Kingdom and Covenant, Part 7

As I continue unpacking (though briefly!) the biblical story, I continue today with Part 7: The New Covenant and the Coming of the True King…

The New Covenant: The King Sets All Things Right Again

The Coming of the King

Despite the failure of his people, God remained faithful to them. While they were in exile, he continued to give them his good word, which provided for future hope. God promised a new exodus, a new creation, a new temple, a new David, and a new covenant. The new covenant, which would be made through the new Davidic King, would be an everlasting covenant.

Though Israel returned to the Promised Land, the promises of God remained unfulfilled. Many years passed until God again revealed himself to his people.

God’s word returned because the most important event in history took place. This event changed everything. The event that changed the world is the coming of the Messiah. Jesus as the seed of Abraham and David, the promised one coming to defeat God’s enemy, restore God’s people, and bring God’s blessings.

following-jesusThroughout the four Gospels, Jesus is presented as a new Adam. He is the true Son of God, the obedient Son who fulfills everything God intended for humanity. He is the true Son of Man who faced the temptation of Satan, yet remained without sin. He perfectly ruled over creation, even calming the stormy sea.Jesus is also a new Israel. Just as Israel left Egypt, crossed the sea, entered the wilderness and faced temptation, so Jesus left Egypt, passed through the water of baptism, entered the wilderness and faced temptation. However, where Israel failed, Jesus was victorious over the enemy of God. In and through him, God will create a new people, a new family. Israel would still be the people of God, but only as they place their faith in Jesus. This new identification of the people of God as those who belong to Jesus will also include non-Israelites.

Jesus is presented as the coming prophet. The Gospel of John particularly emphasizes that Jesus is the prophet like Moses who would come to perfectly speak God’s word. Jesus is the true King, the new David. He is the one who would reign forever. Jesus spoke much about the kingdom of God, which is established through his work. That is, when the king comes, the kingdom is present.

All of these things we have mentioned – new Adam, new Israel, new Moses, prophet, and King – come together in one man, Jesus. Jesus is the promised Messiah. He came preaching the gospel – the good news that God is faithful to keep his covenant promises. The good news that Jesus the King has come to take away sin and to restore God’s fallen people and world. At the announcement of the good news, Jesus calls people to repent and believe. They are to repent by turning away from their false understandings of the world and their rebellion against God. They are to believe in Jesus as their only hope. They are to believe in the truth of Jesus, the promised seed who alone can set things in right order. They are to give him their full allegiance.

Passion_of_the_Christ_by_SaviourMachine-e1363973714820However, he is not the conquering war hero that many expected. He did not come to defeat human foes with military might. Rather, he came to defeat the ultimate enemies – Satan, sin, and death. The shocking thing about Messiah Jesus is that his mission was completed through suffering.

The death of the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament, yet it is shocking that the Son of God would come to die. His death was substitutionary – the king died for his people. In dying on the cross, Jesus took away the hostility between God and man. From the very beginning, God said that the penalty for sin is death. Jesus offers forgiveness through his death on the cross. His death brings about the redemption promised since the sin of Adam and Eve.

It is through suffering and death that the Messiah brings salvation to his people. In announcing his birth, Matthew records the angel proclaiming that Jesus would save his people from their sin. Jesus does this through his death on the cross. Salvation includes all aspects of humanity. People’s place with God is restored. He takes away the shame we brought on ourselves through our sin. He restores God’s family by dealing with the sin that produced enmity between God and people. He brings God’s blessings in establishing a new covenant with all those who believe in him.

tombstoneThe good news does not conclude with the death of Jesus, for on the third day he rose from the dead. His resurrection completes his earthly mission. In raising from the dead, Jesus delivered the decisive blow to all enemies – Satan, sin, and death. He rose to new life and is able to give life to others. The resurrection demonstrates that Jesus is the true Son of God, the true King, the forever King.

Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of the new creation. Through his resurrection, God’s people are being restored and his world is being made new.

The earthly life of Jesus ends with his ascension. He returned to the Father to reign as king. However, before he left, he gave his people a new mission. They were to spread the good news of Jesus throughout the whole world and call people to repent and believe. This new mission would be the means through which God would fulfill the original commission given to Adam.

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The Value of the Old Testament

Richard Hays opens his new Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels with the following quote from Martin Luther’s introduction to his translation of the Pentateuch:

There are some who have little regard for the Old Testament. They think of it as a book that was given to the Jewish people only and is now out of date, containing only stories of past times…But Christ says in John 5, “Search the Scriptures, for it is they that bear witness to me”…[T]he Scriptures of the Old Testament are not to be despised but diligently read…Therefore dismiss your own opinions and feelings and think of the Scriptures as the loftiest and noblest of holy things, as the richest of mines which can never be sufficiently explored, in order that you may find that divine wisdom which God here lays before you in such simple guise as to quench all pride. Here you will find the swaddling cloths and the manger in which Christ lies…Simple and lowly are these swaddling cloths, but dear is the treasure, Christ, who lies in them.

