[The following is the text for a message given to the UCG The Dalles congregation for Pentecost on May 31, 2020.]
Almost 3500 years ago, as the festival of Pentecost was approaching, the children of Israel, who had just been freed from slavery, found themselves in the area of Mount Sinai in the deserts of Midian. God had freed them from slavery, but what He had freed them for was not yet obvious to them. The first nine verses of Exodus 19 provide God’s purpose for Israel, a purpose that was far more wonderful than they could understand. Exodus 19:1-9 reads: “In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai. For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Israel camped there before the mountain. And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and howI bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the Lord commanded him. Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” So Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever.” So Moses told the words of the people to the Lord.
How did the Israelites feel about being made into a holy nation and having God speak directly to them about the obligations they had put on themselves? Let us read the answer in Exodus 20:18-21. When God proposed marriage to Israel so that they could be His holy nation, Israel’s response was fear and terror. Exodus 20:18-21 reads: “Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.” Instead of enjoying being a privileged and special nation, Israel shrank away and wanted God to keep His distance, and so He did.
Let me ask you a series of questions, to which I would like you to give me verbal answers. Do you think the Israelites understood what it took to be a holy nation? Did the Isrealites trust God and Moses? Have we, as believers in the New Covenant, been given the same sorts of promises of being a holy nation and a royal priesthood that ancient Israel was promised if they kept God’s covenant? If so, where? What does it take to become a holy nation? Do you know? These questions may seem a bit aggressive and a bit pointed, but it is precisely these questions that we will answer today because they help us to understand the common thread that connects Pentecost as it appears throughout the entire Bible and as it relates to our own lives as believers as well as to the holy nation in which we are citizens if we follow God’s ways and keep His covenant. After all, we may note from this passage that God makes the identity of Israel as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation conditional upon their obedience to God’s laws and to their keeping of His covenant. And the same is true for us today. After all, let us read 1 Peter 2:9-17, which tells us the sort of way that we are to live our lives as part of God’s kingdom of priests and holy nation. 1 Peter 2:9-17 tells us: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king“
Is this easy to do? Is it easy to live good lives and to give honor to flawed and fallible human beings who we may rightly suspect as abusing their authority as servants of God? Is it easy to silence the criticism and hostility that others show to us by godly conduct and lives of restraint? No, none of this is easy at all. But that is what we are called to do. Being citizens of the Kingdom of God means being foreigners and exiles to the corrupt realms of this fallen earth. But we are commanded to honor and respect authorities even though they are flawed, so that we may develop the strength of character that it takes to follow God and to trust in His loving care for us, so that we can become transformed from rebellious human beings into God’s children, beings in His image, who have been trained through discipline and obedience to rule over the universe that God has created as kings and priests in the world to come. Obedience and trust have always been required to be a part of God’s holy nation, from the beginning to the end.
What laws deal specifically with the festival of Pentecost? The most obvious such example can be found in Leviticus 23:15-22: “ ‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.’ ”“
Much symbolic importance has been placed in the fact that the two loaves that serve as a wave offering made of the firstfruits have leavening in them. We are imperfect as believers, and the yeast is certainly symbolic of that fact. There are, to be sure, other symbolic aspects of this law as well. The fact that there are two loaves strongly suggests that one loaf relates to the people of Israel who had been brought out of slavery to become God’s holy nation and royal priesthood, and the other relates to the Gentiles who have been grafted into the nation of Israel as part of His holy nation and royal priesthood as well and who have been delivered from slavery to sin. Regardless of our own particular and personal story, we all leave behind our background when we come into the holy nation of God. One of the main reasons why Israel had such a difficult time in the wilderness was because of the difficulty that Israel had in leaving Egypt behind and in truly becoming the free men and women of God’s nation that He was seeking to form them into. We should note as well that the last part of the law relating to the Feast of Pentecost reminds Israel to leave the edges and gleanings of the harvest for the poor and the stranger, so that those outsiders may be able to provide themselves with a living through the generosity of the people of Israel. Do you know where in the Bible these two concerns are related? Where does the Bible let us know that leaving one’s nation and claiming a new identity as part of Israel and gleaning are connected to becoming a part of God’s holy nation?
Let us turn to the Book of Ruth. In this short book, which takes place during the time between Passover and Pentecost, we see these twin concerns of the law of Leviticus 23 as it relates to Pentecost in action. First, we see Ruth make a firm commitment to leave behind her identity as a Moabite woman and to take upon herself the identity of an Israelite widow of the tribe of Judah and as a follower of the covenant of God. Ruth 1:15-17 tells us commitment to God’s ways very openly. Ruth 1:15-17 reads: “And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said:“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried.The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.”” This commitment was an absolute one, as Ruth refused to go back to the way of life she had known before in Moab. She was committed to following God even as a destitute widow and as a foreigner among God’s people, a very vulnerable place to be.
And it is not long after that when Ruth finds herself gleaning in the fields of Boaz, a near-relative of her husband’s family. Boaz himself fulfills the command of Leviticus 23:22 very generously, as we read in Ruth 2:8-13. Ruth 2:8-13 tells us: “Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.” So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” Then she said, “Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.””
