Let's get back to the main topic. We are talking about God brining about his promised Kingdom community on earth. He has provided models, examples if you will, of what He desires for community through his own person (One God, three persons - perfect community), the Garden of Eden and creation (no pain, sickness, death and intimate fellowship of man with God), and the plan for family (husband and wife shall become one). He then begins to establish His next model of community on earth by the calling and setting apart of a nation of people through the descendants of Abraham. This people is to become a nation known as Israel.
We have looked at Israel being formed into a nation during their crucible "sojourn" in Egypt...430 years. We have seen how God called them out, through His servant Moses, to leave Egypt, no longer a group of 70 members of one family but a nation of around 3 million people. They went as a desperate family and emerged as a formidable nation, bound for the land long-promised to their forefathers. We have also touched on how, because of their disobedience and lack of readiness, God used another mini-crucible in their journey; 40 years in the wilderness. It was during this time that God trained them up for war, taught them to be dependent on Himself, and showed His love for them through His provisions (manna, clothing, water, etc.).
It is interesting to reconsider that it only took about 11 days by the Mt. Seir road to get from Horeb (Mt. Sinai) to the edge of Canaan (Deuteronomy 1:2). Considering it took them about the same time to get from Egypt to Mt. Horeb, that's about a 22 day journey turned into forty years. But these were an important forty years. They were a result of their rebellion (see the story of the 12 spies sent into Canaan - Deuteronomy 1:19-46) but they also were a result of Israel needing more forming into the community God had set them apart to become.
It was during the time in the desert that God gave them His Law. This was a Law for them to follow and receive His blessings if they were true to it. They were laws which defined what Israel's relationship to God was to be and what Israel's relationship to each other was to be. There were laws as to how Israel was to treat the environment, the land that they were inheriting. And there were laws given as to how they were to treat the current and future alien inhabitants of the land. While there was the command to purge the land of its current inhabitants, God provided clear instructions very mercy-oriented for the aliens that would dwell among them in the future.
What God was building in Israel was what He promised to Abraham. That his descendants would become a great people and a light to the nations. They would become God's kingdom on earth. Even God's own throne would be housed among the Israelites. No other nation on earth would ever be able to claim this save Israel!
They endured hunger, thirst, and discouragement in the desert. But all the while, God was preparing them to become His people, a unique people, set apart to serve and honor him through their obedience and to be a beacon to all other nations. They were to be God's community of witness on earth as in heaven.
As they neared the end of the 40 years in the desert and approached the day of entering the promised land, what kind of community would they be when they entered?
Next blog...the Promise Arrives!