The story of Israel, and their desert wanderings, takes up the bulk of what we call the Old Testament. God gave Abraham a promise saying, “I will make you a great nation…in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). Oddly enough Abraham believed God!
Of course Abraham’s family multiplied into what we know as “Israel”, and even after Abraham died the promise was passed down through subsequent generations. The good news is God is eternal and his promise didn’t die with Abraham. In the letter to the Galatians Paul clarifies for us what the promise to Abraham and his family was really all about. He said, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is , Christ” (Galatians 3:16).
So we now know the promise God gave to Abraham is fulfilled in Christ. This is why all of us whether Jew or Gentile can be blessed because in Christ we are all one and now are “Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). Now let’s look at what took place between the time the promise was given and when it was fulfilled in Christ.
As the nation of Israel grew in size the need for leaders came about. God appointed judges to rule over Israel until judge Samuel grew old and his sons didn’t walk in his ways. The people of Israel were unsatisfied with how Samuel’s sons did things so they came to Samuel requesting the appointment of a king “like all the other nations” (1 Samuel 8:5). Right away Samuel knew this wasn’t what God wanted, so he inquired of the Lord.
God’s response to Samuel was, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (1 Samuel 8:7). You see God’s plan was for Him to be their king and for them to be His people. Israel was meant to be a light to all the other nations (Isaiah 49:6) in order to point them to God. Can you imagine a nation filled with citizens depending upon God rather than a human king? Other nations would come to Israel and ask, “How does this nation work?” “How can a whole nation of people live together in peace without a human governmental structure to regulate them?” It’s just like God to work with us where we are. Even though He wanted to be Israel’s king, He let them have what they asked for because they, like we, have to discover our inability to run things for ourselves.
If we now jump into the New Covenant for a minute and look at the Church we can see similarities between it and Israel. God gave the church “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.” Look at why He gave them though. He gave them “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature (perfect) man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). Did you catch that? The reason God gave these gifted offices to the church was to equip the saints for the work and then there’s that little word “Until.” The word until implies there will come a time when those offices will no longer be necessary, right?
At some point, the body of Christ is to grow up into the fullness God intended all along and like Israel the church is to be a light to the rest of the world. The world will look at the church and say, “How does such a diverse group of people live in such unity?” “What is it that makes them so different?” In other words the church, while it is a body, is meant to help each part of the body do its part. Once you discover you are a hand or foot you simply listen to the Head, which is Christ, and do what He says.
The way I see it the church is struggling with their task just as Israel did. Israel told Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die” (Exodus 20:19). In the church many have adopted this same attitude and they want their pastor to be their go between. They don’t want to speak to, or hear from, God themselves they want someone in between them to do it. This is okay at first; but at some point we are called to grow up and develop a relationship with God, through His Spirit, for ourselves. Remember it is “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:13).