Word? And I'm not against working to know the Word, mind you, but doesn't it seem a tad odd to you that the entire context of this verse is routinely neglected?

We are naked and open before Him.

Hebrews 4:14-16
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

And our High Priest has been naked, too.

We know no torment nor exposure which He has not suffered - and He overcame it. The Word of God is living and active, separates that in us which does not believe and which turns back, from that He has placed in us and turns forward to Him for mercy.

Israel's mission was to turn forward to Him, and to rest in Him, and they would not. The Word saw their heart, and swore to them that they would never enter into His rest. Given the chance to rejoice in the dew of heaven, Israel fled their God. Given the chance to rest in God, she worked. Over the centuries, she tried to return to Egypt, she left her enemies alive in the land, she trusted their gods, she begged from God a king, put her faith in riches God had given her. She turned back and to the east and to the north, but never toward heaven - never toward the One Who loved her and had her every need before His eyes night and day.

Like Israel, the church is rich. Like Israel, we understand more than those around us. Like Israel, we should conquer. We want to conquer the world for Christ. We want to conquer the atheists with Truth. We want to conquer culture with Righteousness. So, we turn to the throne in need of victories for Him, and forget to just be needful of the joy of being in Him.

He is our Land. He flows toward us as Milk and Honey. He is the Dew that falls on us in the morning, and the Corn and Wine on Whom we feast at the Lord's Table.

What does He require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him Who loves you more than His own Life.

Labor to enter into Israel's mission - Rest.


pearlie said...

Aren't they suppose to learn the Torah from beginning to end?
I agree on the others though, they weren't expected to do those.

context is everything.
definitely. the preposition "for" is proof.

The gospel was preached to Israel, but it did not profit them, and not because they did not work, but because they did not rest.
Interesting observation.

But what about "Let us therefore strive to enter that rest"?
work to enter the rest?

codepoke said...

I have never seen a command to learn the Torah from end to end in the Torah. Only men write rules like that. God commands to love, and notes that learning His law will teach you to do so.

work to enter the rest?

That is a valid confusion. Two sentences after the sentence you question, I said:
They feared, and their fear caused them to work, but when they worked, they worked the works of those who must help God.

Work is good. Working from fear of displeasing God is bad. Israel did like all of us, and worked like dogs for their own good and then complained to -- no -- they complained against God when things did not turn out well for them.

Lynne said...

Lovely to see you back on deck (I'm a little slow to catch on). This is brilliant stuff, i feel like shouting it from the rooftops!! How quickly we turn even faith into a work! Yet what do we have that we have not received? Surely our striving to enter His rest is our striving to resist all the things that would pull us out of that trust position into relying on our own works instead/

DugALug said...


I've been stealthily reading your posts. This one is brilliant. Being over in Isreal, you see one of the real problems is that they DON'T believe in the scriptures or prophets. If anyrhing, they believe they have been abandonded. Most of the places that I visited, live lifes completely devoid of anything but superficial religiosity, and those who do practice their faith are shunned as being 'unenlightened'. We are getting there here in the US with Christianity, but we have a ways to go (translation: there is still hope).

Still not willing to jump back in the saddle yet with blogging again. We are overwhelmed right now... to say the least.

Totally off the subject: I've just finished a book that I think you should read (it really made me think of you):

The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church

By Reggie McNeal.

It sums up all of my frustrations with the North American church mindset. I think you would really appreciate it. Interestingly enough, my head pastor recomended it for me to read. I'm glad your still posting brother.

God Bless,

Milly said...

I was waiting for doug to say something.