Sunday, December 21, 2008

The covenant with Abraham contains provisions of which all the families of the earth benefit (Gen 12:3). We find that God defines the chosen line by which the Messianic blessing would eventually come: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (later named "Israel"). Worship and sacrifice are central to these promises of land and blessing as God instructs Abraham to make an altar, calling upon his name (12:8). Involved in this covenant was the promise of a great nation, that Abraham would be blessed, and that all the earth will be blessed. Furthermore we find that the one who curses will be cursed (12:3) which becomes a central principle whereby God intervenes to pronounce judgment on nations surrounding Israel for their mistreatment. The narrative as a whole shows that the covenant promises of God will be fulfilled despite the shortcomings of men. Abraham doubts God’s promise to give Him a son yet Sarah indeed gives birth (21:2). The promises from God’s covenant make Abraham and his family passive recipients whom depend solely on the faithfulness of God. Therefore Abraham is not righteous by his deeds but by his reliance on God’s Word.

The exodus from Egypt in the Old Testament establishes a pattern for how God interacts and delivers His people. The Passover that precludes the exodus is especially telling of God’s saving grace. Moses orders the killing of a lamb without blemish for every Israelite household (Ex. 12:5). The blood of the lamb was painted over the door posts so that the final plague might Passover and thus appease the wrath of God. The communal eating of this animal as an atoning sacrifice shows how God reconciles the world to Himself. This event however is a mere shadow of what is to come through Christ the paschal lamb who will cleanse people from all sin. God continues to deliver His people by parting the Red Sea and drowning their oppressive enemies (14:26), providing manna "bread from heaven" in the wilderness (16:4), and provides instructions for worship so that His people might remain in His covenant. With the exodus of the Israelites it is clear that God is patient when his people are terrified and face trials of their faith. The Israelites are confronted with many troubles but the Lord works through promises and always keeps His Word.

God makes a very special covenant with David after Saul’s failure to serve as king. We find that God finds favor with David, seeking "a man after His own heart" (1 Sam. 13:14). In Second Samuel chapter seven God sets forth specific plans for David saying, "He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever" (vs. 13). This offspring of David is Jesus whereby the covenant with God finds fulfillment. Isaiah clearly prophecies of this Son of David (9:6-7). What is sure is that God Himself will come as king to deliver his people, bringing righteousness. The plans set forth also involve a place of worship for the divine presence. Furthermore, God promises to establish a dynastic house of kings which will rule "forever" (vs. 13). This rule of kings however is shown to be disastrous with sin and failings. David himself, one whom God has found great favor, is an adulterer. His sons become guilty of incest, fratricide, and incest (13:13). Zion theology erroneously looks for an earthly reign of an earthly leader – this "liberator" of their own imagining will not come.

Among the Minor Prophets, the theology of Hosea stands out as a particularly revealing testimony to how God lovingly interacts with His people. The prophecy contained here reveals a dark time where apostasy and the worship of Baal is common for Israel (4:6). The use of marriage between Hosea and Gomer is used to represent the relationship between God and His people. Hosea deals with an unfaithful wife whom does not return His love. Hosea is continually gracious and takes her back after all kinds of infidelities. Here we see how we in the church are continually being reconciled back to God through repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. Restoration in Isaiah (Major Prophet) is also a central theme. Isaiah warns against idolatry and testifies that salvation is near. There is a message to be vigilant and ready for salvation (62:6). The "suffering servant" clearly points to Christ in Chapter 53. Isaiah also makes it clear that God is one who extends his mission to gentiles and foreigner. God is one "who gathers the outcasts of Israel" (56:8). This theme carries throughout, that God is not just a tribal God of the Israelite nation but the true god of all humankind.

The Psalter as a gift for worship cannot be overemphasized. It has been a resource for God’s faithful people since ancient times. We know that Jesus prayed the Psalms in synagogue which in fact testify to Himself. It is likely Luther as well had the complete Psalter memorized, as was the custom in the monastery. The Psalms are a great teaching tool in the Old Testament. The idea of Lex orande Lex credende would make the psalms essential to harmonize prayer with proper belief and theology. For the Lutheran theologian there is no speculation. God has defined himself, his work, and has defined us. God has given us also the language to communicate with Him through His very Word of which the Psalter is of such benefit. My personal experience with the psaltery in the context of worship and the daily office make this clear. Our spiritual, emotional, and theological vocabulary is set before us in what Luther calls the "mini Bible." In worship these songs are either sung directly, antiphonally, or in a responsorial order. We study and sing the Psalms that we might teach, pray, and suffer in faith with David in the mighty ark of the Church.

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