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In light of the recent Christmas holiday we just celebrated, let’s talk for a moment about the amazing reality that the Creator God of the universe has revealed Himself to humanity. He has revealed His unchanging character to man and has gone so far as to give us a full explanation of Himself through the coming of His Son at Bethlehem. In the Old Testament, even after the terrible separation brought about by sin in the Garden, God revealed Himself time and time again. To Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to David. This Creator God whom man had pushed away pursued relationship with man. This all-powerful, all knowing God communicated how the broken relationship was to be mediated and what expectations He had of the people He lovingly called His own. He made His presence abundantly clear and known and wanted to be in the midst of the people He loved…
Not so with the gods of the ancient Near East, the deities of the nations that surrounded Israel. They were shrouded in mystery. They were to be appeased. There was no relationship to speak of. It was a matter of people serving the gods or else. There was no affectionate care, but a matter of divine “What have you done for me lately?” A recorded prayer from a time after Moses encapsulates the fear and doubt and confusion that the ancient Near Eastern gods posed to their followers. The Prayer to Any God is quoted in part below. (The numbers are line numbers, akin to Bible verse numbers).
|1. May the anger of the lord’s heart relent.
2. May the god who I do not know relent.
3. May the goddess who I do not know relent.
4. May whichever god relent.
5. May whichever goddess relent.
6. May the heart of my god relent.
7. May the heart of my goddess relent.
8. May (both) god and goddess relent.
9. May the god who is angry with me relent.
10. May the goddess who is angry with me relent.
19. I broke my god’s taboo in ignorance.
20. I crossed my goddess’s bounds in ignorance.
21. O lord, my wrongs are many, great are my sins.
22. O my god, my wrongs are many, great are my sins.
23. O my goddess, my wrongs are many, great are my sins.
24. O whichever god, my wrongs are many, great are my sins.
25. O whichever goddess, my wrongs are many, great are my sins.
26. The wrong which I did, I do not know.
41. To whichever god, return to me, I implore you (lit., I speak a petition)!
Can you hear the author’s desperation and despair? Can you feel the uncertainty and helplessness? The gods of that time period were distant and unknown (“O whichever god…”).
But not so with our God. Not so with the God of Israel. He gave Torah. He revealed His character, His expectations and His grace.
"See, I [Moses] have taught you statutes and judgments just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. "So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' "For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him?"
-- Deut 4:5-7 NASB
Torah is God’s instruction to His people. Torah is designed to draw the world to God. God wants to dwell with His people. He did in the God-man Jesus Christ and He does still in His Spirit. He will dwell with His people forever in eternity (Revelation 21:3-4). We have a relational God who reconciles the world to Himself through the offering of His abundant grace. Our God is known and can be known. That has not changed and never will.