Saturday, October 31, 2015
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Next: On the Gospel - Love
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
YHWH has come for those who would be His people. He has come to rescue, to recover, to reconcile first Israel and then all of humankind to Himself. He has done this more than once in the history of the world. YHWH has come for His people out of His own initiative, not because those He seeks to find are guiltless or morally deserve His rescue, but as an act of grace. This grace, freely offered by YHWH and arising from His steadfast love for Israel and all people, is freely exercised. Paul will tell us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Before we had faith, before we repented, before we had come to our senses, YHWH effected the death of Jesus for the entire world.
The intent of this reconciliation offered first to Israel and then to the nations, is the same intent - to form and shape a people of YHWH who would be the name by which they are called. This people would both be faithful to YHWH and embody His character among the nations and each other. Their lives and message would be their calling, their burden, and their blessing for the world. These people would be a sort of incarnation; they would embody their God in this world. YHWH offers through His people, real life lived fully as images of Himself with and among each other. The glory of God is truly human beings fully alive.
But we have become distracted and have built religious institutions, complete with structure, rules, and set liturgies and we have called these the church. When Jesus promised to build His church, it wasn't one of these Sunday morning institutions to which He referred. He was referring to the very thing YHWH has always been after namely, a people who would be the name by which they are called. A people faithful to YHWH as their God, their strength, their protector, their defense, their example and master. A people who would embody the very character and image of YHWH as a wise, merciful, just, and faithful God, and be His people.
This then, rightly is the people of God, a people and all people who are faithful to and disciples of YHWH and Jesus, who have rescued them and given them life right now. They are not defined primarily by religious doctrine, ecclesial structure or rules, historical institutional continuance, or a culture-bound denominational name. They are defined by how closely they reflect the character of their God. As YHWH has told us, His people will be known by their love - for each other and for the world. These people are the only true people of God and it is this people that YHWH has been after since the beginning.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Sunday, October 18, 2015
The Jewish Scriptures provide the history of the Christian gospel and it isn’t too much of a stretch to say that we cannot fully understand the gospel unless we appreciate the revelation contained in the Jewish Scriptures. The Jewish Scriptures provide the story, the narrative into which the Christian gospel fits. It is somewhat misleading to say the Christian gospel because the gospel is actually God’s gospel, effected by the incarnation and death of Jesus. Jesus’s life comes as the ultimate gospel, the ultimate Good News, but its core message hasn’t changed since Creation and is repeated and rehearsed throughout the Jewish Scriptures. In this sense, the gospel doesn’t represent a difference in God or His plan in the world. The book of Isaiah contains what is sometimes called the Gospel of Isaiah. This comes before the midpoint of the book when Isaiah reports that eventually YHWH will not only return Israel to Judea, but He will also welcome other nations into the people of God. The return of Israel will include the nations of the world. As ancient as Isaiah is however, it isn’t the first we have heard of God’s concern for either Israel or other nations. The founding promise of Israel, that to Abraham includes blessing for the whole world. Abraham was blessed, we’re told, to be a blessing for the world.
YHWH forms Israel from nothing, He retrieves her from Egypt and from Babylon. Throughout the Jewish narrative, YHWH pleads with Israel to be faithful to Him as He has been to her. Infidelity to YHWH is couched in two ways. The first is clearly when Israel insists on worshiping other gods, complete with household statuettes and idols placed in the high places. This infidelity is one of the categories YHWH complains about when withdrawing his protection from His people. The other category of infidelities too often listed by YHWH to be ignored by those who would be His people is the mistreatment of other Jews and even foreigners. Often, these two categories are listed in tandem as God pleads with Israel or presents His case against her to what is the entire creation.
Even so though, YHWH with every accusation, offers a way of return. YHWH even tells us that He will keep a remnant and will rescue that remnant, returning it to Himself in His time. YHWH will also tell us why these assurances of rescue are included. That answer also has two categories of reasons. The first is the faithfulness of God. The phrase comes to mind, if Man is faithless, YHWH is faithful. YHWH has chosen Abram and Israel to be His people and YHWH will remain faithful to that covenantal promise even if Israel rejects Him through infidelity. If we aren’t careful, that faithfulness might come to seem like a cold, dutiful burden that YHWH maintains because He has to. To make sure we don’t become jaded and cynically dismiss this divine faithfulness, the other category of reasons is also provided. Not only is God faithful, He is faithfully loving. YHWH’s steadfast love commits Him not just to fidelity, but loving fidelity to Israel no matter what.
When YHWH removes His protection from Israel, He always intends to restore her to Himself. It is important to understand here that when Israel cries out to YHWH, when YHWH decides she has suffered enough from affects of her own infidelity, YHWH comes to her. This even though she does not deserve this rescue; even though nothing can eliminate her past infidelity. Even so, YHWH remains faithful and He moves at His time to rescue and restore Israel because He loves her.
God loves you. Come home.
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