Thursday, 12 November 2015

Knowing God Personally; The Christian Message to the Muslim World, Part I

By John Gilchrist

Introduction: True Faith or Formal Monotheism?

Christians and Muslims have many things in common. They believe in one God, worship in holy sanctuaries (churches and mosques), have similar annual religious calendars (Christmas, Good Friday and Easter for Christians, Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha, Laylatu’l Mir’aj and Laylatu’l Qadr for Muslims), and set aside one day a week for a major community worship service (Sunday and Friday respectively). Outwardly both religions can look very similar. Their worship services can be very formal and repetitive. The Muslim salat, in particular, follows the same pattern day after day, year after year, decade after decade without variation. The adhan, the call to prayer, never changes. The hajj pilgrimage perpetuates an exact sequence of religious practices which have been observed unaltered for fourteen centuries. Many Christian churches are no different. Catholic and Orthodox priests chant out the same prescribed prayers week after week just as Muslim imams do.

Some years ago a Muslim woman said to me “Whenever I go to the cemetery I look at all the Muslim graves on the one side and the Christian graves on the other, and I say to myself, ‘What’s the difference?’” Well, if you’re looking for the living among the dead, you’re not likely to find much. Judaism is not very different. All three monotheisms have institutionalised their religious systems, going round in circles as they return annually to the same routines, ceremonies and holy days, all based on outward conformity and formal worship. A Muslim shopkeeper in Jerusalem once said “There are only three big businesses in Jerusalem. One collects money on Fridays, the second on Saturdays, and the third on Sundays.” (The quote is from the Discovery video Jerusalem: City of Heaven).

Formal monotheism. Is this really what God wants? A slavish commitment to repetitive ceremonies for as long as we live? A verse from the Bible shows how monotonous and ultimately meaningless this can be. I will accentuate the key words to emphasise the point: ‘And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins’ (Hebrews 10:11). The irony is obvious when you compare the repetitions with their inability to achieve anything: every – daily – repeatedly – the same – yet never availing!

Islam places a tremendous emphasis on formal, repetitive worship. There is no room for spontaneous prayer or praise while performing each raka’ah. A true Muslim will not only wear a beard but will trim it to a prescribed length to follow the sunnah of Muhammad. A skullcap must be worn while praying in a mosque. Shoes must be removed. The same motions of washing beforehand (wudhu) must always be followed in obedience to the Qur’anic injunction: ‘Wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows, and wipe your heads and your feet up to the ankles’ (Surah 5:6). Each ruku (bowing down) and sajdah (prostration) must be performed in unison with the other worshippers present, in the same way, at the same times, every day. During the qa’dah (the sitting position) the same taslim must be recited as each worshipper passes the greeting to his left and right. No variation of this ceremony is allowed at any time.

Islam claims to simply restate the original religion of submission to God that all the previous prophets followed and imposed. The Qur’an says that it came only as a tasdiq, a ‘confirmation’ of what was before it (Surah 10:37) and not as a new form of religion. If so, the true religion of God must always have focused on formal, repetitive submission, the homage of a servant to a divine Master who can neither be personally known nor loved for who he really is.

The Bible paints a very different picture. It does not see God’s religion as always the same, simply a conformity to exact patterns of worship that have never changed and never will. As it covers the history of God’s relationship with his people, it shows a progression and expansion as God draws ever nearer to his own, and it finishes with a glorious climax when he takes the initiative to redeem his people and invites them to a living, personal relationship with him. Not as servants bound to do his bidding, mind you, but as children born of his Holy Spirit, forgiven of their sins, and booked for eternal glory. Join me on a journey as we discover the Christian message to the Muslim world.

Cain and Abel: The Only Acceptable Sacrifice
We have many religions on earth. They include Judaism founded by Moses, Christianity by Jesus, Islam by Muhammad, Buddhism by Gautama Buddha, and many others like Hinduism without any known originators. Heaven, however, sees only three. The first is Antitheism. It is the worship of anything other than God, the creature rather than the Creator. Whether it is the veneration of pagan idols, ancestral spirits or other beings, it makes no difference. It’s all the same to the angels of heaven – the worship of anything and everything but the true God. The Bible describes antitheists perfectly: ‘for although they knew God they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles’ (Romans 1:21-23). The definition concludes: ‘they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen’ (Romans 1:25).

