Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Inspired Scripture (part 4 of 4)

Which brings this study to Ezekiel, and to a passage of Scripture that must be taken to be extraordinarily important for a right understanding of that which is contained in the letter to Timothy.  That passage, of course, is the thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel, and that which is referred to as the “valley of the dry bones.”  The words of Ezekiel were spoken to a people in exile, who were looking for a return to their promised land. 

They were spoken to a people that were expecting another exodus from their world that was marked by chaos (much like can be seen when the Creator God speaks in the creation account of Genesis).  These words were held out in hope to a people in a hopeless situation, that their God would act on behalf of His people and through His people to establish His kingdom.  They spoke of a man, a people, a being, that would be raised up from out of that chaos, and inspired (God-breathed) to carry out the Creator God’s purposes in and for His world. 

Ezekiel writes: “The hand of the Lord was on me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and placed me in the midst of the valley, and it was full of bones” (37:1).  Bones, quite obviously, denote death---something apart from the Creator’s obvious intentions for His creation.  When looking at the account of the creation of man from the second chapter of Genesis, which is the one in which the Creator God breathes the breath of life into His image-bearing creation, and seeing that it is man that is brought forth as the first order of creation, it is possible to effectively compare it to this first verse from this chapter in Ezekiel. 

If man, according to the second chapter of Genesis, was the first of the Creator God’s works (and this is not an attempt to debate the order of creation, especially when bearing in mind that the Genesis account is not a scientific or chronological account, but rather, that it was meant to show the supremacy of Israel’s God, as a narrative of origins that was in competition with other creation narratives in its own time), and if, according to the second verse of chapter one, the world was in a less than desirable state (though this does acknowledge the risk of setting up a dichotomy between the two accounts and then attempting to use them seamlessly), then one can hear an echo of Genesis in the words of Ezekiel. 

Continuing, Ezekiel writes “He made me walk all around among them.  I realized there were a great many bones in the valley and they were very dry.  He said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’  I said to Him, ‘Sovereign Lord, you know.’  Then He said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and tell them: “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.  This is what the sovereign Lord says to these bones: Look, I am about to infuse breath into you and you will live… I will put breath in you and you will live.  Then you will know that I am the Lord.”’” (37:2-5,6b) 

A bit later Ezekiel writes “He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath---prophesy, son of man---and say to the breath: “This is what the sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these corpses so that they may live.”’  So I prophesied as I was commanded, and the breath came into them; they lived and stood on their feet, an extremely great army” (37:9-10).  Ezekiel, as has been observed with the rest of the examples that have been used, quite obviously drew from the Genesis account of the Creator God’s breathing the breath of life into a specific and purposefully designed part of His creation, re-packaging the tale for Israel in exile---the people that the Creator God had chosen out to represent Him within His creation. 

Now, there is not going to be an attempt to interpret these passages from Ezekiel so as to draw conclusions from them.  This is merely an acknowledgement of how the knowledge of the Creator God and the understanding of His character and purposes that are conveyed within are terribly crucial for correctly considering the movement of that God and the assessment of the purpose of Scripture that is conveyed in the Timothy letter. 

It would seem to be implied that the Scriptures, as the breath of the Creator God, are to be ingested and absorbed by His people so that they might understand Him and His purposes, and therefore understand His purposes for them.  They do indeed reprove and correct and train, mysteriously infusing the Spirit of the Creator God into those that are shaped by them, who learn to inhabit the Creator God-oriented narrative that they present, so that those people so effected might fulfill the purpose for which Adam had been intended.  This is how one must hear this powerful statement from the letter to Timothy. 

Finally then, one must look to John.  Now, unless it was part of the oral tradition about Jesus known to Paul, what is written there would have no bearing on the letter to Timothy (if indeed second Timothy was composed by the Apostle Paul), as John was composed late in the first century.  The testimony from the Gospel of John draws these thoughts together to capture and convey what is subtly present in the words written to Timothy. 

In the twentieth chapter of John, as Jesus meets with His gathered and fearful disciples following His Resurrection, He, the one that John presents as the living word and the incarnation of the Creator God, recapitulates that God’s action towards Adam, saying “’Peace be with you.  Just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’  And after He said this,” as drawing out all the appropriate implications that are surely intended by the Author of creation and the author of the text, while also bearing in mind the inspiration of Scripture as communicated to Timothy, “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (20:21-22)  Yes, the Creator God breathed and gave them a purpose, which was to carry out His work.  Certainly, in that light and along such lines, might one declare that the Scriptures are inspired.   

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