Reverse the Curse III – Israel

The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:7-8).

“[Yahweh] brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 26:9).

When the earth was defiled by human evil, God cleansed it with water. When the earth was defiled again by human arrogance who thought themselves gods, he chose Abraham and his descendents to be the heir of the cosmos (Romans 4:13). God will provide them land, and there God will dwell among them as their God and they his people.

By giving Abraham the land of Caanan God intended that through Abraham all the nations of the earth would be blessed, that the whole earth would come under the reign of God.  There was no intent to leave the rest of the cosmos under the dominion of evil. Instead, God would redeem the whole earth–all the nations and the cosmos itself–through Abraham’s seed.

As a promise of the future and an experience of the new creation itself, God gave Israel a fertile land “flowing with milk and honey.” The land itself was a foretaste of the new heavens and new earth; a foretaste of a renewed creation.

Israel, in their fertile land, was the kingdom of God in the midst of a broken world. God invested his love and gifts in them so that they might be a witness to the nations for the sake of calling them into communion with Yahweh, the king of the earth. They were to care for their land and animals with stewardly love, love each other, and love God with all their heart, soul and mind. God gave them the Torah to guide them, priests to mediate his redemption, prophets to exhort them, and judges to protect the weak.

Israel was, in effect, a new creation; a new beginning of God’s creative intent; a light in the darkness. A redemptive, royal priesthood through whom God would work to further his reign on the “cursed” earth.

But….

 “I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable” (Jeremiah 2:7).

I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty; and at the heavens, and their light was gone….I looked, and there wre no people…I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert…” (Jeremiah 4:23, 25a, 26a).

Alas, Israel defiled the land, themselves and turned to other gods. Like their ancestors, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, they chose their own autonomy over the divine invitation to participate in God’s reign. They set themselves up as rulers over the earth–or at least their parcel of land–instead of reigning with God and serving his goals for the sake of the nations and creation.

With this defilement, God returned the land–what was designed as a new Garden (Eden) upon the earth–to chaos, darkness, and death. The language of Jeremiah is quite striking.  The only two times the Hebrew terms “formless and empty” are used are in Genesis 1:2, describing the cosmos before God’s creative ordering, and Jeremiah 4:23, describing the land of promise after Israel’s defilement. The divine inheritance was no longer “fruitful” but a “desert.”

This is a reversal of creation. This is the nature of the “curse.” It is a return to chaos, darkness and death. God promised that he would curse their flocks, land, etc. if they defiled his land, rejected his mission for them, and rebelled against God’s righteousness (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).

Israel, called to reverse the curse and live as new life within a broken world, chose chaos over creation, evil over good, and darkness over light. As a result, they experienced what the original couple experienced–their Garden existence turned into a desert filled with brokenness, a cursed reality.

Meanwhile, the curse continued to consume the earth (Isaiah 24:6). The world lies in the power of evil, lives in darkness, and chaos reigns.

But hope did not die because God yearns for his people, loves them, and does not give up on his creation.

“‘Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.’ …I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more….The wolf and the lamb will feed together, the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. ” (Isaiah 65:1a, 3, 25a).

The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name” (Zechariah 14:9).

God intends to renew the heavens and earth he created; to create them anew.  He will yet fully reverse the curse. He intends to remove weeping and violence, even violence in the animal kingdom.  He will reverse what the serpent inaugurated with his temptations and defeat the serpent himself.  Shalom will reign in the whole earth; the kingdom of God will fill the whole earth.

Israel was not the creation’s last, best hope.  It was a divine project; a renewal of the divine mission for humans as imagers of God to co-rule over the creation and co-create the future with God.  It was a way for God to effect the renewal of the earth through human participation. It had its successes, but it also had its dismal failures as humanity continued to seek its own interest rather than participate in God’s life.

Israel was not creation’s last, best hope.  God is the hope of the cosmos. God will act. God will redeem. God will create.

God incarnate, the seed of Abraham, will bring light into the darkness and enlighten the world.  God incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth, is the creation’s last, best and only hope.

More to come….



17 Responses to “Reverse the Curse III – Israel”

  1.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    I might be jumping ahead but what you wrote is a very good way to introduce (as a prelude) the historical impact of John 1.14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (NIV).

    What you are pointing out with Israel’s history is that they were the means God was using to restore the cosmos (reverse the curse). BUT… the better means was/is Jesus, God in the flesh, who is now the means of restoring the cosmos. The implication for us, the church, seems to be that we are not called to be the means but to participate in the means.

    If this is correct, then it seems to be a fundamental difference between the church and Israel. I know there is a lot of literature discussing the commonalities between Israel and the church (and I know that on exegetical terms it is realistic that Luke/Acts makes no distinction between Israel and the church, as the church is Israel). But this seems to be a fundamental difference and it should shed light on how we read scripture and do hermenuetics. Rather than seeing ourselves as an independent entity (the dispensational age of the church), we are to be participants in what the incarnate Word does. When we read scripture, do we do so to define what the church does or do we do so to determine how the church particpates in the the incarnate Word does (Christ event).

    Does that make sense? Is that distinction between Israel and the church legite?

    Great post!

