Friday, November 21, 2014

Reading Through Exodus with Goldingay #2

Chapter 6 of Goldingay’s first volume of his Old Testament Theology, Israel’s Gospel is entitled God Sealed – Sinai and focuses on the pivotal event of Israel’s history – the appearance of Yhwh to reveal himself to them and the covenant that came out of it. Israel’s subsequent relationship to God always looked back to that encounter with his “compelling power and immediate presence.” The chapter discussed Exodus 19-40 in the context of the law and the rest of the Old Testament.

The first section in the chapter deals with Yhwh’s Covenant. God’s appearance at Sinai “reworks” his previous covenant relationship as a more detailed experience of God’s character entails a heightened degree of faith response. This “renegotiation” of the covenant will have both conditional and unconditional elements. This creates tension throughout the story as some texts emphasize that Israel fails to obey the heightened covenant expectations and others emphasize the faithfulness of God to fulfill the covenant promises. The “golden calf” incident is a good example of this as it leads to judgment, but also a covenant renewal ceremony. Even though the torah predicts a “complete collapse of the covenant, “Yhwh will not break the covenant” because “it was based on Yhwh’s commitment, not theirs.

In its behavior as well as its worship Israel lives in hope, lives as if expectation has become actuality. We live as if God has already taken us to the place of our destiny. Perhaps this encourages God to take us all the way there. 371

The second section focused on Yhwh’s Expectations within the covenant. Within the relationship, even though God is a friend and “lover” he is the authority in the relationship and is “the God who commands.” God’s commands were “liberating” and “delightful” and showed Israel the way to blessing. The rest of Israel’s history would be a working out of how to live out God’s revelation through Moses.

Yhwh's original design was a talking relationship. Yhwh would lay down the terms of the relationship, but would do so in the context of a conversation... The relationship Yhwh looks for is one in which Yhwh speaks and Israel listens responsively... Yhwh was not seeking a quasi-legal relationship... There is no "legalism" about Israel's attitude to God's commands. 380

Section 3, Yhwh’s Presence: At the Mountain, discusses what “we mean by God’s presence with us” in a way that “preserves the paradoxes involved in describing the reality of God’s presence.” (385) He answers the question about whether people can actually meet with God with “yes and no.” They hear the voice and see the fire on the mountain, but actually communicate with God through a representative – Moses. Yhwh’s presence is seen in the camp but the actual location of the meeting is on a mountain so that there is both immanent and transcendent elements to the story.

The status and significance of the Sinai events anticipate that of the historically crucial events involving Jesus... God may visit people from time to time in ways that may be as terrifying as the event on Sinai, but there is no reason to think that the place of the last visit will be the site of the next. Yhwh's location was not tied to a fixed place, even in the midst of the people, but to the people itself. 390

The next section of the chapter, Yhwh’s Presence: In a Sanctuary discusses how Israel’s liturgical practices, especially the building and use of the tabernacle, “do not provide a paradigm for ongoing meetings between the people and Yhwh.” It is significant that the tabernacle is mobile. It provides a place where God comes to the people and the people can come to worship. But at the same time it provides constraints “to resist the human inclination to feel we have God’s presence guaranteed by something more tangible than God’s word and our mutual commitment. (395) The tabernacle was also designed as a model of God’s real dwelling place in heaven and as a model of all creation, It affirmed the truth that God still ruled over creation and provided a place for his people to meet with him.

Yhwh must not be portrayed so large as to be inaccessible to ordinary people. Like a monarch who has a vast palace but also a country cottage, Yhwh is not confined to the whole world but can focus so as to be wholly present with Israel in this dwelling (the tabernacle).  401

Section 5 of chapter 6, Yhwh’s Presence: In Experience, shows that God’s presence is not confined to the tabernacle or Sinai but that “Yhwh’s Face” is with them to take “an active interest in what happens to them and takes action in light of that (403). Even then the people do not see the full “splendor” of God’s face. Even Moses is “covered by God’s hand” as God’s splendor passes by. Yes, the people see God’s splendor in its results as he provides for them. This experience of God’s goodness and grace elicits a response of fear and trust.

God's being with them or God's face being with them signifies not a mere sense of God's presence or inner religious experience, but a presence that expresses itself in action. It is God's doing extraordinary things for Israel that draws the world's attention. 404

Section 6, Yhwh’s Dilemma: Punishment and Mercy, deals with the question of how a sinful people can live the presence of a holy God. Again the text provides no formula that will predict God’s response to Israel’s unfaithfulness. Israel disobeys the law even as Moses is receiving it on Sinai. God could destroy all Israel and restart with Moses but he rejects that option. He also rejects the option to withdraw from Israel. Instead he stays with them creating tension for God and puts Israel in a “dangerous position before Yhwh.” Yet God risks pain by committing to compassion, grace and forgiveness and seals the covenant with Israel.

God is not only able to be active, decisive, self-sufficient, controlling, tough and unchanging, but also to be acted upon, relational, flexible, sensitive, vulnerable, and risk-taking. Yhwh combines love and toughness... The compassion and grace that are willing to carry wrongdoing are the foundation of the people's renewed relationship with God. (Exodus 34.6-7) 414

Section 6.7, Facing Up to Infidelity discusses God’s response to infidelity. Again there are many possible actions God could take. Punishment is necessary but often can be borne without requiring all the people to be destroyed. Even though the people offer repentance and obedience it is short lived and incomplete. The only solution is atonement and forgiveness provided by Yhwh. However, even the priests are not above infidelity so it ultimately must be God himself who fulfills the covenant. 

Yhwh is committed to taking the people on to their destiny in recognition of the fact that they are constitutionally inclined to rebellion and he will take them with a commitment to "carry" that rebellion. This is an act of creation, one of extraordinary sovereign power that refuses to be frustrated by the intransigence of the raw material with which it works. 423     

One of the most eye-opening sections to me was the 8th one: Models of Servanthood. Moses is the key leader and called the “servant of God.” Goldingay’s view is that God chooses Moses, not because of his qualifications, but despite his lack of qualifications. Moses is not successful when he exercises vision or walks ahead of the people. He is only successful when he speaks God’s words and trusts and obeys God. He also pays a huge price for taking on God’s call to leadership and ultimately is not successful in completing his task to take the people to the promised land.

Mosaic leadership does not offer a series of successful solutions but rather a set of perennial problems that may be mitigated from time to time but can never be resolved. Difficulty and disappointment, not triumphant success, punctuate his entire career. It cannot even be said that he learns from them. 431-432

In the final section, Models of Peoplehood, Goldingay suggest ten models for “understanding what Israel is.” They are first a “family,” a national “assembly,” a bureaucratic “organization,” an “army,” a religious “congregation,” a divinely chosen “hierocracy,” a “cultic gathering,” a “whole people of integrity,” and a “movement but also a settlement.” “They are not the people of the land, but of frustrated desire for land.” Of course in all these roles Israel was more dysfunctional than their leader Moses.

The metaphor (army) suggests that God's people has a task to fulfill that involves overcoming significant obstacles and opposition. It signifies the commitment and aggressiveness that need to characterize the community, the determination and assertiveness that characterize and army. 443

1 comment:

lee woo said...

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. See the link below for more info.