“Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John…And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God.” – Luke 1:13, 16 NLT
The Israelites were God’s chosen people. They were the ones who had received the covenant. They were the ones who had received the law. They were the ones for whom all God’s promises had been made.
Yet, the angel Gabriel says that John would “turn many Israelites to their God.” That implies that many Israelites were walking away from their God. How could a people, raised in such a God-soaked culture, turn away from the living God?
There are two reasons. First, God was the birthright of the Israelites. That sounds like a good thing, but when God is the default, no one really pursues Him. Culture turns Him into an abstract concept.
Second, the “godly” aren’t very godly. The most famous God-followers of the day would simultaneously curse their Roman occupiers and work cooperatively with them for profit and greater power. They would steal from widows and elder parents, while hoarding wealth for themselves. They would heap guilt upon others while ignoring their own failing.
Sadly, both of those conditions are alive and well in our culture today. We are quick to align God with our country (and/or political party), and weekly we see yet another example of a high-profile religious leader encounter moral or ethical failure.
Still, God sends you and I to turn “many Israelites” to the Lord their God. Who are the Israelites that God has placed around you to reach?
Holy Spirit, give me the opportunity to turn someone to you today. Amen.