Abrahamic Community (3)
The Implications of the Abrahamic Community
In creating a new Abrahamic community God was providing a community of witness for the world.
In electing Abraham, Israel and the NT Church, God did not immediately take them from the earth to heaven. They were intended to bring light and salvation to the nations (Isaiah 49:6 and elsewhere). The Messiah didn't pray that his disciples should be taken out of the world he prayed that God would protect them as he sent them into the world in the same way the Father sent him into the world (John 17:13-18). The world was to see and hear something and that was to be brought to the world by the Community.
In creating a new Abrahamic community God was bearing witness that the existing structures were not suited for his redemptive purposes.
The political powers as they established themselves were not the way to life. One of the results of the (continuing) Fall was socio-political structures that were centers of rebellion against him. At an earthly level these governments held nations together by 'enlightened self-interest,' providing their basic needs.
The creation of the Abrahamic community (whatever its form, Israel, the Messiah or the NT Church) was the word of God against the world.
Its very existence denies that nations 'live' very well or that they pass life on to others without God. [Ethics, for the Abrahamic Community, must be theological ethics. This Community is a "new creation" and it is to function in the world asnd for the world in the image of God who is its creatior. See Ephesians 5:1-2.]
It is a judgment against self-sufficiency and all schemes that place humanity's present or future blessing in the hands of humanity itself (science, medicine, social programs, various forms of government or political theory).
It is a judgment against all the ways in which injustice is nurtured in societies, ancient or modern, that are, intentionally at least, built for merely human purposes and by mere human enterprise.
In its developed state it is a community which relativizes all the distinctions which do or can lead to injustice. Galatians 3:26-29. Distinctions such as race, gender and class. (This is one of the reasons that the 'Mosaic Jewishness' of the Community could not be its final form. 'Mosaic Jewishness' created two families, two communities rather than one universal Abrahamic community, which is what the one God sought.)
The political structures are witnessed against in a number of important events. In rescuing Lot (2 Peter 2:7) from Sodom, Gomorrah and the cities of the plain, God rendered judgment on a societal structure which he condemned in the words of Ezekiel as 'arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and the needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me...' (Ezekiel 16:49-50).
Genesis 18:20-21 tells us the outcry against the power-brokers in Sodom and Gomorrah was so bad that God said, 'I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me...' The word rendered 'outcry' is almost a technical word for 'legal appeal'. It's used on numerous occasions in the early chapters of Exodus (for example, 2:23; 3:7,9) when Israel is crying out to God for justice. It's also the word used to describe widows and orphans who 'cry' to God. (See David Daube's'Exodus Pattern in the Bible'.) In Genesis 14:21-24 Abraham won't allow Sodom to subsidize his war effort in any way.
In rescuing Israel from oppressive Egypt we have another open judgment against a major power. In creating Israel a socio-political entity on the basis of a new covenantal law, God was speaking his mind about all the other systems and socio-political entities. In Leviticus 18:1-5 we hear, 'The Lord said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord."'
In addition to the injustice that was (is) rife in the world, these world political structures set themselves up in an act of rebellion against God and were/are therefore estranged from him
In creating a new Abrahamic community God was bearing witness to the existing structures that God continued to care for them and sought to redeem them.
The very existence of the Community is a continuing witness--a visible and historical witness--that God is at work to redeem, bless and transform humanity. The right response to that witness is to come to faith in the God who purposed and executes that witness.
The fact that the witness is a community witness and that that community exhibits a certain lifestyle makes it clear that what God is ultimately interested in is not individual transformation or redemption, but social. (The teaching/preaching that confines itself to personal salvation misses the biblical thrust. The teaching/preaching that offers only or almost exclusively individual salvation undermines the biblical Story.)
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.