This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Pastor Brent Whitefield, Northpoint’s Pastor of Missions and Outreach.
A Promise-keeping and Preserving God
Recently, I had the privilege of accompanying a group from Northpoint to visit Israel and Jordan. The trip was a wonderful experience on many fronts: it was a great opportunity to make new relationships, to enjoy good food, and to see places of significance in biblical history. For me, there were so many takeaways from the trip that I would need many pages to describe them all.
One of the most impressive things for me was the opportunity to view the Promised Land from many different heights and angles. Looking out at Israel from the vista of Jerusalem, or from the ancient city of Megiddo, or from across the river Jordan at Mt. Nebo (where Moses first espied it) is an inspiring experience. At the same time, we were able to learn about and appreciate the history of the land and its people. Ultimately, I went away more impressed than ever with the steadfastness of God in keeping his promises to a particular people in a particular place. The promise of God to Abraham: that he would fashion from him a people of his choosing and would preserve them in a land he had prepared is the fulcrum on which rests the whole Old Testament narrative.
Of course, God could have chosen to raise up a people for himself on a remote Pacific island, where they would have been protected from any possible peril. The land that he chose for them, Israel, is the opposite of that. It is a place which has been a crossroads throughout human history. It has been the bridge between Africa, Asia, and Europe for as long as mankind has traveled, traded, and warred. The land is difficult to defend and easy prey for large, powerful armies. It is a piece of real estate that has been fought over so often, that in a place like Jerusalem, for example, there are at least 15 different layers of civilizations for archaeologists to dig through. Throughout history, the people of Israel have never been the most numerous, and rarely the most powerful people in the region. They suffered exile and subjugation at the hands of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans; and those are just the ones before the time of Christ.
Yet God’s work of preservation and restoration on behalf of his people is a miracle at which we should marvel. No doubt, you have met many Jews in your life. But have you ever met a Canaanite, Amalekite, or Hittite? Those people, though they were in their day, larger and stronger than the Israelites, have been consigned to the trash heap of history. The people of Israel are unique in their survival since prehistoric times. Though his people were often unfaithful to him, God has always proven faithful to them. And though they often failed to acknowledge it, the people of Israel owed their very existence to God’s miraculous undertaking on their behalf. Nothing else can adequately explain their survival. Yet from time to time, God chose to remind his people that it was his grace and not their strength or skill that won the day.
On the road from Galilee to Jerusalem, you may pass by the spring of Harod. This is the place where God instructed Gideon to cut down his army from 10,000 to 300 men. Tactically, of course, this made no sense; they were facing a Midianite army which was already larger than theirs. But God wanted to prove something to the people of Israel. He said to Gideon: “The people who are with you are too many for me to give Midian into their hands, lest Israel become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’” Though the Israelites could not help but see that it was God who won their battle, their memory and gratitude were short-lived.
For those of us who are in Christ, the new people of God, we succumb to the same temptation all the time. When we achieve something, we are tempted to give all the credit to ourselves. Part of growing in Christian maturity is understanding that we owe everything to God, and the victories that we achieve are achieved in his power and his power alone. And the benefit of doing this is that we see the faithfulness of God showcased again and again. In Christ, God has made a promise to us, and it is a promise that he will keep. If we persevere, it is because he has preserved us; when his promise is kept, it is because he is faithful, not because we are. This way of thinking requires humility. But aren’t you glad that your spiritual survival is not dependent on your own strength, skill, ingenuity, or faithfulness?
The rest of NP News for 3.8.2018 can be found on the “This Week” page at https://www.northpointcorona.org/this-week/