Grace After Meals

Well, my apologies to those who have been patiently (and not so patiently, yes, you know who you are) waiting for The Offerings of Our Lips. But, after going back to the drawing board in regard to the content, I’m finally getting very close to the place where I will feel ready to start approaching a publisher or two about getting this out.

As a reward for so patiently waiting [small grin] and because I’ve been requested to do so, I’ve decided to post the text of my “Grace After Meals” prayer.

It is actually one of my favorite prayers from the collection, as it has significance on several layers. But I leave it to you to discover those on your own. While this is one piece, those who are familiar with the traditional Jewish liturgy will probably recognize the influence of the four traditional blessings of Birkat haMazon. More readily apparent however, is the prayer’s reliance on Deuteronomy 8:1-18, where we find the command on which the prayer is based.

I hope you enjoy using this, and that it holds many blessings for you and your family. One final comment, the prayer is designed to be reader-response. The reader indicated by regular font and the responses of all by italicized font. Feel free to use it in whatever manner you find works best for your family, however. Given the age of my kids, I often read a phrase and my kids repeat it, and we go through the whole prayer like that. We’ve begun to put motions to it that help them remember and even my three year old (almost four) is all ready beginning to repeat the lines before I finish. They really enjoy it; which has been my great delight. Well, without further ado, here is “Grace After Meals” from the forthcoming prayer book, The Offerings of Our Lips.

Grace After Meals

Let us bless the Lord together.

Lest we forget the Lord our God. Who brought us out of slavery and brings us to a good land

May we be careful to do the whole commandment that He has commanded us

That we may live, go in, multiply, and possess the land the Lord swore to our Father Abraham.

Bless the Lord together.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and remember the road on which He has led us.

He has tested us that we may know,

That man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Know in your heart, that our Father, God, will discipline us.

So we will keep the commandments of the Lord our God, walk in his ways, and fear Him.

May the words of our mouth be the will of our heart.

As it is written, “and you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless YHWH your God for the good land He has given you.”

Take care lest you forget the Lord your God,

by not keeping His commandments, His ordinances, and His statutes.

Lest when we have eaten and are full, lest when we have built good houses, and all we have is multiplied,

We lift up our hearts and forget the Lord our God.

Beware, lest you say in your heart,

My power and the might of my hand have earned me this wealth.

Remember the Lord your God

For it is He who gives us strength to confirm His covenant that He swore to our fathers.

Bless the Lord.

Blessed is the Merciful One, Ruler of the world, Who created this food. We bless You, we honor You, we thank You. We are Your people and You are our God.

Deuteronomy 8:1-18

 

(c) copyright 2006 Nathan A. Long

A Bit of Levity

The following quote struck my funny bone, and especially at this time of the year, I figured it was apropos:

“I read about the evils of drinking, so I gave up reading.”

Unfortunately, I can’t remember who said this, but if any of you recognize this I’d be interested in being reminded.

Of course, the quote is not autobiographical at all, since I’m far more addicted to reading than I am to drinking! It’s a good thing an additiction to books is socially acceptable.

Perhaps You Were Wondering…

Some of you reading this blog may be wondering, “Where in the world is this guy’s perspective coming from?”

It’s a legitimate question; to many in the evangelical Christian world a torah-sensitivity comes completely out of left field. Some time ago a friend’s dad wrote me a short note inquiring something similar. I thought I would share his note and my response as a sort of short intro to the background of my thinking.

Please don’t take what follows to be a comprehensive explanation, but it can be a great introduction to some books and some scholars that you might want to check out as they are heavily impacting Christianity, and will have a decided affect on the future of evangelicalism.

Nate,
How did you happen to get into this arena of reading? I’m not familiar with this approach at all.

You say it is burgeoning. What else can you tell me about it? Where is it coming from? Much of it sounds like Messianic Jewish perspective. Is this what you are referring to as Promise/Remnant theology?

