Read Along with Pastor Matt: Simply Christian-Israel

Posted: December 17, 2009 in Uncategorized

Why does Wright devote an entire chapter of a book on Christianity to Israel?

“It is fundamental to the Christian worldview in its truest form that what happened in Jesus of Nazareth was the very climax of the long story of Israel.  Trying to understand Jesus without understanding what the story was, how it worked, and what it meant is like trying to understand why someone is hitting a ball with a stick without knowing what baseball…is all about.”

In the grand narrative that is Holy Scripture, the call of Abraham in Genesis 12 is God’s answer to the destructive rebellion of humankind demonstrated in Genesis 3-11.  In regards to Abraham and the nation that will spring from him, Genesis 12:3 states, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 

Wright pens, “The last line is the vital one.  The families of the earth have become divided and confused, and are ruining their own lives and that of the world at large.  Abraham and his descendants are somehow to be the means of God putting things to rights, the spearhead of God’s rescue operation.” 

Yet, for those of us familiar with the story of Israel, we know that Israel does not successfully lead this “rescue operation.”  This leads Wright to ask, “What happens when the people through whom God wants to mount his rescue operation, the people through whom he intends to set the world to rights, themselves need rescuing, themselves need putting to rights?”

Wright then embarks on a masterful telling of the story of Israel with the recurring theme of exile and homecoming, that God will exile his chosen people from their land for their own rebellion but will always mercifully bring them back.  He ends by noting that the ultimate exile was our expulsion from the Garden and our ultimate homecoming but will be to return to it, but how?

The Bishop notes four other important themes that pervade the story of Israel and give it (and us) hope: (1) The King (Ps. 72:1-4), “there will come a new king, anointed with oil and with God’s own spirit…and he will put the world into proper order.” (2) The Temple, where heaven and earth meet, will be properly restored and “the deep human longing for spirituality, for access to God, would be answered at last.” (3) The Torah or the Law of God, which may strike you as negative but as Wright puts it, is the way a grateful rescued former slave should respond, not as a way to earn God’s favor for you are already “in” but to show your thanks and love to the rescuer. These three were to lead to (4) The new creation or the return to the Garden.

But again, what to do when the instrument of God’s redemption becomes a tool of the darkness? That is where Jesus enters the picture and where we will begin next week.

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