Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Father Of Your Nation (part 1 of 2)

The father of your nation sinned… - Isaiah 43:27a  (NET)

When the Creator God tells Israel, through Isaiah, that the father of their nation sinned, He adds that “your spokesmen rebelled against Me” (43:27b).  Through this, He is expressing to them the reason for His judgment that has come upon them.  Now, who is the father of the nation by ancestry?  Specifically, that would be Jacob, and Isaac before him, with this lineage being traced back to Abraham, who was the recipient of a covenant with the Creator God and given the promise that he would be made into a great nation. 

So here, is the covenant God of Israel suggesting that Abraham has sinned?  Naturally, one can think of Abraham as a sinful man like any other man, but that is most likely not the referent.  Even though they certainly had their faults and flaws, it would probably not be appropriate to think of either Isaac or Jacob as the point of reference, though both certainly could be said to have “sinned” at a number of points.  So who is it that is the father of their nation?  Who is the one that sinned?  In all probability, based upon the Creator God’s dealings with His people that can be found throughout the historical books of the Hebrew Scriptures, the father in question, or more correctly, “fathers,” are most likely the kings of Israel and Judah. 

Throughout their history, as is indicated by the Scriptural narrative, the king (or even leaders or judges before the era of the kings) stood as the representative for the people.  They were the spokesmen for the Creator God’s people, in both word and deed.  They directed and reflected the national sentiment.  Looking through the history of Israel to find a classic example of this situation, one can find the excellent example of when King David ordered that a census that, tragically, did not include the taking up of an offering for the tabernacle (Exodus 30:12-16).  Even though it is he alone that is demonstrated to be at fault, it is the covenant people that suffer a plague until the point at which David makes an offering and buys the plot of land on which the Temple will eventually come to be built (thus effectively making an offering for the tabernacle).  Though it was their father that had sinned, it was the people that were forced to suffer. 

When the kingdom is divided into north (Israel) and south (Judah), the fortunes of the people are generally pegged to the righteousness (faithfulness to the Creator God and to His covenant requirements) or wickedness (unfaithfulness) of the king.  Their reported peace and prosperity waxes and wanes in accordance with the king’s reported disposition toward the Creator. Ultimately, as the historical records suggests, the north (Israel) would not have a single king that was said to have done what was right.  Naturally, this is a problematic situation for the covenant people.  As a result, Israel is conquered and the people are said to have been dispersed by Assyria, with this taking place in 722 B.C..  This happens fewer than three hundred years after King David.  The textual narrative makes the implication that the conquering is a result of the performance of the king---the father of the nation. 

The south (Judah), on the other hand, has a few kings that were said to have done what was right in the eyes of the Lord.  As a result of this, though conquering and destruction would eventually come at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 B.C., they were spared from the Assyrian conquering, having been given what proved to be a temporary reprieve from judgment.  The fate of Judah is said to have been sealed by the gross and intolerable idolatry of the king named Manasseh, who would reign over Judah for fifty-five years (more than any other king).  

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