I wouldn’t say dispensationalism has been the dominant theology. It has certainly been a strong one, represented, for example by, Dallas, Moody, and Wheaton, etc. But I think reformation and covenant and arminian and baptistic theologies are also quite strong.

And my response:

I was initially introduced to this line of thinking several years ago via a gentleman named Dwight Pryor, who is President of The Center for Judaic Christian Studies and a member of The Jerusalem School for Synoptic Research , which began as a result of the unique collaboration between Dr. David Flusser, a Jewish professor from Hebrew University, a philologist and expert in 2nd Temple Judaism, and Dr. Robert Lindsey, the Baptist pastor of Narkis Street Congregation in Jerusalem from 1946 till 1986. The introduction to that information started me on a search for corroborating theological information, and I discovered the upheaval in theological studies that has been underway since 1977.

What can I tell you about it? The presence of a Jewish nation in the Land, and the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls produced an absolute revolution in New Testament and Pauline studies, not to mention in the understanding of 2nd Temple/1st Century Judaism. From what I can piece together primary factors were as follows:

  1. as the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls trickled out of the Vatican’s tight grip it became apparent that our previous understanding of Palestinian Judaism had been mostly caricature (see Martin Abegg, Emmanuel Tov, E.P. Sanders, David Flusser & N.T. Wright), and
  2. the failure of both Covenant and Dispensational theology to construct a satisfactorily whole explanation of Scripture as a unified document began causing evangelical scholars to look elsewhere (see Walter C. Kaiser, James Strauss, Mark Nanos, Brad Young)
  3. hence Promise Theology (rooted in Dr. Kaiser and Dr. Willis Judson Beecher) and Remnant Theology (rooted in the work of the Jerusalem School for Synoptic Research), and likewise, Progressive Dispensationalism (see Darrel Bock, Craig Blaising, and Robert Saucy) for those who couldn’t stomach abandoning Dispensationalism all together.

Promise Theology and Remnant Theology are still fledgling names that even some of the contributors may not agree on; there are a lot of varying ideas among similar larger-picture perspectives still. My guess is that by the time they have solidified in name and content they’ll have merged. The contributors are all reading each other anyway.

What fascinated me was to discover that this movement had independent momentum in Scandinavia, Asia and the Pacific Rim. There is a significant movement taking place in the Lutheran seminaries of Scandinavia, for example, as represented by the writings of Oskar Skarsaune. Ray Pritz and Gershon Nerel represent the same movement in Israel, as do the many now associated with the Jerusalem School for Synoptic Research. Several months ago I began running into the same teaching coming out of Hong Kong, New Zealand & Australia, from completely independent sources. What struck me about the teaching from Pac-Asia was its lack of awareness of being anything other than the norm. These churches/teachers are advocating the keeping of the festivals of the Lord and their significance in prophetic interpretation, for example, as the Christian norm.

There is at this point a great degree of disparity in the various teachings & viewpoints, but it all seems to hold in common a return to the Jewish Roots of our Faith (not just from a Messianic Jewish perspective), and an historico-grammatic hermeneutic.

I would highly recommend Our Father Abraham, by Marvin R. Wilson as a good launching pad for investigating the movement. Toward an Old Testament Theology by Walter C. Kaiser and/or Jesus the Jewish Theologian by Brad Young are great follow up reads. A lighter read which accurately represents a Promise/Remnant Theology interpretation is The Letter Writer by Tim Hegg, a book on Paul, his theology, etc. Our Father Abraham represents some of the early thinking and The Letter Writer its logical conclusion played out half a generation later. Each of those books are equally as valuable for their extensive bibliographies.

Similarly, if you are going to track down these ideas further you’ll eventually want to read The Mystery of the Gospel by D.T. Lancaster and Fellow Heirs by Tim Hegg. I would be remiss not to mention the writings of James D.G. Dunn, Clark M. Williamson, R. Kendall Soulen, Peter Tomson, and Geza Vermes, as being significant contributors to the development of Post-Shoah theology and New Perspective thinking. These days Stephen Westerholm, Simon Gathercole and Andrew Das must also be considered, as reactions to the New Perspective.

