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The relationship of God with the people

In ancient tribal societies, if a man wanted to adopt a child, the ceremony was simple: “I will be to him a father, and he will become my son.” The marriage ceremony was similar: “She is my wife, and I am her husband.” In front of witnesses, they stated the relationship they had with each other, and those words made it official. When God wanted to state his relationship with ancient Israel, he sometimes used similar words. “I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son”. He is stating the terms of the relationship: parent and child.God also uses marriage as a description of the relationship: “Your Maker is your husband as if you were a wife.” “I will betroth you to me forever” More often, the relationship is phrased in this way: “You are my people, and I am your God.” In ancient Israel, “people” was a relationship word. When Ruth told Naomi, “Your people will be my people”, she was promising a new and permanent relationship. This was where she belonged. When God says, “You are my people,” he (like Ruth) is stressing relationships more than ownership. “I am bonded to you; you are like family to me.”

God says this more often in the prophets than in all the previous writings put together. Why is it stated so often? Because the relationship was threatened by Israel’s lack of loyalty. Israel had ignored their covenant with God and worshipped other gods. So God had allowed the northern tribes to be conquered by Assyria and the people taken away. Most of the Old Testament prophets lived shortly before or after the nation of Judah was conquered by Babylon and taken away as slaves. The people wondered, Is it all over? Has God abandoned us? The prophets respond with repeated assurances.

No, God has not abandoned us. We are still his people, and he is still our God. The prophets predicted a national restoration: the people would return to the land and, most importantly, return to God. The future tense is often used: “They will be my people, and I will be their God.” God has not abandoned them he will restore the relationship. He will bring it about and make it better than before. “I reared children and brought them up,” God says through Isaiah. “But they have rebelled against me.They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.” As a result, the people were sent into captivity. “My people will go into exile for lack of understanding.” It looked like the relationship had come to an end. “You have abandoned your people,” Isaiah says in 2:6 But it was not permanent. “My people who live in Zion, do not be afraid…. Very soon my anger against you will end.” “I will not forget you”, “The Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.”

The prophets spoke of a huge regathering: “The Lord will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and will settle them in their land.” “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth”, “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” “The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces.

On that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us” (25:8-9). And God says to them, “You are my people” (51:16). “Surely they are my people, children who will be true to me” (63:8). This is good news, not just for Israel, but for everyone: “Foreigners will join them and unite with the descendants of Jacob”, “Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.” “The Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all people. ”

They will say, “This is our God…let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation” (25:9). Jeremiah combines the family metaphors: “How gladly would I treat you like my children and give you a pleasant land. I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away. But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you, Israel, have been unfaithful to me” (Jeremiah 3:19-20). “They broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them” (31:32).Jeremiah initially prophesies that the relationship is over: “These people do not belong to the Lord. The people of Israel and the people of Judah have been utterly unfaithful to me” (5:10-11). “I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries” (3:8). But this is not a permanent rejection. “Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight?… My heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him” (31:20). “How long will you wander, unfaithful Daughter Israel?” (31:22). He promises to restore them: “I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them” (23:3).

“I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity” (30:3). “I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth” (31:8). “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (31:34). “Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God” (51:5). Most importantly, God will change them so they will be faithful: “Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding” (3:22). “I will give them the heart to know me, that I am the Lord” (24:7). “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their heart.”I will give them singleness of heart and action. In ancient tribal societies, if a man wanted to adopt a child, the ceremony was simple: “I will be to him a father, and he will become my son.”

The marriage ceremony was similar: “She is my wife, and I am her husband.” In front of witnesses, they stated the relationship they had with each other, and those words made it official. When God wanted to state his relationship with ancient Israel, he sometimes used similar words. “I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son” (Jeremiah 31:9). He is stating the terms of the relationship: parent and child.God also uses marriage as a description of the relationship: “Your Maker is your husband as if you were a wife” (Isaiah 54:5-6). “I will betroth you to me forever” (Hosea 2:19). More often, the relationship is phrased in this way: “You are my people, and I am your God.” In ancient Israel, “people” was a relationship word. When Ruth told Naomi, “Your people will be my people” (Ruth 1:16), she was promising a new and permanent relationship. This was where she belonged.

