The king didn’t force the family to do what they weren’t ready to do. Instead of pushing his chosen people across the river and through the deep valley that lay between them and their promised land, he put them into a holding pattern. For 40 years he provided for them in a barren, hot, and windswept land. In his shadow, they wandered like a flock of sheep until the generation that didn’t want to enter the land lay buried in the desert sand.
Then, once again, the king asked his family to follow him across the river. When they arrived at the water’s edge, the valley was swollen with spring floodwaters. Even though they were now close enough to see the hills of their future home across the valley, it was clear that anyone who ventured out into those rushing waters would be swept away. At the threshold of their new home, the king showed his people they could trust him. Just as he had once parted the waters to rescue them from the prince of the south, the king held back the waters to remind the family of his ability to lead and provide for them. By the king’s power, the whole family walked to their new homeland on dry ground.
Yet, across the river, many of the old problems remained. There were still powerful warlords to be faced. The houses the king promised were already occupied, and the present owners were ready to fight to protect their property. The king, however, was determined to evict the present occupants. According to him, they were living on his land, ruining the environment, harming one another, and refusing to acknowledge him as king. The days that followed were some of the best the family had ever known. Even though the king asked them to fight for their new homes, he showed them his ability to assure the outcome. In powerful ways the children could not have anticipated, he gave them houses they did not build and harvests of crops they didn’t plant. The king’s plan was unfolding. His people were now in a position to help the neighbors see what the great king could do for anyone who would trust him.
The family’s new home offered more than a good quality of life. It also offered a strategic location from which to spread the king’s vision. He placed them on a landbridge between three continents. The new homeland’s western border lay on the shores of a great sea. Its main roads were some of the most important commercial and military routes in the whole region. News of events that happened in the homeland quickly traveled along these trade routes in all directions of the compass.
In this new neighborhood, the king taught the family to remember him in everything they did. He taught them to work hard and to rest on every seventh day. He showed them how to trust him for the early and later rains that were so necessary for a good harvest. For many years, the king taught the family to depend on him as their provider and protector. During this period of family history, a pattern emerged. When the king’s citizens trusted him, asked for his help, and lived as he told them to, they enjoyed peace and protection from their neighbors. But when they forgot about the king, became a law to themselves, and did what was right in their own eyes, they eventually found themselves overrun by enemies and grieving the loss of fathers and sons.
A DESIRE TO BE LIKE THE NEIGHBORS
In spite of everything the king had done for his chosen family, they kept forgetting that he had done anything at all for them. During one such lapse of memory, the family made one of their worst mistakes. They asked the king to give them the kind of human leadership their neighbors had. The family did more than ask for a strong human leader. They dismissed the king’s warning that such a ruler would levy heavy taxes, use them to further his own ambitions, and draft their children into his armies to fight his wars.
But once again the king’s response to the family’s request showed his commitment to a free world. He gave his citizens what they asked for. He chose one of their own sons to wear the crown and even assured them that if they and their king remained faithful to him, he would continue to take care of them.
A POWER THAT CORRUPTED
The family’s mistake soon became apparent. Over time, even the best of their monarchs was corrupted by power. Good leaders went bad, and bad rulers got worse. Leaders, who could have used their influence to help the family remain true to the great king, instead exploited the throne to build monuments and memorials for themselves.
With the corruption of the kings, so went the people. Lawlessness and violence increased. The king’s vision for a free world, where everyone helped one another the way he cared for them, was ignored and forgotten.
A SERIES OF MESSENGERS
Even though the family forgot the king, he didn’t forget them. When they wandered from him, he called them back. Through messengers who spoke on his behalf, he pleaded with his people to remember what he was planning for them. He had not lost his vision for the future. Regardless of their reluctance to trust him, he was still planning to send a leader and a deliverer who would be known as “the great king among us.”
But the king’s people didn’t want to hear about “a future day.” They were looking for immediate relief. If the king wouldn’t help them on their terms, then they would look for other leaders who would. The king’s message remained the same. He would send his deliverer, and when the king himself lived among his people there would be peace on earth. People of every family and nation on earth would respect and care for one another. But because the family was focused on present pains and problems, the message fell on deaf ears. Family leaders used their power to silence the king’s messengers.
Eventually, the king’s patience was exhausted. If he didn’t intervene, more time would allow the family to multiply the violence and damage they were already inflicting on one another. So with a deep groan, the king took down the fences of protection he had built around them. With great sorrow, he allowed his citizens’ military defenses to be broken down by armies from the east. Sons of the family died in battle. Survivors of the family were stripped of dignity and driven out of their promised land. Many miles away, with the sounds of a foreign language in their ears, and with the weight of another king’s laws and decrees on their shoulders, the family wiped their tears.
After 70 years of exile, the family’s conquerors were defeated by another ruler. A new day dawned. Exiles of war were allowed to return to their homeland. As they returned, the king himself sent messengers to assure his people that he had never stopped caring for them. These messengers promised that the king still had a vision of peace and prosperity—not only for them but for all the families of the earth.
For a while, members of the family were filled with hope. They dreamed of a time when weapons would be recycled into farming tools. They remembered that the great king had talked of a day when even nature would be at peace with itself. In that day of rest, the wolf would no longer stalk the lamb.
But as time went on, the family’s heart once again grew cold. Memories faded. And then the voice of the great king went silent for 400 years. The hope of a new day seemed lost in a series of endless nights.