Our predicament is both COSMIC (all of Creation is fallen and in need of healing) and RELATIONAL (all relationships are broken – in all three directions: between God and humanity and creation).
But God is God, and he determined that he will not let this be the final lot for his Creation. God has determined to bring his sovereign rule to bear on this terrible situation. And the way he determined to do so was through his Son, the Messiah.
During the Exodus, God identified himself clearly to his people in a very specific manner (words that would be repeated for their entire existence): “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Exod 20:2). Israel’s role was also clearly stated to them: “You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exod 19:6). It was only after this point (after God has saved them and identified himself), that God gave them the Law – telling them how to live as worshippers and how to create a society marked by Shalom and Justice (with laws on how to share the land, how to care for the oppressed, how to enact fair laws, how to punish wrong-doers, etc.).
These laws were primarily about that first line of the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” They were not a bunch of hoops for the people to jump through, as if God gave a bunch of laws that would be impossible to fulfill so that he could zap them with his wrath. These laws were about relationships. The first tablet of the Ten Commandments told them how to maintain and deepen their relationship with God. The second tablet told them how to maintain and deepen their relationships with fellow human beings.
So, when God shows anger for the breaking of these commands, it is not just the case of a vengeful deity casting damnation on people. It is the case of a loving God who wants Shalom and Justice for his Creation. It is the case of how sinful humans decide to break relationships instead of loving God and others. When Shalom and Justice are broken by the sinful intentions and actions of humanity, it must be dealt with. So, when Israel failed to maintain the society of Shalom and Justice, they were forced out the land – into exile.
The prophets of the exilic age were given the inside scoop of the plan to bring these people out of exile. They were given the vision of the future Messiah who would come and pour out God’s Spirit in a new way (Joel 2:28-29), transforming not only the people of Israel, but all of the nations. Relationships in all three directions (between God and humanity and Creation) would be restored.
Restoration of Relationship with God
The restored relationship with God is the core of the Messianic hope. The New Covenant that was revealed to Jeremiah harkens back to the covenant made during the Exodus, but it will be different. Why? Because the Old Covenant people broke relationship with God: “they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them” (Jer 33:32). You can hear the heart of God there - His yearning for the people to be in loving relationship with Him. So, in the messianic time of the New Covenant, God promises that he will “forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (33:34). This forgiveness is key to Israel’s restoration from their exile. They can only be liberated from exile by a savior who will first forgive the sins that got them there in the first place. But, even greater than temporary forgiveness of sins is the means that this New Covenant will permanently make forgiveness of sins possible: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts” (v. 33). Whereas the Old Covenant was written on stone tablets, this New Covenant will be written directly on people’s hearts. The point of doing this? It is primarily so that God can say, “I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (v. 33-34). It has been, and always will be, about restored relationships.
Restoration of Relationship among Humanity
The prophets also declare that relationships between neighbors will be restored when the Messiah’s Kingdom comes.
- “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4)
- “Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.” (Micah 4:4)
The coming Messianic King will shine as a dawning light in our present kingdom of darkness, and he will be known as the “Prince of Peace,” and “of the increase of his government and peace (shalom) there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” (Isaiah 9:2-7)
The coming Messiah will usher in the Kingdom time of Shalom and Justice for all of humanity:
- "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor..." (Isaiah 61:1-2a)
Restoration of Relationship in All of Creation
The hope of the Messianic Kingdom stretches to the non-human part of Creation. God had created the world and it was “very good.” With the Messiah, he will reclaim the Creation as his own, and the Shalom of the Creation will be restored.
- “The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa 11:8-9)
Next: The New Testament’s proclamation of the Kingdom of God
Links to the entire series:
1: Define the Predicament, and You Understand another Facet of the Gospel
2: Predicament #1: The Lack of Shalom
3: Evil Bondage in the Place of Shalom
4: EXODUS and the GOOD NEWS of FREEDOM in Paul
5: EXODUS and the GOOD NEWS of FREEDOM in the GOSPELS
6: Another of Humanity’s Predicaments: Broken Relationships
7: The Prophesied Kingdom of God
8: The Kingdom of God Restoring Israel from Exile
9: The Kingdom of God Healing Broken Relationships
10: The Kingdom of God and the Atonement
11: The Kingdom and the Mission of God’s People
12: What is my view of the Kingdom of God?
technorati: emerging church, spiritual formation