Israelites Went In and Out of Fellowship Constantly
Many people view the nation of Israel as simply being “under the Law” and because of that, see them as either being in the Land (when things were good between them and God) and being tossed out of the Land (when things were not good between them and God). In reality, the picture that develops for us is a picture of a nation that was in and out of fellowship with God throughout their existence and as a nation, Israel remains out of fellowship with God right now.
The history of Israel is interesting because it highlights how easy it is to fall out of fellowship with God at any point. God has always dealt with Israel as one entity. If one or two people within Israel did something that offended God – normally evidenced by their disbelief and disobedience – the entire nation as a whole would suffer the consequences. A very good example of this is perfectly and clearly seen in Joshua 7. Let’s look at the opening verse, Joshua 1:1.
But the Israelites disobeyed the command about the city’s riches. Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, stole some of the riches. The Lord was furious with the Israelites. (NET)
It is not an accident that the text first says that “the Israelites disobeyed…” and then we learn that the culprit was really Achan alone. God had warned everyone to not take riches for themselves from the city that they were going to overtake. Achan decided it wouldn’t hurt for him to take a few of those riches. Who would notice? Clearly, God noticed.
Because of Achan’s sin, the Israelite army was thoroughly defeated by the men of Ai. In fact, verse 4 tells us that the Israelites fled before the men of Ai and verse 5 notes that the men of Ai killed 36 Israelites. This defeat was due solely to Achan’s theft and disobedience. But again, his crime was considered to be a crime of Israel against the Lord.
The Old Testament tells us repeatedly how the Israelites were constantly on God’s good side then on His bad side. They were in fellowship then out of it. It was a routine that became a normal part of their history, tragically.
It is easy to think that when Israel was out of fellowship, they had lost their salvation with God. One generation would die in the wilderness while another one grew to maturity. The new generation would then be led by the Lord to new ventures and successes. Unfortunately, every generation of Israel had its times of fellowship with God and it’s times of being out of fellowship.
In the Old Testament, God determined that in order to approach Him, numerous things were needed and those things all revolved around the Law that God gave to Israel through Moses. Much within that Law had to do with the sacrificial system. The Israelites had to use that system in order to approach God for anything. Unbeknownst to them, the sacrificial system they used ultimately pointed to the coming Messiah who would completely fulfill every Law found within the Mosaic system as He would be the once-for-all atonement mentioned in Hebrews 10:12.
For the Israelite, their salvation as well as their fellowship rested in some sense on the sacrificial system instituted by God. Those bulls and goats were a nod to the future, but were, in and of themselves, imperfect (Hebrews 10:4) and could not take away sins. Faith was still required by each individual Israelites to receive salvation – to be labeled “righteous” by God – and the physical representation that they came to understand was the sacrificial system. Again though – and I want to be very clear here – salvation has always been by faith in God, whether during Old Testament, New Testament, or present times. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). The physical sacrificial system was something that the Israelites could see and in which they could participate. It served as an ongoing object lesson of One who would come to fulfill all aspects of that temporary system.
Fortunately for all mankind in the past, present, and future, the cross of Christ is always before God since He exists in the eternal present. Therefore, everything related to the Mosaic Law pointed toward it and now for us, living in front of it, our faith points back to it. For God, the cross is the center of our human history.
Just as the nation of Israel – as an entity – was constantly going in and out of fellowship with God, this same thing happens with Christians today. The problem is that we do not take being out of fellowship as seriously as the ancient Israelites did. This is due to the fact that in many instances, the Israelites were actually kicked out of the Land. This signified their loss of fellowship with God. Regaining entry into the Land signified a return to fellowship with God. The actual and physical ramifications of being in and out of fellowship with God for the Israelites was real, palpable, with actual consequences.
Too often today, Christians who are constantly in and out of fellowship with God, tend to complain about the consequences of their actions as if God was not supposed to allow bad things to happen even though the Christian disobeyed and may have even deliberately sinned. Christians ask “why Lord?” when they should be confessing their sin. After all, it was their sin that closed the door on fellowship with God and that sin was their choice.
