[May 9, 2014]

Two thoughts have been working through my brain as I continue to think through the relationship between the OT and the NT.  1) From a 'plain reading' perspective, that is, dropping the allegorical, typological, even christological overlays (though all are in fact used in the scriptures), the question is, what can we know about the messianic promise of God in the OT?  What can we learn from the text, as text, as history, as narrative, as whatever genre, that the God, "in the text" is doing with this people he has created? That is to say, there is sufficient historical veracity and "trust" in the accounts as presented in the OT (and NT), to allow for an interpretive methodology which does not require a "theological slight of hand" to creat meaning from the text.  An example of this approach is found in MacDonalds book "Metaphysics and the God of Israel" where he traces the historical demise of the two kingdoms (Judah and Israel) and indications of God's use of secular power to bring judgement on his people (that is what the text says). The plain reading of the text is just that.  God has said to his people, do "x" as my people and you will remain as my covenant revelation to all people.  They continued to do "y" and engender words of condemnation and judgement, along with words of promise and restoration should they "repent."  Again, that is what the text says.  Now, that is not really a new interpretive methodology. But when you get to the NT, as MacDonald suggests, we get so "christological" that we forget the "plain reading" of the OT and want to switch into a "deeper" meaning.  In the NT, Pontius Pilate plays the same role as the Babylonians and Assyrians did in the OT.  The Roman authority, on plain reading, as history, enacts the judgement of God on the "one true Israelite" on behalf of the people of God as the fulfillment of the both God's wrath and grace.  As Caiaphas said, "It is better that one man should perish than that a whole nation be destroyed."  So "crucified under Pontius Pilate" stands in the Apostles Creed as an indication of God's use of that which by default opposes him, the principality and powers of the nations, the "tower of babel," etc.  

Ok that is thought 1.... 

Thought 2 is a contrast between the mountains upon which God has spoken.  Maybe a sermon could be called "The Silent Mountain" and it is the story of the silence of God at the crucifixion of Jesus.  I sense such a contrast between the "declarations" of God (taken as excitement and an embracing of his people) on Sinai, or the embrace of Moses on Horeb, or instruction to the disciples on the Mt of Transfiguration and the silence on Golgotha.  God is speaking, communicating, delivering revelation on those mountains.  Here, he is silent, at least in the form of overt tangible oracular communication.  What we hear on this mountain  is not the depth of God's passion to instruct and guide, but the lonely and anguished cry of the human voice in abandonment. The quintessential cry of dereliction.  The voice is the deep, deep lamentation of the heart, lost without love, alone and estranged from the only voice which can bring peace, calm and comfort to the human condition.  That voice, the Only voice, is silent.  

With the plain reading of the text, all is lost at this point.  The witnesses to the crucifixion stand too, alone, lost, and apparently without hope (so the words of the disciples on the road to Emmaus). But the witness of the scriptures, both Old and New is that, though God abandons his people, and they are in fact "without hope," there is a final Word which has yet to be spoken.  The people of Israel, and not just ancient Israel, but the Israel of Jesus' day, had waited over 1500 years for the promise to be fulfilled and in the end, with the appearance of the Messiah, at the moment when all history should have rejoiced "with the angels" to see the redemption of the world, it too (He too) was silenced by the powers that be.  "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit...." says the Lord to Zechariah.  To assure humanity that the human voice is not the voice that saves, God even silences "his own human voice."  The next voice you hear..... 

Maybe the lyrics of Luther's A Mighty Fortress say it second best...

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,

And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

The "one little word" too must be silenced so that when it (he) speaks again, there will be no question who is speaking. God speaks out of his own self-silence the only word which overcomes the silence.  God spoke, "let there be..." The stone was rolled away, and it was good!  

[May 5, 2014] 

Here is the introduction to the Class on May 11, 2014 at Trinity Press...

The Way of the Old Testament

And the New Testament

By Paul H Mannes, May, 2014


By faith we believe that the OT and NT combined encompass the story of God’s revelation to His creation, the revelation of His Love, Grace and Mercy to it, as the work of His Hands, and for the purpose of restoring his people and all of creation to the intended glory it should have as that work.  We believe that the biblical witness is intentional and progressive as a chronicle of the ways God has communicated to humanity, his “crown of creation,” the character of both His nature as God, and His Love for humanity. 

