In my daily Bible reading, I was studying the early books of the Old Testament and, once again, found myself rolling my eyes at the disobedient Israelites. In fact, in Deuteronomy, I found myself getting generally annoyed at the fickle nation. Over many chapters, God tells the Israelites that if they obey the statutes of the LORD and make Him God in their lives, He will bless them abundantly through peace, fertile land, many children, health, etc. On the other hand, He reminds them that if they forsake Him and disobey His commands, He will bring them into slavery, they will be barren, they will lose their homes, and disease will strike them. The two promises are made repeatedly again and again.
We all know how the story ends. Over the years, the Israelites forget the God who has done so much for them, worship idols, and they are taken into captivity and suffer over and over again. In fact, there is a continual pattern of sin, repentance, restoration, sin, repentance, restoration, etc. all throughout the Old Testament, especially in the book of Judges.
I read Deuteronomy, and I couldn't believe the Israelites would even entertain ideas of idolatry and disobedience when God has promised them such extreme results from their actions. However, I started thinking and realized that this is our world story today.
When Christ came to earth as a man, He offered the world two choices. First, He says to repent, have faith in His work for our sins, and submit to Him as LORD. If we do so, we are promised to be His and stand before God blameless and holy one day--all on account of Christ. We will receive an eternity with God in Heaven. On the other hand, if we reject Christ, do not submit to Him as LORD and do not repent, we are promised Hell and an eternity of separation from God. The stakes are high--even higher than the promises God gave the Israelites.
Despite these clear promises of eternal blessing or damnation, people choose, as the Israelites did, to reject God. Does the fact that I am a follower of Christ make me smarter than others? Definitely not. The Bible tells us that we are all SLAVES to sin, and we cannot even make the attempt to choose God and obedience because we are so stuck in our depravity. However, God is merciful and calls some to Him. He softens our hearts and works in us so that we choose to repent and submit to Him.
The Israelites are merely our early history mirror of how we, despite the certainty of God's reaction to our actions and decisions, cannot choose obedience without His intervention. We are utterly wretched without Him. We are all the Israelite nation--conforming to the world, putting idols in our hearts, and forgetting God's faithfulness--until God comes to us and calls us to Him.
I now look at the pages concerning the Israelites with a lot more mercy and humility than before. I also am renewed in my thankfulness to my Heavenly Father for saving me from the promise of Hell and replacing it with an eternity in His presence.
"See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life . . ."