Chance of Manna (parable blog)

The Hebrew Scriptures in Five Minutes

Posted on: September 29, 2008

Before there was anything there was God. The Universe was empty and there was nothing which reflected His power and might, or His grace and beauty. God was deeply and profoundly alone.  But He had a plan.  He spoke the universe into being: Light, Day, Night, Sea, Land, Sun, Moon, Stars, Plants, and Animals. Out of His holy words sprang a universe that reflected his beauty and grace, his power and might, but God was still alone. There was no creature which could behold this glory and praise him for it. God was a God of infinite love and yet nothing he created was capable of loving Him back. God had a plan, though. God always has a plan.

God created humanity, in His own image. Man was free to make his own choice between good and evil and therefore was able to fully love the creator, for there can be no love where there is no choice. Man fulfilled its purpose in loving and worshipping God and everything was finally complete.

But soon they began to disobey. First it was a simple act of disobedience, a simple bite of a fruit, followed by a lie, but pretty soon there was murder, and sexual deviance, and idolatry. God called out and no one listened, each generation was worse than the last. And once again God was alone.

God acted out in anger to get their attention, he knocked over towers, destroyed cities, flooded the Earth, but humanity continued to rebel and ignore their creator. He had given them the gift of choice and they had made it. The paradise God created was now a terrible place of violence, greed, idolatry, and self indulgence. The whole of humanity had been tainted with a spiritual cancer.  But all was not lost, God had a plan. God always has a plan.

The plan was simple. He would teach humanity how to listen to him. He would start with one person, then that person would teach their family and that family would teach their families and soon he would have a whole nation of listeners and that nation would teach the whole world. Then humanity would once again be lovers and worshippers.  This plan would take a long time but God is above all else patient.

God started with a man named Abraham. He set Abraham apart and taught him how to listen to His voice. Many times Abraham was doubtful and distrustful, but he was never disobedient.  Abraham taught his son Isaac to be a listener. Isaac taught his son Jacob who taught his twelve children who became the “Hebrew family”. Everything was going splendidly until suddenly and inexplicably, the Hebrews just stopped listening.

The Hebrews had been oppressed and enslaved by their Egyptian neighbors, and they had given up hope and stopped listening to God. The Hebrews began to doubt He even existed. Pretty soon the generations who had been listeners had died off, and no Hebrew alive could remember what it was that they had heard. God’s special people had forgotten him entirely. But all was not lost. God had a plan. God always has a plan.

God sent the Hebrews a deliverer: a man named Moses. Moses told the Hebrews all about the God of their ancestors and promised them that if they would just begin to listen again, God would deliver them. And God did. He sent plagues, parted waters, rained blessings from heaven, but God saw that the people had forgotten how to be holy and were wicked and idolatrous. God gave Moses a written law so that they would never again forget how to be set apart. The law would be passed down from generation to generation intact so that God’s word would always be preserved in their memory. This law had rules about how they should eat, and dress, as well as rules about how they should treat one another and how they should worship Him. Once they had these rules, they would soon be ready to be not just a family, but a nation.  Ever since they left Egypt, though, they had wandered in the desert; how could they be a nation, when they had no country to call their own?  Luckily, God had a plan. God always has a plan.

After Moses, God sent Joshua. Joshua led the Hebrews to a country God had set aside for them. With God’s help the Hebrews conquered the armies living there, and they became a nation of listeners, and God was their King. After Joshua died and they didn’t have a human leader anymore, they didn’t do a very good job of letting God be their King. More often than not they ignored the laws and failed to listen, and then they would wind up in trouble. God raised up temporary leaders called “judges” who would conquer the invading armies and teach the people to listen again. But each generation would forget to listen and they would grow a little more wicked and find itself in a little more trouble. Finally after the last Judge, Samson, saved the Hebrews, things were so bad that it was clear that these people were not going to listen to God on their own, and if they were going to keep from being conquered, if they were going to keep the law, if they were going to save the world, they would need a permanent ruler. They would need a king who was both a strong defender and a humble listener. But who? Could such a King even be found? God had a plan for this too. God always has a plan.

Israel’s first King, Saul, was a great warrior but he was a lousy listener. God already had His replacement chosen: a little shepherd boy named David. David was a man after God’s own heart, a writer and singer of psalms, a passionate worshipper, and a great listener. God took this listener and made a warrior out of him. The Israelites admired and respected King David and he taught them all to be great listeners, even as he defended them from their enemies. Under David the Hebrew people truly became a nation: Israel.

David’s son and heir to the throne, Solomon, commissioned the creation of the temple. If Israel was to fulfill their destiny as a people set apart, to show the world how to listen to God, then they ought to have a place to do it. God came and dwelled in the temple and he was finally the true King of Israel.

But after Solomon’s death, things began to go horribly wrong again. Israel found itself engaged in a civil war about who should be the rightful heir to the throne. These warring parties were trying to bring about their will by the sword, but no one was listening to God and asking what His will was. The kingdom was soon split into two separate Kingdoms: Judah and Israel. Their kings were wicked and violent men. Under their leadership, the people began turning to false Gods, and neglecting the poor. These people were supposed to show the world how to live? The Kings no longer listened to God and the law was being ignored.  What’s more, God saw the forces of history moving against his special people.  The Babylonian Empire was on the rise, and they were out to conquer their corner of the world. God saw all this but no one was listening. Things were getting grim but God had a plan. God always has a plan.

God began to send messengers to the wicked kings. These messengers were called “Prophets”. The prophets spoke on behalf of God and told the evil kings that they needed to return to the law, reject idolatry, tend to the poor and oppressed, and listen to God so that they could avoid the terrible day that was approaching. The kings treated the prophets horribly. Prophets were persecuted for their message. Sometimes the Kings did listen and change their ways but the next generation was always worse than before. Finally, as the prophets warned, the terrible day came, both kingdoms were invaded by the Babylonians, and the Hebrew people were once again without a country, forced to live as slaves among their conquerors. Their homes and their temple were destroyed. They felt that God had abandoned them. But it was they who abandoned God long ago.

They waited for God to raise a deliverer again to save them and teach them how to listen once more, but none came. The forces of history rolled on and the Babylonians were taken over by the Persians, the Persians conquered by the Greeks, and the Greeks by the Romans. In all this time there was no response. Perhaps God was finally through with his people. Perhaps God was out of the saving business. But little by little people began to listen and when they did they began to hear things. God revealed little pieces of something  that was unfolding. “Don’t worry”, He told his prophets, “just wait.”

And they did. They waited patiently as God began to unfold his greatest plan yet, the final plan that would bring the world back to what it was meant to be. Of course he had a plan. God always has a plan.

(to be continued…)

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