The hope of God's chosen people began when God revealed himself to Abraham and promised that He would make of him a great nation in which all the nations of the earth would find blessings. Moltmann makes the observation that Israel's hope is tied to obedience. We see this with Abraham when God told him to leave his father's house and go to a land that he would show him. "Abraham went as the LORD had directed him." (Gn 12:4) It is only upon reaching the land of the Cananites that the LORD said to Abraham, "To your descendants I will give this land." (Gn12:7)
At Sinai the Yahweh promise takes the form of an agreement. He promises that He will be their God and they his people. Israel's obedience to Yahweh now becomes expressed in the form of Law, the Commandments, but even before Moses came down from the mountain with the commandments, the people had turned to a pagan god. Yahweh is a faithful God who keeps his promises on condition that Israel obeys the Laws of the Covenant. Because of their lack of trust or hope in Yahweh, Israel was made to wander in the desert for forty years.
Even after they entered the land of Canaan, they repeatedly showed their mistrust of God by turning to other gods. We read: "An angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim and said, 'It was I who brought you up from Egypt and led you into the land which I promised on oath to your fathers. I said that I would never break my covenant with you, but that you were not to make a pact with the inhabitants of this land, and you were to pull down their altars. Yet you have not obeyed me. ...For now I tell you, I will not clear them out of your way; they shall oppose you and their gods shall become a snare for you.' " (Jos 2:1-5) Under the Judges, the military leaders raised up by God, Israel would experience hope and victories, but at the death of each Judge, they would once again return to pagan worship and experience defeat at the hands of their enemies. The hope in God's promise could not be realized without their obedience.
During the time of Judges they were led by military leaders chosen by God but they insisted on having a king like other nations. The first king was Saul followed by David to whom God made a promise.
have sworn to David my servant:
I will make your dynasty last forever
and establish your throne
through all ages."
Despite the glory of Israel under king Solomon, historical events that followed lead to tragedy. In 586 BC the Babylonian king Nabuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and deported nobles, skilled workers and the army to Babylon. A short time after the Babylonians burned Jerusalem to the ground including the Temple. And we hear the lamentation of Jewish captivity in Babylon,
the rivers of Babylon we sat mourning and weeping
when we remembered Zion."
They must have thought, "What happened to God's promises"? "Did God really promise us a kingdom that would last forever"? Despite all, they believed that God was truthful and that in some way he would make his promises come true. The prophet Zechariah who prophesied in 520 BC as the Jews were returning to rebuild Jerusalem gave expression to the nature of the messianic kingdom as follows:
heartily, O daughter Zion,
shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king shall come to you;
a just savior is he, Meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem;
The warrior's bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.
His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth."
Sad to say when Jesus Christ presented to the Jews his kingship and kingdom which was unlike the political kingdom they expected, the Jewish leaders rejected Him as they said to Pilate, "We have no king but Caesar". (Jn 19:15)
Despite the above historical position of the Jews, there has been for the past 30 years a movement called "For Jews For Jesus". It began in the campuses and streets of San Francisco Bay Area in the early 70s and has now become an international ministry. But, how can one be both a Jew and a Christian? The answer they give is a follows: "While Judaism might be the traditional religion for many Jewish people, Jews are still considered Jewish even though they might be atheists or even if they embrace other beliefs." (Please click: For Jews For Jesus to see doctrinal stand)
4. Christian Hope