El Shaddai’s land is coming, and the people are moving that way. They enter the land, El Shaddai making it absolutely clear that it wasn’t through their power but through his. But they don’t follow the clear commandment from El Shaddai - they lose their identity, following other gods. They are in El Shaddai’s place, but no longer El Shaddai’s people or under El Shaddai’s rule. Again, perfection delayed.
But El Shaddai shows mercy, as always. Every time the people cry out, El Shaddai is there to rescue them. They are imprisoned and overrun, and El Shaddai raises up a rescuer.
It’s beginning to get difficult to not fall in love with this El Shaddai guy.
This period is known as the period of the judges – because the leaders that El Shaddai raised up were given the power to judge and discern and, sometimes, deliver. But El Shaddai has dreams for them, dreams to turn them into a prosperous nation under his rule. And a king can be a part of that, but only if a king is done right. A king must still be under El Shaddai’s rule, not their own. But when El Shaddai’s people cry out for a king it’s not out of the same motivation. It is because they want to be their own people, they want to be like the other nations, they want to distance themselves from El Shaddai’s kingship.
And El Shaddai gives them what they ask for: a king. They are El Shaddai’s people in El Shaddai’s land, but not under El Shaddai’s rule. The nation is growing, it is prosperous. El Shaddai is still blessing them. They begin with kings that expand their territory: Saul, David, and Solomon. The latter two seem to be the best kings: they do what they can to be under El Shaddai’s rule. And it is now that we are almost there.
Under Solomon, they are El Shaddai’s people, in El Shaddai’s land, under El Shaddai’s rule, experiencing blessings. They experience peace and prosperity. Since the beginning of the story, the world has not looked like this. They get to experience a taste of heaven on Earth.
But it is short-lived. This perfection does not expand to the entire earth – nor does it last. It crumbles much quicker than it was built, when Solomon abandons El Shaddai for the gods of other nations. The nations are in turmoil after his reign.
The South unites around his son, but the North revolts. The nation is split. They are not a united people anymore, and they throw away El Shaddai’s rule. Everything crumbles. The blessings disappear. King after King takes the throne, only to be usurped or to die making no progress. Two hundred years pass, two hundred years in which El Shaddai watches, calling them repeatedly back to obedience. They listen – sometimes – but sometimes completely ignore him. They have wandered far from the garden of their ancestors.
At the end of the two hundred years the nations are overrun by enemies. El Shaddai’s people are killed or captured, enslaved and living away from home. From this landscape of emotions come many of the prophets, admonishing the people to return to faith in El Shaddai, knowing that there is hope to come.
An image that begins to creep up is one that has been running in the undercurrents of history: the earth, restored. The world, re-created. The creation, renewed. Visions of mountains, temples, and El Shaddai living among them. Hope for a world that is fallen and slain. Hope for a glorious future in which the land will be repaired and they will live – not off in the heavens, but here on an Earth that is new.
There is a reprieve in this tragedy – some of them are granted permission to return home. The young ones believe that this is what the prophets promised – they are back in El Shaddai’s land, rebuilding the temple. But the old ones know the truth – the temple they are rebuilding is nothing compared to Solomon’s temple, never mind the one that the prophets foresaw.
And so we wait. We wait. El Shaddai watches, waiting. His people are hurting. They are scattered. They are not in his place. They are not under his rule. And so we wait. Some gave up hope.