They say that if we do not study history we are doomed to repeat it. That gives us a very good reason to study the Old Testament. I once had someone tell me that there are no perfect people in the Bible except one, and that the LORD had filled his Word with ordinary people so we could discover how extraordinary he is by his mercy and grace. As we study the Hebrew Scriptures we do indeed find a God of mercy and grace who often covered the sins of his people.
What a wonderful LORD we serve who called us by his mercy and grace for his purpose. But in order for us to understand our purpose we need to study history to understand the purpose of Israel. What was so special about them? Why did the LORD choose them to reveal his glory to the world? He seemed to have nothing but problems with them.
First, it was more than a choosing. The LORD grew this nation. He chose a man (Abraham) and then he gave this man a son with a promise that he was the seed of a great nation. From this seed he developed a large family that was blessed with fertility. The Egyptians tried to control the population but could not because God's blessing was upon them. By the time they left Egypt we know there were over 600,000 fighting men so if we add the women and children and the older folk, the population could very well have been over 2 million people. That's in just over 300 years.
The LORD had grown this nation for a specific reason. It wasn't because Abraham was a superstar and the LORD wanted to honour him. It was because our LORD had chosen a period in time to reveal his glory to the world. He said to this nation:
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ (Exodus 19:5-6)
He had set this nation aside, giving them a set of laws to follow, and called them holy because he is holy. He poured blessings into them, prospered them, drove out nations from them, created a land for them, watched over and defended them, all so he could show himself to the world.
Now Israel, instead of understanding their purpose and place, became like spoiled and disobedient children. They were a source of heartache for the LORD, yet he gave them opportunity after opportunity to get it right. He had warned them what disobedience would bring. He warned them that there were consequences for rejecting his holiness and their purpose, but Israel still made it about them and the LORD had to bring in severe correction.
Why is this important to us as the Church? Because this is what the LORD has said of the Church, the Body of Christ:
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
I believe at times the Church has forgotten her purpose; that we, as a nation, act as spoiled children, doing whatever we want with the excuse of grace. But the LORD has raised us up with the same purpose as Israel was raised up: to be his people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. For ourselves? Don't you believe it. He has done this so that we will magnify the name of Jesus in words and deeds, so the whole world will see his glory.
But I am afraid we are making the same mistake. I believe we are destroying ourselves and our witness. I believe we are setting aside our purpose for selfish gain. I think we are trying to gain the whole world at the risk of our souls. I think we have to repent. I think we need to turn away from the direction in which we are headed. I think the LORD must become our LORD once more and we his holy nation, set aside for his purpose so that the whole world may see his glory, believe and be saved. It's not about us.