Monday, February 7, 2011

The Revelation Of God In The Old Testament

Last Saturday I finished Adam Miller's Introduction to the Old Testament. I enjoyed it tremedously, though the scholarship is a bit dated and I don't agree with Miller's agreement with certain aspects of the JEDP theory.  The book is a survey of all the Old Testament books with an overall theme of God's revelation of Himself throughout the Old Testament period.  Here is a summary of that revelation as outlined by Miller:

Gen. 11: 10- 50:26- The preparation of a chosen family set apart from the pagan world and eventually to bring salvation to that world. The selection of Abraham to start unfolding God's purpose of redemption.  God promises Abraham that he would possess a land, would become a great nation and he would be a blessing to all peoples.  The beginning of a new kind of history, sacred history.

Exodus- God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt.  The emergence of God's chosen people as a redemptive people, chosen as a people to bring redemption to the whole world. God reveals Himself to them; they in turn communicate this knowledge to other peoples. Shows how God established Israel as a community, placed them under the Mosaic covenant and set up religious institutions and regulations. Moses and Israel were to discover the meaning of God by what God does. The attributes of Yahweh were discovered by Yahweh's actions.

Leviticus- In Exodus, the Israelites were called a kingdom of priests, Ex. 19:6.  This kingdom of priests were to communicate to the world God's historical manifestation- Lev. 11:44, 19:2, 20:7, 26, 22: 31-33.

Numbers- Further social organization of God's people.  Further revelation of God through continued acts of deliverance of Israel and His preserving them as a community. Also, God's presence is manifested by the Tent of Meeting which contained the ark of the Covenant.  God dwells in heaven and, without any limitation upon His sovereignty, dwells in the midst of His people, leading them.

Deuteronomy- Commentary or explanation of Israel's laws and history from the standpoint of the law of Love,  Dt. 6:5.  The study of God's Word is to define the nation of Israel. The Word is to be the central part of the people's life. Dt. 6:5-9.  God's unity revealed. Ethical monotheism.  Actions always in harmony with highest attributes and ethics.  No place for heathen practices.  As God is one, there is only one central location where He is to be worshipped, the sanctuary.  The worship of the one true God leads to social righteousness, or social holiness.  Dt. 12-26.  See Dt. 15:1-18, 16:18:20, 13:1-18, 22:13-25.

Joshua- God fulfills one of His covenant promises.  It was God and God alone who brought Israel into Caanan.  God reveals Himself, His power and faithfulness, in mighty deeds. Israel's conquest of Caanan accomplished only because God was present with Israel, God actively participated in the struggle on Israel's behalf.  This sense of God's presence molded Israel into a unified fighting force full of zeal.

Judges- God is revealed as a God who is displeased with sin and punishes His people for their sins to lead them to repentance and restoration. God was recognized as the ruler of His people.

1 and 2Samuel- David set the standard for a godly king, yet fell short of that standard himself so that human rule was revealed as inadequate.  None of the other kings lived up to David's standard and the people began to look elsewhere for the one through whom Israel would fulfill God's purposes for them.  God's forgiveness of David reveals God's willingness to forgive repentant sinners. The planning of a permanent Temple to provide a central location of worship and bring stability to the nation.

1 and 2Kings- Repeats the lessons of 1,2Sam. concerning human rule. Kings became less and less divine in receiving their office and the charasmatic, God annointed leadership was invested in the prophets.

Prophecy- Though there are prophets in other religions, none but the prophets of the Old Testament linked the prophetic impulse to spiritual religion. They made Israel's religion a permanent force in the world and a preparation for the Gospel. They communicated God's mind and will for His people to His people. Their messages had a great deal to do with the political events of the day as God is the God of history.  The prophets originally operated in bands, but later God seperated out from the bands individuals, beginning with Elijah and Elisha.  These prophets were charasmatic, under the annointing of the Holy Spirit. They did not originate a new religion, but called Israel back to a covenant relationship with God. Judgement is not God's final word as there is always a remnant of those who do not forsake the true worship of God. The writing of prophecy begins with Amos and Hosea.

Amos- God is no respecter of persons.  The moral standards by which he judges other nations apply to His people.  Israel's rejection of God's standards signals her doom. Ritual purity is no substitute for moral purity.

Hosea- God's relationship of love for His people revealed by the analogy of marriage.  This relationship is defined by the word "hesed" which means loving kindness and mercy.  This love is also seen as long suffering.  One's knowledge of and relationship to God is to be inward.

Isaiah- In no other prophet do we get a sense of the "otherness" of God. God is "other" in sovereignty and holiness which when we come in contact with Him makes us realize our sinfulness. The divine-human encounter is the foundation of God's call to serve Him. Faith is the foundation of true religion and Israel is not to rely on alliances with other nations. God will judge His people, but He will preserve for Himself a remnant.  Isaiah gathered around himself a spiritual community.  This was the first time true worship of God in Israel was disassociated from national forms, maintained without ritual services and bound together by faith in God's word alone.  This was the beginning the conception of the Church, the first emancipation of spiritual religion from political life. The rule of God will be realized in the Messiah who will rule in the hearts and lives of men.  The Messiah is seen as the suffering servant.

Micah- "He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly before your God?" Micah 6:8.  Israel's religion was no more than ritual with pagan practices added. Micah declared that morality and justice were inseperable from true religion. Israel had forgotten the social holiness of the 10 commandments and the Law.

Nahum- God is a God of love, but He is also a God of justice who stands within history ready to punish the cruel, rebellious nations of the earth.

Jeremiah- The reforms undertaken by Josiah did not penetrate to the hearts of the people.  The Temple had become nothing more than a fetish.  Jeremiah realized that no reformation could be affected through legal means.  He proclaimed that the Temple would be destroyed and true religious life would go on without it.  Those already in exile need not accept institutional worship in place of real worship.  True worship must move beyond a central locality, the realization that God is one and the moral law as embodied in the covenant. True worship must affect a man's soul. In Lamenations, Jeremiah reveals that the God of history was using Israel's exile as punishment leading to repentance.

Ezekiel- In exile, Israel formed a new way to worship that was the beginning of the synogogue: they met in homes to learn from God's Word and to worship informally.  They discovered that God was just as present with them in Babylon as He was in Jerusalem, that God was God of the whole earth.  Israel was not God's favorite, but chosen to be Yahweh's suffering servant used to regenerate the whole world. This is the birth of personal religion.  Also, while innocents suffer for the sins of others, God punishes individuals for their own sins. Awareness of individual responsibility brought with it the awareness of individual repentance and God's concern for the individual.  Redeemed individuals rightly relating to each other in a redeemed community replaces the idea of a holy nation.  Steps to forgiveness in Ez. 36:25-27- forgiveness and renewal with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

Malachi- Temple worship had been so corrupted that it was better that the Temple were shut down than for worship to continue.  In its place, God promises a universal sacrifice for all nations.

Psalms- There is too much to comment on here, so the briefest of summaries will have to suffise.  To Psalms speak of God's existance, His nature and character, the nature of His self revelation, Man's relationship to Him and the future.

Wisdom literature- As the prophets were God-enabled to interpret God's will to the people by explaining God's actions, the writers of wisdom literature were enabled to explain life's meaning and human existance in light of what the Law and the Prophets taught. Miller assumes here that Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job were written later than traditionally maintained.

Now I move on to Miller's Introduction to the New Testament.

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