Reflections for the Week of Sunday December 11, 2016 Third of Advent

Gospel: Mt 11.2-11 says that John the Baptist who was in prison sent to Jesus to know whether He was really the Messiah, and Jesus pointed to His actions like healing the blind and raising the dead as set forth in Isa 61.1,2 and 42.7 to show that He is, and He quotes Mal 3.1 to show that John is God’s messenger sent before Him to prepare the way. As we continue to reflect on Advent, the Coming of the Lord, the Gospel uses the OT to confirm that Jesus of Nazareth is the Anointed One.

Let’s consider what the central message of the OT (and the NT) is. Waltke in An Old Testament Theology says that it is “the irruption (breaking in from without), not eruption (breaking out from within), of the kingship of the holy, merciful, and only God” (p. 144). The message that accommodates all the themes [of the OT] is that Israel’s sublime God, whose attributes hold in tension His holiness and mercy, glorifies Himself by establishing His universal rule over His volitional creatures on earth through Jesus Christ…The Kingdom of God was the central message of Jesus. The message that binds together indivisibly the two realms of the OT and the NT… is the irruption of the Kingship of God into the world and its establishment here. The Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come” summarizes this central message. It entails that God establishes His rule over His elect covenant people through the kingship of Jesus Christ, who by the Holy Spirit places God’s imperative rule upon the hearts of those whom Christ has freed from the slavery of Satan, sin, and death. The faith of His covenant-people expresses itself in their obedience to Him: to love Him with all their hearts (Dt 6.5), and to love one another as themselves (Lev 19.18). The kingdom of God is the establishment of God’s sovereignty over the human race. The kingdom of God is defined as the regenerated community, in which the divine will should be realized. The good news set forth in Scripture is that God is breaking into His corrupted creation to destroy the gates of Hades and deliver its captives into the realm of His blessed rule. The OT is a history book dealing with God’s actions in saving fallen mankind through election, covenants, and the one God who reveals Himself in words and acts to Israel. YHWH’s (I AM’s) words to Abram (Gen 12.1-3) precedes the whole patriarchal history, sets it going, and gives it its goal. The Credo in Dt 26.5ff recapitulates God’s historical acts from the patriarchs to the conquest. The meaning of this history that “was written for our learning” (Rm 15.4) becomes clear in Jesus who was sent forth as God’s Son (Gal 4.4) to make I AM known. But God hides Himself (Isa 28.21; 8.17; 45.15; Dt 29.29) as does Jesus.

Faith is the only way to know Him throughout the OT though there is hardly a word for faith in Hebrew. It is always directed toward the Person of I AM and implies total commitment of oneself to Him. It is the same in the NT but is based on the coming of Christ who is the fulfillment and the conclusion of Israel’s history with I AM. We need the OT to understand the New. The blessing God promised to the patriarchs becomes clear in the Pentateuch to be the divine-human relationship. The Bible is a story of universal (every believer) salvation history. God formed Israel as His servant to bring salvation to all nations. The story of God’s in-breaking has an already-not yet character. The seed, the land, the kingdom are always “becoming.” The heroes of the OT (Heb 11) trusted I AM who would identify Himself as “before Abram was, I AM” (Jn 8.28).

Memory Verse: “I Am the bread of life”; “I AM the light of the world”; “I AM the door of the sheep”; “I AM the good shepherd”; “I AM the resurrection and the life”; “I AM the way, the truth, and the life”; “I AM the true vine” (Jn 6.35,48,50; 8.12; 9.1,5; 10.7,9,11,14; 11.25; 14.6; 15.1,5).

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