Saturday, November 07, 2015

On The Gospel - Coming To God

Throughout the Jewish Scriptures, and with echoes in the Christian writings there are direct statements, reminders, and urgings given to the people of God about YHWH's desire to have His people truly be His; reminders that YHWH would rescue, would redeem, would restore His people to Himself and greater blessing. This is always in the context of YHWH's prerogative and is based on two aspects of divine Love - steadfastness and mercy. There is nothing in the narrative that suggests either that YHWH is constrained by an outside force to remain faithful to or redeem Israel. His movement is both uncompelled and entirely willfully free. YHWH redeems Israel because He wants to; because of who He is and for no other reason.

YHWH often complains about Israel's unfaithfulness, depravity, and intransigence toward Him. The basis of these complaints is repeated as based upon Israel's very existence as a nation. It was YHWH who chose Abram, who uttered the promises, who had previously rescued, blessed and warned Israel. It was YHWH who selected and formed them into a nation, and enriched them as they left Egypt; it was He who calls them both His possession and stiff-necked and obstinate. The relationship, to say the least is somewhat conflicted.

And yet, YHWH wants to remain faithful and obligates Himself to be Israel's redeemer, her savior, her avenging angel against her enemies. In Isaiah 40-55 YHWH argues that He knows the future not because He has a crystal ball and is outside time, running up and down an imaginary timeline as He pleases. No, in these chapters, YHWH knows what will happen in the future - the things He promises and the things He warms about - because He is going to make them happen. In these same chapters YHWH contrasts Himself as God and Jewish idols. It is here that He uses a bit of sarcasm when He observes that a man cuts a log, burns half of it to make bread, and then sets the other half up on end and declares it a god. Israel had been worshiping "ashes." Or again, YHWH almost mocks those who have idols so large that to move them almost defeats their mules and donkeys laden with them - that the idols cannot move on their own and are a burden to Israel. The contrast then becomes that rather than Israel having to carry her idols, YHWH carries Israel.

Coming to YHWH is secondary in the larger scheme of things, possible only after YHWH has made Himself known, has created, has blessed, and has redeemed Israel. It is YHWH who moves first in the grand enterprise; it is He who offers the invitation to true, blessed Living. Because the invitation must come from YHWH that we are told that we cannot earn it; we are also told that it is given freely.

This invitation then, this redeeming is not so much from prison per se, but as a restoration. This is more a dusting off, a standing up, a washing, a blessing of oil. This is the work of a go'el, a family member who has the responsibility to redeem a relative from dire straits, from poverty, from hunger - because they are family and nothing more.

This is the work of YHWH in saving the world - faithfully redeeming no matter how many scrapes Israel gets herself into by her own unfaithfulness.

Next: On The Gospel - Coming to God - The Response

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