Sunday, May 25, 2014

To Be WITH His People

I have long struggled with the notion that God loves ME. I know He does - in my head. But in my heart it seems like a distant concept. And that goes along with the interpersonal struggles I've had of feeling unlove-able and unlove-ing. And the way that translates into my relationship with my God and Savior, is a problem.

That's why the obvious theme throughout the Bible is so comforting - so loving. God says over and over - and over that He wants to be the God of His people. And to be WITH them. That theme is woven into the very heart of the Bible. He often spoke about the day when "He would be their God and they would be His people." I think that is all He has ever wanted.

It must be something like this: when I talk about my relatives in the hills of eastern Tennessee, I often refer to them as "my people." I feel a bit of pride when I say that and think of the manners of speech, the old ways that I remember from my childhood - of  the faces that make up my family. My people were resourceful, independent, strong.

That must be akin to how God feels about "His people." In the Old Testament alone I have a list of at least eleven times when he told Moses to tell the people or Jeremiah, Ezekiel or Zechariah to tell the people those very words. (And I've probably missed some.) Often times it was in a warning because they had turned their backs on Him. Still, He longed to dwell among His people, walk among them - to be their God and for them to be His people in their hearts (Levititcus 26:11-12). In Jeremiah 3:19-20, He said it this way as He grieved their rebellious hearts:
     "How gladly would I treat you like sons [and daughters]
     and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful
     inheritance of any nation. I thought you would call me
     'Father' and not turn away from following me. But like
     a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been
     unfaithful to me O house of Israel." NIV

You can hear the pain in His tender words. In Ezekiel 34:31 He says,

     "'And you, my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are MY people, and
     I am your God,' declares the sovereign Lord." NET

But, as we know, Israel would fall into idolatry and rebellion over and over again. Still He longed to be their God. So He sent Jesus the Christ to atone for their sins and to make a way for them to be, at last, His people in their heart. And, as is so clear in the Bible, this plan for redeeming His people to Himself was extended to all people of every nation and ethnicity - any who would come to God by faith in Jesus' sacrifice. Jesus made that clear in John 10, where He says many times in that chapter that He is the Good Shepherd and that He knows his sheep and his sheep knows Him. In verse 16, He says,  

     "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.
     They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."

And don't we take comfort in John 14 where Jesus says that He is going to His Father's house to prepare a place for us and that He will come back to get us so that "you also may be where I am." He prayed in John 17:24 that He wants those who God has given Him to be where He is and to see His glory."  It is and always has been the heart of God and of His Son, to be the God of His people and to dwell among them.

And finally it will happen, just as He wants. In Revelation 21, John was seeing the vision of the new heaven and the new earth and he says, "I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." That is all God has ever wanted!

God loves His people, so much that He sent Jesus to buy them back. And I am included in His people by faith in my Redeemer. I am loved. He desires to be with me. And with you.

Oh, happy day! Happy forever!

(For reference, if you want to look up verses, the list I mentioned is:
Exodus 6:7, Leviticus 26:11-12, Jeremiah 7:23, 11:4, 24:7, 30:22, 32:33, 32:38, Ezekiel 34:30-31, 36:28, 37:26-27, Zechariah 13:9, John 14:2-3, 17:24, II Corinthians 6:16 and finally Revelation 21:3-4)

No comments:

Post a Comment