Thursday, April 18, 2013

Four Hundred Ninety Years (part 2 of 2)

However, the historical narrative of Scripture, as carried forward from the Hebrew Scriptures into the Gospels, tells a story in which the covenant God was in complete control and quite faithful to His promises.  When the four hundred ninety years were fully complete, as the Creator God saw it, then His covenant people would have their King.  They would have the shepherd to whom the prophet Zechariah pointed.

Interestingly enough, this was not the first time that the Creator God’s people had waited four hundred ninety years for their King.  This was not the first time that, though they were in their promised land, they were not autonomous.  It would not only have been in Nehemiah’s day that the people could have said of their land, “Its abundant produce goes to the kings you have placed over us due to our sins…and we are in great distress!”  This was not the first time that the people could have said “today we are slaves,” as they looked forward to a King, and a shepherd to lead them. 

In the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul makes a speech in which he says that “The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay as foreigners in the country of Egypt (ruled by a foreign power), and with uplifted arm He led them out of it.  For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness.  After He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He gave His people their land as an inheritance” (13:17-19). 

For Paul and others, this could easily be made to correspond to the history of the remnants of Judah (the families of those that had been exiled to Babylon) returning under God’s direction, from Babylon to Jerusalem, to rebuild the Temple in their land.  What does Paul add to this?  He says, “All this took about four hundred fifty years” (13:20a).  Four hundred fifty years is not quite four hundred ninety years, but one must continue so as to get the full effect, the revelation of the mindset of the earliest believers, and the connection to Jesus. 

According to Luke, Paul goes on to say  “After this He gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet” (13:20b), in which the Creator God’s people would be ruled by an alternating series of foreign powers, which would be not at all unlike the period of time from Daniel to Jesus (as the land and the people were ruled by an alternating series of foreign powers).  Continuing, the Apostle offers the reminder that “Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years” (13:20c-21). 

Four hundred fifty years, plus forty years, is four hundred ninety years.  What happened next?  “After removing him, God raised up David their king.  He testified about him: ‘I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after My heart, who will accomplish everything I want him to do’.” (13:22)  According to the popular narrative, David was the first shepherd-king of the Creator God’s people.  Paul, fully aware of the importance of the four hundred ninety years of Daniel and its presentation of the coming of the messiah (the Son of David---a royal term packed with significance), constructs a narrative in which David himself is given to Israel after a period of four hundred ninety years.  Upon doing that, Paul immediately turns his thoughts to Jesus the Messiah, saying that “From the descendants of this man God brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, just as He promised” (13:23).  It is likely that Jesus, in Paul’s was of thinking, was the greater Shepherd-King.      

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