We first hear it in Exodus.
A heart driven by the need to lavish itself upon its beloved is a key part of God’s perfect nature.
Granted, we see it in action long before. We see it in the way that God clothed Adam and Eve, to cover their nakedness so they need not hide from Him any longer. We see it in the way He made covenant with Abraham for the redemption of the world, that through Abraham ‘all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.’ We even see it in the way He worked through Joseph, protecting the fledgling family that would become the nation of Israel. It is in Exodus, however, that we first hear God put His deepest desire into words.
“I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” Exodus 6:7
Lest the vision for His people not sink in, that He desires us to be His people who claim Him as our God, He embeds it in the priestly code. This same phrase is echoed in Leviticus 26, adding that it is His desire to dwell among His children once again. I can only imagine Him remembering the intimacy of Eden, and yearning for a similar embrace.
This yearning becomes the cry of the Father’s heart which reverberates throughout the halls of scripture. We see it again in the prophets. Samuel reflects back on the power of this declaration in 2 Samuel 7:24. Jeremiah is replete with it, repeating the phrase in 7:23, 11:4, 24:7, and 30:22. It is almost as if the Lord is weeping, begging His children to come home, reminding them that all He wants to do is love them. This is, after all, the nature of love. Love is incomplete until it has an object for its affection.
Some are challenged by this idea. After all, if God is perfect, then to insinuate that He needs anything beyond Himself to be complete would seem to undermine that perfection. Yet, when love is defined as God’s central attribute, this forces the recognition that God’s very core is relationship-driven. It is the nature of love to lavish itself upon its beloved; thus, without the beloved, love becomes merely theoretical. To strip away the need for such an object of our affection is to move from love to apathy. By elevating apathy to be a superior characteristic to love, however, we move further from perfection, not closer. A heart driven by the need to lavish itself upon its beloved is a key part of God’s perfect nature.
So the cry continues. Ezekiel picks it up, revealing the hope God has for a people who have turned away from Him yet again. He is, however, a God of patience and longsuffering, driven by love and the hope for reconciliation. Thus, as Ezekiel admonishes the children of Israel to return to being the children of God, he marries the call for repentance to God’s heart-cry. So it is that the phrase turns up again in Ezekiel 11:20, 14:11, 36:28, and 37:27. Hosea similarly deals with the need for Israel to return to God’s embrace, but Hosea emphasizes God’s perspective, the desire for reconciliation, when he declares that “…I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’ ” (Hosea 2:23)
By this point, God’s heart-cry now has much of salvation history attached to it. The people set free from slavery in Egypt, the desire of God to lavish His love upon them, their subsequent rebellion and the call for repentance, and God’s desire to forgive and restore. It is in Zechariah, however, where we move into the true beauty of this cry. Here, it moves from words to action, and meat is put upon the bones of such a phrase’s meaning. Zechariah speaks of one who is to be pierced; of a shepherd who is struck. He speaks of the one upon whom people will look and find grace. Zechariah speaks of Jesus. He speaks of cleansing from sin and, at the end of this pronouncement, we find the promise that “they will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’ ” (Zechariah 13:9)
The cry led to the cross. The promise was fulfilled, the yearning of God has come to its pivotal moment, which then led Peter to declare, in the past tense, that “once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10) This is the climax, to be sure, but it is not the finale. We live in the denouement, the falling action, the final resolution of this divine epic. There is, however, one more time where we will hear the phrase.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Revelation 21:1-3
We first hear it in Exodus. We hear it one final time in Revelation, at the hallways of eternity. This is salvation history, flowing from the heart of God, and into the glorious hope to come.
What does it mean to you to be God’s people?
- Three Thousand: How Pentecost Reveals the Impact of the Cross (ofdustandkings.com)
- Chosen In The Lord: When ‘Bad Luck’ Becomes Beautiful (ofdustandkings.com)
- Idols (…As They Were Meant To Be) (ofdustandkings.com)