A Lesson from Ancient Israel

, by Christopher D. Hudson

The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”

For more than one thousand years, the Hebrew people often confused the kingdom of God with the kingdom of earth. From the day God promised Abraham He would give him land, many of his descendants focused on building a lasting earthly empire rather than centering their hearts on the Giver of that land.

For centuries many Hebrews kept asking God to repel their enemies and give them physical peace, but God kept reminding them He cared about their hearts first (Isaiah 29:13). God sent prophet after prophet to remind them to turn their hearts back to Him, and He promised to use whatever means necessary to regain their hearts—including the loss of their homeland.

The promise to Abraham was never just about the land—it was about faith and relationship. For many, the land has come first, but it was never the point. If it was, the work of God would have been completed when Joshua led the people into the promised land. But as the book of Hebrews reminds us, God had much more in mind: “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day” (Hebrews 4:8). God looked forward to a relationship with laws written on tender hearts rather than on civic institutions (Hebrews 10:16).

It is tempting to grow discouraged when watching our influence in culture wane, but the promise of an earthly government that acts with Christian values or a society that behaves according to our standards was never the point of Jesus, His teachings, or His resurrection.

This blog post has been adapted from my book How Jesus Changed the World. You can read more about it here.