In regard to Dispensationalism I was speaking in general terms, which certainly need qualification. I pretty much lump Reformed and Covenant Theology together as essentially the same thing. A second and major qualification is that I generally classify all major historical theologies under either Covenant or Dispensationalist theology; no other major theology besides the developing Promise/Remnant Theology has distinctives which necessarily place it in opposition to the defining characteristics of Covenant or Dispensational Theology. For example, arminian and baptistic theologies can live in either camp.

Why do I say that Dispensationalism has been dominant for the last 40-odd years? First, because I’m referring to America not the world. Secondly, because while Covenant Theology is alive and kicking it doesn’t seem to be as potent in terms of what its adherents produce or in terms of its visibility in secular society. Which camp has influenced major study bibles of the last 30 years? Which camp has written the most popular commentaries of the last 30 years? Which camp is producing conferences, books, music, etc. that are visible in popular culture? Promise Keepers, the Navigators, The Left Behind Series (ick!), contemporary Christian music, Christian Counseling, Nouthetic Counseling, etc.

Why would I say Dispensationalism is on the wane? Because not even Dispensationalists still hold to the Dispensationalism of Ryrie, Walvoord, Scofield, et al; it’s my impression that Progressive Dispensationalism has carried the day in most dispensational-leaning seminaries (actually I think reactions to Progressive Dispensationalism have carried the day, and there is no coherent, dominant theology these days). That will trickle down over time into our pulpits and eventually even into our pews. But the really honest theologians are admitting that Dispensationalism just can’t be fixed, and that Progressive Dispensationalism doesn’t go far enough. The entire construct of Dispensationalism is based on a prejudicial belief that Israel and the Church are two separate entities. That presupposition cannot be accurately supported by Scripture, so ultimately Dispensationalism will die out.

Similarly, in the past few years I’ve noticed that Reformed theology is experiencing a major revival as people recognize the necessity of reading the Scriptures as a unified document, and as people seek a systematic theology with deeper roots. Emergent movements are heavily influenced by the Reformed perspective (and a wide array of other post-modern influences), and many who are dissatisfied with the current state of the church are seeking a more traditional expression of their faith. However, roots are an interesting thing to contemplate. People will eventually find themselves disappointed with “roots” that only go back to the Reformation, or that go back to Rome or that go back to Antioch. It’s to Jerusalem that we need to look for our roots, and only theologies that attempt to re-discover the authentic faith and pedagogy of Yeshua and his disiples will endure.

That’s a pretty long-winded reply, but I tried to answer it more succinctly and just didn’t feel I’d satisfactorily replied.

In Messiah,

Nate Long

For those of you intimately familiar with the New Perspective, Post-Shoah Theology, the Hebrew Roots Movement, etc. I should almost apologize for this as it paints with such a broad brush. However, it was an attempt to introduce some ideas and some names that can start people in a positive direction.

Woundedness

“Without your wounds where would you be? The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children of earth as can one human being broken in the wheels of living. In love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve.”

Thornton Wilder

Do We Need Torah?

Psalm 19:7-11

The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Of course, not all of the Torah can be applied today: we don’t live in a theocracy, so stoning an adulterer does not apply; we don’t have a Temple nor an Aaronic priesthood, so the sacrificial system is not active; however, whatever we can heed, we ought to.

We are desperately searching for “the program” that will solve our dilemma(s) in the church today. How do we manufacture disciples/servants, not pew-fillers? Why do a majority of our flocks seem not to have latched on to “good news?” I believe the reason is because we have abandoned God’s divine program for life–the Torah. We can stop searching and stop brain-storming; our Creator already designed the program that will yield lives of maximum peace, the most fervent evangelists, the truest disciples–lives that will be light and salt.

