For the week of December 25, 2010 / 18 Tevet 5771
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 1:1 - 6:1
Haftarah: Isaiah 27:6 - 28:13; 29:22, 23

A People in Process

Then the LORD said, "I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites." (Shemot / Exodus 3:7, 8; ESV)

There are many unique features regarding the nation of Israel. First and foremost is that even though every nation is the product of the providence of God, Israel was specially created by God for a particular purpose, namely to be God's chosen channel through which to make himself known to the world. It is no wonder therefore that Israel's history should be as complex and interesting as it is.

One interesting aspect to Israel's history is how the nation migrated from place to place under God's direction for very specific reasons. This started with Abraham and his call to move his household from Mesopotamia to what was then known as the land of Canaan. Even though all he came to possess in his own lifetime was a burial plot, God said his descendants would one day possess the entire region. But God told Abraham that before this would happen his descendants would first be servants in a foreign land for 400 years (Bereshit / Genesis 15:13, 14).

It would be through a most complex set of circumstances that Abraham's grandson Jacob and his clan would be brought to Egypt, where at first they were most graciously treated and only sometime later would come under oppressive servitude. This is what sets the stage for God's deliverance of the people under the leadership of Moses and his brother, Aaron.

God's deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt was itself a process by which God demonstrated his power. It was necessary for Israel to witness God's mighty hand in this way in order to prepare them for serving God in the years ahead. They would be taught many important lessons through this and their years of wandering in the wilderness followed by the conquest of Canaan under Moses' successor, Joshua.

As they came to possess the Land, God would continue to instruct them in his ways. As the people and their leaders would most often fail to live according to God's instructions, God would send prophets, his spokespeople, to speak his Word to them in hopes that they would trust God and live life as he intended. However, human nature as it is, Israel did not live up to God's standards, thus resulting in dispersion and exile. Most nations by this time would cease to exist, but God was not finished with Israel - more lessons to be learned - more of God and his ways to be revealed to them and through them. During this period, the anticipation of a Great Deliver, the Messiah, began to become part of the psyche of the nation.

Eventually some of Israel returned to re-establish itself in the Promised Land. The anticipation of the Messiah grew until Yeshua appeared on the scene. He accomplished all that God purposed for him, including the giving of himself as the perfect and eternal sacrifice for sin and the conquering of death through his rising from the dead. During his time on earth he continued to put Israel through a process by preparing a small remnant to journey out into the world, thus fulfilling God's promise to Abraham by making himself known to all peoples.

I get the impression that people don't like being put through process. We tend to want to learn things easily and quickly and get to a place in life where we are done: no more learning; no more process. We like to have things figured out. This is true for the atheist and believer alike. We make our philosophical and theological determinations and spend the rest of lives defending our positions and/or ignoring challenging ideas. The agnostic is no different in their stubbornness to accept that Truth can be known, preferring to hold onto the illusionary comfort of indecision.

But for those who truly walk with God, there is a process through which God puts us. God is preparing us for an eternity with him. This preparation involves a lifelong education through which all sorts of means are at God's disposal. God is not satisfied with leaving us where we are at in life. In order for his plans and purposes to be accomplished in and through us, he will often upset our circumstances, taking us on to the unknown and the uncomfortable. It is as we give ourselves over to God's process that we are most able to learn the lessons he is seeking to teach us and be all that he wants us to be.

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