The only other two religions on earth, as heaven sees them, are the oldest that have ever existed. They were founded on the same day by two brothers and, outwardly, they can look very similar. The brothers were Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve. On the day that the first religious ceremonies were ever performed on earth, Cain and Abel each brought an offering to God. Cain had become a farmer, a tiller of the ground. So he brought a portion of the fruits of his labour and offered it to God. Abel, however, had become a shepherd, so he brought a different present, a sacrifice of his young lambs and their fat portions. There seemed to be no real difference between the two offerings, but the Bible says ‘the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard’ (Genesis 4:4-5). What followed is well-known: Cain was angry and rose up against his brother, killing him in a field.

The Qur’an confirms the story: ‘And relate to them the story of the two sons of Adam with truth, when they offered a sacrifice which was accepted from one of them but not accepted from the other. He said: I will certainly kill you’ (Surah 5:27). Neither book states why Cain’s sacrifice was rejected, but the Bible goes on to show why Abel found favour with God. It says ‘By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he received approval as righteous, God bearing witness by accepting his gifts; he died, but through his faith he is still speaking’ (Hebrews 11:4). The key words are the first two: by faith Abel won God’s favour.

Abel’s sacrifice tells you what that faith was. He presented the shed blood of his lambs. Abel loved the Lord, but he was painfully aware that he could, at times, be as cold to him as his brother Cain was. He knew he was implicated in his parents’ sin in the Garden of Eden and that he could offer nothing to God from the fruit of his own labours to redeem himself. He also knew, however, that God had warned the serpent in the garden: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel’ (Genesis 3:15). This clear statement that God would one day raise a Saviour from Eve’s descendants who would suffer severely to achieve human salvation, but would fatally injure the serpent at the same time and deliver her offspring from its power, was Abel’s hope. His sacrifice sent its own message: “I know my sinfulness and that I can by no religious means commend myself to you, but I am offering back to you something that is your own, slain with its shed blood, because I sense my redemption will come at considerable cost to you.” Abel was the first man to offer true faith to God. This is the second religion heaven sees, and it is the only true one. It is the Faith of Abel.

Cain, however, had no true love for God. He did not believe he was implicated in his parents’ sin. He also told God that he did not believe he was his brother’s keeper either (Genesis 4:9). He killed Abel in cold blood. Yet Cain was prepared to acknowledge God as his Creator and so he also brought a present, but his was only a gesture, a token offering from the abundance of his labours. He would have been willing to worship God occasionally, but regarded his life as his own and believed he was free to exploit the earth for his benefit alone.
He would come round every now and again to salute God, perhaps once a week or for a harvest ceremony once a year, but no more. Cain was the founder of formal monotheism, worshipping God without truly loving him. This is the Religion of Cain, the third religion heaven sees, and it regards it as entirely false. It is the largest religion on earth today and embraces every expression of formal monotheism, whether Judaic, Christian or Islamic. God himself summed it up in these words: ‘This people draw near with their mouth and honour me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men learned by rote’ (Isaiah 29:13).

Cain’s anger showed the difference between him and his brother. He might well have retorted: “I would have been willing to come round many times to salute you, once a week if need be. Why did you reject my first offering so completely?” God’s answer to him would have been: “Abel made only a single offering, but it was an all-embracing commitment of his whole life to me, trusting me for his salvation. I will one day, by a single offering of my own, perfect for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). The Faith of Abel is the only true religion the world has known or ever will know. It is a vibrant, living faith as opposed to dry, outward conformity. It offers God nothing of its own, it trusts God entirely for its salvation. It does not look on the outward appearance and say what am I? A Muslim, Jew or Christian identified by my dress, beard, head-covering, robes, weekly worship attendance, etc, signifying my allegiance to a particular religion? No, it asks the acid question who am I? How deeply within my own soul do I love God and how willing am I to pursue his perfect honesty, purity, love and righteousness? After my religious dress is removed, my beard shaved off, my priest’s robes put away, what is left? What do I have within myself to commend me to God? There is only one true religion on earth – it is human faith responding to God’s faithfulness, a theme we will explore more fully as we press on.

Abraham: The Father of the Faithful
All Muslims honour Ibrahim alayhis-salam. He is regarded as one of the greatest messengers of God. Christians likewise look to him as a prototype of a true believer and the father of the faithful. He followed the true faith, the Faith of Abel, and true Christians are said to be ‘those who share the faith of Abraham for he is the father of us all’ (Romans 4:16). The Qur’an likewise speaks of the millata abikum Ibrahim, the “faith of our father Abraham” (Surah 22:78). But why is Abraham marked out for his faith and not for his religious submission to God?

