Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cast of Characters

I am so excited guys. We've made it to Day 2! Every single day is a milestone in my book and is worth being celebrated. Today, we're going to finish up the introduction by discussing the main characters of the story. While obviously we're going to discuss lots of people and the way the covenant applied to them, the two most important characters in this story of covenant are YHWH and Israel. If you're like me, you may have heard of the Israelites. Something about them wandering around in the desert for forty years or something. But, YHWH? What's so important about those four letters? Well. Actually, those four letters in Hebrew mean a lot.  

In the Old Testament, God is referred to using the Hebrew name YHWH or Yahweh. YHWH is a revelation of the true name of God meaning “I AM WHO I AM”. The name given is linked to God’s very essence, which is why God hesitated giving it to Moses to begin with. If you remember back to the beginning of Exodus, Moses had run away from Egypt and escaped to Midian. He was tending his father-in-law's flock up at Mount Sinai when the Lord appeared to him in the fire of a burning bush. Moses was a little freaked out by all of this (as many of us would be also), especially when God told him that he was being called to bring God's people out of Egypt. In the ancient times, knowing someone’s name meant you had power over them. So, Moses asked God what his name was. When Moses did this, he was asking God to give him the power in the relationship. This is why God gives such a mysterious answer. One scholar in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible says, “The everlasting quality of the name signifies the faithfulness of God’s actions towards Israel in the future.” 
Bush at St. Catherine's Monastery that is thought of to be the burning bush where Moses encountered God.
God demands radical obedience and faithfulness. In Deuteronomy 20:2-3, God demands Israel’s sole obedience and tells them that they may have no other gods, or lords. In a political covenant in the Biblical times, when two parties made a covenant, the lesser of the parties was not allowed to enter into treaties with other lords. This was as much for the original lord’s sake as it was for the servant. Having multiple lords would put them at a risk of messing up the covenantal relationship. This reminds me of the place in the Gospels where Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters. This is the covenant relationship he was referring to. The shema is most important statement in Jewish faith. The shema is found in Deuteronomy 6:4 and it reads“Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” This is a statement of monotheism. No other gods are in his presence. Unlike other gods that the people worshiped, the Lord isn’t part of a pantheon. He is in a class of his own.
The most important revelation of the covenant is that Yahweh is faithful. Even when Israel continues to sin, Yahweh continues to show His glory and provide for His people. Even when judgment comes and the Lord must punish Israel for their disobedience, he does not abandon his people forever. God always remembers His people and never forgets them. Exodus 2:24 reads, "So God heard their groaning and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob." When a new Pharaoh came to town and enslaved the Israelites because he saw them as a threat, because they were multiplying in number, God steps in and rescues his people from the Egyptians. This reminds us that even in the darkest of times, we can take comfort in Him and He will remember us. In this pit of darkness when the Israelites felt that their God had abandoned them, God was raising up a leader (Moses) to rescue them (by speaking to him at the burning bush).

So, then. We've talked about Israel on several occasions in the last few paragraphs. I'm going to close today with a quick summary of Israel, just in case you didn't catch some things in the first part. We will go into more detail about the Israelites in the coming days.
According to the Old Testament, Israel was God’s chosen people, set apart by God to be used for his glory. They were the people brought out of Egypt to the Promised Land and composed of twelve tribes. Unlike God, though, Israel did not stay faithful to the covenant. They did not fully realize that being God’s chosen people brings responsibility and were disobedient. They continually fail to keep up their end of the deal. Israel ends up failing completely at keeping the covenant. Many of the prophets went as far to say that Israel was engaging in spiritual prostitution. As a result, Israel’s disobedience brought about severe consequences. Luckily for them, since God was the one who passed through the animal at the ratification ceremony, the keeping of the covenant was not dependent on them. Since God remained faithful, they were provided for. This continues to be applicable to our lives today. Even though we continually sin and fall short, God is always there to pick us up! God's deepest desire is to enter into a loving relationship with us and have us choose to put him first. We still struggle, just like our ancestors, the Israelites. That is why it is so important that we read the Bible so that we can learn from their mistakes. This way, we don't do the same things in our lives. 


  1. Earlier, we talked about how the Israelites did not fully realize that being God’s chosen people brings responsibility and were disobedient. With this knowledge, imagine a job description for being one of "God's Chosen". 
    1. What kind of qualities would it list?
    2. What does this mean for your life? 
    3. Are you taking your "job title" of being one of God's chosen people seriously and being responsible with it? Or do you throw it around like any other phrase?
  2. We're somewhat used to the idea that our salvation is based on Jesus alone. The idea that we are not worthy of eternal life by ourselves is an idea many of us are familiar with. The covenant was based on God's faithfulness, not Israel's faithfulness- which falls along the same lines. I know, I know, the Israelites had to offer up sacrifices every time they sinned. But, even when they failed, God still kept his promises.
    1. Do you think that the idea of OT covenant and the NT covenant are the same? Why or why not.
    2. If you think they are similar, how does it make you feel that it's always been this way? 

Coming Soon: Tomorrow, we will begin looking at the covenant with creation!

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