Thursday, November 14, 2013

In This Is Love (part 6)

These three men (Abraham, Isaac & Jacob), and even their nephews and brothers (Lot, Ishmael & Esau), who also benefited greatly and were apparently able to amass fortunes of their own, would only be able to point to the covenant of the Creator God as the source of blessing.  Thus, they would be that blessing to the world, causing men to turn their eyes to that God and away from idols, and in so doing diminish the power of the work of the devil, which seems to have always been (since Adam) to get men to worship and honor that which is not actually God. 

That said, it is now possible to turn attention specifically to Israel, the son of God, and another revelation of the Creator God’s love.  Is Israel rightfully considered to be the son of God?  Not only did Israel largely think of themselves in that way, thus undoubtedly causing the author of the Johannine letters to operate within this cultural and mental framework, but the whole of the Bible is infused with the idea of Israel as the son of God. 

This idea takes shape, unsurprisingly, within the book of Exodus.  It does so “unsurprisingly” because the story of the Egyptian experience and the exodus is the single most defining story of Israel’s history.  It is the exodus and the associated fulfillment of long-held expectations associated with that exodus that gave them their identity as a nation, and it is that to which they were constantly looking back, with regularity, to understand the various situations in which they would find themselves and to properly understand their God and His dealings with them. 

In the fourth chapter of Exodus, the Creator God is said to have personally instructed Moses to go to the Egyptian Pharaoh and tell him, on behalf of his God, that “Israel is My son, My firstborn… Let My son go that he may serve Me” (4:22b,23b).  Of course, there are numerous other examples littered throughout the divine record, but the example of Exodus will suffice because the portrayal of Israel is suffused with this understanding that is rooted in their experience of exodus no matter where one were to look, be it the Hebrew histories, poets, or prophets. 

Consequently, this self-understanding bleeds through to the Gospels, into Acts, and into the letters of the New Testament, which means that the whole of the Bible, with all of it written in the wake of Israel’s understanding of their being chosen out as the covenant people of God, is written within the context of Israel, the covenant people, understood as the son of God.  One must not fail to understand that the concept of covenant people as God’s children, with that as the basis for mission, is a paradigmatic construct of Scripture. 

If all of this is the case (and it would seem to be clear that it is), then Israel had been given the task of destroying the works of the devil.  This will be in response to the love and grace that their God has shown to them in bringing them into covenant with Him, and the associated response will result in showing forth their God’s love for the world (which is thematic for the Johannine writer).  Israel would be initially charged with taking possession of the land that had been promised to them through Abraham, and to do so through the extermination of the peoples that occupied the land (the record of which is loaded with hyperbole, and which they would never accomplish). 

When considered within the covenantal narrative, this would appear to be a strikingly overt call to destroy that which represented the works of the devil, along with that which defiled and defaced the land that their God had given to His son, His firstborn.  Putting aside the call for extermination, this serves as something of a microcosm of what the Creator God intended for the whole of the creation.   

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