God created Israel to be the vessel into which he would place both his Law and his Son.
He gave them, first, his Law, which revealed what it was that God required. The Israelites believed that God had chosen them to demonstrate a life of obedience to his Law, but the truth, which they did not understand, was that they were specifically chosen by God to reveal to the world the reality that they could not obey.
They were unable to keep the Law despite God's presence with them, his miracles for them, his promised blessings to them if they would, his threats of curses upon them if they didn't, his punishments of them when they failed and their repeated restorations by him following those punishments. Their total inability to keep the Law, regardless ofevery opportunity given to them, was chronicled for everyone throughout all ages to see. All that Israel was ever able to do was to preserve a record of God's requirements and their utter failure to obey them.
Yet, by doing that, against all logic, they succeeded in their mission--demonstrating to humanity the futility of trying to earn God’s favor through obedience and thereby proving humanity's need of a savior; that, and ultimately providing the setting into which God finally sent this savior.
Throughout the entire Old Testament, however, Israel thought that their own Journey to Obedience was the point of their story. The expectation was always running in the background that, where their ancestors had failed, they would now succeed.
The mechanism for forgiveness had been established by God for them in the sacrificial system. They knew that God would forgive them, but their goal, their purpose, was to one day no longer need that sacrifice. They looked toward that day when they would finally accomplish what they had promised God at Sinai when he gave them the Law, to do everything the Lord commanded them (Exodus 19:8, 24:3).
Their understanding of the story, however, was never God’s understanding or his plan. God's story was never about Israel's obedience or their fathfulness at all. It was always about God’s faithfulness to them in the face of their failure. Their story was always and only meant to be about Christ's Journey to Obedience on their behalf. It was about God satisfying his own requirements for them, because they could not.
So God sent his Son to disobedient Israel, where he lived out that life of perfect obedience which had eluded them for so long. Then, he willingly allowed them to hand him over to death; and he became the one true sacrifice for not only their sins, but the sins of the world.
After Christ's death and resurrection, God created the Church, and made it the vessel into which he would place the news of Christ's fulfillment of all the requirements of the Law. He also sent the Holy Spirit to illuminate all that Christ did on our behalf and to reveal all of the blessings and gifts that are ours as a result. With his help, the Church was to tell the story of God's faithfulness and forgiveness and his unconditional, undeserved love for the world.
Many, however, believed that the purpose for which they were chosen was to, at long last, demonstrate to the world their life of obedience. They saw their message as, "Look at how the Holy Spirit has now enabled us to keep the Law."
They knew that the true means of forgiveness had been established by God for them in the death of his son but their goal, their purpose, was to one day no longer need that sacrifice. They looked toward that day when they would finally accomplish what Israel had promised God at Sinai when he gave them the Law, to do everything the Lord commanded them.
This, however, was never God’s plan; not for Israel and not for the Church. The only story, throughout all of history, has been God’s faithfulness to us, as demonstrated through his Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The point was always about his perfect obedience for us, not our flawed attempts.
Christ had something to say about those who made their obedience the point of the story:
"On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" Matthew 7:22-23
It is only as the Church embraces its weakness and the sufficiency of Christ for us, proclaiming his goodness and not our own, that it will fulfill the true purpose for which it was created.
Bonnie is a wife, mother of three grown children and Grammie to five amazing boys. She has dubbed herself a Grace Herald who will always be a teenager at heart after working with the teen and college age groups in her church for more years than she wants to admit. She says that teaching those students gave her the incredible opportunity to both grow in her understanding of scripture and to share what she learned. Bonnie has considered herself a Christian her whole life, but she did not always know about grace, and once she discovered that Good News, telling others became her greatest passion.