Restoration for a Nation in Exile and a World without Hope

The nation of Israel was in exile.1  They had their temple but were under the sovereignty of a pagan nation that did not know, nor respect, their God, Yahweh.  Over 500 years earlier during the reign of the Persian king, Cyrus the Great, the tribes of Benjamin and Judah returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the wall of the city,2 but what of the remaining ten tribes of Israel still scattered abroad?  When would the people of Yahweh be unified and shine once more as a light of hope to the nations?3

And the nations, which had been divided at Babel so long ago and subjugated under the authority of the sons of God,4 would they remain forever under the rule of corrupted beings rather than the one true God?  Those heavenly rulers, having been in the council of God, were judged by him, because they would not give justice to the weak, the needy, or the fatherless.5 Instead they put themselves forward as false objects of worship, at times even leading astray the idolatry prone hearts of the Israelites.6  When would God destroy the rule of the principalities and powers of heaven and reclaim the nations for himself?7

Would God be silent for ever?8  Would his wrath over sin ever relent?  Would his mercy and loving kindness be felt, and would he again have communion with man?

God had not forgotten his plan.9  He would have his people, and he would have the world.  He was not acting slowly, but was patiently preparing for the moment when he would change everything–the moment he would restore his kingdom on the earth.10

God was waiting for the right moment.  And at that moment the eternal and unique Son of God,11 the fullness of Yahweh,12 entered human history and humbled himself by becoming a helpless baby.13  This baby, Jesus, would be the Savior of Israel and the world, for any who would believe in him and trust in the work he would do on the cross.14

On the cross Jesus, the man who was also God, died.  He died the death owed, for sin,15 by every man that had ever walked the earth since the beginning, and that would be owed by every man yet to walk the earth, yet he did not owe it.16  He was killed by man, whom he came to save, who owed him everything, whom he loved so much that he would lay his life down willingly.17

But death was not the end for him, and God had a deeper plan, one that no one had suspected.  Jesus rose from the dead,18 defeating the sin that has plagued mankind since the beginning, and defeating the death that followed sin close behind.19  Not only did he defeat death, but when he arose, he demonstrated that he had power greater than all powers in heaven and earth, whether they be the gods (so-called) of the nations, principalities, powers, angels, demons, or men.20

Out of Israel, God would save a remnant, and shortly after Jesus ascended into heaven to prepare his heavenly kingdom,21 at Pentecost he would send his spirit, the Holy Spirit of God, to indwell his followers–Jews who were gathered to Jerusalem from every tribe of Israel and every nation.22  From that moment a fire was lit in the hearts of his people that could neither be quenched nor contained.  It would spread like a consuming fire, unstoppably, as the people of God went out into the world, preaching to Jew and Gentile alike, until the nations belonged again to Yahweh, the God Most High, who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

It is this story, told so often, and in so many ways, that gives me joy in life, and especially in the Christmas season.  We get to celebrate and remember that moment in human history when God demonstrated how much he loved us, and just how much he was willing to pay to have us in his family.  We can celebrate that salvation is not for the nation of Israel only, but for all the world,23 given freely by God’s grace to any person who repents of his own sin and puts his faith in the work of Jesus.24

If you have never heard this story, I hope that you will examine it closely to consider what it could mean for you and how you can grow in light of it.  If you feel inclined to harden your heart, consider giving God a chance to show you that he cares for you.  If you have heard this story a thousand times, and already believe, I hope that you will allow yourself to soak, once more, in the sweetness of the grace and truth of Jesus.

Footnotes

  1. 1 Chronicles 5:26, 2 Kings 15:29, 2 Kings 17:3-6, 2 Kings 18:11-12
  2. 2 Chronicles 36:20-23, Ezra 1
  3. Isaiah 11:10-12, Isaiah 49:6, Isaiah 60:1-3
  4. Deuteronomy 32:7-9
  5. Psalm 82
  6. Exodus 20:4-51 Corinthians 8:51 Corinthians 10:20-21Deuteronomy 32:16-18
  7. Psalm 22:27, Psalm 82:8
  8. Lamentations 5:20
  9. Isaiah 49:14-15, Acts 2:23
  10. Mark 1:14-15
  11. John 3:16
  12. John 1:1, John 8:58, John 20:28, Colossians 2:9, Philippians 2:5-8, Titus 2:13
  13. Philippians 2:5-8
  14. John 3:16, Romans 10:9
  15. Romans 6:23
  16. 2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5
  17. Acts 2:23, John 10:17-18
  18. Matthew 28:6, Mark 16:6, Luke 24:6-7, Acts 2:24
  19. Romans 6:5-11, Romans 6:23
  20. Ephesians 1:20-22Ephesians 6:12Romans 8:37–39
  21. Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51, Acts 1:6-11
  22. Acts 2
  23. Acts 11:18, Romans 3:29-30
  24. John 3:16, Romans 3:23-25, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9

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