Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!

Calvin strongly believed in the eternal life of the Jewish people and he spent a chunk of his book on this very idea.  The Jewish people had the Word, which "I mean that special mode which both illumines the souls of the pious into the knowledge of God and, in a sense, joins them to him."  They had the Word and were brought to God.  God chose the Israelites to set aside as his people and part of that meant that he granted them eternal life.  "Therefore I say that without any doubt they entered into God's Immortal Kingdom.  For theirs was a real participation in God, which cannot be without the blessing of eternal life."

God had fellowship with His people in the Old Testament.  He told them, "I will walk among you and be your God and you shall be my people" (Leviticus 26:12 NKJV).  My question is why would God want to be their God for a limited period of time and not grant them eternal life so they could be His people forever?  David wrote in the Psalms passages such as "Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!" (Psalm 144:15).  David knew that just because you belonged to God it did not mean that your entire earthly life would be happy or blessed.  This is not an earthly happiness that David is speaking of but the knowledge that God will deliver us from death.  God will preserve His chosen people forever.

Calvin reminds us that God promised that He would always be the God of His people.  This was to reassure His people that His love and mercy extended forever, not just in the current life.  This alone should have given the entire nation of Israel comfort and hope in eternal life.  God made promises such as "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you" (Genesis 17:7 NKJV).  This was not just a promise that He would be the God of Abraham's descendants, but an everlasting covenant to be the God of Abraham.  If Abraham were to not have eternal life, how could God continue to be his God?  Calvin points that out when God speaks to Moses directly and says, "I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Exodus 3:6).  The word "am" is used indicating that He presently is, not once was, even though Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have all died to this life.

Sections 10-11 emphasize the fact that the blessedness or happiness we receive from God is not necessarily for this life.  Using several Old Testament examples, he highlights the fact that life was hard and at times cruel to His people, but they are still considered blessed.  Why?  They had the hope of eternal life.  The first example Calvin uses is of the first man.  He remembered a time in the Garden of Eden when he was truly happy.  Then he was cast out and forced to work the land - not because tending fields made him happy but in order to provide food for his family and himself.  He knew that one of his two sons murdered the other.  Noah spent many years building the ark, enduring insults from is neighbors.  He then spent ten months on board the ark with numerous animals, which could not have been pleasant, only to witness the destruction of the entire world.  Even after the flood he continued to have difficulties.  Abraham had so many issues his entire life.  He was taken away from his parents and family into a new land.  He is then driven from that land due to famine.  He had to prostitute his wife in order to protect his own life.  He is driven from his land a second time due to famine.  He had to send away his nephew who was considered at that time to be the closest thing Abraham had to a son, and the nephew is taken captive by Abraham's enemies.  He was old and had no children, so his wife gives him a servant in order to produce a child which she does.  This causes more stress and unhappiness for Abraham.  He finally has a son with his wife, but then God asks him to sacrifice his only son.  This is not a life of earthly happiness, but of struggle and pain.  However, we are confident that God in His infinite mercy granted Abraham eternal life - that is what God later meant by saying "I am the God of Abraham."

Tomorrow's reading: 2.10.12-2.10.16

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