Saturday, December 23, 2017

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #5

BrueggemannThis post continues my reading through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. Chapter 5 is entitled Adjectives: Yahweh with Characteristic Markings and focuses on the general descriptions of God in the Old Testament. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

In chapter 5 Brueggemann moves from verbs which describe what YHWH does to adjectives in the Old Testament which describe the character of YHWH. From specific actions of YHWH, the Old Testament writers make general assertions about what YHWH is like. This description begins with Exodus 34.6-7, the self-revelation of God to Moses, when He is reestablishing His covenant with Israel after the golden calf incident. The first four descriptions, "slow to anger," "has steadfast love (hesed)," “abounds in faithfulness,” and "forgiving," describe God's fierce loyalty to the covenant with and well-being of His people despite their sin. However, the 5th description makes clear that the people have a serious responsibility within this covenant too because God will not release them from the multigenerational consequences of their sin and faithlessness, and may in fact discipline them severely to protect His Name, holiness and His faithful remnant. "The God of steadfast love is no wimp, but will act in the service of God’s own sovereignty, which in this case is to the enormous benefit of Israel." (220) The rest of the Old Testament provides many concrete examples of these aspects of God's character in action. Like the Old Testament writers we should not be relying on abstract descriptions of God in our witness, but on concrete examples of how God has worked relationally as revealed in scripture and in our daily lives today. 

Yahweh’s life with Israel is marked by a fundamental, inalienable loyalty. Israel’s life, at this pivotal point of risk in Exodus 34, is now guaranteed by the assertion on the very lips of Yahweh that Yahweh abides for Israel in complete fidelity, even among those who enact “iniquity, transgression, and sin.” Exodus 34.6-7, Psalm 136, 217

Israel can recall enough about Yahweh’s characteristic fidelity so that Israel’s confidence in Yahweh overrides the moment of despair. Theologically, it is evident that Israel could not have responded in faith in the midst of such a crisis, had it not available a stylized rhetoric about the God of fidelity.  Lamentations 3.21-24, 222

The tension or contradiction is that Yahweh is for Israel (or more generally “for us,” pro nobis) in fidelity, and at the same time Yahweh is intensely and fiercely for Yahweh’s own self. These two inclinations of Yahweh are not fully harmonized here, and perhaps never are anywhere in the Old Testament... Along with love and care, there are holiness, wrath, and rage. 227

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