Things Could be Better.
Do you ever look around and say, “Things could be better than this”? If you do, you’re in good company. God thinks the same thing. He not only thinks it, though, he promised they would be. Those promises are the beginning of the profound story of His Kingdom.
In the very beginning, things were better, far better than they are now. In fact, God said they were good, very good. Man and woman enjoyed perfect harmony with Him, with each other, and with the creation around them.
But then the Adversary deceived and tempted the humans, and they succumbed. Sin came into the world and death through sin. Satan’s power and kingdom grew. Shame arose, along with feeble attempts to cover it over. Brother killed brother. Lamech took two wives, killed a man, and clothed himself in a cloak of protective deception. People became exceedingly wicked, and the thoughts of their hearts were continually evil. Even the rare righteous man Noah got drunk. And the people of the earth sought to make a name for themselves by building a tower that reached into the heavens. We see all these same effects of sin in our own day, and if we’re honest, in our own lives. Things are good no more.
You could summarize the rest of the Old Testament as mankind going in their own sinful ways and suffering the consequences for doing so, followed by God intervening with mercy and help. Usually the people responded humbly and obediently for a short time afterward, but then all too soon they turned and repeated the process. Things definitely were not good.
Yet throughout the Old Testament, as this ugly cycle repeated itself, God promised that one day things would be better. He spoke of a time, then future, when there would be peace and joy. There would be deliverance, mercy, and forgiveness. People would fear God appropriately and obey him wholeheartedly. God would pour out his Spirit on all, and there would be righteousness and justice. God himself would bring these better days to pass by means of a chosen leader, usually called a ruler, shepherd, or servant. If you want to read a good example of such a promise, check out Isaiah 9:1-7.
The Old Testament contains many such promises of better days to come. There is some diversity in the passages, and some of them are hard to understand. It’s not always clear whether God meant for those days to come for Israel and/or Judah in their not-too-distant future or referred to a time much further away. What was always clear, however, is that times would be better, and that God was the one who would bring it all to pass, through his specially chosen leader. “The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7).
Sometimes the Old Testament used the word kingdom to describe the better time that was coming. For example, Daniel interprets the culmination of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue with these hopeful words, “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed…” (Daniel 2:44). By the first century, the word kingdom had become a favorite way for Jews to refer to this kingdom of righteousness, joy, and peace God had promised (Mark 15:43). Like us, they endured difficult times but yearned hopefully for better days to come.
It wouldn’t be long, then, until God fulfilled his promises. Better days lay just ahead for them, and what God was about to do gives us hope still today.
What would God do? And how would he do it? More next week.