The epic struggle of good against evil has been the story of mankind since the ancient days. Central to this story is the rise of a great and peculiar nation called Israel, a nation with a very special purpose.
The story goes like this: Man falls from his created purity and purpose, and darkness is unleashed on the earth. He is in great need, deeply troubled. But the Creator has a plan, a solution to win mankind back. He has a plan to push back the darkness. He looks down, searching for a heart that longs to do something about the unrighteousness and injustice that has been loosed on the earth. God needs man to carry out His marvelous plan.
He sees one man with a heart of gold, the perfect heart upon which to build a mighty nation. This man, Abraham, has a pure and childlike desire to see righteousness and justice prevail over the cancer that is overtaking humanity. His heart yearns for it to such an extent that he is willing to give everything to see it come to pass. So the Creator calls him to action and sets him in motion: "Go from your country and your family and your father's house to the land that I will show you, and I will make of you a great nation!"1
When the Creator calls upon a willing heart, that one will respond. Thus a precious friendship between God and man begins as the tender, willing heart of this man responds to the call to action. He gets up and goes, believing in the Voice that calls him and gives him hope. He walks away from anything and everything that would pull him away from his new noble mission: Righteousness! All he had previously labored to establish pales in comparison to this calling. Justice!
Abraham's life is marked by faith and determination, shown in his care for his household and his unconditional hospitality. He eagerly passes on every detail of this divine care to the small tribe that forms around him. The Creator smiles on this, confirming him, promising that this heart will thrive and flourish through his offspring until the darkness is no more. This man's descendents are destined to become the cure for the predicament of a broken human race.
So the story goes, and his descendents grow and grow... Many victories and defeats are recorded as they become an amazing nation with a radical cause burning in their heart. They are the seed of Abraham. They are blessed and named by God as Israel, meaning "One who Rules with God." They grow to be a nation of twelve tribes, meant to be a beacon of hope amidst a dying world, a light shining to give guidance and wisdom. Israel... chosen to bring an end to all injustice.
A call of such importance is so greatly opposed. The years of proving and testing pass. Their zeal falters. Compromise and complacency set it. No more do the people love their God with all their heart, soul, and strength. They go after other gods, abandoning the faith of their forefathers. The head is sick; the heart faints. No more are they stirred by the suffering they see around them. The widows are neglected, the needy are ignored, and injustice reigns, as if to taunt God Himself.
Despite the pleas to return and not forget who they were meant to be, they do not turn. After suffering long with a stiff-necked people, the voice of the prophets ceases to be heard in the land. They abandon their calling and fall into great dysfunction as they stop responding to the One who called them. They get dizzy, disoriented, lose their way, and the twelve tribes splinter, forsaking their noble purpose. No movement is made toward the goal, as their very purpose for existence -- to be a royal priesthood and a holy nation -- is forgotten. They are not the light that brings salvation to the ends of the earth. Therefore, the promise goes into abeyance, a state of suspended animation, while the darkness takes over.
In the absence of prophetic zeal, other dark things breed and grow. Dead religion is born -- elaborate ceremonies, oppressive laws, ritualistic prayers, and empty traditions overtake the original spark. Schisms worm their way in. Strife burrows deep. Sacrifice upon lame sacrifice are offered. Feast upon meaningless feast is kept. Year after dull, monotonous year passes by, and the mighty promises remain untouched, begging for another people to care enough to lay hold of them. The darkness rolls onward.
Into this scenario enters John the Baptist. "Unclean! Unclean! Wake up! Turn from your ways! Repent!" comes the jolting shout that causes a deep tremor in the lukewarm religion. Immediately follows Yahshua, the Messiah. He speaks the same ancient call to action. He gives his lips to the Voice that calls them to justice. "Come, follow Me! Rend your hearts and not your garments! Return to your God with all of your heart, soul, and strength! Love one another! Care for your brothers!" A great stirring begins.
