Know Your Bible
The Unfolding Of God's Plan
Reprinted By Permission From Bob Waldron
But the people did not keep their side of the covenant. Within six weeks of agreeing to obey God and keep His commandments, they made a golden calf to worship. They murmured when they were thirsty and complained over the manna God had given them for food. Even when they reached Canaan's border, they were too cowardly to go forward as God commanded. They sent twelve spies through the land. Ten brought back work that the task would be too difficult. Only Joshua and Caleb trusted the power of God. The people were forced to turn back to wander forty years in the wilderness, until every soldier above twenty years of age was dead except Joshua and Caleb.
Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers give the law of Moses in detail and tell the important events during these forty years. Even Moses disobeyed God on one occasion, and was not allowed to enter the land. God allowed him to view the land from the top of Mt. Nebo. There he died and was buried by the hand of God.
The book of Deuteronomy is a series of speeches that Moses gave on the plains of Moah just before his death. He was pleading with the people to be faithful when they entered the land, so that they might prosper and remain in the land through all the generations to follow. God, through Moses, promised great blessings to the people if they would be faithful to Him. On the other hand, He warned of punishments if they turned from Him.
Both sides of the picture - blessings and cursings - are absolutely necessary in God's plan. God has always offered man great blessings for keeping His law and has set stated penalties for disobedience. Then He has left it to man to choose which he wants.
Joshua became the leader in Moses' stead and led the people across the Jordan River to conquer the land. They marched around Jericho by faith, and God caused those mighty walls to fall. Joshua and his army found victory on every hand, and, within a very few years, the whole land was conquered and divided among the tribes.
Two of the promises made to Abraham have been fulfilled by this time. Abraham's descendants have indeed become a nation, and God has led them to victory in gaining the land (Josh. 21:43-45). Only the spiritual promise was still lacking. God was still gradually unfolding His plan for mankind to learn, but the "fullness of the times" had not yet come.
The Israelites were faithful to God under the leadership of Joshua and remained so as long as the elders who had served with him lived. But man is weak. As soon as the first victories were over, the soldiers grew lax. They did not drive out the remaining pockets of Canaanites, as God had commanded them. When they failed, God left the Canaanites to prove Israel to see if the nation would be faithful (Judges 2:3). Israel failed the test. Very little time passed before they turned from God to the idols of their neighbors.
The next period of Israelite history is one of cycles. There was no one single leader during these 400 or so years as there had been under Moses and Joshua. The people would turn to idols; God would allow an enemy to oppress them; they would repent and cry to God for help; then God would raise a judge or deliverer.
There were fifteen such judges. There was Ehud, who killed Eglon king of Moab and led the people to throw off Moabite oppression. There was Deborah, who went with Barak the general to fight against Sisera and the Canaanites. There was Gideon, who defeated the numberless host of Midianities with his tiny army of 300. There was Jephthah, who vowed to sacrifice the first thing which came from his house if he were successful in battle. There was Samson to whom God gave superhuman strength as he served as a one man army against the Philistines.
Our first glance at the period would indicate it was a time of constant warfare. This is disproved, however, by such verses as Judges 3:11,30, which say the land had "rest forty years" or the land had "rest eighty years".
The little story of Ruth occurs during the period of the Judges. It is a delightful story of a Moabite girl who left her home to follow her mother-in-law to the land of Israel. There she married Boaz, a near kinsman of her dead husband. Is it merely a human interest story, however? There were other virtuous young ladies in Israel. There were other happy homes. Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed. He had a son named Jesse, who had a son named David, who had a descendant named Jesus. Ruth was a link in the eternal plan of God!
Eli was priest and judge the day a woman name Hannah prayed earnestly for a son. God granted her wish, and Samuel was born. Hannah dedicated him to God as soon as he was old enough to help Eli around the tabernacle. Samuel is truly one of the names to be added to the list of great characters in the Bible. He judged Israel during a long life span.
When Samuel was old, the people begged for a king. Samuel was grieved, but God told him to give them their king. They had rejected God as their king rather than Samuel as their judge. Under God's direction, the young man Saul of the tribe of Benjamin was anointed. Saul was very humble at first, but pride became the ruling attitude of his life. He failed to obey God until finally God rejected his family as the ruling family.
God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint a son of Jesse as king. Seven of Jesse's sons passed before Samuel, and God turned each one down. Finally the youth David was called from the field and anointed. David was a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). There are about 130 chapters in the Bible either relating the history of David or recording the Psalms he wrote. He was human and made mistakes just as other great men have done. Perhaps we are impressed with his righteousness as we read the psalm of penitence he wrote after his sin with Bathsheba (see Psalm 51).
David wanted to build a temple for God, but God sent Nathan the prophet to tell him that he could not do so because he was a man of war. Instead God promised to let his son build the house. God then promised to establish David's throne forever. If his descendants sinned, God would chasten them with "the rod of men," but He would never remove His mercy from the line of David as He had from Saul (2 Sam. 7:12-16; 1 Chron. 17:11-14).
Before David died, he proclaimed his son Solomon king. God appeared to the young king Solomon and told him to ask what he would. Solomon asked for wisdom, so God was pleased and granted him wisdom far above others. In addition, God gave him riches, honor, peace, and long life, if he lived faithfully. Solomon did build the temple as God had promised. The fame of his wisdom and wealth spread abroad. He wrote Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Son of Solomon. The nation of Israel reached its greatest size during his reign. Unfortunately, he was led away from God by his many wives.
The kingdom was in distress by the time Solomon died. He had over burdened the people with taxes and they wanted relief. When Rehoboam his son became king, the ten northern tribes rebelled because Rehoboam would not listen to their pleas for relief. Jeroboam became king over the northern portion of the land, which retained the name Israel, as the nation had always been called. Rehoboam was left with only two tribes in the south, and he called his little kingdom Judah.
The history of the Israelite nation had ended another phase. Israel left Egypt as a vast multitude of untrained slaves. God molded, taught, and reshaped the nation during the forty years of wilderness wondering under Moses. Joshua led an enthusiastic, conquering nation into Canaan, the promised land. Then followed the period of judges when each man "did that which was right in his own eyes"(Judges 21:25). The people wanted a king and worked together under Saul, David, and Solomon during the period called the United Kingdom. Now the kingdom was divided into two small, sometimes warring, kingdoms. From this point through the rest of the Old Testament, the people fall farther and farther away from God.
Jeroboam of the northern kingdom did not want his subject returning to the temple at Jerusalem. He established his own system of worship: new gods, new priests, new feast days, new laws. There was never a righteous king in Israel. The dynasty changed nine times before the kingdom fell! Ahab, with his wicked wife Jazebel, stands out as one of the most wicked kings of the period. Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Hosea, and other prophets were sent by God to warn Israel of impending doom. Again space does not permit us to go into detail. Finally, God would tolerate their wickedness no longer. In 721 B.C. God allowed the Assyrian army to overthrow Samaria, the capital of Israel. The people were led away captives, and foreigners were brought in to fill the land. These foreigners intermarried with the low class Israelites left in the land and became the hated mixed race later called the Samaritans.
(Editor's Note: The conclusion of this series will be in next month's bulletin.)
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