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:3-6

  • The Holy Spirit wrote God’s Torah on our hearts; for St. Paul “walking in the Spirit” is a euphemism for walking according to God’s commandments.
  • God knew we needed the “memorials” or reminders that He built into Torah as a way of life, in order to successfully live a life of holy imitation; abandoning the instructions of the Designer is the ultimate arrogance.
  • Read Leviticus 23:2-4 and then read Hebrews 10 again. Note particularly verse 25 and tell me if it doesn’t strike you that these ought to be connected. Heb 10:1-18 establish that we have remission of sins by a once for all sacrifice. Verses 19-31 exhort us therefore to keep God’s laws with all diligence, lest we trample on the very Grace by which we have been declared guilt-free.

If the Church didn’t start at Pentecost but in Genesis 12:3, and if the Great Commission didn’t originate God’s missional purpose, but Gen 3:15 does, and if Gen 10 lists all 70 families that comprise all the families of the world as those destined to be blessed via Abraham, then perhaps we ought to re-consider the purpose of the Torah.

There is one standard of righteousness. That is, and is described in, God’s Torah. In fact, Yeshua is the Torah-incarnate. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly beloved children.” (Eph 5:1)

When the finger of God (the Holy Spirit) wrote God’s Torah on our hearts, He was informing our conscience. How many of you would say that you are so in tune with your conscience that you know without fail whether a certain prompting is from your natural man or from the Spirit of God? If the Torah of God is what defines holiness and we are commanded to be holy, wouldn’t it be prudent to heed the holiness manual as we continue to be conformed to His image?

Music Recommendation

I ran across a website that I thought was worth recommending. I don’t know anything about this guy other than what he writes about himself on his site, but, it rings true to me, and the music is well done, with a great message.

His style is reminiscent of Keith Green with more jazz influence, and his voice is more enjoyable.

And here’s the deal: his music is all available for free. Check out http://www.seandietrich.com

Examining the New Covenant – Part 6

If this is true [the validity of Torah to our present lives]…how did Christians miss it for long (and so many still do)?

It occurs to me that when we ask that question we are assuming the same thing has been believed since shortly after Yeshua walked the earth. That is simply not the case. Why don’t we ask the question, “How did 1500 years of Godly men miss the truths that God revealed to Luther, Zwingli and Calvin?” Of course, there are a lot of answers to that question. Similarly, there are a lot of answers to why did the Reformers and most theologians since miss the applicability of the Old Testament to our lives?

I think it is vital to focus on the evolution of theology. We tend to think that what we believe is what most Christians have believed for centuries, but that is simply not the case. Dispensationalism, the theology behind what many of us take for granted, is a very recent development. It didn’t even appear on the scene until the late 1890’s and didn’t become a force to be reckoned with in Christianity until the 1940-50’s. I have a diagram that I use to try and visually illustrate this concept in tandem with the concept of Progressive Revelation. (http://www.cyberhedge.net/docs/History_of_Theology_diagram.pdf )

Progressive Revelation is very important to answering this question. I find it helpful to focus on the covenants; while Paul makes it very clear that a later covenant cannot annul a previous covenant (Gal. 3:17), what God does in each of His covenants, even in each subsequent stating of the same covenant, is get more specific as to all the details of His eternal plan. For example, Abraham knew that God was going to bless all nations through his Seed. Moses finds out that God intended to inaugurate a very special, covenant relationship with a group of people. David finds out that not only is the promise of God going to be fulfilled through Israel, God’s covenant people, but that it will be through David’s family line. Yeshua reveals the specifics of how God is going to redeem us from our spiritual Egypt. This progressive revelation of information seems to be a consistent practice with God.

Note that throughout history God has incrementally added more and more books to His Word to us. Abraham may have had a form of the book of Job. Moses writes the Pentateuch. Samuel contributes more. By the time of Ezra there is a skeleton of our Old Testament. By 367 CE there is a general acknowledgement of the books that we now call the New Testament. But for 300 years after Christ, believers did without the New Testament–at least as a codified, reliable collection of Scripture.

