The people of God, that is what we call ourselves, those of us Jewish and Gentile, often referred to as Christians. What does this very idea mean, do we have a special blessing guaranteed in this world and this life? We believe we are going to have an everlasting destiny partaking with Christ in a great feast some day, but what about life now? What happens when life as the people of God turns out to be more like life not as the people of God? This statement entails so much, I think back to Hosea chapter 1, where God says speaking to Hosea about Israel, that they are not my people and I am not their God. What a powerful statement, of course the fidelity of Israel had failed and they became like prostitutes to their one true love (YHWH). Albeit, not all of God’s actions on his so called “people,” are in fact due to their infidelity. Of course one will quickly assume that I am referring to Job, but that is not my focus, I would rather look at early Christianity as we find it in the gospels and also the time of exile in the latter prophets.
Israel time and time again, is swept away into exile, their hopes and dreams of the life they once had in the promised land continues to fade father and farther from reality. What happened? They had been brought out of exile from Egypt, eventually triumphed under Joshua and entered the promised land. They truly became the people of God and felt that connection. Since the land promised is a key understanding to Jewish worldview, this final reality of being in the promised land, ultimately was a realization of truly being given what was promised as the people of God. But eventually the monarchy fails ( Not Surprisingly since Israel requested for someone else to lead them other than YHWH), and the united Israel now in two parts one after another falls into exile. This tragic cycle continues to happen to the so called “people of God;” exiled by Babylon, Persia, Greece, and eventually Rome. We find prophets during this time calling people back to the Torah, for God to once again to redeem his people, we must be a people of G0d (Sounds very similar to N.T. command to be on our guard for Jesus will come again like a thief in the night), living the Torah and holding on to its promises. When the gospels emerge and 2nd Temple history is taking place, we find again the people of God wondering when the Messiah will come to redeem his people. Its at this time that a different story starts to enfold, we have Israel at least in part back in its promised land, but everything is impure; Gentiles rule the land (Rome) and paganism is everywhere in its surroundings. The temple has once been reconstructed, but not by the true Davidic King, but by Herod, who is least from this, trying to declare his own kingship of the Jews. This so called liberation or return to the promised land, is not what once was, and the Jewish worldview of the day was to continue to pray the Shema (Israel’s God will vindicate his people). This is a very small glimpse of the people of God throughout the years, it seems even in 2nd Temple history Israel’s God had still not showed up. Can you imagine what they must of felt, to be Jewish is to be the elect of God, the very chosen people, is this the glorified life they believed and hoped for? Even within the emergence of Jesus the Messiah, this redemption they believed in and restoration of the true land of Israel and true temple did not take place. It’s as if life as the chosen people of God, has different interpretations to God as it does the people of God. However; I am not proposing that God was unfaithful, for with the Abrahamic covenant, requirements were made on Israel’s end, and they always seemed to fall short. God’s fidelity on the other hand has and always is in tact.
So where does this leave us with a short glimpse into the people of God? I would have to say it leaves us where we began, the people of God? Truly this means something more than just guaranteed blessing in this life. It means in fact much, much, more. Israel was to be the people of God throughout their history regardless of their circumstances. This being the people of God was to show the world that they (Israel) were separated from the world, in fact counter-cultural to the world. But this separation did not mean that they did not exist in the world, in fact that they lived in the world as God’s people to point people towards the one true God YHWH. This was truly the purpose for the making of mankind, to give glory to God’s name, by being the caretakers of creation, creating culture, and creating a community in the name of YHWH. I have so much more to say, but here I must end, but being the people of God, entails, being the people of God, regardless of your circumstances, this is what true fidelity means-even to death.