Paul is a Jew, yet he was called to be a missionary to the Gentiles. But clearly, he always had a heart for his own people. More than a personal testimony, this chapter and the following chapter serve to show how God’s redemption plan was revealed gradually throughout human history, starting with the Jews and moving later on to the Gentiles.
God could have chosen a number of other ways to reveal himself to us. He could have appeared to every person throughout the world simultaneously in our dreams so that all would wake up believing in God. Or in a modern age, God could flood the internet, facebook updates, blog posts, tweets and redirect every web browser in the world to htp://to i-am-god.com and you click Accept or Reject. Or God could have appeared with flaming words in the sky — Believe in Jesus and Be Saved.
Instead, God chose to relate to a particular nation of Israel throughout human history for century after century, teaching them, loving them, correcting them, forming a sense of identity as God’s people. This is what it means to be in relationship with God. He is not a book of morals or rules. He’s a Person and we can relate with him and over time we share a common history together.
Knowing God is not like reading a resume. A resume gives you facts about a person. Where they graduated from school. Their past employment history. The kinds of projects they worked on. But you don’t hire someone simply by reading a resume. You interview that person. You check their references. You talk to former employers. What was it like to work with this person? You try to see the person in a context of other relationships.
And even after you go through an extensive interview process, you still cannot reliably know the person. Because some people are just great at interviews. They can fool you into thinking they are the perfect candidate — a rare blend of someone who is competent yet a great team player.
Even first impressions are deceiving. In my career, I always made it a point to try really, really hard to make a good first impression at every job I worked at and I have worked for quite a few companies in my career. And I remember I was working at Bank of America’s technology headquarters in the Network Performance group. It was my first job out of college. And I was very eager to make a good first impression on my boss, Rupa, an extremely sharp Indian lady.
And there was one night when something went wrong at work and I was working very late by myself. And I was single. I didn’t have to go home for any reason so I kept working. And if you know me, I can fall asleep anywhere. So I don’t know what happened, but somewhere between 2-3am I passed out on my cubicle floor and I was woken up the next morning by my boss. And she asked me, what are you doing here? I said, I was working on such and such. I forget what she said, but she was certainly impressed. And from that point on, she allowed me to do whatever I wanted. I could come in a bit late. I could have an extra long lunch but I was free. Because she trusted in me. This is great career advice.
Did I work that hard every day? No, certainly not. But my one night of working late and sleeping overnight in my cubicle had cemented her favorable impression of me. I worked hard, I did my job, but certainly I never slept overnight at work again so my first impression may have been slightly exaggerated, shall I say? I wasn’t there to climb the corporate ladder. I was a bi-vocational minister: I finished my work on time during the day but my real calling at the time was to be a college minister. First impressions can be deceiving.
Even when it comes to dating, both parties are on their best behavior so it is like each party is giving the other an extended first impression. You don’t burp and you try to keep in other bodily gases. You don’t wipe food on your sleeve. You shower before you meet up. You don’t go to KFC because you don’t want to be licking the oil off of your fingertips even though it is finger-licking good. No, you go to a nice restaurant. This is great dating advice. When Jackie and I were dating, I was a hopeless romantic. I arranged where to go, I bought flowers, I had the whole evening planned. Now, Jackie arranges all of our dates and we go to KFC.
First impressions can certainly be deceiving. That’s why God didn’t give us a spiritual resume or a religious manual. Nor did God just pop in for a short while and leave us with a first impression so that we are left wondering, is this how God really is or was he just putting on a show?
Instead, God choose to relate himself with one nation. And through the dynamics of this relationship spread out over a long period of time, it is possible to know who God is, what he stands for, and what he expects from His people.
But something happened along the way and this relationship was replaced by religion.