The Qur’an sees the millah of Abraham as no more than unquestioning submission to the will of Allah. It says that he was one of the musliman, a “submitter” (Surah 3:67) and states that ‘when his Lord said to him Submit!, he said I submit to the Lord of the worlds’ (Surah 2:131). The command for “submit” in the text is Aslim! and his response is aslamtu, “I have submitted.” All three words come from the same root letters as islam and muslim. This is not true faith, however. It is no more than an uncomprehending resignation to God’s will. It does not tax the prophet’s faith in God’s faithfulness.

The Bible shows that God called Abraham to a much deeper relationship with him than mere submission to his will. It begins with a simple promise which God made to him when he complained that he had no heir to his estate: ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them … so shall your descendants be’ (Genesis 15:5). What follows is equally simply stated: ‘And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness’ (Genesis 15:6). It seems too easy – Abraham just took the promise at face value and, because he believed God, he was declared righteous in his sight.
He did not have to pray a number of times a day, fast for many months, go on pilgrimages or donate large sums to the poor to obtain God’s approval. He just believed the promise and was immediately placed on an even footing with God.

His faith was to be tested again and again, however. Many years passed without anything happening. His wife Sarah, who had never been able to bear children and was growing older every year, told him to procreate offspring through her maid Hagar (Genesis 16:2). When Ishmael was born, Abraham was convinced that he must be the heir who was promised but, just thirteen years later when Abraham was 99 years old and his wife Sarah already 90 and still barren, God said to him: ‘I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her; I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her’ (Genesis 17:16). At first Abraham laughed at the prospect, but then it dawned on him that Ishmael was obviously not the child of the promise. So he cried out to God ‘O that Ishmael might live in your sight!’ but God answered: ‘No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him’ (Genesis 17:18-19).

When Isaac was finally born, Sarah demanded that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away. The patriarch was sore-pressed, but God confirmed her wish, advising Abraham at the same time that he would nevertheless make a great nation out of him. Still, Abraham was severely tested as he realised Ishmael had been rejected by God. At fourteen years of age he was sent away into the wilderness.

Whenever Abraham looked on the new youngster he at least knew for certain that he was the child who had been promised. He looked forward to the day when Isaac would rise up as the fulfilment of God’s promise that he would become the father of many nations. But, when Isaac had reached a similar age as Ishmael’s when he was sent away, God finally spoke to the patriarch again. ‘Abraham!’ he suddenly called out (Genesis 22:1). Abraham responded willingly, expecting to hear God define how his son was now to become a blessing to the generations to come. Instead God said to him: ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you’ (Genesis 22:2).
(The Qur’an records the incident but does not name or otherwise identify the son who was to be sacrificedSurah 37:102. It does, however, confirm that the line of nubuwwah – prophethood, and kitab – scripture, would follow through Isaac’s line – Surah 29:27.)

This was a far greater test for the patriarch. When Ishmael started turning into a young man, God told Abraham to reject him, but now, as Isaac reached the same budding moment in his life, God told Abraham to slaughter him! It was the supreme test of a man’s love for God – to offer his son to him. If he would not spare his son, surely he would give him all he had (cf. Romans 8:32). It was the best any man could offer to God.

But Abraham was facing a far sterner test. God had promised him he would have descendants like the stars of the sky through his son Isaac. How could this promise possibly be fulfilled if he was to offer him up as a burnt offering? Abraham must have pictured the scene – his son cremated to ashes after being sacrificed and, as the wind came down and blew the ashes away, he would have imagined himself despairing “there goes the promise of God to the wind.”

By this time, however, Abraham had gone far beyond just submitting to God’s will without asking further questions. When God, on another occasion not long before this, had threatened to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, the patriarch objected: ‘Will you indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ (Genesis 18:23-25)

How could a prophet argue with God’s decrees? This was not humble submission. But God honoured it, eventually promising not to destroy the cities if just ten righteous people could be found in them. (They weren’t, and only Lot and his two daughters were eventually saved from their destruction.)

There’s more to this than meets the eye. Abraham was calling on God to be true to himself. Believing that God is faithful, he placed all his faith in God’s faithfulness. That is why he reacted when he heard something that seemed to deny that faithfulness. ‘Every word of God proves true’ the scripture declares (Proverbs 30:5), and Abraham faced the command to sacrifice his son with the same dilemma.
How could God’s promise be fulfilled if he was to sacrifice Isaac? He could have said to himself “I don’t know but it doesn’t matter. God has commanded me to destroy him, so I will. I’ll just unquestioningly submit to his will. The unfulfilled promise will be his problem, not mine.”

But Abraham didn’t. He knew that his faith, which had earned him a declaration that he was righteous in God’s sight, was merely a reflection of God’s faithfulness. The sun generates light, blazing light. The moon can do no more than feebly reflect it but, as it faces the sun head on, it reflects that light to the full. Take away the moon and the sun’s sparkling light will be totally unaffected, but take away the sun and the moon will not shine at all. So God generates faithfulness as the sun generates light, but Abraham’s faith was like the moon’s light – no more than a reflection of God’s glorious faithfulness.

Yet Abraham held to that faith. Like Abel, he continued to follow the only true religion in the world: true faith, and like Abel he was commended for it: ‘By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son of whom it was said “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.’ (Hebrews 11:17-19)

God honoured Abraham and restored his son to him. He had passed the supreme test. He had been willing to give the greatest blessing in his life back to God, his only true son, and in this he perfected his faith, believing God would yet fulfil his promise to him by raising his son back to life. For this Abraham received a very special title. He was called the friend of God. Jehoshaphat, a righteous king of Judah many centuries later, prayed to God: ‘Did you not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it for ever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?’ (2 Chronicles 20:7) God himself once spoke of the nation of Israel as ‘the offspring of Abraham, my friend’ (Isaiah 41:8). James, an early disciple of Jesus and his blood-brother, also wrote of Abraham’s faith and added ‘he was called the friend of God’ (James 2:23).

The Qur’an confirms the title: ‘For God did take Abraham for a friend’ (Surah 4:125). The Arabic word here is khalilan, “a friend”, and Abraham has consequently always been known in Islam as khalilullah, the Friend of God. The Qur’an gives no explanation for the title, however.

In the Biblical record, however, we can see more and more what true faith really is.
God wants to have a living relationship with his people. He desires this far more than strict obedience to religious routines, observance of ceremonies and a repetitive adherence to prescribed prayers, prayer-times, etc. This will become ever more apparent as we proceed. At present, however, let us mark the symbol of Abraham’s recognition – true faith. God did not forcefully project his righteousness at him, expecting him to respond in perfect righteousness and obedience to his every demand. No matter how religious, pious or devoted any man may be, he cannot match God’s perfect righteousness. His sin will pull him down again and again.

God elected to project his faithfulness to Abraham and was delighted when the prophet responded consistently to it by faith, eventually perfecting it when being commanded to offer his son as a sacrifice. We will have more to say about it when we come to the climax we spoke about earlier. We will see how Abraham’s sacrificial faith was only a shadow of God’s sacrificial love yet to be revealed. For the moment, however, let us press on to the next great patriarch in Israel’s history, Moses, and see how God’s plans and purposes for his people continued to expand and grow.

Moses: The Man who Knew God Face-to-Face
More than four hundred years passed before God moved again to communicate directly with his people. After forty years of prosperity as a prince in Egypt, and a further forty years in the Sinai wilderness as a fugitive from justice, Moses suddenly found himself face-to-face with the God of Israel. God called him to deliver the nation from Pharaoh’s rule and, after a series of plagues which finally broke the back of Egyptian resistance, Moses led the people into the same wilderness on their way to the promised land, Canaan.

The final scene in this famous story needs to be retold here. Pharaoh only relented when an angel from God slew the first-born of every family in Egypt in just one night. Only the Israelites who had obeyed God’s word to sacrifice a passover lamb were exempted. They had been instructed to ‘touch the lintel and the two doorposts’ of their homes ‘with the blood which is in the basin’ (Exodus 12:22) and were further told to ‘observe this rite as an ordinance for you and for your sons for ever’ (Exodus 12:24). The angel of death would then pass over the home. A clear trend was developing as God’s relationship with his people progressed. Abel had offered the blood of his lambs as an atoning sacrifice, shadowing a far greater sacrifice to come. Abraham was willing to offer his son Isaac as a similar token of a greater offering to follow. Now the people of Israel were commanded to place the shed blood of their sacrificial lambs across their doorposts. True faith was beginning to define itself. The hope of all God’s true people, trusting solely in his grace and not their religiousness, was increasingly being focused on the shed blood of the true Lamb of God to follow. True believers discerned this, and placed their faith in God’s redemptive grace yet to be fully revealed.

Not long after their exodus from Egypt, God instructed Moses: ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments, and be ready by the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people’ (Exodus 19:10-11). On the third day the people trembled as God’s presence was manifested on the mountain. There God spoke directly to the nation, giving it the ten commandments that were to become the backbone of Jewish moral law thereafter. It was a unique occasion, one for which God had been preparing for centuries.

Moses was not visited by an angel as a mediator from heaven. God himself drew near to the prophet and the nation, expressing his desire to relate closely to the people of Israel thereafter. To reveal his presence among them, God told Moses to build an ark with a mercy seat above it and said: ‘There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you of all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel’ (Exodus 25:22).

