John T. Willis

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The People of God:God's Child --II

Sometimes the Bible speaks of members of the community of faith (God's child) individually; then it refers to God's "children" (plural) or God's "sons and daughters." Let's look at a few examples of this.

a. Isaiah 1:2-4:
"Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth!
for the Lord has spoken:
'I reared CHILDREN and brought them up,
but they rebelled against me.
The ox knows its master,
the donkey its owner's manger,
but Israel does not know,
MY PEOPLE do not understand.
Ah, sinful nation,
a PEOPLE loaded with guilt,
a brood of evildoers,
CHILDREN given to corruption!
They have forsaken the Lord;
they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him.'"
Here God is a loving, patient, caring parent who raises his/her children with great love and concern, yet the children turn against the parent in rebellion and corruption.

b. Hosea 1:10:
"Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, 'You are not MY PEOPLE,' they will be called 'CHILDREN of the living God.'"
Here God promises those who went into exile but repented and turned back to God that he would reverse the symbolic name of the third child born to Hosea and Gomer-- "Lo-Ammi," which means "Not my people," to "Ammi," which means "My People" (see Hosea 2:1, 23), so that individually they will be called "CHILDREN of God."

c. 2 Corinthians 6:17-18--In 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, Paul is urging Christians to live a life different from that of the world and to be holy as God is holy. In this context, he says in verses 17-18:
"'Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.'
'I will be a Father to you,
and you will be MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, says the Lord Almighty.'"
Here Paul is referring to individual members of the community of faith as "sons and daughters" of God. God is our Parent, and we, individually, are his Children; collectively we are his Child.
[In the next "Blog," we will talk about some of the implications of this metaphor).

John Willis

The People of God:God's Child

Today we will start a series on "The People of God" as depicted, described, and portrayed in the Bible. The common way the Bible presents "The People of God" is by using metaphors. There is a fundamental reason for this, namely, the biblical speakers and writers are concerned with communicating theological concepts clearly. The best way to do this is to begin with concepts already familiar to human beings, then ratchet them up to a spiritual level.

Human beings are very familiar with the parent-child relationship. So, naturally, biblical speakers and writers compare God's relationship to his people with that of the relationship between a parent and a child. Since the primary emphasis in the Bible is on a community or group of people rather than on individuals, the Bible often compares the people of God with a child, that is, the whole group (many people) is like a (one) child. To get us started, here are a few biblical examples.

a. Exodus 4:21-23: "The Lord said to Moses, 'When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people (singular--referring to the whole group of many Israelites) go. Then say to Pharaoh, "This is what the Lord says: Israel (the whole group of many Israelites) is MY FIRSTBORN SON, and I told you, 'Let MY SON go, so he may worship me.' But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.'"
In essence, God says to Pharaoh: Either you let my firstborn son (Israel--the whole people) to into the wilderness to worship me, or I will kill your firstborn son. God is the parent; Israel (the whole people) is his son, his child.

b. Deuteronomy 1:31 (Here Moses is reminding the Israelites of the forty years they spent in the wilderness after God delivered them from Egyptian bondage): "There [in the wilderness] you [the Israelites] saw how the Lord your God carried you, AS A FATHER CARRIES HIS SON, all the way you went until you reached this place [Shittim-- where Moses was giving this speech--see Numbers 33:49; Joshua 3:1]."
The people of God=Israel did not survive the forty years wandering in the wilderness on his own. Rather, God the Father was carrying his son Israel [the whole people] through the wilderness with his strong, protecting arms.

c. Jeremiah 31:20 [Here God is speaking to the people of Judah in Babylonian exile]:
"Is not Ephraim [Israel] my [God's] DEAR SON,
the CHILD in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
I have great compassion for him, declares the Lord."
The relationship between God his his people is not a rational topic which one discusses or writes about, but an intimate, daily, personal relationship between two living beings--God and his people (viewed as a single, unified person).
[To be continued]

John Willis