Forming of God's People
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If there is a two- or three-year-old child at home, you have noticed how he behaves when something goes wrong. When he cannot find a toy, he bursts into tears and wails, "I can't find my truck." When a puzzle is too hard, he angrily throws it across the room. As much as babies love and trust their parents, they simply forget to ask them calmly for help. All they can think of is how impossible it is to solve a problem by themselves. For the moment, they do not remember that someone more powerful than themselves, who loves them very much, would be happy to help if asked.
This is how the chosen people often behaved as they wandered in the desert with Moses. Whenever they needed something, they would begin by complaining to Moses, instead of turning in prayer to God their Father. As soon as their food supplies from Egypt ran low, they cried, "If only we had stayed in Egypt, where at least we had food to eat. Why have you brought us into this desert to die of starvation?"
Patient Father that he is, God showed his complaining children how much he cared for them. Each morning the ground was covered with flakes of a bread-like food. "What is it?" Asked the people. The Hebrew word for "What is it?" is manna so that is how the food from Heaven got its name. Every evening, God sent flocks of quail to the Hebrew camp so the people could have meat for dinner.
One would think that after the miraculous appearance of manna and quail the people would have learned their lesson. But when they came to a place in the desert that had no water, the complaints began again. "Moses, why did you make us leave Egypt, to kill our children and our animals with thirst?" God instructed Moses to strike a rock with his staff. When he did, water came out of the rock.
But God wanted to do more for his chosen people than just give them food and drink. Since it was through this nation that salvation would be brought to all mankind they had to be special and set apart from all other people. And so God established a covenant with the Israelites to show that he would be their God and they would be his people. (Covenant means an agreement: God agreed to make the Hebrews his special children. The Hebrews agreed to follow the commandments.) He also gave other laws to guide the chosen people in their daily life. But God wanted to do more for his chosen people than just give them food and drink. He also taught them how to live. He called Moses up to Mount Sinai, forbidding the others to go near it. Covered by a cloud, Moses spent many days speaking with God. During this time God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. He also gave him other laws to guide the chosen people in their daily life.
God instructed Moses to have an "ark" or container made to hold the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. It was to be called the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was to be the sign of God's presence among the Hebrews. It was to be the focal point of their prayer and worship.
Meanwhile, the Israelites grew restless while waiting for Moses. They were at the bottom of Mount Sinai offending God in a horrible way. They had made a golden calf and were worshipping it as their god. They soon learned how much this angered God, not to mention Moses. In his mercy, God forgave those who were truly sorry and willing to follow Moses. In justice, he punished with death those who did not repent.
In the centuries that followed, the Israelites sinned against God many times. Often God had to punish them before they knew enough to be sorry and ask God's forgiveness. On the other hand, there were also many times when the chosen people trusted in God and obeyed his commands. God rewarded their obedience. He brought them into a land of plenty. He blessed them with large families. Most of all, through God's revelation they were the only nation on earth that had true knowledge and worship of the one true God.
As the years went by, the chosen people did not always like taking direction from God. They wanted to be like other nations. They asked God to appoint a king to rule over them. God warned the Hebrews that the rule of an earthly king would have disadvantages, but he allowed them to have a king just the same. So began the long line of kings that would govern the chosen people for many years. King David and his son, King Solomon, were the greatest of these kings. They did much to build up the nation of Israel. They saw to it that the people worshipped the one, true God. God promised David that from his descendants, would come the Savior, the eternal King whose rule would last for ever. Many of the kings that came after David were not good men. Some led the people into worship of false gods. God kept his people in his special care, even through years of sin. He did not forget his promise that salvation of the world would come through them.
The Ten Commandments
1. I am the Lord your
God; you shall not have strange gods before me.
2. You shall not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day.
4. Honor your father and mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.
Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534
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