A Community Within Another Community
God's revelation of community has unfolded from: 1) a family, 2) to families, 3) to tribes, 4) to nations. As each expression developed, so did their unique cultures. Their clothing, music, food, use of time, means of existence, ceremonies, festivals, and forms of relating to each other, all varied. Israel was a nation that God had purposed would be His model community. They were intended to be characterised some unusual traits such as justice, forgiveness and equity.
1. What was the determining factor that would separate Israel from other nations as a community of God? (Dt. 4:7-8)
2. What aspect in particular of the Law would have displayed Israel as a community of justice, forgiveness, and equity? (Lev. 25:10-19)
The surrounding cultures to Israel were often extremely harsh. People were oppressed if they didn't belong to the right "class". But God wanted Israel to be radically different. Many of the things that were common place among other national communities during the times of ancient Israel were modified by God for Israel's continued use. These include slavery, war, and trade. While the culture of the day may have been cruel and ruthless, God moved Israel toward His ideal for all nations. While the full revelation for His community was yet to be seen in the Church, we need to understand that the laws God introduced into Israel, which might seem anachronistic to us, were a great step forward from the backward and Barbaric road Israel was heading down.
3. How did God regulate war between Israel and other nations? (Dt. 20:10-12)
God also established regulations for slaves by establishing their right to fairness and freedom (Ex. 21). Unfair trading was outlawed for Israel (Lev. 19:36; Dt. 25:13). Thus God was influencing their culture with His character.
A Community Absorbed By Another
The most distinguishing trait of Israel's culture (God's Law) was the first thing they sought to compromise and eventually abandon. Within God's agreement with the community of Israel was the provision for exile if they failed to keep His Law. This is exactly what happened. Yet God still offered Israel the opportunity to reclaim their cultural identity as a model community.
4. What do we know about the culture to which Judah was eventually exiled?
(Isa. 14:4-6; Jer. 20:4; Nahum 3:1-4)
But what was it that caused Israel to lose its cultural identity as a divinely appointed model community? The answer lies in their absorbing of foreign religious practises. Not that they used these practises to worship God, but that they embraced false gods right along with these religious practises. By neglecting the simplicity of God's Word, they strayed into dangerous compromise.
A Community Within Another
The offer to maintain their cultural heritage as a community was made available to Israel prior to being exiled. Only a few accepted this offer. They are referred to as the Remnant (2Ki. 19:31; Ezra 3:8). During times of peace and prosperity, Israel had failed to keep the Law of God. Now during times of oppression in a foreign and pagan land they were challenged to keep it. God still wanted them to be a holy community. How were they to survive spiritually in such a heathen environment?
5. In relating to the national community of Babylon, what was to be their attitude?
God's people were to both remain culturally distinct, yet apart of their surrounding community. Their welfare was linked to the overall welfare of the community in which they lived. Under oppression and tyranny they were to take full advantage of their available opportunities to further the cause of the community and as a result- themselves. After they had learned to follow God and His Law they were given the opportunity to return to their own land.
6. Does God today put people through trying circumstances to teach them things? Why?
In our next study we will examine the birth of the Church as the final revelation here on earth as God's community.
Bible study index
© 2001 Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania