Thursday, May 2, 2024

God of the Few

God makes many promises, especially in the Old Testament. And some of those promises seem like the same one: He will make a nation more numerous than the sands on the sea or the stars in the sky, they will be His special possession, and through them, the whole world will be blessed. 

That was His goal - that His people would be a blessing to the world. So many of His promises rest on the idea that the many will be blessed by the faithfulness of the few, that a faithful life ripples through the world like a stone in a pond until every square inch of water is affected. 

But then, sin. 

But then, disobedience.

But then, unfaithfulness. 

And then, things get a little bit tricky. 

God started by drawing a really large circle, with Israel at the center and the nations all around. But the nations are unfaithful to the Lord, so the circle gets a little bit smaller. Eventually, it's only Israel left in the circle. Or so they think. 

But Israel isn't a homogenous body; there are lots of different persons and personalities in Israel, and it doesn't take long before those who seem on the edges of Israel also break their faithfulness and all of a sudden, the circle gets smaller still. 

This is what's happening when God breaks Israel into two kingdoms - Israel and Judah. The unfaithfulness in Israel means the people who get to inherit that particular promise become fewer. God's not going to break His promise; if He did, He wouldn't be God any more, and He knows that. He'd put His entire reputation to waste if He broke even one single promise. So He's not going to break His promise. 

But He does make the number of persons who benefit from it smaller. 

No longer is Israel Israel. The whole world was supposed to be blessed by Israel, but Israel failed and now, even Israel can't have the full blessing of the Lord. So now, Israel is Israel and Judah, with Judah being the nucleus of the more faithful people. So now, Judah becomes a blessing to Israel and to its legacy and to its promise. 

Then, independently, both Israel and Judah start to fail, and we see God draw the circle even smaller. If you read through Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, this is what you see happening, all the way to the exile. All the way until there is just a small remnant of poor Israelites left in the land, and a few in exile who can't stop dreaming of the Temple in all its glory and Canaan and Promise and a place called Home. 

And then, the story becomes that God blesses these few, and these few bless a few more, and because of them, Jerusalem is blessed, and because of Jerusalem, Israel is blessed and then, hopefully, one day down the road, the promise expands again and all the world is blessed (after Jesus). 

So pay attention to how 1) God never breaks His promises. Never. Not once. but 2) the circles that those promises encompass are not always the same size. 

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