At first, God reveals Himself to us slowly. In this video, we see how God revealed Himself to humanity, most especially in His covenants with the Israelites.
So a rabbi and a priest walk into a bar, wait, there was a third one, an atheist? no, a minister? I can’t remember…
The connection between Christianity and Judaism is so strong that the rabbi, priest, and the “something else” joke is told around the world in a million forms, and for good reason. Christianity starts with Judaism, the mother of monotheism around the world. It is a story of Covenants.
A covenant is a very special kind of relationship, one of binding oneself to another. I think the easiest description is the one of marriage. When we get married, we make a promise to join ourselves to the other person, no matter what happens, for better or for worse, till death do us part. Notice what we are saying in that vow, that no matter how bad it gets, even if we hate each other, (That would be for worse) we promise to love and care for one another. It is a really big promise that says, “No matter what happens, I’m there for you”.
God makes just this kind of marriage promise with us, but he doesn’t say his vows all at once. Rather, as history has unfolded, he has made one vow after another, each one stronger and more personal than the one before. The story of these vows, these promises is the story of Ancient Judaism.
You see, God wants to draw close to us, and wants us to draw close to Him, wants this kind of “marriage”, to join our lives to his eternal life. To explain this to us, he took aside a special group of people, and over the course of thousands of years, slowly shared with them his covenants and hammered into their head just who he was, so they could be a light to the rest of the world.
It starts at the very beginnings of history, in that valley you learned about in third grade, Mesopotamia. There, from one of the first cites, a town named Ur in modern day Iraq was a man named Abraham. While we have many prehistory stories, this is the true beginning, here at the dawn of civilization.
Abraham was not unlike a beduin, a traveling sheepherder with a large family, and God called him personally to faithfully walk with Him, and Abraham, out of a deep faith in God, just did. This man is one of the greatest figures in history, his faith so pronounced and clear that it still rings true to us now, thousands of year later. Abraham’s conviction in worshiping only one God results in the promise that he will be the father of nations, and that is exactly what he is. All of Judaism, Christianity and Islam look to this man as the beginning, our father in faith. You can read his story and the story of his son, Issac and grandson Jacob in the first book of the bible, named Genesis. It’s a riveting read.
The story of Abraham and his sons ends on what sounds like a triumphant note, the entry into Egypt in a time of great famine, but sadly, Egypt does not work well for this tribe of people. Over the course fo time, they find themselves enslaved by the Egyptians, and under their yoke they find life unbearable. Here enters our next great figure, a man whom God speaks directly to, a man named Moses. This man defines what it means to be an Israelite, gives new definition to the people of God, and the story of him leading his people to freedom through confrontation, plagues, through the midst of the Red Sea, and into the desert is the most primal western story of all time. This story of the gaining of freedom from oppression, finding identity as a people, and most importantly, of the power and careful love this “one God” has for us is the most heartwarming, epic adventures ever written by the human hand. You can find it in the book of Exodus and continued through the first five books of the bible. Most importantly, God gives this new people of Israel a law, a way of being and living that will bind them as a culture to his being. This is truly a marriage feast, he feeds them, cares for them, and teaches them to be his own.
I need to make an aside here. The Israelite people do a terrible job of this, and we see in them that all of us do a terrible job of keeping our end of these covenant promises. We have no problem making promises to God, but cannot seem to keep them. One of the things I respect most about reading Jewish history is their deep honesty about their faults in this. While the rest of the world is only writing about how great they are, the Israelites are writing about their failures. They alone had the courage to be honest and write the truth, and we benefit from their wisdom to this day.
The next big promise fast forwards us a good while into their future, where they have become not a rag tag tribe in the desert wilderness, but a true kingdom, a people powerful in their own right. The peak of this kingdom is found in their second king, and man named David. David strikes a heroic form, pulled as the runt of the litter from his family to be chosen by God to rule the country. He is brave, smart, good looking, and most importantly, he is faithful. He is a man after “God’s own heart.” He will make plenty of mistakes, a few of them quite bad, but he always turns back to God, and tries desperately to seek God’s will for his life and his kingdom. As such, God makes him another promise, the promise that one of his descendants will be the ruler of all nations, and that his kingdom will last forever. David is chosen to be the permanent connection to the rule of God, the final revelation of God’s plan for humanity.
As David dies, we are left wondering when this will come to pass. How will this “Son of David” rule? This becomes harder and harder to believe will ever happen as David’s progeny become slowly more and more corrupt, eventually becoming unimportant. But still we wait for the “Son of David”, and here is where Christianity picks up in our next video.