Here’s a possible reason that seems to make sense, but that I can’t prove. Perhaps God allowed the “partial blinding” or “partial hardening” of hearts to certain truths for a time in order to facilitate a massive infusion of Gentiles to His covenant people. There is certainly established precedent of God doing this. Paul tells us that God veiled the eyes of the Israelites at Sinai so that they would not understand the fullness of His covenant with them (2 Corinthians 3:12-16). In Romans Paul tells us that God has partially hardened the Jews until the fullness of the Gentiles have come in (Romans 11:25).

Perhaps He did the reverse to allow large numbers of Gentiles to come in-Gentiles who would have been hesitant if Christianity had been widely perceived as a “Jewish” religion over the centuries. After all, prior to Pentecost, though there had always been Gentiles (strangers, aliens, sojourners) among the congregation of Israel, that believed in God (God-fearers) they were a small minority. Conversely, by the time Paul wrote the letter to the Roman congregation, it appears that 80% of the synagogue in Rome may have been Gentile (based on the list of names in Chapter 16 of Romans – thank you, Mark Nanos, for that idea).

In the World, but not of it

“Most Christians live in the world and go to church. God’s intention is that we live in the church and go to the world. . . . ”

“The church must be a counterculture where Christians live together and share their lives together, where biblical values are not only taught but are lived out as a way of life. . . . We are a counterculture. Our values are not the values of the culture around us. We do not embrace independence, but mutual submission and interdependence. We do not embrace privacy, but shared life, family, community. We do not embrace materialism, but Jesus Christ as owner and master over all we have and are.”

Clay Ford, Our Destiny is Fellowship in Love, 1977

Examining the New Covenant – Part 4

So far we’ve focused primarily on ways in which the New Covenant has not yet been fulfilled. What about ways that it has been or is currently fulfilled?

First of all, I think the New Covenant pertains to the Remnant that has existed in every generation in a first fruits sort of way. In every generation God has proven his faithfulness to his promises by preserving the Remnant. In Genesis we find Joseph telling his brothers what God has revealed to him:

And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. Genesis 45:7 (ESV)

In Judges, a time of fluctuating obedience and disobedience, when every man did as was right in his own eyes there was still a remnant:

Then down marched the remnant of the noble; the people of the LORD marched down for me against the mighty. Judges 5:13 (ESV)

In 2 Kings 19 we find still a remnant even after years and years of wicked kings. In the days of Ezra and Nehemiah there is still a remnant (Ezra 9); the prophets are filled with discussion regarding the gathering again of the remnant of Israel to Himself. In Acts we find that this remnant will include believing Gentiles:

And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’ Acts 15:15-18 (ESV)

And the Apostle Paul confirms this for us in the letter to the congregation in Rome, chapters 9 and 11.

So we see that the remnant in every generation is like first fruits of the New Covenant. The Spirit is writing God’s law on their hearts, or it may even be accurate to say that He has done so with those who have been buried and raised in Messiah as new creation. So this remnant prefigures the return of Israel proper to God as a nation. But in that prefiguring we are supposed to see the first fruits of “the least to the greatest” knowing the Lord, a foretaste of walking in His rules and being careful to obey His statutes (Ezekiel 37:24).

As one author has put it, “The remnant participates in the realities of the New Covenant in anticipation of its future fulfillment in the nation of Israel.” (T. Hegg, unpublished paper).

This is a difficult concept to apprehend. D.T. Lancaster explained it this way:

In 2 Corinthians 3:14 Paul referred to the Torah of Moses as the old covenant so long as it was read without the realization of Messiah. He said that once we are in Messiah, the veil is “removed.” The Torah remains, but the veil concealing Messiah within it is removed. Similarly, the book of Hebrews quotes the prophet Jeremiah to prove that in the new covenant, the Torah is written upon our hearts. (1)

Perhaps it could be summarized this way:

  • Old Covenant: The attempt to keep the Torah according to the covenant at Sinai without realization of Messiah, resulting in condemnation.

