Saturday, November 07, 2015

On The Gospel - Coming to God - The Response

Our coming to God - the opportunity and invitation is at the free and unencumbered will of YHWH. Sometimes this opportunity looks like an over-powering presence of God in the life of Israel - He leads them from Egypt, He raises Cyrus to release Israel from Babylon, He sends her Redeemer into her midst without asking. But, and this is key, every time YHWH inserts Himself directly into Israel's history, His action demands a response from Israel; from those who would be His people.

YHWH does lead Israel from Egypt, but is Israel who must walk; must not complain; must not shrink back. YHWH does raise Cyrus to facilitate Israel's return to Judah but is Israel who must once again walk and rebuild. YHWH does come to Israel as her savior in the first century, but is Israel who must recognize and follow Him. There is no coercion in absolute terms used by YHWH to who Israel back to Himself. Yes, being blinded while riding a donkey seems a bit overwhelming, but the rider was neither compelled to enter the city, pray for three days, or respond to the person sent to him.

Throughout Jewish and Christian Scripture there is a partnership proposed by YHWH. When He is prepared to redeem and restore, He offers His desire that He will be their God and they will be His people. This being His people is sometimes understood to be YHWH's possession, something owned by and treasured by YHWH; an object of desire and value that is crafted, shaped, and nurtured by YHWH. Being His people carries another implication related to but separate from a possession or object of attention. This is most readily understood as an enlargement of the Genesis declaration of being made in the image of YHWH. Adam is made in the image of God; he is the image of YHWH and Israel too is intended to His image. The people of God are each and corporately the image, expression, and demonstration of YHWH in the world. At least, they are supposed to be and this is also included in the desire that Israel would be the people of YHWH.

It is these two expectations - they would be His possession, and that they would reflect His image that routinely gets Israel in trouble. She worships other gods and her behavior better reflects that of Molech or Ba'al than YHWH. These equate to her sin, her adultery and her infidelity to YHWH.

And this describes the response expected from the invitation of YHWH - that those who would be His people would let Him be their God and would shape themselves to be like YHWH in their lives and corporate existence. They would carry and be the image of YHWH among the nations, drawing others to Him by their faithfulness to, and blessings from YHWH. This expected response has not changed either for Israel specifically or for those who would be His people from among the nations. The redemption of the world in Jesus is not coerced; it can be not accepted by Israel and others. If accepted, the expectation is shaping, transforming, and living as the image of God on earth - individually and collectively for communities of faith; for the church at large.

This response, to be a truly faithful response, is voluntarily demonstrated by those who would join with YHWH. God does not wrest your will and force compliance with arbitrary rules. Rather He declares the "year of the Lord's favor" and offers you return to Him, to being the very image in which you are made and intended to live. The best description of this image is seen in Jesus' faithful and self-giving life in the first century. It is best described in words as divine Love, embodied in humans and lived out as Jesus lived it among believers and non-believers in the world.

This is the response expected by YHWH - that we would (re-)join Him in His Life and His work in the world to bless and entice all persons into that same Life enjoyed by those who would be His people.

Next: On The Gospel - Humanity

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