Wednesday, August 26, 2015

An Old Testament Theology of Leadership (Goldingay)

Goldingay3I am almost finished working through Volume 3 of Goldingay’s, Old Testament Theology, Israel’s Life. In this volume Goldingay is looking at how Israel was to live, “not the life Israel actually lived”, but “the life the First Testament reckons it should have been and should be.” I have been posting quotes from Volume 3 on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. There will be a link to this blog post on my Facebook page where you can comment. Please comment there. The final chapter in volume 3 deals with Leaders and Servants. Goldingay says that "leadership is not a category that the First Testament or New Testament works with." The idea of "servant-leadership" is western, not biblical…

Having some human beings in authority over others is a weird notion. It is a condescension to human sinfulness. Further, leaders tend to be at least as sinful as those they lead, and leadership is commonly a form of oppression. The notion that leaders must be subordinate to Torah has the potential to safeguard against the temptations of power, though this potential is not much realized. 708

So basically in part 1, Servants and Leaders, Goldingay sees the need for leadership as a necessary evil in this sinful world. Humans were made to serve the ground and mutually serve each other, not to be regularly in a subservient position to another. The words used for Israel's leaders throughout the OT are "servant" and "shepherd." However, the OT is a story about good leaders going bad, corrupted by power and abusing authority. In fact the main reason good leaders are needed is to rescue people from bad leaders. The main quality for good leadership in the OT is faithfulness to Yhwh and submission to Torah. God did not choose particularly skilled people to lead Israel, but it seems that these "weak" people, when they gained power, abused it and oppressed the people they were to serve. The OT looks forward to the day when Yhwh will lead his people directly rather than impose human leaders.

The New Testament congregation has been described as a community of conversation guided by the agents of direction (prophets), agents of memory (scribes or narrators), agents of linguistic self-consciousness (teachers) and agents of order and due process (overseers, elders, shepherds). 712

Having gifts of leadership or being put into a position of leadership... does not depend on being more committed to God than other people. Nor does it carry with it any resources that lead to greater such commitment. Indeed it brings with it various pressures that drive a person in the opposite direction. In the church it is hard for power not to corrupt people, and so it was in Israel. 720

The era of Kings in Israel was relatively short within its history but is important because of the OT space given to it and the Davidic promise. However, the OT seems to be conflicted about the necessity of kingship. In the ancient world the king was the image of God, but in the OT all people, male and female, are the image of God. The king's job, in this sinful world, was to defend the weak and fight for God's truth but the kings of Israel and Judah tended to oppress the weak and lead the nation astray. Thus, the exile was God's rejection of the Davidic kingship until Jesus himself would restore it. The point would be that really it is God that rules and any authority a human has is limited and derived from God.

In practice, Israel's monarchy never became Yhwh's means of governing the world nor of implementing compassion and faithfulness in Israel, and this was in keeping with the uneases about kingship that Yhwh expressed in connection with its introduction. (Judges 9.8-15, 1 Sam. 8) 732-733

The king's vocation is not to fight for his country (Ps 45) but to fight for a truthful purpose and a faithful cause...It is the king who fights; they are awesome deeds of his right hand. But God works with him and through him. His victories reflect the fact that he sits on God's throne, ruling Israel on God's behalf and destined to rule the world on God's behalf. 737

The monarchy, denounced, by and large, for its actual practice, could be rescued as a critical ideal by putting it at the service of one of Israel's original political aims: God's liberating justice for the oppressed. There were signs that David could do that, but he could not be faithful and decisive in private as well as in public, and this rebounded on his leadership, and even his religious commitment was mixed up with political calculation (1 Sam 6) 739

The Ministers of the Old Testament were the priests, Levites and their servants. This stands in some tension to the original commissioning of the entire nation to be "a nation of priests," but when a "sanctuary" is set up people are needed with authority to manage it. In Israel these chosen people were the sons of Aaron and the Levite tribe. These ministers were ordained (given authority) to manage the tabernacle (later the temple), offer sacrifices, lead festivals, manage the holiness codes, lead in worship (not just music) and teach the people. They failed as spectacularly as the kings. The Northern kingdom even substituted their own non-Levitical priests to lead their worship. Though their worship services thrived God condemned their unauthorized cult and this false worship led to the exile of both kingdoms. In the New Testament the most vehement opposition to Jesus came from the priests.

