God's relationship with his people

410 God's relationship with his peopleIn ancient tribal societies, when a man wanted to adopt a child, he said the following words in a simple ceremony: "I will be a father to him and he will become my son. "During the marriage ceremony, a similar phrase was used:" She is my wife and I am her husband ". In the presence of witnesses, the relationship they entered with each other was indicated, and by these words it was officially declared valid.

Like in a family

When God wanted to express his relationship with ancient Israel, he sometimes used similar words: "I am Israel's father and Ephraim is my first-born son" (Jer 31,9). He used words that describe a relationship - like that of parents and children. God also uses marriage to describe the relationship: "He who made you is your man ... he called you to him as a woman" (Isaiah 54,5-6). "I want to get engaged to you for all eternity" (Hos 2,21).

Much more often, the relationship is worded as follows: "You shall be my people, and I will be your God." In ancient Israel, the word "people" meant a strong relationship with one another. When Ruth said to Noomi, "Your people are my people" (Ruth 1,16), she promised to enter into a new and lasting relationship. She explained where she would belong now. Confirmation in times of doubt When God says, "You are my people," he (like Ruth) emphasizes the relationship more than the affiliation. "I am bound to you, you are like a family to me". God says this much more often in the books of the prophets than in all previous scriptures taken together.

Why is this repeated so often? It was because of Israel's lack of loyalty that questioned the relationship. Israel had ignored his covenant with God and worshiped other gods. Therefore, God allowed the northern tribes of Assyria to be conquered and the people led away. Most of the Old Testament prophets lived shortly before the conquest of the nation of Judah and their passage into slavery by the Babylonians.

The people wondered. It's all over? Has God rejected us? The prophets repeated confidently: No, God has not given us up. We are still his people and he is still our god. The prophets foretold a national restoration: people would return to their land and most importantly, return to God. The future form is often used: "You will be my people and I will be their god". God did not reject her; he will restore the relationship. He will do this and it will be better than it was.

The message of the prophet Isaiah

"I raised and cared for children, and through me they made it to something, but they have turned away from me," says God through Isaiah. "They turned away from the LORD, rejected the Saints of Israel, and renounced Him" ​​(Jes 1,2 and 4, New Life). The result was that the people were taken prisoner. "That's why my people have to move because it is without reason" (Jes 5,13, New Life).

It seemed like the relationship was over. "You have broken your people, the house of Jacob," we read in Isaiah 2,6. However, that should not be true forever: "Do not be afraid, my people, who live in Zion ... Because it is only a little while, my disgrace will come to an end" (10,24-25). "Israel, I will not forget you!" (44,21). "For the LORD has comforted his people and has mercy on his wretches" (49,13).

The prophets spoke of a huge repatriation: "For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob and redeem Israel and place them in their land" (14,1). "I want to say to the north: Give me, and to the south: Do not hold back! Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth "(43,6). "My people will live in peaceful meadows, in safe homes and in proud tranquility" (32,18). "God the LORD will wipe away the tears of all faces ... At that time, one will say, 'Behold, this is our God whom we hoped would help us' (25,8-9). And God said to them, "You are my people" (51,16). "They are my people, sons who are not wrong" (63,8).

There is good news, not just for Israel, but for every human being: "strangers will join them and cleave to the house of Jacob" (14,1). "The stranger who has turned to the LORD shall not say, The LORD will keep me apart from his people" (56,3). "The Lord Zebaoth will make a fat meal on this mountain to all peoples" (25,6). They will say, "This is the LORD, let us rejoice and rejoice over his salvation" (25,9).

The message of the prophet Jeremiah

Jeremiah combines the family pictures: "I thought, how would I hold you, as if you were my son, and give you the dear country ..., I thought you would call me" Dear Father "and not leave me. But the house of Israel has not kept me faithful, just as a woman does not keep faith because of her lover, says the Lord "(Jer 3,19-20). "They did not keep my covenant, even though I was their master [husband]" (31,32). In the beginning, Jeremiah prophesied that the relationship ended: "They do not belong to the Lord! They despise me, says the LORD, the house of Israel, and the house of Judah "(5,10-11). "I punished Israel for her adultery and released her and sent her a divorce letter" (3,8). However, this is not a permanent rejection. "Is not Ephraim my dear son and dear child? For as often as I threaten him, I must remember him; that is why my heart breaks, that I must have mercy on him, saith the LORD "(31,20). "How long do you want to go astray, you renegade daughter?" (31,22). He promised that he would restore them: "I want to collect the remnants of my flock from all countries where I have rejected them" (23,3). "The time is coming, saith the LORD, that I will turn the fate of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD" (30,3). "Behold, I will bring them out of the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth" (31,8). "I want to forgive their iniquity and never remember their sin" (31,34). "Israel and Judah shall not become widows, forsaken by their God, the Lord Zebaoth" (51,5). Most importantly, God will change them so that they will be faithful: "Return, you renegade children, I will heal you from your disobedience" (3,22). "I want to give them a heart that they should know me, that I am the LORD" (24,7).