    Rex

  2.   richard constant Says:

    john mark you comment on gal.6:15-16.
    reguarding the kingdom of god in christ
    please
    thanks rich

  3. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    I agree with your point about dispensationalism. We participate in the mission of Jesus; we are part of his story, part of the ministry of Jesus.

    I would suggest strong continuity between Israel and the Church as participation, however. Israel participated in the mission of Yahweh, which is the mission of Jesus. So, I think participation is something we could say of both Israel and the Church….and they both equally fail at being the means. Both are participants in the mission of God. The church can make itself into the last, best hope of the world, but it is Jesus who is that hope.

    I don’t think “means” language is inappropriate for Israel or the Church, but they are a means by which God works in the world for his mission. But neither is sufficient without the work of Jesus. So, Israel pointed toward Jesus as it participated in the mission of God and the Church picks up the ministry of Jesus to carry it into the secured future of the reign of Christ in fulfillment of the mission of God.

    I think the fundamental differentiation between Israel and the church is the particularlism/nationalism of Israel over against the universalism/trans-nationalism of the Church.

    But maybe, Rex, I am not quite understanding your point.

  4. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Rich,

    I want to do a post on Gal 6:14-16 in the future, but I suspect your question relates to the “Israel of God” in relation to my post.

    It is a difficult text, and I’m not quite sure how to understand it. Is the “Israel of God” that part of physical Israel which follows the rule (canon) of Jesus, or is the “Israel of God” a synonym for the church, or is the “Israel of God” physical Israel as a whole. I think I prefer the first choice, but I am uncertain.

  5.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    JMH,

    I would agree with your critique. I forgot about the whole idea of Israel pointing towards Jesus (that’s what happens when I think outloud), which immplies that both Israel and the church are participants of God’s mission in Jesus.

    I understand that the church is to be unversal/trans-nationalism. However, as I watch to continuous blur between Christianity and American Nationalism, it seems like we hold a minority view:-).

    Thanks for the conversation!

    Rex

  6.   Clyde S. Says:

    Thanks for the good posts. You’re a really good writer. This has been a very interesting topic for me since I took some of Dr. Fortner’s classes. I look forward to printing out all your “curse” posts and then going back through my Fortner notes to put them in conversation.

    That is one of the wonderful blessings of HUGSR (and we can add Lipscomb in there since you’re dual-status!): getting to benefit from the deep study you, Dr. Fortner, Dr. Oster and others have done and are continuing to do.

  7. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Yes, it does seem that way, does it not? :-) Many like the both/and–Americana and Christianity–which often ends up blending rather than prioritizing the two.

  8. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Clyde,

    I don’t mind differences or disagreements. The substance, I think, is what will unite….there is pain/death, God intends to redeem it, he will redeem it in Jesus, and he calls us to participate in that redemptive work.

    Thanks for you kind words.

  9.   Preacherman Says:

    I love reading this series.
    Wonderful brother.
    I hope you have a blessed weekend! :-)

  10.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    JMH,

    Missionaries must always as the question of how to contextualize the gospel without allowing syncretism to take place. I believe this Americana/Christian (God, country, and family) that pervades our nation (and runs deeply among country-western music) is a big example of syncretism. The problem is that it is so easily accepted that it is hard to correct in a redemptive (not combative) manner.

    Rex

  11.   richard constant Says:

    syncretism
    ok for you rex.
    no more lingo like that with out a def.
    because people like me ant’t got no clue.

    happy face

    rich in ca.

  12.   richard constant Says:

    john mark would or could the “Israel of God” be the ” unto all them that believe; for there is no distinction”; rom.3:22
    the redeamed of the earth by the lord which would be the entire assembly of creation that are acceptical to god through faith.

    faith = a defanition given by god.
    i am trying not to be ambiguous.

    rich in ca.

  13.   richard constant Says:

    p.s.

    acceptical to god through faith.
    as in the hear and now that i write this… and the hear and now that you read this…

  14.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    Richard,

    Syncretism is the blending of two or more belief systems, ideologies, etc… From a Christian point a view, Christianity is an exclusive belief system that make an explicit claim on how its adherents think and act. All other political, philosophical, and religious systems are incongruent with Christianity. However, just as God came into the human culture by incarnation, the Christian mission responsibility is to contextualize the message into culture of the receptive audience without compromising the message. Compromisation results in syncretism.

    I hope that helps.

    -Rex

  15.   richard constant Says:

    hot dog oh boy …you bet

    supper good word where is the enonceation
    so that i can say the thing…i will look that up

    very nice thanks rex

    blessings

    rich i ca.

  16. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    The “Israel of God” in Gal 6:16 is best defined in the context of Galatians and the immediate context. But, unfortunately, it is ambiguous to me. It may refer to all those who believe without distinction, or it may refer to those within ethnic Israel who believe, or it may refer to ethnic Israel per se. I am uncertain. But it is not a matter of great consequence, in my opinion.

  17.   richard constant Says:

    john Mark …..

    thanks

    how bout another post or five.

    before sunday to think on.
    ha ha
    just trying to weasel another post out of uou
    happy face…
    rich in ca.
    blessings

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. chrisaltrock.com » Blog Archive » The Story that makes sense of your story

Leave a Reply