God Becomes a Human Being

August 15, 2019

When God decided to come to the temple and renew covenant with Israel, God decided to come as a human being rather than as a burning bush or an angel. God decided to come in the flesh rather than as a temporary theophany like God’s appearance to Israel in the fire and the cloud. God did not come to the temple in some kind of spiritual or celestial form but in the flesh.

I suppose God could have simply created a fully mature human body and united with it, but God did not intend to simply be a human being but to fully live out a human life. Rather than dropping out of the sky as a fully developed human, God decided to be born, grow, mature, and eventually die. In other words, God intended to fully experience human life from birth to death.

Therefore, the Creator sent the Son, the one through whom God created the world, into the world, and the Son became human through birth, born of a woman named Mary. Ever since, generations have called Mary, blessed and favored by God, as the one through whom the Son of God became flesh and entered the world.

This was the Trinity in action. The Father sends the Son, the Son enters the virgin womb of Mary, and the Spirit is the means by which Mary conceives and gives birth to a human child, who is called the Son of the Most High. This child is both the son of Mary and the Son of God, this one is both human and divine. God became flesh through a woman named Mary.

This does not mean that Jesus is half-God and half-human. On the contrary, the Son who is fully God and the very agent of creation itself became flesh, and as flesh grew into the fullness of human life. Fully God became fully human without ceasing to be God. In this way, God truly and fully identifies with us.

Through a full immersion into the human condition as a human being, God learned to empathize with us. When God became one of us, God fully experienced what it meant to be human, to feel like a human, to struggle as a human, and to experience the limitations all human beings share.

When God became flesh, God chose self-limitation. God, in the person of the Son, lived in a body that was limited by time and space. The Son lived in Galilee and Judea, but not in Asia or North America. The Son lived in a specific time when Roman Emperors oppressed the Mediterranean world. The Son learned what it meant to grow from infancy to childhood, and from childhood to adulthood. The Son grew in wisdom and in years. The Son, as a human being, grew and developed like any other human being.

We know this human being as Jesus, born of Mary, raised in Nazareth, and the cousin of John the Immerser. The two, Jesus and John, will meet in the baptismal waters of the Jordan river.

God Sends the Son and the Spirit

August 12, 2019

As Malachi prophesied and John the Baptizer proclaimed, the Lord is coming. The God who created the world and chose Israel from among the nations is about to come to the temple in order to cleanse it and renew covenant with Israel.

But what does it mean to say that God is coming to the temple? When Jesus the Messiah arrived, cleansed the temple, and gave his body and blood to renew covenant with Israel, how is this the arrival of God at the temple?

Christians confess that the one God is three. Christians did not begin describing God as three because they were fond of the number. Rather, when they experienced God in Jesus and through the Holy Spirit, they named the one God as three: Father, Son, and Spirit.

The God of Israel is one God, and there is only one God. Israel confessed this monotheistic faith through their Shema: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 4:6). When the apostle Paul unpacked this confession, he named the Father as the one God and the Son as the one Lord (1 Corinthians 8:6).  As Christians gave a new interpretation to Israel’s Shema, they affirmed God’s community as well as unity. And we see this play out in the theodrama.

This drama is nicely summarized in Galatians 4:4-6. In the fullness of time, when God was ready to come to the temple to cleanse it and renew life with Israel, God sent the Son. He was born of a woman as truly human and born under the law as a descendant of Abraham in order to redeem the world. God became human to suffer for all, and he was born a Jew to extend the inheritance of Israel to all nations. As a descendant of Abraham, the Son became the means by which Gentiles would inherit the promise of Abraham and become children of God.

Just as Israel enjoyed the presence of God at the temple, so the children of God are gifted with God’s presence also. God sent the Holy Spirit into the hearts of believers. Living in our hearts, the Spirit cries, “Abba, Father.” As children of God, we—both Jew and Gentile—are no longer enslaved to sin but free from its guilt and power. The presence of the Spirit assures us that we are fellow-heirs with Christ, heirs of the promise to Abraham.

The Creator God, the God of Israel, in the fullness of time, sent the Son, through whom God had created the world, into the world for the sake of the world, and then sent the Holy Spirit into the hearts of believers. The Father sent the Son, and then, through the Son, sent the Spirit.