  • New Covenant: The writing of the Torah on our hearts through the realization of Messiah according to the covenant in Jeremiah 31, resulting in salvation.

As New Covenant members in Jesus, we are part of the faithful remnant of Israel, having been baptized into the same body, by the same Spirit. Therefore, being first fruits of the New Covenant, part of the remnant of Israel, our lives out to be characterized by obedience to that Torah which has been/is being written on our hearts.

(1) D. Thomas Lancaster, Restoration:Returning the Torah of God to the Disciples of Jesus, p 33.

Unlocking the Meaning of the Scriptures

“The meaning of all the Scriptures is unlocked by the death and resurrection of Jesus.” (1)

While I really appreciate this statement, I would ultimately have to disagree with Graeme Goldsworthy. Here is how I would re-phrase his statement,

“The meaning of all the Scriptures is unlocked by the death, resurrection and return of Jesus the Messiah.”

This is a significant difference. If one can accurately say that the death and resurrection of Yeshua unlocks all the Scriptures than it is almost understandable why one would consider the Old Testament to have been “fulfilled” in such a way as to have been done away with. However, the death and resurrection of Yeshua doesn’t unlock the meaning of all Scriptures, it merely reveals the mechanics of how God will accomplish that which is the over-arching theme of all Scripture. The consistent theme and unifying message of Scripture is that God wants to be our God, us to be His people and to dwell among us. Messiah’s death, resurrection, and conquering, Kingly return reveal the method by which God will accomplish this. Consequently, we realize that not all of the Old Testament has been fulfilled. Much of its meaning has become oh-so-much more significant to us than it was to the Old Testament saints (may they rest in peace and blessedness, for they believed that which they had not seen or heard)! Indeed as Colossians 2:17 correctly translated says, “These are a shadow of the things to come” (note that contrary to the NIV it does not say, “things that were to come” – past tense). No, praise God, it is yet future tense that we will see the completion of the redemptive work of Messiah!

Indeed, when Colossians 2;17 continues to say, “the substance (or the body) is Messiah” it is saying, look the festivals and other content of Torah are a shadow cast by Messiah, they are the best picture we have, but indeed the very fullness, the actual substance of Torah is Messiah himself. Messiah could no more do away with Torah than He could do away with Himself. He, after all, is the embodiment of Torah, the Word become flesh.

Of course we look forward with eager anticipation to the day when Messiah himself will live among us and rule from Jerusalem having “righteoused” all the world. Until that day, Torah is the shadow of Messiah which God the Father gave us as the first fruits of that which all creation groans in expectation of. Our first taste of that which Messiah embodies, God’s greatest gift to His children, His first-born Son.

“Be imitators of God, therefore like dearly beloved children”

Walk like He walked, keep that which He embodies. If He is the Torah-incarnate, then to walk in His Spirit is to walk in the ways of His commandments (which Psalms and Proverbs repeatedly commend to us). Was it not His Spirit Who wrote the Torah on our hearts—not so we could subsequently ignore it, but so that we could more easily keep it!

“Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds(a 1st Century synonym for keeping Torah or doing the commandments), not forsaking our own assembling together (“These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD , which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD. These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times.” Lev. 23:2-4), as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:24-29 NASB)

(1) Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, p. 54

Examining the New Covenant – Part 3

At the end of Jeremiah 31:33, God says “I will be their God, and they shall be My people,” tying the new covenant once again to the Sinai covenant. An exploration of Exodus 6:7-8 will not only amplify the connection to verse 33 of the Jeremiah passage, but also provide yet another tie in.