And what happened to Ruth and Boaz as a result of Ruth’s commitment to following God and leaving behind her people and her previous identity as a Moabite woman and an idolater and Boaz’s commitment to following God by showing generosity to a poor foreign woman? Naturally, the two got married, and both of them ended up securely a part of God’s holy nation and royal priesthood, essential parts of the line connecting the tribe of Judah with first the kingly line of David, and eventually the royal and priestly Jesus Christ. We see, indeed, that this connection of Ruth and Boaz to the royal line of Judah is given at the very end of Ruth, in Ruth 4:13-22. Ruth 4:13-22 reads: “So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now this is the genealogy of Perez: Perez begot Hezron; Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab; Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon; Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed; Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David.”
As we have briefly seen, the themes of Pentecost about forming a holy nation and bringing strangers and outsiders into this royal priesthood and in taking those who are isolated and alone and making them part of a larger family and a larger people are woven into the book of Ruth so that we can see these themes as part of the key aspects of the Book of Ruth. It is little surprise that many Jews and Christians read the book of Ruth for the Feast of Weeks given the rich meaning that this book has regarding the themes of the festival as a whole. The book of Ruth is not alone in tying together the joining of Gentile women into Israel as part of the royal line of God, under the condition that they leave their identity behind and follow God’s ways and worship Him loyally and faithfully. We find the same duty to leave behind one’s heathen identity and to take up a new identity as being part of the holy nation of Israel in Psalm 45:10-17. Psalm 45:10-17 reads: “Listen, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your own people also, and your father’s house; so the King will greatly desire your beauty; because He is your Lord, worship Him. And the daughter of Tyre will come with a gift; the rich among the people will seek your favor. The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace; her clothing is woven with gold. She shall be brought to the King in robes of many colors; the virgins, her companions who follow her, shall be brought to You. With gladness and rejoicing they shall be brought; they shall enter the King’s palace. Instead of Your fathers shall be Your sons whom You shall make princes in all the earth. I will make Your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore the people shall praise You forever and ever.”” Those who leave behind their nation and people and become part of the holy nation of God will be remembered as Ruth is, for all time, and those who take part in the wedding supper of Christ will be made princes in all the earth. The promises that we seek as believers were given to those who believed in ancient times, because God does not change but maintains the same promises yesterday, today, and forever.
How have we seen God create a holy nation so far? With ancient Israel, God delivered them from slavery and brought them to Mount Sinai to give them His laws and to open up a relationship with them as their God. Israel was not willing to have a personal relationship with Him, though, and so their relationship with God remained distant, as it has been to this day. As we have seen as well, God has brought believers individually into his holy nation as a result of their conversion to God’s ways and their abandonment of their previous identities that separated them from God. To be a part of the holy nation of God, one must become a part of Israel. What is it that separates those faithful believers like Ruth who entered into the holy nation and royal priesthood of God through their belief and the great mass of Israelites who remained distant from Him? We find the answer given in different ways in several parts of the Bible. First, let us look at Deuteronomy 5:28-31. Deuteronomy 5:28-31 tells us: ““Then the Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me: ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever! Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” But as for you, stand here by Me, and I will speak to you all the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I am giving them to possess.’”
How do you think God will solve a heart problem like the people of Israel had? If someone does not have the heart to follow God and keep His commandments, what is the ultimate solution to such a problem? Let us find out in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Jeremiah 31:31-34 tells us the response of God to the failings that ancient Israel had. It reads: ““Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”” The obvious solution for the problem of Israel lacking the heart to follow God is to be given a new heart and to have God’s law written upon that heart. And it is precisely this which is repeated in Hebrews 8:7-8 when the author of Hebrews discusses the new covenant. Hebrews 8:7-8 reads: “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”
God’s desire to create a holy nation has remained constant throughout human history. And the terms of belonging to that holy nation have never changed either. From the beginning, it was insufficient to simply have God’s laws and to voice one’s assent that one will keep them. More is required. How does God write His laws on our hearts and in our minds, and how does He give us the heart it takes to obey Him and follow Him? How is God going to take believers from a wide variety of different backgrounds and to bring them together as one people and one nation obedient to Him? Let us turn to what is the most familiar Pentecost scripture to many of us, and that is Acts 2, the account of the first Pentecost after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Let us begin by looking at Acts 2:1-12. We begin with an account of the miracle of God sending His Holy Spirit to a diverse group of people. Acts 2:1-2 reads: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?””
This diverse people is being given the opportunity to enter into God’s holy nation. How is this to be done? They are to be given God’s Holy Spirit, and a sign of that gift is the way that the languages that have hitherto divided them from each other are to be clearly understood so that they no longer serve to divide God’s people from each other. Recognizing the unity that results from being part of a common godly people, Peter stands up and quotes Joel 2:28-29. Joel 2:28-29, not surprisingly, gives a prophetic picture of the fulfillment of the hopes of godly believers that God’s Spirit would be widely spread to a holy nation. It reads: ““And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” In this discussion of those who are given the Holy Spirit, no one is left out. Sons and daughters alike are given the Holy Spirit to prophecy. The old and the young are both granted divine insight and connection with each other and with God. And it is not only some elites that are given this, but also menservants and maidservants. The creation of a holy nation that was inaugurated in Acts 2 was the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy. And we see that those who were converted were made aware of the greatness of this promise.
