Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Being Drawn to the Old Testament Part 2

As I concluded chapter 1 of Goldingay's weighty book, I was struck by these words.
“The Old Testament tells us who God is and who we are through the ongoing story of God’s relationship with Israel” (30).

“The specific OT story is of unique and decisive importance for the whole world, not least because it is the story that leads up to Jesus” (31)

This last quote was frustrating for me at first. Why is the OT story of unique and decisive important for the whole world? What does the story of a seemingly insignificant nation from the Ancient Near East have to do with us in 21st Century Northern Illinois? The answer, I think, is found in the first quote. The account of Yahweh's dealings with Israel in the OT tells us who God is and who we are. It seems clear from the NT and from Christian Theology that Israel has a revelatory purpose in God's plan. As the nations look at Israel, they learn how to understand God and they also look into a mirror. The story of Israel describes for us our condition when we are born into this broken world. As broken image-bearers we are born in "Egypt" under the wicked task-masters, sin, death, and Satan. We are born in exile, unable to serve and worship our Creator. Our need is Exodus. We must be graciously and miraculously redeemed out of Egypt by the mighty hand of God through the death of his "firstborn" Son. We need to learn how to pray for our daily bread in the wilderness while we wait for God to defeat our remaining enemies and give us the Promised Land. Indeed, the story of Israel is of unique and decisive importance because it tells us who God is and who we are.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Being Drawn to the Old Testament

Through a variety of recent circumstances my interest in Old Testament has been enhanced. One of these circumstances has been our community's exploration of God's Vision for a Local Church. Out of our desire to be faithful to the canonical text, I decided to spend significant time investigating God's intention for Old Testament Israel. One of the "thematic" verses to which we were drawn was Exodus 19.5-6
Now then, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (NASB).
The words of Yahweh that seemed especially critical to our study were, " shall be to me a kingdom of priests..." What does this mean for Israel and God's plan for her as a nation? Did Israel ever fulfill her calling? Furthermore, what does God's plan for Israel have to do with a local church in Northern Illinois? These are complex questions that ought to be taken seriously. We don’t want to appeal for authority to the OT in a way the compromises the authority of the entire Canonical Story. This complexity drove me to Amazon to purchase two recommended OT Theology volumes by John Goldingay of Fuller Seminary: (1) Israel’s Gospel and (2) Israel’s Faith. My desire is to grasp with confidence how the Story of Israel in the OT can contribute to the community life of our church. I was not disappointed as I read the introduction. These words from volume 1 especially made me smile.
In principle I am not interested in OT theology as a merely theoretical discipline. I am interested in it because I have found that the OT has a capacity to speak with illumination and power to the lives of communities and individuals (18).
My reading will be driven by a prayerful desire to learn how the OT does speak with power and authority and illumination to a local church in Northern Illinois. Perhaps this is one means by which Israel functions as a priestly kingdom. Maybe her story in the OT functions as a revelatory sacrifice offered on behalf of the nations. May we as a church learn what God has for us contained within her offering. So here's a question for you to ponder. What authority does the OT Story of Israel exercise in your life? By the way, Scot McKnight is also blogging through these 2 volumes. His insights will far outweigh mine!