The nation had visible proof that God himself was present among them. Whenever Moses entered the holy tent he had constructed as a tabernacle where the ark was placed, a ‘pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the door of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses’ (Exodus 33:9). When the people saw the cloud, they would rise up and worship.
The story concludes: ‘Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks to his friend’ (Exodus 33:11). Moses was overwhelmed that God was willing to relate so directly to him and the people as to manifest his presence among them. He said to God: ‘Is it not in your going with us that we are distinct, I and your people, from all other people that are upon the face of the earth?’ (Exodus 33:16)

Very boldly Moses prayed ‘I pray you, show me your glory.’ God responded: ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name, ‘the Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy’ (Exodus 33:18-19).

With respect, even at this stage God’s revealed presence and favour go far beyond anything comparable in Islam. Far greater intimacy, fellowship, grace and favour between God and his own were to follow, but even at this stage the relationship between God and his people had far exceeded the highest of Muslim expectations. God himself was visibly present among them. The cloud, which was a special manifestation of his presence, hovered over the mercy seat by day and shone at night. When it moved, the nation knew it had to follow and stay close to God as he dwelt among his people.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with two tablets containing the ten commandments, inscribed by God himself, ‘Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God’ (Exodus 34:29). Whenever he came out from speaking to the Lord, ‘the people of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone’ (Exodus 34:35). The Qur’an confirms the unique, direct relationship between God and Moses: ‘And to Moses Allah spoke directly’ (Surah 4:164). It says nothing further, but confirms the special relationship between them. The story of Moses in the Bible concludes with these words: ‘And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face’ (Deuteronomy 34:10).

Abraham was called the friend of God. Moses spoke to God face to face as a man speaks to his friend. We see here the growing supreme purpose of God steadily being revealed. God’s presence was so closely manifested that Moses’ face shone when he spoke to him. God was going far beyond religious observances. His ultimate desire that his people should relate personally to him and know him directly was being increasingly revealed as time went on.

Unfortunately God’s immediate presence brought constant tensions and conflict between him and the people of Israel. Time and again they distrusted and rebelled against him. Right from the start, when God called the nation to hear his word and receive his ten commandments, the people said to Moses ‘You speak to us and we will hear, but let not God speak to us, lest we die’ (Exodus 20:19). When Moses went up the mountain to converse with God over forty days, the people rose up and tried to shake off his presence and power over them. They made a golden calf and worshiped it, promptly proceeding to break every commandment they could to tell him precisely what they thought of him.

God’s anger grew deep within him. Time and again he threatened to destroy them. ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people; now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them’, God declared (Exodus 32:9-10).
A benevolent but righteous God among an unholy and malevolent people – conflict was inevitable. The nation did not want to draw near to God. For their unbelief he kept them wandering with minimal food and water for forty years in the wilderness. Despite all his favours towards them, the people just would not draw near to him. Living so closely among them, their sinfulness and hard-heartedness inevitably ground sharply against his righteousness and holiness.
‘And now, Israel,’ Moses declared, ‘what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord which I command you this day for your good?’
(Deuteronomy 10:12-13). In this Moses revealed God’s ultimate aim – a deep mutual relationship based on reciprocated love and obedience towards him. Even though he regulated various forms of religious ceremonies and observances to constantly draw out at least a formal worship towards him, they turned against him. From the depths of their hearts they did not want to draw near to him in purity, honesty, faithfulness and love. Quite simply, they would have preferred to turn back to their former slavery in Egypt than live by faith in his faithfulness and allow his Spirit to examine the depths of their hearts and souls.

At one point, after tiring of the manna God sent them from above every day to eat, some of the ‘rabble that was among them had a strong craving; and the people of Israel also wept again, and said: “O that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic, but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at”’ (Numbers 11:4-6). Later generations honoured the manna with religious devotion as bread from heaven itself, but the Israelites at the time simply complained to Moses ‘we loathe this worthless food’ (Numbers 21:5).

Once they had entered the land of Canaan, the visible cloud above the mercy-seat faded away. The manna sent to feed them daily ceased. God could see that they could not match or reflect his righteousness and could only be exposed to wrath and judgment if he continued to manifest his presence so obviously to them. So he let go of the nation, still living among his people, but withdrawing his visible presence to avoid further face-to-face conflict. Patiently God watched and waited as the following generations came and went. Some centuries later God again began to make his presence felt among the people of Israel. Another man arose with a burning love for God, a strong man who could unite the nation, and God moved to relate to him as it appeared his hopes for the nation might yet begin to materialise.

Continuing on Part II



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