When God says, “You are my people,” he (like Ruth) is stressing relationships more than ownership. “I am bonded to you; you are like family to me,” God says this more often in the prophets than in all the previous writings put together. Why is it stated so often? Because the relationship was threatened by Israel’s lack of loyalty. Israel had ignored their covenant with God and worshipped other gods. So God had allowed the northern tribes to be conquered by Assyria and the people taken away. Most of the Old Testament prophets lived shortly before or after the nation of Judah was conquered by Babylon and taken away as slaves.

The people wondered, Is it all over? Has God abandoned us? The prophets respond with repeated assurances: No, God has not abandoned us. We are still his people, and he is still our God. The prophets predicted a national restoration: the people would return to the land and, most importantly, return to God. The future tense is often used: “They will be my people, and I will be their God.” God has not abandoned them he will restore the relationship. He will bring it about and make it better than before. “I reared children and brought them up,” God says through Isaiah. “But they have rebelled against me.They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him” (Isaiah 1:2, 4). As a result, the people were sent into captivity. “My people will go into exile for lack of understanding” (Isaiah 5:13). It looked like the relationship had come to an end. “You have abandoned your people,” Isaiah says in 2:6. But it was not permanent. “My people who live in Zion, do not be afraid…. Very soon my anger against you will end” (10:24-25). “I will not forget you” (44:21). “The Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones” (49:13).

The prophets spoke of a huge regathering: “The Lord will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and will settle them in their land” (14:1). “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth” (43:6). “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest” (32:18). “The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces. In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us” (25:8-9). And God says to them, “You are my people” (51:16). “Surely they are my people, children who will be true to me” (63:8).

This is good news, not just for Israel, but for everyone: “Foreigners will join them and unite with the descendants of Jacob” (14:1). “Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people” (56:3). “The Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples” (25:6). They will say, “This is our God…let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation” (25:9). Jeremiah combines the family metaphors: “How gladly would I treat you like my children and give you a pleasant land. I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away. But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you, Israel, have been unfaithful to me” (Jeremiah 3:19-20). “They broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them” (31:32).Jeremiah initially prophesies that the relationship is over: “These people do not belong to the Lord. The people of Israel and the people of Judah have been utterly unfaithful to me” (5:10-11). “I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries” (3:8). But this is not a permanent rejection. “Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight?

My heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him” (31:20). “How long will you wander, unfaithful Daughter Israel?” (31:22). He promises to restore them: “I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them” (23:3). “I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity” (30:3). “I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth” (31:8). “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (31:34).

“Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God” (51:5). Most importantly, God will change them so they will be faithful: “Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding” (3:22). “I will give them the heart to know me, that I am the Lord” (24:7). “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts” (31:33). “I will give them singleness of heart and action. I will inspire them to fear me so that they will never turn away from me” (32:39-40). God promises a renewal of their relationship, which is the equivalent of making a new covenant with them: “They will be my people, and I will be their God” (24:7; 30:22; 31:33; 32:38).

“I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people” (31:1). “I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah” (31:31). “I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them” (32:40). Jeremiah saw that the Gentiles would be included, too: “As for all my wicked neighbours who seize the inheritance I gave my people Israel, I will uproot them from their lands.And if they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name…then they will be established among my people” (12:14-16). I will inspire them to fear me so that they will never turn away from me.” God promises a renewal of their relationship, which is the equivalent of making a new covenant with them: “They will be my people, and I will be their God”, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people” (31:1). “I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah” (31:31).

“I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them” (32:40). Jeremiah saw that the Gentiles would be included, too: “As for all my wicked neighbours who seize the inheritance I gave my people Israel, I will uproot them from their lands. And if they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name…then they will be established among my people” (12:14-16).

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Israel

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