Getting to Know God Meditations: 8. God of Purpose: Environment
Psa 135:4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.
Again? In the previous study we noted that the two initial goals for God creating the nation of Israel were to reveal God to the world, AND to reveal the sinful nature, tendency or propensity, of human beings, through Israel’s inability to stay on track. To those two goals we added a bigger third goal, the ultimate goal that God has for mankind, not to condemn us but to save us from ourselves.
The Big Picture Alternatives: Post-modernists, we are told, don’t trust ‘big-picture’ solutions to world problems but that creates problems. For example my atheist friend will say that all we can know about the world is found through science and science says the world came about through the big bang, followed by evolution. We are what we are today, he will say, because we have evolved to this. Now that I have to suggest is as much a ‘big-picture solution’ as any contrary biblical one. The primary big-picture alternative world view to that meaningless, ‘world by chance’ one is the one based upon biblical revelation which is all about divine purpose:
The Biblical Big-Picture Behavioral World View: It is remarkably simple:
- God created the designed world (whether by purposeful evolution or some other way, is irrelevant).
- The world He created was designed to work in particular ways (see below) that would benefit mankind, with whom He communicates.
- Being given free-will we chose to reject God’s design and so we cause self-harm and harm to others (I will explain that more fully later).
- From the outset God knew this would happen and so planned to win us back to himself by sending his Son to the earth to show the possibility of life with God and all that that could mean.
Sub-Goals: I am not going into the random nature of evolution or the ‘big bang’ for that matter, even though atheistic scientists try to put purpose into both, for this is not the place to point out the numerous faults within them (we may do that in a later study), but to lay out the far more reasonable and likely scenario to the open-minded, through the biblical record.
That third ultimate goal of saving us from ourselves, that we referred to before, is made up of three sub-goals:
- To create a ‘God environment’ into which His Son may come, i.e. Israel,
- To reveal Himself through His Son Jesus Christ, and
- To satisfy justice by the death of His Son.
The first of those three will form the content of this study, and the 2nd and 3rd in the following studies. We will need to insert a further one that briefly overviews the life and ministry of Jesus Christ to see how he ‘fits’ into all this. I believe there are things here that most people fail to understand about God and His purposes and His Son, Jesus.
Creating a Working Environment for Jesus: I suspect most of us take for granted, once we’ve heard the story or read it in the four Gospels, that Jesus Christ, the self-acclaimed Son of God, came into this world as a Jew, a citizen of the nation of Israel, some two thousand years ago when Israel were under the domination of the Roman empire. What we take for granted, as I say once we’ve read it, is the ‘God-culture’ of that land. Imagine Jesus being born into say France or somewhere in Africa. Where in history could we insert him into our affairs to give him a fighting chance of revealing himself to the world as the Son of God? Let me highlight the background of this nation into which he is born and suggest that this is why God worked so hard to establish Israel and keep them in existence:
– Israel have a history that we have been starting to examine, a history of encounter with God, and so the thought of God, and Him entering into the affairs of mankind, is not unusual to this people, they have a history full of it.
– within this history are ‘prophets’, men (mostly men but not exclusively) who claimed to hear from God and thus speak on His behalf. In the midst of their calls to the nation to return to God and put their lives right (for that was what they mostly did) there came an almost confusing plethora of prophecies about one who would come from God to deliver the nation (and the world?). There are said to be over three hundred of such references. They are a people who are expecting a ‘messiah’, a deliverer.
– their society, their culture is God-orientated unlike any other nation in the world. Locally there are rabbis, teachers of the scrolls of what we now call the Old Testament, who work out of local ‘synagogues’. – in the capital, Jerusalem, there is a great temple. The nation has a history of temples, first the one built by Solomon to replace the tabernacle, destroyed in BC587 by Nebuchadnezzar, and rebuilt seventy years later by the returning exiles, and extended by Herod shortly before Jesus was born. The temple was said to be the dwelling place of God in the midst of the nation.
– with the temple is the priesthood, created under the Law by Moses centuries before but still existing, whose role is to oversee the temple and its activities. The Chief Priest is almost certainly the most powerful man in the nation, even though overseen by Rome, and he and the priesthood administer the culture of the land – a God-culture.
– there are a number of groupings within the nation, some secular revolutionaries who want to free them from Rome, but a number with specifically religious outlooks, the main three being the Sadducees, (liberal in outlook who ruled the temple), Pharisees (orthodox conservative guardians of the Law) and the Essenes, a more revolutionary religious band.
– the culture is uniquely God-orientated, a society that taught their history with God and the requirements of the Law of Moses and how it should be applied to daily life.
Thus when Jesus, at the age of about thirty, stands up and starts his public ministry, he is speaking into a prepared people. In fact not only are they prepared by their history and cultural structure, they are prepared by a prophet who attracted large crowds, who we refer to simply as John the Baptist, who preached in the desert and baptized people to wash away their sins, proclaiming get ready for the messiah is about to come. It was into this doubly prepared people that Jesus came. Because of the complexity of who he was, what he taught and what he did, we will make those things the subject of the next study.