Fundamental Questions of the Christian Life # 3
The Israelitish Section
The next section, the Israelitish period, from Exodus to Malachi, is divided subsectionally into, firstly, the priestly aspect, from Exodus 12 to the First Book of Samuel; secondly, the monarchical aspect, from 1 Samuel to 2 Chronicles 36:21; thirdly, the prophetical aspect, from Isaiah to Malachi.
(a) The Priestly Aspect
In order to appreciate the significance of the priestly aspect of the Israelitish section, it is necessary to recognize the Divine meaning in choosing Israel; that is, to recognize Israel's place and nature and vocation. Very much has been said and written regarding the Jewish people, and what a wonderful people they are. They have been called the most wonderful people in history. Comment has been made on what is termed "the Jewish genius for religion." I do not so read the Bible! Anything at all wonderful about these people was not due to themselves at all, but wholly to the grace of God.
What the Bible reveals as to the children of Israel is not their 'genius for religion,' but the fact that they were a people no better than, if as good as, many others. Their outstanding characteristic was rather a genius for covetousness and selfishness and hard-heartedness and stiffneckedness and murder, if their interests were threatened or their ambitions frustrated. Stephen rightly summed up their history when he said to their leaders in his own time: "Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? and they killed them which shewed before of the coming of the Righteous One." (Acts 7:52). " There is a challenge. In that marvelous discourse of Stephen, the whole history of Israel was taken up and presented in very dark lines. Not a genius for religion - very much to the contrary! God's own categorical statement about Israel was: "I did not choose you because you were better or greater than other peoples" (Deut. 7:7).
Why, then, did God choose such a people? How could such a people come to full acceptance with God and have access to God, stand in His love, draw out all His favor,stir Him to fierce jealousy on their behalf - how could that be with such a people? Let it then at once be recognized that their whole life was based upon the mediatorial principle: a holy priesthood, a holy altar, holy sacrifices and offerings, blood sacrifices of creatures without spot or blemish, meal offerings of very fine-ground flour, meat offerings of that in which the closest inspection could detect no traces of corruption. Everything proclaimed with a loud voice that - not for a wonderful people at all, not for a people with a genius for religion and goodness - but for the chiefest of sinners, the most hopeless of men, the most disobedient, most provocative, most reprobate, most unfaithful people on earth - for such, God has provided a basis for the closest intimacy with Himself! Let anyone who despairs of themselves read Psalm 105, and then, having read it, turn to the Psalms immediately preceding and following it. In Psalm 105 you have the long-drawn-out, monotonous story of the unfaithfulness and unreliableness of that nation. And yet all the way along, God forgave, and He forgave, and He forgave. Why?
The history of Israel can only be read in the light of Jesus Christ. He is the only explanation. Why did God choose Israel? What is their place, their nature, their vocation? Israel is God's great object-lesson of grace: grace providing all that which is lacking in man, but which is essential to fellowship with God. God provides it Himself. Out of the womb of Israel Jesus Christ was born, but He was implicit in the whole priestly order of her history, declaring all the way along: 'It is not your merit or your goodness - it is My perfection.' Israel shows forth - not her own greatness, not her own goodness, not her own genius, but just the greatness of Christ, Who, for such as they and such as we, is "made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). For what purpose? "That no flesh should glory before God" (vs. 29). All the glory comes to Christ. God thought it worth while to take that long section of human history and constitute it in such a way as to set forth, in a people and through a people, to the nations, to the world, to sinful and worthless men, His wonderful grace - His 'grace which is in Christ Jesus' (1 Timothy 1:14).
(continued with # 4)