Friday, October 23, 2009

God's Kingdom: A Divinely Conducted Orchestra

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion [reign] over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."... And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion [as kings and queens] over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
Genesis 1:26, 28 (emphasis added)

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my tresured possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Exodus 19:5,6 (emphasis added)
In brief, the Primary History [Genesis - 2 Kings] presents God as creating a people, citizens for the kingdom. To them he give his law -- that is, their constitution that reflects their distinctive values and beliefs. He provides them with a land, a special place for their sustenance, rest, and security. And he gifts them with a king, a leader who will enforce the constitution and protect the land from invasion. But this kingdom does not prosper. Israel rebels against God's law, and her kings have regard for themselves, not for God. As punishment for their sin, God banishes the people from their land and drives them and their king into exile. But the story does not end there. The people of God are left with a future hope -- one day, someone will restore the kingdom.

The Garden of Eden story typifies [foreshadows] this conspicuous metanarrative of the Primary History...In that type of the greater antitype, God also creates a people (Adam and Eve), gives them a garden as the land to sustain and refresh them, hands down the law not to eat the forbidden fruit, and makes them kings to keep his garden. But they rebel against God and disobey him, and as a result, they are banished from the garden, exiled from their home. Yet in the punishment comes a promise and a hope; a "seed of the woman" will triumph over the Serpent on humanity's behalf.

These narratives are related by concepts, not by key terms such as law, covenant, exile, and king, and there are no citations linking the two accounts. This lack of explicit connection should keep an exegete from being dogmatic. But even with this in mind, one cannot help but be struck by the placement and the conceptual similarities in the two narratives. In musical terms, the Adam and Eve narrative is the opening violin solo. Through a single instrument, the virtuoso deftly touches upon the musical refrains, previewing what is ahead. With the narrative of the full Primary History, Israel joins the soloist as the full orchestra. With the full force of a multitude of strings, the dark tones of the woodwinds, the shrill of the brass, the beat of the percussion instruments, and the clash of the cymbals, the harmonies, the undertones, and the dissonances expound and interpret the major refrains previewed by the solo. In other words, the opening scene is the introduction of the fugal subject, which will be put in counterpoint with other melodies and fully restated.

The Adam and Eve narrative not only foreshadows Israel's history, but also creates the world in which the narrative of Israel takes place. Because of Adam and Eve, original sin mars humanity. Because of Adam and Eve, humankind lives banished from its true home and is afflicted with conflict, sickness, and death. Thus, the characters in the narrative of Israel live with consequences effected by their parents. Furthermore, not only does the Adam and Eve narrative create the world for the second narrative, it also implies its outcome. If Adam and Eve, created in the image of God, do not keep the single command in a paradise, how can the Israelites, marred by original sin, expect to keep a host of commandments in the moral cesspool of Canaan? The answer should be obvious: "Apart from reliance upon a trustworthy God, they cannot!" The enterprise of creating the physical kingdom of Israel is doomed from the beginning because people, apart from reliance upon God's empowering, cannot keep covenant with God. In other words, the Old Testament is a masterpiece of indirection.

Thus, the two stories overlap. As the Old Testament concludes, judgment of sin and exile become the signature dilemma for both narratives, and both stories await resolution. Who will crush the serpent, the embodiment of Satan, and restore humanity to its true home, the Garden of Eden? Who will cleanse the heart of God's people and restore the kingdom of Israel? The "way of Judaism" piled on more laws; "the Way of the New Testament" provides the empowering presence of God in Jesus Christ and his Spirit.

--Bruce Waltke, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach, p.150-151.
And [Jesus] went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
Matthew 4:23 (emphasis added)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9 (emphasis added)

[In the new heaven and new earth] They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign [as kings and queens] forever and ever.
Revelation 22:5 (emphasis added)

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