This is what Christians call the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, and we worship the Father through the Son in the Spirit. This one God, who is Father, Son, and Spirit, is the same one who began the theodrama, participates in the theodrama, and will bring it to its completion. The Father, Son, and Spirit are the main actors in the rest of the story.

The Prophets Envision a New Day

August 9, 2019

The last prophet in the Hebrew Bible is Malachi, whose name means “my messenger.” God sent Malachi to a small community of Jews who lived under Persian rule in the area around Jerusalem. Though Judah had returned from Babylonian exile, they had not experienced a national restoration, and it appeared the promises of God had failed. They doubted the love of God and wondered about God’s faithfulness because they were still, essentially, an exiled people living under the oppression and occupation of a hostile empire.

But Malachi envisions a new day, a time when God would return to the temple (Malachi 3:1), and before God returned, God would send a messenger to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. Malachi named the messenger—the prophet Elijah (Malachi 4:5).

Malachi prophesied that Elijah would turn Israel’s hearts back to God. He would call them to repent because many of the practices which precipitated the exile continued in Judah. For example, the messenger will confront Judah’s sexual immorality, false witnesses, economic injustice (they did not pay just wages), and social injustice against widows, orphans, and aliens in the land (Malachi 3:5).

God fully intended to restore Israel and renew covenant with them. But before this new day dawned, God would call them to repentance by sending a messenger to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Lord, the coming of God’s anointed, the Messiah.

At the beginning of the first century, Elijah showed up. We know him as John the Baptizer. In effect, John announces the coming end of the exile. The Lord is coming, and God is carving out path in the wilderness as every mountain is made low and every valley is filled in order to make a straight path from Babylonian exile to the restoration of Israel in Jerusalem.

John is a new Elijah and calls the people to repent. They want to know what they should do, and John’s message in Luke 3 is an economic and social one. Whoever has more than they need should share with others. Whoever administers government policy should treat people fairly and not charge more than what is necessary. Whoever has political or police power should not extort anyone or make false accusations.

Many responded. They confessed their sins, turned from their old ways of life, and were baptized in water for the forgiveness of their sins. Through confession, repentance, and baptism in water, John prepared a people for the coming of the Messiah.

John gathered a group of disciples who were committed to a renewed ethical vision; they were committed to the coming reign of God. And they waited for the Messiah when the Lord would come to the temple. The restoration of Israel is about to begin, and the exile is about to end, and the Messiah will soon show up. The story of God, the theodrama, is about to explode with fresh meaning.

The Prophets Call for Justice

August 5, 2019

The earlier prophets, Zechariah announces to post-exilic Judah, delivered the word of the Lord to their ancestors. The Spirit of God sent messages to them but they did not listen. Yahweh sent word after word to various prophets in the pre-exilic era but they did not listen.

The prophet describes them with three metaphors:

• They turned their backs like a stubborn animal who refuses a yoke.
• They stopped their ears so that they could not hear.
• They made their hearts as hard as flint (a rock that can sharpen knives).

They were insubordinate, inattentive and stone-hearted. They did not care. They were insensitive and uncaring about the plight of the poor in the land. They pursued injustice rather than loving their neighbors. They did not listen because they loved themselves more than their neighbors. Zechariah accuses post-exilic Judah of pursuing the same interests as pre-exilic Judah. The people had not changed.

Zechariah summarizes the message of the earlier prophets. It is a classic distillation of Amos (5:24), Hosea (4:1-3; 12:6), Micah (6:8), Isaiah (58:6-8) and Jeremiah (7:5-6). It is a stunning message about social responsibility—two prescriptions and two prohibitions.

• Administer true justice, or “justice and faithfulness”
• Show mercy (hesed) and compassion to one another
• Do not oppress the marginalized (widow, orphan, alien, or poor)
• Do not devise evil in your hearts against each other

This language rehearses the theme of social injustice so prominent in the prophets. In fact, the Hebrew “devise evil” is situated in a legal context in Zechariah 8:16-17. Those who were charged with protecting the marginalized are abusing their power for their own interests. Justice is perverted. The courts, even the priestly courts, facilitate the mistreatment of the widow, orphan, alien, and poor. Instead of mercy, compassion, justice, and faithfulness, the people “devise evil” against each other, literally “brothers.” Instead of loving their neighbors, they exploit them.

