This round of reading through the Bible I want to connect the dots as much as possible, so I am still in the intro notes to the ESV Bible. Here is what I learned today.
12.29.11 The Theology of the Old Testament (OT)
The Components of the OT Story
There is only one true God, who made heaven and earth and all mankind.
2. Creation and fall (Adam and Eve).
3. Election and covenant.
The one true God chose a people for himself and bound himself to them by his covenant. This covenant expressed God’s intention to save the people, and through them to bring light to the rest of the world, in order to restore all things to their proper functioning in the world God made. God’s covenants generally involve one person who represents the whole people (ex. Adam, Noah, Abraham, David): the rest of the people experience the covenant by virtue of their inclusion in the community represented.
4. Covenant membership.
In his covenant, God offers his grace to his people: the forgiveness of their sins, the shaping of their lives in this world to reflect his own glory, and a part to play in bringing light to the Gentiles. Each member of God’s people is responsible to lay hold of this grace from the heart: to believe the promises, and then to grow in obeying the commands, and to keep on doing so all their lives long. The spiritual and moral well-being of the whole affects the well-being of each of the members, and each member contributes to the others by his own spiritual and moral life. Thus each one shares the joys and sorrows of the others and of the whole. Historical judgments upon the whole people often come because too many of the members are unfaithful; these judgments do not, however, bring the story of God’s people to an end but serve rather to purify and chasten that people.
The “law” given through Moses, plays a vital role in the OT. It is presented as an object of delight and admiration (Psalm 119) because it is a gift from a loving and gracious God. The law is never present in the OT as a list of rules that one must obey in order to be right with God; rather it is God’s fatherly instruction, given to shape the people he loved.
The story of God’s people is headed toward a glorious future in which all kinds of people will come to know the Lord and join his people. This was the purpose for which God called Abraham, and for which he appointed Israel. It is part of the dignity of God’s people that, in God’s mysterious wisdom, their personal faithfulness contributes to the story getting to its goal (Deut. 4:6-8).
The OT develops its idea of a Messiah in the light of these components. The earliest strands of the messianic idea speak of an offspring who will undo the work of the Evil One and bless the Gentiles by bringing them into his kingdom (Genesis 3:15; 22:17-18; 24:60).
The OT is thus the story of the one true Creator God, who called the family of Abraham to be his remedy for the defilement that came into the world through the sin of Adam and Eve. God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt in fulfillment of this plan, and established them as a theocracy for the sake of displaying his existence and character to the rest of the world. God sent his blessings and curses upon Israel in order to pursue that purpose. God never desisted from that purpose, even in the face of the most grievous unfaithfulness in Israel.
This overarching story serves as a grand narrative or worldview story for Israel: each member of the people was to see himself or herself as an heir of this story, with all its glory and shame; as a steward of the story, responsible to pass it on to the next generation; and as a participant whose faithfulness could play a role, by God’s mysterious wisdom, in the story’s progress. [I love this part]
The OT had looked forward to an internationalized people of God (Jews and Gentiles…all people), without explaining exactly how that would connect to the theocracy of Israel (the Jews, God’s chosen people). The theocracy defined the people of God as predominately coming from a particular ethnic group in a particular land (Jews). Gentile converts (“sojourners”) were protected but could not be full-status members. The NT abolishes the distinction, because the theocracy as such is no longer in existence and many of its provisions are done away with. At the same time, the character of the one Creator God, and his interest in restoring the image of God in human beings, transcends the specific arrangements of the theocracy; hence the moral commands of God apply to Christians as they did to the faithful in Israel.