Hello Church Devotion Aug.11, 2013

I is for Israel

Israel, which we know from the Greek text of the New Testament is originally found in the Hebrew Old Testament text as "Yisrael". If you take the Hebrew literally, it means "He has striven with God".

One of the first uses is in Genesis 32ff where Jacob struggles with a man all night long until he receives that man’s blessing. That man, asks Jacob’s name, and then goes to tell him that his name is no longer Jacob, but rather Israel, because he has striven with God and with man.

It is probably good for us to remember, that after the Flood that Noah built the ark for, God calls Abraham. Abraham has a son named Isaac who has sons named Esau and Jacob. God’s promise to Abraham that his children will be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sands on the seashore begin to be seen more fully in Jacob who has twelve sons. Israel (Jacob) and His sons move to Egypt during the great famine and all of the family in subsequent decades are made into slaves. Of which, the number is 600,000 men plus women and children. Probably 2 million or so in total.

From Israel (Jacob) came a great number. Later on, under the kings of Saul, David, and Solomon the kingdom of Israel flourished and was an amazement to the world around them. After this time, the kingdom was split, Judah to the South and Israel to the North. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was led into exile in 722 BC. The Southern Kingdom of Judah was taken in 587 BC.

All through this, Israel or perhaps better understood as the Children of Israel were God’s chosen people. He took them to Himself, not because they were strong and mighty, but rather because they were insignificant and unknown. God’s favor would build up the people during spiritual and faithful eras. God would withdraw His favor during unfaithful and idolatry times during which time He would raise up a leader who would lead the people to repentance and forgiveness of their trespasses. Ultimately, God alone deserves the credit for providing for His people time and time again.

Isaiah the prophet in chapter 53 talks about the Servant who would suffer, die, and raise again to atone for the people’s sins. Israel as a people have been deported, enslaved, but they have always remained a people here on Earth. Isaiah, however reduces the Children of Israel to one man… one who would atone for the sins of all the world, those of Abraham’s lineage and those outside of that lineage (gentiles).

We understand this Israel reduced to one from the Gospel of John, Chapter 11:49-52: “But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you and one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. “

Therefore, we are all by faith in Jesus, by faith in the one who died for the people, children of Israel. Perhaps we are even so bold to call ourselves Israelites. What remains is that we are the people of God and have been formed into the royal people, the holy priesthood, a people that belongs to God.

We are made a part of this family of God through the cross and work of Jesus. He alone could die and atone for our sins and those of the whole world. Only His sacrifice was pure, innocent, and of high enough price to redeem us from the slavery of our sins. Want to know more about Israel, read through the Epistle to the Galatians. What freedom God has purchased through His Son, Jesus for us!

Prayer: Holy Father, You who once wrestled with Jacob, wrestle also with my wayward heart. When my heart seeks glory by its own actions, humble it. When my heart seeks to call attention to me rather than to you, redirect it. Lord, be the champion fighting with valor in the depths of my heart to create a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence. But, forgive, renew, and strengthen me by Your Spirit, Word, and action that I might be Your vessage for grace in this dark world. Help me also to realize that I am part of a large family that You have called together. No part greater or smaller than another in terms of value. Help me to be humble and to acknowledge that nothing in me was worth saving, but that only by Your love and grace was I redeemed and made Yours. In the sweet name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

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