Disturbed, disrupted, exposed, and unwilling, the religious leaders feel as if all this commotion must cease. They want to silence that Voice, so they brutally murder the messenger, Yahshua, the Messiah. But this does not stop the movement. To the contrary, something greater has already sparked. The ancient promises made to Abraham are brought out of suspended animation. Hope rises out of the darkness as the disciples respond to that Voice. Crowds gather as the Voice thunders once again, making the radical call to the multitudes, hoping to find a place in the heart of a few like Abraham.
It is the day of Pentecost. The call goes out, "Be saved from this wicked and perverse generation!" The ancient Way is opened up. Three thousand prove willing, and like an explosion, they respond to the call that very day.2 The epic story resumes. Israel is reborn and again they embark on their noble mission. Again righteousness and justice prevail. All those who believe come together and share all things in common. With one heart and one soul they do the same deeds their forefather Abraham had done. Fellowship abounds and there are no needy among them. Great grace is upon them all!
They gather in a circle every morning and evening. Each brings an offering! All speak because all have confidence! The Spirit of prophecy is poured out upon them! They all see the vision! They all dream the dream! Unbelievers come in their midst and fall on their faces, knowing that God is in their midst. They join the circle, too. They share the Voice. They embrace the same heart as Abraham so long ago. The Voice is leading, loud and clear!
But, alas, little things take their toll. Time is always the greatest test. Will they endure? Will their phenomenal life continue and prosper until the fruit matures? Will there be a harvest? Will deliverance come upon the earth? Will they push back the darkness?
They slack in their devotion just a little. Their eyes begin to wander. They go on without being true and clean. Division springs up and goes unresolved. It is just a little leaven...3 Wisdom escapes them. Their revelation fades. They forget the battle. They lose the victory. Compromise creeps in and their light dims. It is dusk now, and they can't see clearly. They hold back and others' needs aren't met. Their hearts slide back to ways they left behind. They fall into ritual, ceremony, and tradition rather than paying the high cost of love. And so it goes, "Line upon line, precept upon precept, a little here, a little there..." They grow weary of gathering together.
Oh, what a great hope they are turning away from! Don't they see what is at stake? This is not the way of Abraham. This is not the fire Yahshua came to start! But the prophetic warnings go unheard. They forsake the ancient call. Alas, foolishly, so foolishly, they allow the paralyzing powers of darkness to grip them once again. After the death knell that only the few overcomers heard,4 resounding silence fills the air. The Voice is no longer heard. Once again, the promise of deliverance on the earth withdraws into a state of suspended animation, awaiting yet another time and another people who have the heart like Abraham, who will fulfill the Law and the Prophets.
How great is the darkness! Creeping things, crawling things come out at night. The circle is broken and pews are installed. The downtrodden fill the pews, their heads bent under heavy burdens. Proud men arise, taking the pulpit. Wolves come in. False prophets speak swelling words. Sorcery and deception masquerade as the message of light, mocking the True One. Division gives birth to division. Confusion spins more confusion. The conspiracy emerges, enchanting the masses, claiming to be the great emancipator. "Only believe!" Traps are set, lying in wait, preying upon the needy, waiting till the hungry fall for the bait. Darkness rises to great power. Towering spires mark the land. Huddled sinners dwell below, hopeless to change. Sunsets come and go, seasons run their course. Justice is nowhere to be found.
Who would have imagined it would come to this? Is there none to deliver? "How long, O Sovereign, how long?" The Creator's eyes again search the earth.
Then He sees it. A glimmer of hope. A friend. More friends. He calls them. He gathers a people. Their eyes can see the Vision. Their ears can hear the Voice. The light is lit! The day is dawning! Allied in the cause, they fight to end all injustice. This time it will come to an end! The curse will be broken! Salvation will reach to the ends of the earth! With one voice they open their mouths to make the ancient cry:
"COME OUT OF HER, MY PEOPLE! BE SAVED FROM THIS PERVERSE GENERATION!"
They are Israel! They are the restoration of all things!