Having priests stands in some tension with Israel's being a priestly kingdom in which all serve. The arrangement again parallels that in the Christian faith, where the New Testament sees the Jewish-Gentile church, a renewed version of Israel, as itself a priesthood (1 Pet. 2.9) and leaves no room for an arrangement whereby one man rules a congregation, but the church subsequently invents the position of senior pastor. 747

The fact that leading music in (Old Testament) worship is primarily a matter of providing a rhythm would mean music leaders would not need the kind of musical gifts presupposed by the Western tradition. 751

The (time of Hosea) was one of flourishing religious life, but that very passage referring to the gift of written torah also makes clear that the multiplying of sanctuaries and priestly activity does not mean a flourishing of true religion (Hos. 8.11-12). The more the priesthood has flourished, the more spectacularly it has failed. 756

In the section, Prophets, Central and Marginal, Goldingay discusses the nature of the Old Testament prophet, his task and the prophecies themselves. He defines the prophet through a "set of family resemblances"...

A prophet shares God's nightmares and dreams, speaks like a poet and behaves like an actor, is not afraid to be offensive, confronts the confident with rebuke and the downcast with hope, mostly speaks to the people of God, is independent of the institutional pressures of church and state, is a scary person mediating the activity of a scary God, intercedes with boldness and praises with freedom, ministers in a way that reflects his or her personality and time, is likely to fail...Their task is to confront people and king with the demands and the resources of Israel's true faith, which people and king are commonly inclined to ignore. 760

Thus, the prophet is a person "who stands in God's counsel" and brings that word to God's people. There were both institutional court prophets (Isaiah), who often tended to corrupt the Word of God to please the ruler, and "free" or "peripheral" prophets (Elijah, Amos) who were private people driven to prophecy by God. Prophecy runs through the most of the OT history and usually stands in some tension with the king and priesthood. Methods of discerning God's word that put the prophet in control, rather than God, were banned and indicated a false prophet. False prophets could be prophets of Baal, self-deceived prophets who thought they were hearing the words of Yhwh but were speaking out of their own dreams, or those who pretended to speak for Yhwh. These false prophets could expect only sure and severe judgment.

The first testament puts a ban on divination, the use of technique to discover what is happening or what is going to happen. It does not imply that such techniques cannot work. They are banned because Israel is to seek such revelation from Yhwh. 765

Yhwh's word can be more like rain that encourages growth (Is. 40.6-8). But the point about prophecy is to confront the thinking of the people of God, and the people of God often need shaking out of a sense that it is okay. 774

The next section deals with the characteristics of True Prophets in the Old Testament. These are people who are "claimed and consecrated by God, not based on their own abilities, but to just be speakers of the word God gives them and followers of His orders.” The prophet was to fulfill Israel's role as God's servant while helping Israel grow into that role themselves. Thus, the prophet must be a student of God and His Word, be "mentored" by Yhwh so he can mentor others. The prophet is a "herald" announcing the word of God appropriate for its time. The prophet functions in a pastoral ministry as a "strange shepherd" who leads and helps the people honestly (telling good news or bad news) to do the right thing. Finally the true prophet (like Habakkuk) engages God in discussion/prayer and waits patiently and faithfully for his answer.

The prophet is someone whose whole life work is to embody what it means to be Israel and thus to be the means of displaying God's splendor in the way the entire community was supposed to do but cannot do because if its resistance to its Master. This becomes the prophet's task, though the prophet may fulfill it through a ministry to the community that enables it to become what it was called to be. 778

One might have thought that being a student was a harmless occupation, harmless to the student and harmless to other people. When Yhwh is the mentor, matters turn out differently...When God speaks, it can seem a threat to the people of God and also to the world. 780

Habakkuk too could not will a response from Yhwh, nor think up a response and assume it was Yhwh's. Prophecy and theological reflection are two different things. He has to wait. But he commits himself to waiting that will not give up until there is a response. 788

