WHAT WE'VE SAID
1. Lesson 1 talked of God lovingly creating Man in his own image. He placed him in a paradise but Man wasn't satisfied with being in God's image—he wanted to be God! Paradise was lost and Sin spread like a plague until God performed drastic surgery—the flood. God began again with Noah and a rainbow told of Man's wickedness and God's love for sinners.
2. Lesson 2 spoke of Man's homelessness and his journey back to God in the person of Abraham. With him God made a gracious covenant which was to bless all men. God rescued the children of Abraham from Egyptian slavery and made them a nation at mount Sinai where he established a covenant with Israel.
THE SERVANT NATION IN THE LAND
3. Their entrance into the promised land was delayed for forty years because of their flagrant distrust (Numbers, chapters 13-14). The nation which now stood ready to cross the Jordan River into Canaan was a miracle of God's redeeming grace. God was about to put them in the land which the Canaanites had forfeited because of their evil (Genesis 15:16). God would place Israel in the midst of the nations so that everyone could look and learn; but before they entered, there were truths about the land which had to be drummed into Israel.
4. They must understand that the land is a GIFT! God will not allow Israel to think she earned or won this homeland. Hundreds of times God tells Israel that he would give them or that he had given them the land. He does more than tell them, he demonstrates it every step of the way.
A. Moses is removed as leader before Israel enters the land (Deuteronomy 34) so Israel would feel vulnerable;
B. The river Jordan is in flood so that Israel can't even cross it without God's help (Joshua 3:14-17);
C. All the males are circumcised just after the river crossing and so in enemy territory, making them less fit for war (Joshua 5:2-9 with Genesis 34:24-25);
D. Their first obstacle in Caanan is the powerful city of Jericho which they overcome without lifting a weapon against it (Joshua 6).
5. They must understand that the land is a gift from YAHWEH! The nations in the land worshiped many different gods (especially Baal). Different gods for different people and different gods for different needs. Israel was taught that the same God who parted the Jordan and the Red sea parted the waters at creation. The same God who gave Adam and Eve their land and who gave the nations their lands was giving Canaan back to Israel. As Adam and Eve had forfeited their home due to rebellion so the Canaanites were forfeiting theirs. (Israel would also if they were rebellious.) One God was God to all men—this was part of Israel's witness to the world.
6. Israel must understand there is no blessing without obedience! Land meant more than a piece of property. It implied life with God, fellowship with him. But life with God means more than salvation. Life with God involves submission, obedience, a lifestyle of justice and mercy toward ones neighbour. In the absence of these there is no life with God. Israel wandered 40 years because of unbelief. Jericho wouldn't have fallen had they not obeyed the voice of God who destroyed that city for them. And, later, when Israel became treacherous, she was driven from the land into painful exile. Israel couldn't earn her blessings but without obedience blessings would either be withheld or would dry up. (See Hebrews 5:9-10 in this connection.)
7. Israel entered the land and God brought it under their control. Before he died, Joshua reminded Israel that not one thing has failed of all that God promised you. All has come to pass (Joshua 21:43-45 and 23:14-15). God had shown himself faithful. Israel confessed this and re-committed themselves to the covenant with God (24:16-27).
THE SERVANT NATION'S TREACHERY
8. Joshua died and the nation corrupted itself. The book of JudgesJudges is a rehearsal of their evil (read 2:11,19; 3:7; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6 and 13:1). They behaved treacherously against God and one another but called on God when in trouble. God's patience is well demonstrated in Judges. And, remember, Israel was God's exhibit to show the world how he felt about the world!
9. The Judges (saviours) came to an end with Samuel. In his day Israel asked for a visible king (1 Samuel 8:1-9). God gave them Saul but later established a permanent dynasty with David and his family (Psalm 89 with 2 Samuel 7:8-17). The Davidic covenant had punitive clauses in it but God swore he would never alter this promise to David and his descendants.
10. David's son, Solomon, oppressed the people and served other gods. For this God punished the family of David and the Israelite kingdom split into two kingdoms, Israel (or Ephraim) which was the northern kingdom of ten tribes and Judah which (counting Benjamin) had two tribes. All this is recorded in 1 Kings 11 and 12. It is important to remember that the division of the kingdom was punishment on the disobedient Davidic line but that the covenant God made with the family of David was still intact (see Psalm 89:30-37). The prophets foresaw that the unity of the kingdom would be restored when the Messiah would come (Ezekiel 37:15-28 and other places).
11. Both kingdoms departed from Yahweh (the covenant name God took with Israel when he rescued them from Egypt). Their worship and their lifestyle became corrupt. Civil war was common between the two kingdoms and so, instead of being a shining example before the world, they dishonoured the name of God before the nations. God sent them prophets (Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Elijah, Elisha and others) but the people wouldn't listen. Yet he loved them. But because he loved the world also, it was necessary that he chastise Israel. Israel was destined for exile among the nations.
THE SERVANT NATION SENT AWAY AND BROUGHT BACK
12. The northern kingdom was taken into captivity by the Assyrian nation beginning in 722/21 B.C. (It was around this time that the roots of the Samaritans came into existence. See 2 Kings 17:24-37 and John 4.) The southern kingdom was taken away by the Babylonians beginning in 605 B.C.
13. Now the Israelite nation was ruled by Gentiles; but because of Psalm 89, the Gentile rule over Israel could not be a permanent arrangement. The book of Daniel was written to make this clear. He foresaw the coming Messiah and the restoring of the rule of the family of David (Daniel, chapter 2:24-44).
14. Israel's going into captivity did not mean God had ceased to love her or had gone back on his promises. No, the world needed to learn that God would not tolerate willful evil even in his own people. It needed to learn that he insisted on a lifestyle that embodied loving loyalty toward Him and ones neighbour. But even as he sent Israel to prison he promised that he would bring them back.
15. Isaiah 44:26-28 with 45:13 is a prophecy that God would restore Israel to their land through Cyrus, king of Persia. This prediction was fulfilled about 200 years later in 539 B.C. (See Ezra 1:1-4 and 2 Chronicles 36:15-23).
16. A small number of Israelites returned to Canaan under a man called Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:1-2). The whole nation was free to do so but, for a multitude of reasons, they remained outside Caanan. The returnees claimed only a small part of Judea and began to build the temple. They ran into trouble from the peoples around them in the land. It wasnt until 516 B.C. that they completed the temple under the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah (two prophets) and the leadership of Zerubbabel. The story is told in Ezra 1-6 and Haggai 1-2.
17. A little later, Ezra came with a number of exiles to beautify the temple and correct some disorders (Ezra, chapters 7-10). Then came Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in spite of the determined opposition of the enemies in the land. That story is told in the book of Nehemiah. The biblical record closes about this time and reopens at the time John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, makes his appearance (Luke, chapter 1).
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