Much like the Prodigal Son who deliberately chose to leave his father’s presence to live a life of sin (Luke 15) and had to deal with the consequences of his actions, Christians today make decisions all the time that directly impact whether or not we are and/or remain in fellowship with God. Just as Achan chose to disobey God and take what God warned he should not have taken (to enrich himself), the consequences of his actions resulted in death for Achan, his family, and animals. I don’t take this to mean that Achan lost salvation (if he actually had it). But it is clear that God was much quicker to judge those who fell out of fellowship with Him during the Old Testament times than He does during these times.
Christians are not all that different from ancient Israel. Unfortunately, like them, we tend to go in and out of fellowship because outside pressures do not keep us from falling out of fellowship with God. Left to ourselves, we are just like Achan or the Prodigal Son. We take things too lightly where God is concerned. We do not see Him as Judge (because our sin has already been judged at the cross), therefore, we tend to underestimate the importance of being in His Presence in fellowship.
God knows that being in fellowship with Him is the best, the safest place anyone could be. Yet, we fail miserably at that because of the cares of this world. When persecution comes our way, we’re like, “What’s happening?! Lord, help!” If we were in the habit of being in His Presence in fellowship, we would notice when we fell out of it much easier. Moreover, we would not be easily rattled by things that happen in the world like the pagans – people who are lost and have no hope.
Christians would do well to study the history of Israel. It is replete with a pattern of being in and mostly being out of fellowship with God. We need to understand that every time Israel was out of fellowship it was due to some sin that one or two individuals had committed but didn’t think was important enough to deal with or mention. God would not allow it to go unchecked.
We Christians think we’re different, but we’re really not. We sin and we keep things hidden. However, our sin affects not only our individual fellowship with God but also affects the corporate Body of Christ. How can it be otherwise? This is not to say that Christians need to go on witch hunts where other Christians are concerned, pointing out their sin. We need to focus on what is wrong with our lives and we also need to be constantly lifting our brothers and sisters in Christ – the Body of Christ – up before Him so that He will do what is best for His Body.
I tend to think that I take my failures too easily today. No, God doesn’t want me to beat myself up over them, but He does expect me to agree with Him very quickly as soon as I discover some sin that I’ve committed. He wants this so that I can return to Him for cleansing and forgiveness so that my fellowship with Him will continue uninterrupted.
Folks, it is easy to condemn the nation of Israel, yet we Christians do the same thing, don’t we? We take too lightly God’s commands to be holy, to be in fellowship with Him. We think because we live in an Age of Grace (we do), that God overlooks things. No, He doesn’t overlook things. The Age of Grace allows Him to put off judging all the things wrong in this world and in the individual lives of people so that people can hear the gospel and come to a saving knowledge of Christ. That’s what the Age of Grace is all about. It’s not an excuse to live in sin or sidle up to it because I’m seated with Christ in the heavenlies right now (Ephesians 2:6). If I really took that to heart, I would want to sin less, not more!
Christian, we need to endeavor to live lives that please God. Pleasing Him means being in fellowship with Him. Every time the Israelites displeased God, they were eventually kicked out of the Land. Their fellowship with God was cut off until they learned their lesson. It’s really the same with us, but since we’re not kicked out of the Land so to speak, we don’t notice as easily.
We should endeavor to be and remain in fellowship with God at all times. Confess your sin. Admit it. Agree with God that it is sin. Be cleansed from that sin and enter again into His fellowship. The more we do this, I believe the more we will grow in grace and become like Him. We will begin to experience victory after victory. The alternative is to live in defeat. Being in fellowship with God is predicated on our obedience to Him, not for salvation, but because of it. We are not to obey God out of a sense of legalism, but because of a growing sense of love for Him.
Being saved does not mean God does not expect or want our obedience. Being saved means we should want to obey God even more in order to please Him and remain in fellowship with Him.
What do you choose?
Entry filed under: christianity, israel, Judaism, Posttribulational Rapture, Pretribulational Rapture, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: Achan's sin, fellowship with god, israel was in and out of fellowship, sin of achan, the sin of achan.