This series gives an inside view on the structure of By This Name and how it breaks through confusion in our diverse society, bringing clarity to the message of the gospel.
One unique theme used to great effect in By This Name is the concept of the “global classroom.” Highlighted in chapter seven (page 145), the global classroom is the idea that all the peoples of the world are students in a class and the teacher, Yahweh, chooses one among the class to help in his presentation. From all the possible nations on earth, Israel was chosen as the “example nation.” By watching how Yahweh interacts with the Israelites, the other peoples of the world can understand who Yahweh is and what he is like.
“Why Israel?” the reader may ask. “What makes that people group so special?”
The Bible provides the answer:
The Lord did not… choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you… (Deuteronomy 7:7–8 NKJV)
Why did God feel it necessary to pick a nation and work through that people to explain things about the world and himself?
Here are some things to consider:
1. Israel was a 3D, live-action, full-colour story, revealing who God is and how he relates to his people. In comparison to the surrounding nations, Israel related very differently to Yahweh. While other gods were considered to be vengeful and petty, Yahweh’s reputation was one of justice and mercy. To know more about Yahweh, the surrounding peoples had only to watch how he dealt with his people, Israel.
2. In a day and age of limited literacy, how was knowledge of Yahweh to spread? While God’s Word was painstakingly being written over many hundreds of years, the world could still gain a knowledge about God simply by watching his interactions with Israel. But was this effective?
Consider the reactions of the Canaanites when the migrating Israelites moved upon their borders. They had heard about Israelites’ miraculous escape from Egypt 40 years before. God had built a reputation through his interactions with Israel, and the Canaanites were terrified! When Rahab chose to hide the two Israelite spies, she did so because of what she already knew about the Hebrew God:
“I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.“ (Joshua 2:9–11 NIV)
Yahweh clearly had a reputation with the inhabitants of Jericho! His plan to reveal himself to the world through Israel was very effective!
In the same way, By This Name highlights Yahweh’s interactions with the nation of Israel through the concept of the global classroom. The reader can learn about what God is like through his special relationship with Israel. What does God mean by righteousness? What is God’s way of making a person acceptable in his eyes? How does God deal with a person’s sin? These questions are significant, not just for Israel, but for people everywhere. By learning how God responds to these questions for the nation of Israel, we learn how God deals with everyone.
The reader is reminded throughout the book that God’s desire is for all people, not just the Israelites, to know him. When we come to grips with the character of God through his dealings with Israel, we learn what we need to understand in order to come into a right relationship with him.
By This Name Insight Series
#1: Why use the name Yahweh?
#2: Why focus on Egyptian religion?
#3: Using tables to contrast God’s way and man’s way
#4: Why talk about other “gods”?
#5: How to identify the Promised Deliverer?
#6: Why deal with syncretism when sharing the gospel?
#7: Why talk about prophecy when sharing the gospel?
#8: Why use the concept of a global classroom?