Moving on to Exodus, Moses and the Law, and once again the broader providential perspective has been eluded by the many, who, following the pattern set by Augustine have adopted a highly allegorised approach to interpreting the Old Testament, endeavouring to read Christ and the “Pauline gospel” (as they have understood it) into too many narratives, failing to pay due care and attention to the ancient text within its own context. As a result, God’s plan for Israel has itself been misconceived by many who understand Isaac’s seed that prefigures the Church to be the sole beneficiaries of God’s benign providential care. In the words of Augustine of Hippo commenting on the cosmic horror story he had set out in Book 21 of his “City of God”: “Many more people are to be left under punishment than are delivered from it, in order that it may thus be shown what was due to all (mankind)”.
It is the purpose of my book** and this series of posts to expose that sentiment for what it is – a travesty of the Good News concerning God’s plan for Israel, the Church and all people created in His image. To be fair, the Creator’s magnanimity and merciful compassion were always prone to be obscured or misunderstood as a result of the extraordinary scheme He has devised for humanity. For He has determined that the re-embodied souls of His earthly children currently contained within morally disordered intellectual vessels (cf. Rom7:24; 1Thes4:4) should attain to a glorious destiny in association with His Son, to Whom He has assigned universal authority (Mt28:18).
All this is not to say that Israel and the Church are not favoured and exclusive groupings, they assuredly are. But they were brought into being to be the first fruits of God’s creation (James1:18) and the means by which the Creator would work from within to restore His fallen world through His own sanctified, divinely tutored people. The true “Israel of God” (of which the Church has become a part) is privileged indeed, and as Scripture makes clear (e.g. Jn6:44; 2Tim1:9, Jn1:13) its participants’ calling and election was not on the basis of merit, either actual or anticipated, but free grace. Yet God is no respecter of persons and has been fair (indeed generous) to all.
Under the Old Covenant, God’s plan for Israel was that they should act as God’s suffering Servant in the world. Those who were unfaithful to that calling would pay a heavier price than the Gentile nations who acted in ignorance. Paul’s sermon to the Athenian pagans: “Truly these times of ignorance God HAS OVERLOOKED but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts17:30 NKJV). Whereas note the Lord’s address to His chosen nation of Israel: “You alone have I intimately known of the families of the earth. That is why I shall punish you for all your wrongdoings” (Amos3:2NJB). In the starkest contrast to Augustine’s fatalistic determinism, God is fair and magnanimous towards all. For, like Israel, God’s elect of the New Covenant have been called to a life of self-discipline and endurance.
In Christ’s own words His followers must lose their own lives in order to find Life. In Paul’s words those who are to reign with Christ in the future must be ready to suffer with Him in the present (2Tim2:12 – note tenses). Whilst those who have been chosen by God’s grace to be intimately associated with His Son are especially dear to the Father, He desires the wellbeing of every soul created in His image for that is His nature. Truly, we shall come to praise God with uprightness of heart once we have understood His righteous judgements” (cf. Ps119:7)
** The LITTLE BOOK OF PROVIDENCE: a seven-part synopsis of the bible: Download a free PDF of e-book suitable for desktop computers HERE[updated September 2023] Large-print version for mobiles HERE [565 pages]