This perverts the essence of the Torah. It subverts Israel’s own history as an enslaved alien loved by Yahweh. Just as Yahweh loved Israel as an alien (a marginalized outsider), so Israel is to love the alien (the marginalized; cf. Deuteronomy 10:17-20). This is the very heart of God and embodies the greatest commandment–to love the Lord our God with our whole heart. We love God by loving our neighbor; we love God in our neighbor.

The sins of pre-exilic Israel continued in post-exilic Judah. Hadn’t the people learned their lesson? Don’t they remember how angry God was about such injustices? Zechariah reminds them.

In the midst of their injustice, God did not answer when they called because they did not listen when God called. God turned the tables. Whereas they did not show mercy and compassion to the strangers in their midst, so God made them strangers by scattering them to lands they did not know. Because Israel mistreated the homeless, they became homeless. Their beautiful land—a garden that God had prepared for his people—became a desolate region (cf. Jeremiah 3:19-21).

The message of Zechariah is a word from the Lord: “return to me and I will return to you” (Zechariah 1:2). But Judah has not yet returned to God. Instead, they continue the practices of their forefathers; they have not heeded the warning or learned the lesson. Judah must become a nation for the poor; it must become a place of mercy and compassion, of truth and faithfulness, for the underprivileged.

Will Judah listen? Will we?

Prophets: Amos Witnesses to Justice and Hope

August 1, 2019

How might a migrant worker convict luxurious homeowners about their oppressive lifestyles? What might a poor, rural believer say to wealthy, urban idolaters?

Amos was neither trained as a prophet nor assumed the career of a prophet. He was a shepherd in the Judean wilderness near Bethlehem from the backwater village of Tekoa. He supplemented his income through cultivating sycamore-fig trees (a kind of migrant worker since those trees did not grow in the area of Tekoa).

The eighth century before Christ, however, was a time of prosperity and peace.  Jeroboam II ruled over the northern kingdom while Uzziah reigned over Judah. Jeroboam II had the longest reign of any northern king and Uzziah had the second longest of any king of Judah. Together their reigns approximated the “golden age” of Solomon himself in terms of territory, building projects, and economic trade.  

Peace and prosperity, however, did not form a just and faithful nation. On the contrary, wealth was increasingly located in the hands of the elite few. Whereas their blessings should have blessed all, the wealthy consumed their blessings rather than sharing them.

The shepherd Amos went from his rural environs near Tekoa to the heartland of Israel’s ruling elite in Bethel and Samaria. His message decried injustice, oppression, and idolatry. He announced Israel’s future–one of both judgment and hope.

How do the poor speak a word from God to the rich? How does a lowly shepherd address the ruling elite about their nation?

We want to stand with Amos as he speaks against injustice and idolatry. But we will miss the message if we do not become Amos’ audience as well. We must hear Amos as those who live in luxury with more wealth than we need. Otherwise we will simply make excuses and judge his words inapplicable–much like Israel responded to Amos.

Prosperity often creates spiritual apathy along with greed and covetousness (as we always want more). If nothing else, the words of Amos warn us that prosperity is only a blessing if it is acknowledged with gratitude and shared.  Otherwise it becomes the root of greed, injustice, and oppression.

Nevertheless, Amos offered Israel hope. In chapter 9, Amos announced good news. A day will come when God will renew Israel and fully restore relationship with them. God will again raise the tent of David and a son of David will once again reign over the land. Amos 9:11-15 offers hope not only to Israel but to the nations. The restoration of the “tent of David” will include the nations. They too will be called by the name of God. When that day arrives the glory of the Lord will fill the whole earth and the meek will inherit the earth. The Abrahamic promise will be fulfilled when the whole earth becomes the Lord’s both in fact as well as by right. Both Israel and the nations will enjoy the land, the blessings of the covenant, and the presence of God when the “tent of David” is restored. And that story is the next act in the theodrama

Living in Chaos

July 29, 2019

Living within God’s creation is both frustrating and delightful. Qoheleth, the wise teacher in Ecclesiastes, offers an extended reflection on this conundrum.

Life is absurd. The Hebrew word hebel describes this frustration, and Qoheleth uses it thirty-seven times. Literally, it means “vapor”—like a breath in the cold air. Metaphorically, it means “futility.” As such it communicates the seeming pointlessness of life.

