The History of Israel
“The LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.”- Deuteronomy 4:31
Biblical religion is a historical religion. The faith proclaimed in the Bible is rooted in historical events and based on the actual acts of God in history to reveal Himself and to redeem His people. The story of salvation took place in real time and space, and we must learn from this story in order to be saved and to grow in the likeness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul tells us in writing about the history of salvation, particularly regarding the history of old covenant Israel, “These things happened to [the Israelites] as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11).
We can trace the history of salvation all the way back to the garden of Eden, when God first promised that He would send the seed of the woman to crush the serpent and his seed (Gen. 3:15). However, God’s plan of redemption began in earnest with the call of Abram out of Ur and his dealings with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Judah, Tamar, Joseph, and the other patriarchs and matriarchs of Israel (Gen. 12–50). Though the Israelites became slaves in Egypt, God did not abandon them. He defeated Pharaoh and brought them to the edge of Canaan (Ex. 1–Deut. 34). And God continued to be with His people, bringing them into the promised land, giving them judges and kings, disciplining them for sin, and rescuing them from the exile that was the punishment for their wickedness. That is the story told in the Old Testament Historical Books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. The history recounted in those books is our history, for we are the Israel of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Matt. 21:33–44; Rom. 11; Gal. 6:16). We can fall into the same kinds of sin that they did, and we can have the same persevering faith that the heroes of this story did, so we must learn from this history. Most importantly, the failures and successes of the Israelites led to the coming of Jesus, the Savior who redeems us from sin and empowers us by His Spirit to bear spiritual fruit in obedience to Him.
The history of Old Testament Israel, we will see in the year ahead, proves the truth of today’s passage. When God chooses to show mercy to His people, His mercy endures. Though He disciplines His children, He never leaves them completely or utterly renounces His covenant with them (Deut. 4:31). So, we can trust Him to keep His promise to save us when we trust in Him.
We may not always feel the Lord’s presence with us, especially when we are in sin. However, that does not mean God has left us. God has pledged never to leave or to utterly forsake His people, and our study of the history of old covenant Israel will demonstrate that again and again. Today, let us remember that the Lord has promised always to be with His people. Let us be comforted by that promise and strive to please Him in all that we do.
Passages for Further Study