Kingdom and Covenant, Part 6

I have been unpacking the biblical story that I summarized in one sentence here. Today I continue with Part 6: The Covenant with David and the Exile…

The Covenant with David: The King Promises to Send the True King

A. David

king-davidDavid was a good and wise king, a ‘man after my own heart.’ God made a covenant with David that was intended to continue the previous covenant promises. God promised that someone from David’s family would reign as king forever. This covenant has many similarities to the covenant God made with Abraham and shows that the promised seed of Abraham would also come from the family of David. This seed of David would be the one to restore God’s blessing, God’s family, and give face to God’s people.While David was a great king, his reign also has the stain of sin. His sin would lead to problems in Israel that eventually led to the division of the kingdom after the reign of David’s son Solomon.

Therefore, after Solomon died, the one kingdom of Israel became the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, each with their own kings. These kings were judged by God according to their faithfulness. Most of the kings were unfaithful. Yet, God remained faithful and continued to give his word to his people through his prophets.

B. Exile

Destruction_of_JerusalemBecause Israel and Judah were unfaithful to the covenant God made with them and
because they failed to fulfill their mission, God judged them through exile. Foreigners again invaded Israel, this time destroying the temple and taking the people away from their land. The land represented more than simply a place to live. It was the promised land, the land of safety and rest. In the exile, it was a land of destruction and punishment.

Despite all of this, God still remained faithful. He continued to send prophets to the people to proclaim his word. The prophet word normally contained two aspects: judgment and hope. The prophets made it very clear that the exile was a result of sin. God had not only allowed it to happen, but had order it as judgment against his people. Just like Adam and Eve, Israel was driven from their special place in shame because of their sin.

Kingdom and Covenant, Part 5

In the last few posts, I have been unpacking the biblical story that I summarized in one sentence here. In this post, I continue with part 5 of the story – the exodus, Sinai, and the conquering of the land…

The Covenant with Israel: The King Creates a People

A. Exodus

While the growth of the nation of Israel was a result of God’s blessings, it also caused problems with the Egyptians. The King of Egypt enslaved them and began killing their babies. They were completely helpless to change their situation.

moses-and-the-burning-bush-deana-harveyGod called Moses to lead the rescue of his people. Through Moses, God demanded the King of Egypt to ‘Let my son go that he may worship me.’ The son is the nation of Israel.

Pharaoh refused to listen to God, challenging God’s power to rescue his people. Therefore, the rescue of Israel would come through the judgment of Egypt. God sent 10 plagues upon the Egyptians to demonstrate his power, the last of which was plague of death. God decreed that the firstborn in every Egyptian home would die. However, distinguished his people by commanding them to kill a lamb and spread its blood on the doorposts of their homes. When God went through the land of Egypt to destroy the firstborn sons, he passed over the homes that had blood on the doors.

Following this plague, Pharaoh let the people of Israel God. God rescued his people in great power.

B. Covenant

After leaving Egypt and crossing the sea, God led the Israelites to Mt. Sinai where he made a covenant with them. At first, the covenant was to be much like the covenant God made with Abraham. They were to love and obey God, just like the patriarchs were called to do. In fact, God said that the people of Israel were to be his treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.

They were to worship and obey, like God demanded of Adam. They were to be priests to the world so that others would be blessed through them. They were to be holy – different, set apart for God’s special purposes.sinai painting

The problem, like before, was sin. Israel, the corporate son of God, refused to listen and obey. Therefore, God added law to the covenant. The law was given as a standard of God’s holiness in all areas of life. In addition, the law established Israel as a nation, setting them apart as the people of God.

Following the making of the covenant, God led Israel into the wilderness where he protected them and provided for their needs. He commanded them to build the tabernacle, a tent that symbolized God’s presence with them. Despite all this, the people rebelled in the wilderness. They, like Adam, rebelled against their loving father and brought shame on themselves. They broke their covenant relationship with God and lost his blessings. Therefore, God punished them by not allowing any of the first generation of Israelites to enter the promised land.

Nevertheless, God was gracious. He continued giving them his word and promised that the second generation would enter the land that God promised to give Abraham and his descendants.

Despite the failure of Israel, God’s promises remained. Throughout the story of the wilderness wonderings, God reminded the people of the coming one – the seed of the woman who would be a prophet and king. He represented hope. God also promised that a new Moses would come – a prophet like Moses who would perfectly speak God’s word.

C. In the Land

rh-fallofjericho3After the death of the first generation, including Moses, God was ready to fulfill another part of his promise to Abraham. God chose Joshua to lead the people of Israel into the land that God promised to give them. Joshua courageously led the people into Canaan where God gave them the land. The conquest of the land included many miraculous victories that demonstrated God’s presence and power with his people.

However, Israel quickly forgot God’s mighty acts for them and demanded a king so that they could be like the other nations. God gave them a king, Saul. At first, Saul seemed to be a strong leader, but soon his heart turned from trusting God to trusting himself. God removed his Spirit from Saul and chose another, David.