The word, however, has more punch than this. It encompasses the unfathomable nature of life, the deep impenetrable mystery of life and death. Some suggest “enigma,” and life is enigmatic because we simply do not know. We are limited in perspective, and we cannot make sense of life.

Some suggest “absurd.” Life is frustrating. The seemingly ceaseless, circular, and pointless merry-go-round of life has no goal, no meaning, and no worth. Life, because of death, is hauntingly absurd.

What lies behind Ecclesiastes is the story in Genesis 3-11. When Qoheleth probes life, the teacher evokes the narrative world of Abel. The name Abel is the same word as hebel. The seemingly pointless, absurd, and unjust death of Abel at the hands of Cain symbolizes human existence in a world enslaved to death. Our lives are like Abel’s.

This is why it good for us good to sit with Ecclesiastes for a season rather than move on too quickly. Sometimes we are forced to do so when chaos assaults human life. We recoil at the death of children in tornadoes. We are shocked when children are killed in mass shootings. Sometimes all we can do is agree with Qoheleth, “Everything is absolutely absurd!”

Yet, without forgetting life is hebel, Qoheleth also confesses God has invested creation with joy and value. Though disoriented by the absurdity of life, Qoheleth remembers the creator (12:1) and “knows that whatever God does endures forever” (3:14).  Qoheleth holds these two truths in tension:  life is absurd and God is the creator. At the same time, Qoheleth confesses, no one knows “the work of God, who makes everything” (11:5). Life is an enigma.

Though life is filled with futility, we also experience God’s good creation, and somehow and in some way God gives joy in the midst of absurdity. Even in the midst of life’s hurt and pain, Qoheleth commends joy.  “Go, eat your bread with enjoyment,” the wise sage advises, “and drink your wine with a merry heart” and “enjoy life with your” spouse (9:7, 9).

Qoheleth, while observing the absurdity of life, affirms Israel’s confession of the theodrama. As creator, God shares many good gifts with humanity, and God invites humanity to enjoy them. Though labor has become burdensome “toil,” humanity may yet find joy in the work or vocation God gave them in the beginning. Though wealth is often used to oppress others, humanity may yet enjoy it as the gift of God. Though many may abuse both wine and spouses, they are nevertheless God’s good gifts within creation.

Life is both hebel and filled with the gifts of the creator. We lament and recognize the absurdity of human existence, but we also receive God’s good gifts of creation with gratitude and joy. Qoheleth does not reject God’s creation. Instead, the wise teacher cries out for the full realization of God’s reign within it.

There is much to grieve in our world: mass shootings, suicides, racism, sexism, homophobia, deaths, rapes, and abuse of power.  We lament, and we call it hebel.

And, without diminishing the pain of our laments, we affirm the goodness of creation: the joy of food, wine, companionship, vocation, children, and life.

There is hebel, and there is good. Something is wrong with this world, and something is good about it.

For now, we lament the evil, and we enjoy the good.

Wisdom and Folly

July 25, 2019

Wisdom and Folly are personified as women in Proverbs 9. The wise sage of Proverbs portrays Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly as hostesses who invite those who pass by into their home. The wise teacher encourages the simple, those who are inexperienced and do not have enough life experience under their belt to make choices, to heed the voice of Lady Wisdom and reject the invitation of Dame Folly.

Wisdom built her own house; she built creation itself as God created the world through her. Wisdom is prepared. She sacrifices her own meat, mixes her own wine. and sets her own table.  But Folly is loud—a good show but no substance. She is simple herself and ignorant—she doesn’t know how to help. She has no resources of her own but roars with her own boisterousness.

Wisdom is active. She invites others by actively seeking them. She sends people out to gather them. Folly waits for others to find her (and she is not hard to find). They are both visible, but they have different methods. Folly waits for the simple to fall into her trap.

Wisdom offers her own bread and wine. She gives out of her own resources.  Folly, however, offers stolen water and eats bread in secret. Wisdom’s invitation is public, open, and transparent.  Folly invites us to secrecy and isolation. I’m reminded how addictions (drugs, alcohol, and sex, for example) find vitality in secrecy and isolation. They bring death. Wisdom is transparent.

