Friday, June 30, 2017

The Day the Revolution Began, by NT Wright #3

WrightI am continuing reading through, for my New Testament devotions and study, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion, by N. T. Wright. This post will look at the second half of part 2 of the book which looks at the crucifixion through the lens of the Old Testament story of Israel, especially in Isaiah and Daniel. I am also posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 6, The Divine Presence and the Forgiveness of Sins, looks at the Old Testament promise of God coming to dwell with His people and the purification from sin that would make that possible. The theme of God and humanity in close relationship runs through all the OT. Eden, the ark of the covenant, the tabernacle, the temple, the Davidic kingship were all attempts to make this happen and pictures of what it ultimately would be. The promise was that God would come Himself, endure the suffering along with the nation (Isaiah 40-55) and bring in the kingdom of God that would defeat the oppressor, forgive and restore Israel and end the exile. The crucifixion of Jesus must be understood from within this story.

If there is to be a place where the living God will dwell forever among his people, it will not be in a building of bricks and mortar; it will be in and as a human being, the ultimate son of David. 110

The “forgiveness of sins” was a huge, life-changing, world-changing reality, long promised and long awaited. It was the fulfillment of Israel’s hopes for restoration, coupled with the sense that when Israel was restored, this would somehow generate a new day for the whole human race. 115

The “new Exodus,” freeing Israel from foreign oppression, would also be the “forgiveness of sins,” the real return from exile. This sets the stage exactly for the claims made by the early Christians about what Jesus’s death had accomplished. Forgiveness of sins and the overthrow of the enslaving power would belong exactly together. Both would form part of the core meaning of the coming of God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven. 117-118

In the final chapter of part two, Suffering, Redemption, and Love, Wright focuses in on Daniel and Isaiah 40-66 to place the idea of salvation within its Old Testament context and remove the "platonic" and "pagan" ideas that the Western church has attached to it. The prophets show that a great time of suffering will be the prelude to Israel's end of exile and forgiveness of sins. In Isaiah this suffering becomes the "means" of this salvation instead of just the context of it. Isaiah 53 sees the Servant, a royal/representative figure for the nation, as the one who suffers to defeat the forces of evil and bring this about. This happens not because the people satisfy God's wrath against sin, but because God, in His love, redeems His people.

In any case, as far as I can tell, within Israel’s scriptures it is only in Isaiah 53 that the intense suffering is the means, and not simply the context, of the expected deliverance, of the forgiveness of sins. 124-125

In many expressions of pagan religion, the humans have to try to pacify the angry deity. But that’s not how it happens in Israel’s scriptures. The biblical promises of redemption have to do with God himself acting because of his unchanging, unshakeable love for his people. 132

But (Isaiah in the Servant Songs) claims to know three things: first, that redemption will come through the work of YHWH’s anointed; second, that it will involve intense suffering and death, through which the exile-causing sins of Israel would at last be dealt with; and third, that this achievement will be the work of YHWH himself. 141

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