Against this revelation of Love and Grace has stood man’s “inhumanity,” that is, the form of behavior which dishonors and disobeys the intended relationship with God, primarily, and other humans (as a result of the first) by blatant disobedience, self-seeking, intentional misunderstanding (“turning the truth into a lie”) along with the social and emotional dysfunctions which follow to hide and deceive the self from seeing all such behavior as inappropriate.

The Biblical witness reveals that the Way God restores his creation is through His own mediation into our time and history, through his own interaction with humanity through various individuals and finally in the person of His own Son, Jesus Christ, to vicariously and substitutionarily, undergo both the divine wrath of judgment and the wondrous free grace of God in the events of restoration, i.e., salvation.

From beginning to end, the story is the story of God.  In biblical imagery, he is the Shepherd and his human creature is the sheep, or He is the Vineyard owner, and his people are the vineyard or even more specifically he is the vine and we are the branches.  This imagery is followed from the OT through the NT.  The people of God have always been known in these ways and therefore identified as a unique people, “planted by God.”  The Jews, as they are commonly known, have stood out historically.  Eric Voegelin, noted philosopher of history, characterizes all ancient religious traditions as primarily “cosmological” (i.e., man’s interpretations of the cosmic/nature signs into divine symbols), but Israel was different.  There was no divine cosmology for Israel, its God was known only through God’s Self-Revelation.  And that revelation revealed the Covenant decision of God to be the God of Israel and Israel to be the People of God.  The history of Israel is the history of its election as the people of God.  Its history is a story- line of divine “re-creation” out of barren wombs, old men, fallen kingdoms, harlots and homeless disobedient nomads who just wanted to “be like everyone else.”  The story-line therefore includes words of parental instructions for obedience, words of warning for disobedience, and meditation and prophecies for discipline for correction and finally words of hope for restoration, or in biblical language, the “law and the prophets.” 

The story-line also includes a promise of “One Day.”  At some point in the future, the fullness of God’s creation-blessing will be once again pronounced on all creation and the promised “Eden” of fellowship with God, or in edenic marital language, “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” will be the nature of creations resting place with its Creator forever.  The “One Day,” the “Day of the Lord” was the Hope of Israel.  It was the promise that many held on to during their days of exile and lamentations of abandonment by God.  It was the day of the “Anointed” One, likened to King David, the Messiah, the awaited and longed for savior of God’s People.  To be God’s people, meant to know the “salvation of the Lord” and trust God to deliver.  Israel lived forward in time while looking to the past, to the trail of God’s providence, as the God who “delivered us out of Egypt.”

Jesus’ parable of the Vineyard Owner who leaves others in charge of his land is the story of God and Israel.  The land, the orchard, flowing with “milk and honey” is the promissory place of God where he provides for his people, his provisions, his land, the place of God “on earth.”  The Vineyard should have been cared for so that other farmers would come and learn how to also farm the land and prosper.  But those left in charge, the people and their leaders, cared neither for the Owner nor for the many messengers that the Owner sent to check on His property.  On them there was violence done.  Finally, the Owner sends His own Son to the vineyard.  The Gospels tell the rest of that story.  The penultimate end of the Gospels and the vineyard story end the same way.  The Son is killed by the renters of the land.  The ultimate end of the story is told in the Gospels account of the resurrection of the Jesus, the Son, where even rejection by his own people and their handing him over to death cannot keep the promise of God from being fulfilled.

Both in the history of Israel (the OT) and in the history of Jesus (the Gospels), the life of the people of God, the Servant of God, are a challenge to live faithfully before the Father.  In the OT the servant fails in spite of continue direction, correction, punishment and forgiveness.  There are, amongst so many, so few in the OT who were faithful.  In the NT, Jesus, the One final Elect Israelite and son of a virgin, always does what Israel as a people did not.  He is faithful to the Father, for them.  He is obedient to the Father, for them.  He prays to the Father, for them.  He is punished, not for his sins, but for them.  And for them, he is granted eternal fellowship with the Father and raised from the dead, to prove that nothing can separate him from the love of God the Father, for them.  In Jesus’ words, his Father is their Father pronounced in the “Our Father….”