Wisdom urges us to live in her light, to walk through life with her insight. But Folly makes no promises. Rather, in foolishness we are awakened to the reality that the guests at her banquet inhabit Sheol. Wisdom brings life but Folly brings death.

We live in the creation wisdom built. It is best to live by that wisdom–and the beginning of that wisdom is the fear of the Lord. When we live within the creation in ways that embody wisdom, we experience life with more serenity. But when we live within the creation in foolish ways, then we experience chaos and turmoil. God made the world so that round pegs fit round holes, but when, in our foolishness, we try to put a round peg into a square hole, something breaks. We break. The creation is built for a particular kind of living, that is, living by the fear of the Lord. Any other kind of living leads to brokenness.

Jesus said something similar at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.  The gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction but the gate is small and the road narrow that leads to life. It is the difference between life and death, the difference between wisdom and foolishness.

Wise people, Jesus said, build their houses on rocks–like the wisdom in the Sermon on the Mount. But foolish people, Jesus said, build their houses on sand.  The former house, built by wisdom, stands strong, but the house built on foolishness collapses. Alas! I have often found it much easier to sing the children’s song than to heed its advice.

The Hymns and Prayers of Israel

July 23, 2019

We humans live in space and time, and we create space and time for what is important to us. The God of Abraham did this for Israel through the introduction of times of worship in holy spaces.

Through weekly, monthly, and annual festivals, God provided Israel with a rhythm of worship and prayer that included times of celebration and joy as well as times of lament and repentance. Out of the chaos of their lives, God ordered time and space through various rituals in order to remind Israel who God was, celebrate their life with God, hear the story of God again, and bring the stuff of real life into God’s presence.

The Psalms, the hymnbook and prayerbook of Israel, express the fullness of their life with God from its joys to its hurts. And for centuries Israel prayed and sang these words in the presence of God, and Jesus the Messiah, along with the church that followed him, also prayed and sang these life-giving and sometimes desperate words.

The Psalms mirror the soul and give expression to intense feelings of lament and praise. They express confidence in God and our desire to worship the Creator as well as our commitment to follow God’s Torah. They express our deepest moments of despair and doubt. They confess sin, and they also question God’s faithfulness in the midst of injustice and pain.

The Psalms are a collection of diverse hymns, songs, and prayers that reflect the continuum of life. They move from confidence to lament to praise. They retell the history of God’s people, pray for God’s deliverance, and offer thanks for God’s redemptive acts. These prayers have sustained the people of God through despair and triumph, through good times and bad.

Lament and praise are constants throughout the Psalms.  Almost half of the Psalms are laments. They lament injustice, death, sickness, sin, and oppression. They ask God gut-wrenching questions like, “Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Or, “How long will you hide your face from me? Will you forget me forever?” Or, “Why, O Lord, do you reject me?”

The suffering is real, and so are the questions. The laments are honest prayers about real life, and they reflect the deep sorrow that life often brings. We are invited to pray these laments with Israel. Jesus prayed them, even on the cross. God invites us to speak our hearts, and God promises to hear, just as God heard Jesus and answered his prayer through deliverance.

Praise is the other half of Israel’s hymnbook. Sometimes this praise expresses quiet confidence like, “The Lord is my shepherd” or “God is our refuge and strength, we will not be afraid.”  At other times this praise shouts with joy and thanksgiving. “I love the Lord,” the Psalmist shouted, “because God has heard my voice.” Or, “Enter God’s courts with thanksgiving!”

The constant throughout all the Psalms, even in the Psalms of lament, is the steadfast love of God and the hope that God will save. This is the confession of Israel. We bring our lives before God in worship, and God is faithful. God will hear, and God will deliver.

The Witness of History

July 18, 2019

Every nation has a history, and each tells their stories. National stories shape how they understand themselves and see their role in the world and in history. Israel is no different.

The prophets were Israel’s storytellers. Typically, we think of prophets as preachers but they were also historians.  More specifically, they were covenantal messengers.

When God rescued Israel from Egyptian slavery, God entered into relationship with them through a covenant or a pact. God raised up prophets to hold Israel accountable to that covenant.

