Upon reading chapters 5-7 in Invitation to Biblical Theology, I was struck by a central theme which runs throughout Scripture, moving readers through time and redemptive history. That is, the inhabitable land that God has prepared for his creatures. We see the first picture of this in the Garden of Eden where God placed Adam and Eve. God told them to “Be fruitful and multiply,” to fill the earth and subdue it. God told Noah the same thing after the flood. God promised Abraham and his descendants the same thing, eventually bringing the nation Israel into the land of Canaan, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” When the people continue to turn away from God, He promised a ruler who would drive out the surrounding pagan nations and turn God’s people back to Him, establishing peace. We see this ultimately fulfilled in Christ.
Clearly, the God of Creation is God of the Covenants. On each day of creation, God separated one thing from another—ultimately a people for Himself, which is at the heart of the covenant relationship. Adam and Eve were meant to be fruitful—that is sharing in God’s life, dependent upon Him. The same was with Noah and his descendants. Abraham was called out and circumcision was supposed to be a sign of dedication to God—a cutting off of the useless flesh. God’s work in Creation also highlights His ultimate authority and brings us to a choice: obey (and be blessed) or disobey (and be cursed). Adam and Eve’s sin broke the covenantal relationship with God, as they gave more weight to the serpent’s word than God’s word. Curses for man, woman, and serpent amounted to permanent changes in the relationships with the world, each other, and God Himself. Adam and Eve were sent out from God’s presence, highlighting and foreshadowing humanity’s failure to live up to God's expectations.
Interestingly enough, while they did experience spiritual death, they should have been killed. God had said if they would eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “they will surely die.” He would have been justified in putting them to death on the spot; yet, God showed mercy! He killed an animal and clothed them in it, a foreshadowing of the covenants to come—ultimately Christ Himself. Genesis 1-3 sets a pattern for the rest of the biblical storyline. As Adam and Eve leave Eden—God’s presence—the rest of the storyline focuses on returning to that place. This narrative and almost every other narrative in the Pentateuch shows Moses’ prophetic pessimism, but also a reason for hope in looking for a messiah who will establish a new covenant, making it possible to enter God's presence again.
It is evident that the Story of the Pentateuch is a “story of despair” but also a “story of hope.” At the end of the Book of Moses, Curses for disobedience are articulated in Deuteronomy 27:11-26, blessings for obedience in 28:1-14, and curses for disobedience are fully developed in 28:15-68. The Mosaic covenant could not bring people back into a right relationship with God, and the Prophets and Writings illustrate this resoundingly, as Moses predicted. In light of the Mosaic covenant’s failure, hope was held out for one who will "circumcise the hearts of the people and enable them to love the Lord with all their heart and soul (Deut. 30:1-10)” (Kimble and Spellman, 137). The dual themes of despair and hope are also present in the Prophets and Writings, as God’s people are carried off to exile, with the hope of one day returning.
Chronicles is a fitting conclusion to the Old Testament as a whole as it is situated at a strategic place in the Hebrew Bible to look forward to a coming Messiah. Everything in the Tanakh illustrates Israel’s need for a Messiah: David has died, the people have returned from exile, and yet the same patterns of disobedience are still present. This causes the dedicated reader to look forward to the coming son of David who will not only restore His people’s kingdom but also transform their hearts. Further, the Davidic covenant is tied to the Abrahamic covenant. The use of genealogies both in Genesis and Chronicles emphasizes the connection from Adam to David to post-exilic Israel. “In 1 Chronicles 16-17, the promise to David and God’s plan for the nation of Israel in particular is closely connected to the promise of Abraham and God’s plan for the nations in general” (pg 176). The reader of this whole OT storyline would come to understand that God’s covenant with Abraham will one day be fulfilled in the descendant of David. Reflecting upon this further, I thought of Acts 1:6-8, “So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.’ “ Those Jews were expecting the physical kingdom to be restored, but Jesus was trying to get them to see that He has a different type of kingdom—a spiritual, eternal kingdom—which all people of the earth can be a part of. Their role was to bring that kingdom, displaying God’s glory to all people of earth. The call to rebuild the temple at the end of Chronicles perhaps points to this “good king of Israel who will crush the head of the serpent, deal with the heart problem of the people, and lead them in worship and obedience to the Lord” (pg 178). This also points ahead to the truth that all who are in Christ are a “temple of the Holy Spirit” meant to “glorify God in [our bodies]” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) as we operate in the world as “ambassadors of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). This turns the believer’s attention to not looking for a physical inhabitable land but being ready for a future, eternal home by being inhabitable people now for God's dwelling through the Holy Spirit.
Kimble, Jeremy M. and Spellman, Chad. Invitation to Biblical Theology: Exploring the Shape, Storyline, and Themes of Scripture. Kregel Academic, 2020
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This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Associate Pastor for Centre Union Church in Yeagertown, PA.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!