Saturday, August 11, 2012

Isaac's Life Of Exodus (part 5 of 6)

Not only did Isaac re-open the wells (sources of water and therefore life in a desert environment---crucial for Israel’s wilderness experience) that were dug by his father, “Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well with fresh flowing water there” (Genesis 26:19).  This became yet another point of contention (just as water was a point of contention for Israel and Moses), “the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, ‘The water belongs to us!’” (26:20a)  Rather than going to war over the well, “His servants dug another well, but they quarreled over it too” (26:21a).  With this, and though it does not appear that there is a strong analogy to be drawn, are we wrong to think about the multiple times in which Israel complained about water (or the lack thereof) following their exodus?  Israel, in a sense, struggled with their trust in God (quarreling with Him if you will) when it came to water in the desert.  Again, rather than go to war with these people, “he moved away from there and dug another well.  They did not quarrel over it” (26:22a).  Isaac responded to this lack of tension by positing that “now the Lord has made room for us, and we will prosper in the land” (26:22c).  This is the attitude that would later be taken up by Israel when it came time to enter in to that which had been long promised to them.  Yet again, this incident from the life of Isaac is a re-enactment of a scene from the life of Abraham. 

Do all of these repetitions indicate that these stories are not true?  Though we must be prepared to admit that such may be the case, that is not a necessary (or even necessarily reasonable) conclusion to be drawn, especially considering the widely held and relatively easily observable axiom that history can be observed to be cyclical.  Beyond that, and most importantly, if we take this Book as the self-revelation of a covenant God that has a plan and purpose for the world that He created, then the repetitions and similarities (whether precisely factual in every detail or not) can be understood as that God going to great lengths to reveal Himself and His nature, so that we might be able to understand Him and thereby understand what it is that He desires from His image-bearing creations.  If Jesus is the embodiment of that same God, then the repetitions to be found in the very same Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus clearly accepts as authoritative and deterministic within His life and mission, are highly instructive in our attempts to comprehend Jesus as well. 

Of course, the weight that Jesus gives to these repetitive stories, and the fact that He takes the Hebrews Scriptures with seriousness and reverence, attaching His identity to the history presented therein, is reason for a high degree of confidence in their relative (generally if not in precise detail) historical accuracy.  Of course, it is the Resurrection of Jesus (as the exclamation point on a variety of reasons related to Jesus) that causes us to put stock in Jesus’ position towards these Scriptures and their stories, which happily returns us to the foundation of the Christian faith (which is a return trip that we should make quite often).  That foundation of the faith, which the Apostle Paul will say is the basis for all of our hope, and therefore all that we do and think as we function in this world as revelations of the covenant faithfulness of God who point towards a resurrection to come, is itself a grand tale of exile and exodus inside the even grander tale of exile and exodus. 

As we have been looking at the life of Isaac, is it not of interest to note that the examination of the events of his life continually point us backwards to Abraham and forward to Israel?  When we consider the Abraham and Isaac relationship of father to son, and the fact that God tells Abraham that it would be through his son that he would have a multitude of descendants (with specific reference to Israel), we should not be surprised at this occurrence.  We also note that this is the case even though the story of Isaac takes up a relatively small amount of Scripture when compared to Abraham and Israel.  So yes, even though we are looking at Isaac, we have spent more time looking at and considering Abraham, and from that we have been making applications to Israel. 

For purposes of narrative symmetry within the recorded history of Israel, this can also be said of David and Solomon.  Even though Solomon takes up a small amount of Scripture in comparison to his father, looking at Solomon’s life will cause us to learn even more about David.  In addition to that, Solomon’s life and reign, and the idolatry into which he falls, will be highly determinative for Israel’s subsequent history.  So just as Isaac’s life can shed light on Israel itself, the events of Solomon’s reign are foundational for the life of the divided kingdom of Israel that followed.  As for Isaac and Solomon, so too for Jesus.  The story of Jesus takes up a small portion of the Bible---quite small if we consider that the Gospels provide multiple tellings of one story.  Yet it is in examining and unpacking the life of Jesus that we are constantly pointed to God (like Isaac to Abraham and Solomon to David), and by which we comprehend the history of Jesus’ Israel to come, which would be His church (multitude of descendants).  So the repetition occurs at the level of history and in the overall narrative sense that is conveyed by the Scriptures.     

No comments:

Post a Comment