Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hated (part 5)

This study then returns to what Jesus said in the thirteenth chapter of Mark (and elsewhere): “You will be hated by everyone because of My name.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (13:13).  It is appropriate to key in on the second part of that statement, in which Jesus speaks of enduring to the end and being saved.  This use of “saved” links Jesus’ words to Israel’s Egyptian exodus, as again, “salvation” expressions, for Israel, speak of their God’s rescue from enemies or their deliverance from oppressors. 

Though it can be easily missed by the modern reader, such language would be easily picked up on by His hearers.  It would have been readily discerned by the majority of first century readers of the Gospels, as they would also have been steeped in Israel’s history.  When that is understood, and once one picks up on the exodus context for the hatred of which Jesus speaks, while at the same time discarding the idea that Jesus is talking about some ethereal, other-worldly notion of a paradise somewhere off in the sky to be enjoyed after death (a thoroughly un-Jewish notion) when He speaks of being saved, readers will find themselves better positioned to identify the reason for the hate. 

So why in the world is this connected to Israel’s exodus?  What is the reason that the Creator God gives for rescuing Israel (His covenant people through Abraham) from their Egyptian bondage?  Essentially, it is the same reason He gives for rescuing the church (His covenant people through Jesus) from their bondage?  The answer is to be found in Deuteronomy, where one finds Moses’ report that “It is not because you were more numerous than all the other peoples that the Lord favored and chose you---for in fact you were the least numerous of all peoples.  Rather it is because of His love for you and His faithfulness to the promises He solemnly vowed to your ancestors that the Lord brought you out with great power, redeeming you from the place of slavery” (7:7-8)  Just before this, Moses reminds Israel that they “are a people holy to the Lord” (7:6a), and says that “He has chosen you to be His people, prized above all others on the face of the earth” (7:6b). 

One of the Psalmists picks up on this, making it possible to catch yet another glimpse of that historical self-understanding out of and into which Jesus spoke, when the Psalmist writes (in reference to Israel in Egypt): “The Lord made His people very fruitful, and made them more numerous than their enemies.  He caused them to hate His people, and to mistreat His servants” (105:24-25).  This should provide pause to consider a question that is never asked, which is “what was Israel doing for Egypt when their God made them fruitful in that land?”  Were they being a blessing as Abraham had understood to have been?  What was it that caused Egypt to turn against Israel and to hate the covenant people of the Creator God?  Were they serving those people well by sharing their God’s blessings and revealing their God to them, or were they hoarding the blessing? 

That goes to the question of why the Abrahamic covenant existed.  Presumably, it existed so that Abraham could exemplify divine blessing (as indicated in Genesis), so that his God could be recognized and glorified as the Creator God of the cosmos.  This is the covenant under which Israel went into Egypt, and it is also the covenant that comes to be fulfilled by Jesus through His church, with the message of the Gospel (Jesus is Lord) as the mark of that covenant.  

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