At times, the prophet functions like a covenantal prosecutor who sues Israel on behalf of God as a way of calling them back into faithful relationship, and, at other times, the prophet serves a parental role of guiding Israel and offering hope. At still other times, the prophet is a historian who keeps a record and explains the history between God and Israel. They write covenantal histories.

For example, the books of the Bible called Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles were based on the annals of various Kings written by prophets. They tell the story of God’s covenant relationship with God’s people.

To illustrate, Kings and Chronicles cover the same period from the reign of Solomon to the Babylonian Exile but were written in different settings, with different purposes, and for different audiences.

Kings was written during the Babylonian exile. Their questions were, “Why are we here?” or “Did the Babylonian gods overrule the God of Israel?” or “Where is God’s promise to Abraham and David?” Kings focuses on the sins of Israel and Judah. Even David and Solomon do not escape discipline, and the whole nation is judged for its sins. Judah is in exile because it did not keep covenant with God. The Babylonian gods did not win. Rather God removed Judah from their homeland, just as God exiled Adam and Eve from Eden for their folly. The prophetic historians of Kings explain God’s judgment.

Chronicles, on the other hand, was written during the postexilic period at a time when some had returned from Babylon to their homeland. The postexilic questions were different. They asked, “Will God still dwell among us in this new temple?,” or “Will God take us back into covenant relationship?,” or “Will God still keep the promises made to Abraham and David?” Chronicles stresses God’s yearning to restore relationship with Israel. God will keep the promises made to Abraham and David, and God will dwell once again in the midst of Israel just like a Sinai, the tabernacle, and in the temple. God is gracious to those who seek God’s face. If the postexilic community seeks God, God will dwell among them once again. God seeks seekers. God disciplines Israel, but God also yearns for Israel. Their histories speak of God’s severity but also of God’s mercy. God pursued Israel and continually called them into renewed relationship. God will never forget them any more than a mother can forget her children. This is the story of God and Israel—it is the story of God and humanity—we forget, but God does not.

The Oracles of God

July 15, 2019

Though Paul does not mention this gift in Romans 9, he earlier noted that Israel was entrusted with “the very words of God” (Romans 3:2). Israel was the keeper of the record of God’s mighty acts.

Scripture does not “drop out of the sky.” On the contrary, the collection of holy writings called “Scripture” grow and develop over time within the course of Israel’s history. Scripture is produced as part of the process of redemptive history and intimately connected to Israel’s status as a covenant nation.

God used covenantal messengers to guide Israel. The Torah provided the foundational covenant history and covenantal instruction. The prophets called people to faithful obedience to the covenant, warned Israel of its failures, and encouraged Israel with hopeful promises. Prophets, among others, recorded covenantal histories that bore witness to the history of God’s relationship with Israel. The singers and sages of Israel provided liturgy and wisdom for life in Israel.

The holy writings emerged throughout the history of Israel as a way of grounding Israel in its past, guiding it in the present, and providing hope for the future. They are bound up with Israel’s history and Israel’s status as the covenant people of God. The Scriptures are God’s unique gift to Israel and through Israel to the nations.

These are the “holy Scriptures” which Paul commended to Timothy as “able to” make him “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” These are the texts that Paul described as “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that” every person called by “God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:12-17).

Scripture, in general, serves a covenantal function which is expressed through diverse genres and occasions. Scripture essentially administers the divine covenant with God’s people and is thus normative for how God’s people live in covenant with God in the different cultures and situations in which people then lived.

Scripture bears witness to, interprets, and applies the saving work of God to the people of God. It narrates the redemptive work of God in Christ, interprets that work for us, and applies its meaning and significance to its original hearers. Though Scripture was written to those who received it in the past, it was also written for future believers.

As covenant people, we are guided by the covenant witness of Scripture in its regulatory and relational functions. It bears witness to God’s acts of redemptive love and calls us into relationship with God. It instructs and guides the people of God; it cast a vision for how to live out our identity as the representatives of God in the world. This witness, as we have it now in the whole of the prophetic and apostolic witness, is rooted in the saving acts of God that inaugurate a new creation. Jesus himself is the witness to God’s saving work and the embodiment of the covenantal principles that shape all service to God. Jesus, as incarnate God, is the image of God, the true Israel, the true human. He is the fundamental pattern for our life before God. And Scripture, ultimately, bears witness to him, the redeemer of Israel and the mediator between God and humanity.