Though true prophets speak God's words as they hear them spoken "in Yhwh's court." However, they often speak them in imaginative ways as Poets, Visionaries, Actors. To get attention and make people think, they often speak metaphorically, obliquely, provocatively or subtly. Sometimes Yhwh will speak through the prophet in a way that is very visual, dramatic, indelicate, grippingly realistic or even in the grossly disgusting. "Yhwh will use any means to communicate, and bad taste is certainly among them." (798) The prophet will often take the normal and familiar and stand it on its head to make a point (the potter for example). Sometimes God will even arrange tragedy in the prophet's own life and experience (Hosea and Ezekiel's wives) to drive home a point to his people. It seems God will do almost anything to get people to pay attention and listen to His word.

Prophets use their imagination, and they appeal to the imagination of their hearers. Even when they describe some event in apparently straightforward terms, we have to be wary of understanding it prosaically. 794

It is characteristic of the prophets the Psalms and other poetic books to make use of paronomasia, repetition, irony, metonymy and metaphor. Such literary devices presuppose a sense that there is a unity of reality, grounded in God. Things that do not look as if they connect actually do so. One God lies behind them. The First Testament can presuppose connection and relationship even when things look unconnected or conflicted and can assume there is meaning and coherence even when things look meaningless and fragmented. 798

For Yhwh the rights of the individual are not the ultimate priority. Yhwh is concerned to communicate with Israel and is prepared to use individuals such as Hosea, Gomer and their children to that end, even if this makes things hard for them. There are "bigger goods" than their rights as individuals...Perhaps Yhwh takes the view that being drawn into the divine purpose is a privilege that outweighs the cost. 808

Sometimes being a prophet is not pleasant as they must, like Jeremiah, take on the role of Victims, persecuted for speaking the word of God. Jeremiah is forced to bring a message of destruction and judgment to the leaders of Jerusalem because their lives did not match their profession of faith in Yhwh. This was seen as treason by Jeremiah and put his life at risk. What made it worse was that Yhwh delayed judgment so that Jeremiah looked like a lying false prophet. Jeremiah prayed and complained to God, but was given no word that the persecution would stop, only that he would be protected. Jeremiah wanted out but Yhwh would not release him from his prophetic commission. Through this, Jeremiah began to feel God's pain, grief and anger about His people and could speak God's heart. The servant prophecy in Isaiah talks about the need for suffering before exaltation. The servant not only suffers on behalf of his people, but along with them. The surprising thing is how much he has to suffer before he is exalted. This is the kind of servant one must be to be the kind of leader that God works with.

Being a prophet is no calling to seek. It can mean being put at risk, put under pressure, treated roughly, driven to prayer for redress, having no way out of your ministry, wishing you have never been born, feeling pain and grief, sharing your people's suffering. But it can mean being Yhwh's agent in bringing about their restoration and eventually being triumphant and vindicated. 811

Fundamental to a prophet is a fellowship with the feelings of God, a sympathy with the divine pathos. Jeremiah embodies that most clearly. He is full of God's wrath; he also has to identify with God's attachment to Israel and learn the grief of God in having to spoil what is intimately precious to Him...Jeremiah's grief will be a mirror of Yhwh's. 819

Christians traditionally see Jesus as the fulfillment of the servant vision, but the New Testament does not see the passage as a "prophecy" of which there is one "fulfillment," nor does it use the passage to prove Jesus is the Messiah. It sees Jesus as one fulfillment of this vision, but not the only one. It also applies this passage to the church. (1 Pet. 2.21-22) The passage indicates how servanthood can work, whoever the servant is. It can involve hurt and pain, but a hurt and pain that are productive for other people and are not the end of the story for the servant. 822

(The servant) thus carried the failure of many. They themselves were carrying their failure, bearing their responsibility for it, living with the consequences of it. He joined them in this when there was no moral reason why he should do so. And all this put him in a position to appeal for them as one identified with them, and to turn his experience into a reparation offering. The First Testament does not lay before us a challenge to be leaders - it is disillusioned about leadership. It does lay before us such a vision of servanthood. 830-831

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