While listening to Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (and being challenged in many ways by his wonderful insights into Scripture), a particular comment caught my attention. Peterson pointed out that Biblical Israel never had any secular history; all its history was the story of its unique relationship with God - its divine history.
The nation of Israel, that began with God’s call to Abraham and lasted some 2000 years until the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., understood all its history and each event in that history only in the context of the nation’s unique relationship to God. This is so obvious when we stop to think about it that the significance of it may be overlooked. God’s people, this unique nation at the core of the Old Testament, saw all of life as an interactive relationship between them and God. Every event, every power, every foreign nation or national leader was God’s event, God’s power, God’s nation and God’s leader; everyone and everything was subject to God’s control and was God’s means of directing, correcting, and interacting with God’s people.
Other nations had gods. These gods were sought when special needs arose; these gods were placated or appeased when catastrophes occurred; these gods were championed when conquests were pursued. But by and large these gods left people to live their lives, make their decisions, and pursue their goals.
Israelites, on the other hand, understood that God was to be the very center and purpose of their lives. They were to live by God’s laws, seek God’s direction and purpose for their lives, and go and come as God directed. Every detail of life was to be a testimony to a relationship with a living God who was involved intimately in the affairs of His people.
Of course, from Israel’s perspective, God was intimately involved in the details of every nation and of every person – whether the nation or the people recognized that fact or not. Whether it was Pharaoh honoring Joseph, Moses being reared in the ruler’s palace, Babylon carrying Israel’s citizens into captivity, or Artaxerxes sending Nehemiah back to Jerusalem, God was at work in every nation, if for no other reason than to accomplish His purpose in Israel. The Hebrew Scriptures – our Old Testament – attest to God’s control of rulers and nations in innumerable references.
This idea that all Israel’s history was a divine history – that there was never any “secular” history – begs the question to me, today: Is my history a divine history? Is God still at work now in the intimate details of life? If so, is He involved intimately in my life? And if He is, am I aware of it? Even more, do I delight in it, and bask in the knowledge that every detail of my life is in His control? Do I seek to walk in the knowledge of His reality in my life so that every aspect of life is a testimony to His goodness and blessing to and through me?
The Apostle Paul wrote: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36, ESV) I think Paul would say that all his history was divine history. Are you consciously living your divine history today?