Summary: This is Part 5 of the series on World relgions--a series inspired by Adma Hamilton, Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, KS.
(some web sites that I consulted are listed in the body of the text)
Genesis 12:1-3, 15:5-6
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”…He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Prayer, Greeting, Attendance Pad
Today I continue the series and Christianity and World Religions. Each week I’ve given the disclaimer that I am not an expert on each of the religions I have shared with you. This week, however, I think I am more familiar with the topic of Judaism.
For one thing much of our culture has been influenced by Judaism. In seminary I studied the Hebrew Bible, what we call the Old Testament, and had to learn to read and write Hebrew and translate specific Biblical texts. I have had several Jewish friends and studied for 10 years under Ed Friedman, a family therapist and Jewish rabbi, on leadership issues in the congregation as related to family systems issues. So I am entering into a religion that I am more familiar and comfortable with.
Judaism is the oldest of the world’s four great monotheistic religions. It’s also the smallest, with only about 12 million followers around the world.
I’d encourage you as I do each week to follow today’s sermon out line and to use the study guide for this week to enhance your spiritual growth.
In Buddhism we learned that there is a person who founded that religion—Buddha. In Islam there was Muhammad. When it comes to Judaism, however, it does not begin with a person but it is about a people. So I’ll begin with …
I. A Brief History of the Jewish People
A. The Hebrews
Judaism begins with God saying to a group of people through you I will redeem all the earth in the centuries ahead. Through you I will bring blessings to all nations of the earth.
B. God’s Covenant with the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel)
That unique group of people begins with one patriarch, Abraham, an unlikely candidate to lead the people of God. Abrham lived about 2000 years before Christ. God called him to do Lead this group of people when he was 75 years old. His wife Sarah was about the same age. So how are they going to give birth to a great nation when they are childless and beyond child bearing years.
God chooses the most unlikely people to accomplish his purposes. So God chooses to use Abraham and Sarah. In deed they do give birth when they’re about 100 years old. That’s about twice as old as I am and I sure don’t want to have anymore babies. It’s nice to be a grandfather but I sure wouldn’t want to have a child of my own at this age.
Having a baby when you’re a 100 years old? Yet it turned out to be a great thing. God gives them a son who is Issac. Years go by and Issac gives birth to a child named Jacob. Jacob literally wrestles with his faith through an angel sent by God. God then changes Jacob’s name to Israel. Israel has 12 sons. His 12 sons were the kernels of 12 tribes that later
developed into the Jewish nation. The name Jew derives from Yehuda (Judah) one of the 12 sons of Jacob. So, the names Israel, Israeli or Jewish refer to people of the same origin.
C. Slavery in Egypt, Moses, the Exodus and God’s Covenant with Israel
The people enter into slavery and God sets them free from slavery.
After a period of 400 years God sends Moses to demand that his people be set free. The story form there on is a story of God’s covenant making with the Hebrew people, while they continually engage in covenant breaking. God is constantly reaching out making a promise to the Hebrew people. Yet Abraham’s descendants struggle with living up to the promise made to them that they would have a piece of land, a place where they could live according to God’s will.
God said through Moses to the people, you follow my 10 commandments and these other laws that I give to you and you will be people and everything will go well in the land that I’m about to give you. Of course, the story in the Old Testament shows again and again the Israelites had trouble living up to that covenant. It becomes a long cycle of their breaking the covenant, God withholding blessings, the nations invade, the people cry out to God to help them, God comes back and redeems and saves them, and they renew their promise to obey God, and then they fall away again and on and on.