"I want to put my law in their hearts and write in their minds" (31,33). "I want to give them a lot of meaning and change, ... and I want to give them fear in my heart that they will not leave me" (32,39-40). God promises a renewal of their relationship, which amounts to concluding a new covenant with them: "They shall be my people and I want to be their god" (24,7; 30,22; 31,33; 32,38). "I want to be the God of all genders of Israel and they should be my people" (31,1). "I want to make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah" (31,31). "I want to make an everlasting covenant with them that I do not want to let them do good to them" (32,40).

Jeremiah saw that the Gentiles would also belong: "Against all my wicked neighbors who are touching the inheritance that I have given to my people Israel: Behold, I will tear them out of their land, and tear the house of Judah out of their midst. ... And it shall happen when they learn from my people to swear by my name: as the LORD lives! ... so they should live in the midst of my people "(12,14-16).

The prophet Ezekiel has a similar message

The prophet Ezekiel also describes God's relationship with Israel as a marriage: "And I passed by you and looked at you, and behold, it was the time to woo you. So I spread my coat over you and covered your nakedness. And I swore to you, and made a covenant with you, saith the Lord God, that ye should be mine "(Hes 16,8). In another analogy, God describes herself as a shepherd: "As a shepherd seeks his sheep, when they are lost from his flock, I will seek my sheep, and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered" (34,12-13) , According to this analogy, he modifies the words about the relationship: "You shall be my flock, the flock of my pasture, and I will be your God" (34,31). He foretells that the people will return from exile and God will change their hearts: "I want to give them another heart and a new spirit in them and want to take the stony heart out of their bodies and give them a fleshy heart, with it walk them in my commandments and keep my orders and do it. And they are to be my people and I want to be their god "(11,19-20). The relationship is also described as a covenant: "But I want to remember my covenant that I made with you at the time of your youth, and I want to establish an everlasting covenant with you" (16,60). He will also live among them: "I want to live among them and want to be their god and they should be my people" (37,27). "Here I want to live forever among the Israelites. And the house of Israel should no longer desecrate my holy name "(43,7).

The message of the little prophets

The prophet Hosea also describes a break in the relationship: "You are not my people, so I do not want to be yours" (Hos 1,9). Instead of the usual words of marriage, he uses the words of a divorce: "She's not my wife and I'm not her husband!" (2,4). But as happened with Isaiah and Jeremiah, this is an exaggeration. Hosea adds quickly that the relationship is not over: "Then, says the LORD, will you call me" my husband "... I will be betrothed to you for all eternity" (2,18 and 21). "I want to have mercy on Lo-Ruhama [the Unloved], and I want to say to Lo-Ammi [My people]," You are my people, "and they will say," You are my God. "" (2,25 ). "So I want to heal their apostasy again; I like to love her; for my wrath shall turn from them "(14,5).

The prophet Joel finds similar words: "Then shall the LORD exorcise his land and spare his people" (Joel 2,18). "My people should not be shunned anymore" (2,26). Also the prophet Amos writes: "I want to turn the captivity of my people Israel" (at the 9,14).

"He will have mercy on us again," writes the prophet Micah. "You will remain faithful to Jacob and show mercy to Abraham as you swore to our fathers in the past" (Mi 7,19-20). The prophet Zechariah offers a good summary: "Rejoice and be happy, daughter Zion! For behold, I come and will dwell with you, saith the LORD "(Zech. 2,14). "Behold, I will redeem my people out of the land against the rising, and out of the land against the fall of the sun, and will bring them home, that they may dwell in Jerusalem. And they are to be my people and I want to be their god in faithfulness and justice "(8,7-8).

In the last book of the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi writes: "You shall be my property, says the LORD of hosts, on the day that I will do, and I will have mercy upon them, as a man has mercy on his son, who has mercy on him serves "(Mal 3,17).

by Michael Morrison

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