Saturday, November 15, 2014

Reading Exodus with Goldingay

Chapter 5 of Goldingay’s, Old Testament Theology is entitled God Delivered – The Exodus and reflects theologically on the story of the deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 1-18) within the context of the Old Testament. The story is not concerned so much with individuals and families (as in Genesis) but with the founding of a people and a nation. This section of the Bible will set the tone by showing the character of the God who rules the nation and delineating the mission they will carry out. Thus, it is a pivotal section for the understanding of the message of the Old Testament and ultimately the fulfillment of it in Jesus Christ.

The first section of the chapter is entitled God Who Creates and Delivers. He is making the point that the deliverance from Egypt is an act of creation that connects the birth of Israel to God’s creation of all humanity and His desire to bless the world. Thus, Israel begins with the mission to bless the world in mind. The kind of deliverance God gives to the Israel is a “model for the nations” blessing.

God's involvement in history is designed to further the fulfillment of God's creation purpose. It is when that is imperiled that God needs to act to deliver and restore, but the world's blessing is the norm, and deliverance is the exception. Creation looks forward to deliverance, deliverance restores creation. 293

The second section is titled, God Who Remembers. “Remember” here is not just a cognitive or feeling word. It is an action word. It reminds us that Yhwh knows what is going on when his people suffer and acts forcefully, according to his plan to deliver them. God does hear the cry of suffering people and acts (it seems the OT plan would be to act through his people) to deliver them. This is the basis for hope.

A central normality of the First Testament is that "this community has a bold voice for hurt and that this God has an attentive ear for hurt." (But,)... Both immediate hearing and long delay have been the experience of God's people at different times. The story (of Exodus) invites hearers to look for response even when it does not come immediately. 300-301

God has more important things to do than sympathize with Israel. Sympathy is what we show people when we are in no position to do anything about their pain. The covenant imposes on God not sympathy but action. 304

The 3rd section is about God Who Works via People. In this section Goldingay pictures God as a king who normally rules through his officials, who would be out in the community doing his delegated bidding, but occasionally comes out himself to bring justice or defend his people from attackers. He works both through the normal means (the Hebrew midwives) of people who just do the right thing. He also works through very normal inadequate people that he empowers for leadership (Moses, Aaron) 

There is of course a sense in which God is always with us and always acting, and a sense in which we experience this presence, but the presence and activity that the exodus story describes is a more dynamic and vigorous one that we do not experience continuously.There is nothing wrong with that: God's calling is to live and rule in the palace, our calling is to live and work in the city. But sometimes the king has reason to come out of the palace. 306

Moses is reluctant to be drafted for a hazardous-looking commission and wishes God would use someone more obvious, but the really impressive Israelites who would have made more plausible leaders are unfortunately dead. This may matter little, because Yhwh is capable of working with unpromising material. 310

But God is also the God Who Does Signs and Wonders. “God works via nature and also works in supranaturalist ways.” (313). The entire created world is at God’s disposal to accomplish his will. It demonstrates to both Israel and Egypt that God has the power to accomplish what he promises.

Moses promises not that they will be able to fight successfully, but that Yhwh will fight for them. They will only have to watch... Israel no more fights its way across the Red Sea that it fights its way out of Egypt. 319-320

Section 5 is entitled God Who Insists. God actions of deliverance are designed to bring his people into a service relationship to him. God has reclaimed his “son” and restored him to his household duties.

Yhwh's service is perfect freedom, but Exodus sees no need to make the point when it fails to describe Yhwh's rescue of Israel as an act of liberation. The exodus does not take Israel from serfdom to the freedom of independence but from service of one lord to service of another. 323

The next section is about God Who Reigns. The big point is that Yhwh is God and Pharaoh, despite his claim to be god, is not. Human kingship is without “insight,” “morality,” and is always ultimately oppressive. Only God is qualified to be king, because only Yhwh has the power to do it.

The story does not concern the deeds of some individual human beings and the way God relates to them... The story is about YHWH and Pharaoh... Human kingship is shown to be ambiguous (a resource and a peril), unwise, amoral, but finally helpless when YHWH decides to act as king. 327

The next section focuses on How God is Revealed in the first half of the book of Exodus. God reveals himself to and through people – Moses in this case. God reveals his character in his Name and in revealing his Name invites Moses, and the people, into relationship. The “One who is” is this powerful God who defeats Egypt and “is” as a relational being. He calls people into a relationship of allegiance and worship to him.

The exodus story suggests that revelation involves person, words and deeds... Its content concerns a person, and the revelation comes in the context of a personal meeting... The process of revelation involves recognition of the God who has spoken and acted, and testimony to this God and these acts. 333

The 8th section of the chapter focuses on How God Relates to Foreign Peoples. Israel’s story is not just about itself. Israel will come into contact with foreign peoples who are related and unrelated to them. Though the foreign contact brings conflict and judgment there is also that foreigners who respond favorably (Jethro) will share the blessing.

From the beginning Israel lives with permeable boundaries. The boundaries are important; if Israel becomes indistinguishable from other peoples, God's purpose through Abraham cannot be fulfilled. Yet, the permeability is also important for the same reason. 349

One of the big hermeneutical/theological issues in Exodus is how one interprets the “hardening” of Pharaoh. This is the main issue in the next section: How God’s Resolve Relates to Human Resolve. his conclusion is that God’s plan is much more than just fore-knowledge. God will “move heaven and earth” to make his plan happen, but he does not make the king, or Israel, act against his own will. He sees most of the “hardening” of pharaoh as “relentless human stupidity.” (356) The same quality is displayed in Israel, and in us as well.

In this story the sovereign God is always in dialogue with human beings in their sovereignty, and the God who is in ongoing dialogue with human beings in their sovereignty remains the sovereign God... So Pharaoh is responsible for his acts, yet they take place within Yhwh's purpose. 356

The final section is entitled How God’s Act Relates to the Future.Yhwh’s deliverance of Israel sets patterns and principles that promise the completion of Yhwh’s act, patterns, and principles that Israel may challenge Yhwh to live by in the future, and patterns and principles that Yhwh challenges Israel to live by in the future.” God calls Israel to be a nation of loyal, obedient worshippers who expect him to deliver in the future. The pattern of God’s people calling on God, leading to God intervening and delivering will set the tone for the rest of the biblical story.

Yhwh so acted because Israel had cried out to Yhwh out of its travail and Yhwh had responded. The least Israel could do is respond with enthusiasm and not merely compliance to Yhwh's expectations of it... by the act of deliverance Yhwh earned the right to declare what Israel's life should look like. 365

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