"Cross" is a short word of only five letters, but break it apart and it contains the whole story of the Bible. C.R.O.S.S.—Creation, Redemption, One nation, Separation, Salvation. The story of the Bible is our story, too, and each of these stages helps us get the "big picture" of our life in Christ. Follow the whole series here.
My husband stood at the foot of my bed in the birthing room, cradling our brand-new daughter. I watched as joy and wonder fought on his face with unease that bordered on panic. Finally he asked the question that bothered both of us: "Where's the instruction manual?"
Babies don't spring from the womb ready to face life. In a similar way, Israel didn't spring out of Egypt ready for life in the Promised Land. Redeemed from slavery through the Red Sea as though through a birth canal, the children of Israel had to learn how to be who they now were: the free children of God.
God had special plans for this new people. If they would obey the Lord, God promised that they would "be my treasured possession among all peoples…a kingdom of priests, a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5 NABRE). Israel is to be a new kind of nation: formed, led, and ruled by God, betrothed, in a sense, by God, and indwelt by God. The nation is called at various times in the Old Testament both "son" or "child" and "bride"—for them God is both "father" and "husband" (see Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:20; Isaiah 54:5-8; Isaiah 62:4-5). Theirs is the intimate, exclusive relationship that springs from strong family ties bound by love.
Creating a Covenant
This relationship between God and Israel was established and sealed with blood in a binding covenant ceremony at Mt. Sinai. There Israel heard God's voice and became God's people. And there God gave them the ten commandments and laws to help them live as God's children (see Exodus 20:1-17). God instructed them to build the tabernacle—a portable tent of meeting. In the tabernacle God would be present among them wherever they go.
But Israel had a long way to go to learn to trust the God who saved them. While Moses was learning from God how to build the tabernacle and worship within it, the people broke the covenant by erecting a golden calf to worship. They grumbled when food became scarce, panicked when water ran out and enemies threatened. But God came through again and again, providing food, water, healing, direction, and protection. For 40 years, Israel wandered in the desert while God fought their battles, fed and clothed them, satisfied their needs, and forgave their rebelliousness.
Israel's Leaders, Judges—and Kings
At last God takes them into the promised land of Canaan. Led by Joshua, they conquer most of the land but they fail to teach their children what they have learned. A new generation grows up that does not know God—and they begin to intermarry with the Canaanites and worship their gods. They abandon God and are subjected by other nations. They repent and cry out to God. God raises a judge to save them, but when that person dies, the cycle begins again. And again. And again. Finally they ask for a king.
God gives them Saul, who unites the fractured tribes into a single kingdom. He disobeys God, who has David anointed king in his place. David loves God. He brings the tabernacle to Jerusalem, writes many psalms for the sacrificial liturgy, and conquers the kingdom's enemies.
Building God a Temple
David's chief desire is to build a Temple for God—a permanent "house" for God to replace the tabernacle. God says that instead, God will build a "house"—a dynasty—for David that will last forever.
David's son Solomon rules after him. Known for his great wisdom and wealth, Solomon builds a magnificent Temple in Jerusalem. On its dedication, the Lord's presence fills the Temple and God dwells there among God's people. Under David and Solomon, Israel is a kingdom united under God's law, set to draw other nations to God.
Find Yourself in the Story
The life of Christians now, like the life of Israel after the Exodus, is a process of learning to trust God and how to live in true freedom.
The children of Israel found that liberation from slavery was only the beginning of learning to live as the free children of God. In a similar way, being freed from the power of sin is just the starting point for Christians. We who now live in God's kingdom, as members of God's family, must learn to trust God and live in Christ's love by the power of the Spirit.
For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)
You are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises" of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were "no people" but now you are God's people; you "had not received mercy" but now you have received mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10).
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