Let us return to Acts 2. Towards the end of this chapter we see that the promise of God’s calling and the blessing of His Holy Spirit is not limited to those who are converted themselves but continues far beyond them. Acts 2:38-39 tells us: “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”” Just as the creation of a holy nation used marriage in the Hebrew scriptures as a way of drawing people to God, so too the creation of a holy nation involves the raising up of children in God’s ways who also are to receive the blessings and the identity of God’s children and citizens of the kingdom of heaven through accepting the call that they have been given.
Paul was very aware of the importance of these promises. Speaking of the way that we enter into the holy nation of God, Paul speaks deeply about this subject in the book of Romans. Let us look first at Romans 8:12-17, which talks explicitly about the role of the Holy Spirit in making us a part of the holy nation of God. Romans 8:12-17 tells us: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Just as was the case in ancient Israel, to be a part of the holy nation of God one has to be obedient to God, but here as well, just as was the case for the Israel of old, we have been set free from bondage to sin to live according to God’s laws and ways. And unlike them, through His spirit we are not given a spirit of bondage to fear, but the adoption that leads us to call out to God as a Father and draw near to him rather than shrink away in terror.
And are those who are called into God’s Church to remain as outsiders to Israel? Not at all. Paul speaks clearly that they are to be grafted into Israel, to leave behind their backgrounds that have alienated them from God and to be part of His people. Let us continue in Romans, and look at what Paul has to say about the grafting in of the Gentiles into God’s holy nation in Romans 11:13-26. We read in Romans 11:13-26 the following: “For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved.”
Ultimately there is only one holy nation that God is creating from all of his believers throughout the entirety of human history. How is this holy nation to see itself in having been converted to a belief and practice in God’s ways? We read of this in Ephesians 4:1-7. Ephesians 4:1-7 tells us: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” We are given diverse gifts and talents and abilities, but we are all one, told to follow God and live in obedience as well as gentleness and patience with each other, to preserve the unity that we all have together as brothers and sisters in Christ and as children of our Heavenly Father.
The unity that results from being given one Spirit through one baptism and joined together with other believers as part of one people is something that Paul emphasizes over and over again. We live in a world that focuses all too much on how people can be divided based on their differences. We pit rich against poor. We pit strangers and foreigners against the native-born. We pit people of one ethnicity and tribal identity against others. We pit the old and the young against each other. We pit men and women against each other. This is how our enemy operates, seeking to destroy the unity that we can find in our families, in our communities, in our churches, and in our societies against each other by inflaming hostility based upon the differences that can be found between some of us and others among us. But this is not God’s way. As Paul reminds us in Galatians 3:26-29, the promises that we are given are to unite us all. In Galatians 3:26-29, we read: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Regardless of what we bring with us, regardless of what human identity groups we belong to as a result of the accidents of birth, if we follow God and if we belong to His people, we are all heirs in common of the blessings and promises that have been made by God to His people throughout the scriptures.
From all that we have discussed, we have seen how God creates a holy people, bit by bit, from a diverse and complex group of believers through a variety of ways. Ultimately, to be a part of God’s holy nation one has to be led by His spirit in obedience to His laws and His ways. These requirements have remained constant throughout history. And equally constant is the way that becoming a part of His holy nation has involved leaving behind one’s identity as being part of other nations. Being a citizen of the kingdom of God makes us exiles and strangers and outsiders to the nations of this earth who live in rebellion against God. And just as the heathen rulers of this present evil age rule by dividing and conquering and pitting people against each other, the holy nation of God is to be marked by the unity that exists within the diversity of those who are called by God. This unity and this diversity among God’s believers is something that has always been. It is not something that only exists in the New Testament church.
Let us turn to one final scripture, to Psalm 87, and read what it has to say about the unity that exists among believers who are all counted to be citizens of the holy city of Jerusalem. Psalm 87 in its entirety reads: “His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of you, o city of God! Selah “I will make mention of [a]Rahab and Babylon to those who know Me; behold, O Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia: ‘This one was born there.’ ” And of Zion it will be said, “This one and that one were born in her; and the Most High Himself shall establish her.” The Lord will record, when He registers the peoples: “This one was born there.” Selah Both the singers and the players on instruments say, “All my springs are in you.”” All of those who are called to believe in God’s ways and to follow His laws and to walk in His spirit are to be counted together as citizens of His holy nation with birthplaces in His holy city, to be counted as joint heirs with Christ regardless of what human identities we have known and how we are judged and seen by other people. Do we live in such a way that we respect and treat others as our brethren regardless of the factors of identity which so frequently divide us in this life? Do we look down on others because we are male and they are female or vice versa, or because we are young and they are old or vice versa, or because we are rich and they are poor or vice versa, or because we come from one background they come from another or vice versa? If we do, that is something we need to overcome so that we can enter into God’s kingdom as part of His holy nation. For I trust we all want to be citizens of God’s holy nation when it is revealed.