I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (8) I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.'” Exodus 6:7-8 (ESV)

Note that not only is the same idea I will be your God and you will be my people expressed, but when this becomes really interesting is in an analysis of the language “I will take you to be my people.” Ancient Hebrew had no word for marriage, the expression of this idea was v’lekach ti or “I will take you”. So we see that not only does God say in Jeremiah 31:32, “I was a husband to them.”, but in Exodus 6 He says “I will take you (the people of Israel) to be my bride.” Fixing once again the idea that while Israel’s response to the “old” and new covenant will be different, the content of the covenants is not contrasted but harmonized.

It is also significant to note the connection made in Exodus 6 to the Abrahamic covenant. Notice that the Sinai is connected to the Abrahamic and the New is connected to the Sinai covenant. As are all of God’s covenants. We ought not to look on them as individualized, unique contracts, but as progressively revealed and contiguously related. The core message of God’s promise is revealed in Genesis, then expanded and amplified throughout the rest of the Scriptures.

Walter Kaiser expressed this very well,

“The progress of revelation has an organic aspect in which the identity of the germ contained in the earliest mention of a theme continues in the buildup of that theme as the same seminal idea takes on a more developed form in later revelation.” (1)

I refer you once again to Jeremiah 31, to note with even more particular care the phrase, “I will be their God and they shall be my people.” We have all ready noted that this ties the New Covenant back to the Sinai Covenant, but it must also be understood that this ties the New Covenant to God’s eternal plan.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. Revelation 21:3 (ESV)

The New Covenant will also be different because Israel’s obedience to God will be on a national scale, “they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” While acceptance of the covenant by Israel and obedience to God’s stipulations will be national, it is equally significant that the covenant will be based on God’s forgiveness of Israel’s sin-this also will be a whole-scale, national condition. Verse 34 says, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

So we have a couple indicators that the New Covenant has not yet been completely fulfilled:

  1. The dispersed people of Israel have not yet been reunited as a single nation under God
  2. As a people, Israel has not yet evidenced faithful obedience to God
  3. As a people, Israel has not yet recognized Jesus as the Messiah, in order that they might be eternally forgiven for their violations of the Covenant terms (Torah-lessness).

Next time we will discuss further the ways in which the New Covenant has been or is being fulfilled.

(1) Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. and Moises Silva, An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), p 143

Reflecting Back, Looking Forward

Eberhard Arnold, on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday:

“On this day I have been espe­cially conscious of my lack of abilities and of how unsuited my own nature is to the work I have been given, remembering how God called me and how I have stood in his way, with the result that so much of what God must have wanted to do has not been possible. When I look back on the years that Emmy and I have been seeking, it is a miracle that we are still allowed to be a part of this community. This is only possible because of God’s infinite power and forgiveness.

“Another thing concerns me very much: the powerlessness of man, even of the man who has been entrusted with some task. Only God is mighty. Even for the work that has been given us, we are wholly without power. We can­not fit one single stone into the structure that is the community. We cannot protect the community once it has been built up. We cannot devote ourselves to the cause using only our own strength.

“But I believe that this is precisely why God has called us: we know we are powerless. It is hard to describe how all our own power must be stripped from us; how it must be dropped, dismantled, torn down, and put away. What I wish is that this dismantling of our own self-will might be carried out to its full extent. This is not attained easily and will not happen through a single heroic decision. God must do it in us. But when even a little of our own power rises up, the spirit and authority of God retreats at the same moment and to the same degree.”

Eberhard Arnold was born July 26, 1883 in Konigsberg, Germany.  He died November 22, 1935.  In those 52 short years he established a community of believers called the Bruderhof that still exists today.  His writings and those of his children, some of those important to his thoughts and writings, and some of his grandson Johan Christoph Arnold can be found and downloaded at http://www.plough.com .

The story of his son’s life (J. Heinrich Arnold) and the continued growth and struggle of the Bruderhof after having been driven out of Germany by the Nazi regime is recorded in a book titled Homage to a Broken Man.  I highly recommend it’s reading.