Archives for posts with tag: salvation

The most insightful book I have read about the Old Testament is “Land and Covenant” by V. Rev. Paul Nadim Tarazi.  I wrote a book review about this book for The WORD Magazine (begins pg. 24 – http://www.antiochian.org/sites/antiochian.org/files/nov._2010_word.pdf).  Besides showing how well the Old Testament and New Testament work together, the book clarified for me the role of Israel in the Old Testament and helped show how God, according to Scripture, has cared for all people and all nations from the beginning.  What I share here is some insight I learned primarily from reading “Land and Covenant.”

When we think of the Old Testament we generally think about the history of Israel–God’s dealings with them and care for them.  This is not surprising since most of the Bible focuses in on the descendants of Abraham, and more specifically the descendants of Jacob (who was re-named Israel).  However, we should give great importance to the fact that the Bible does not begin with the “story of Israel,” but rather with the “story of all humanity.”  In other words, the Bible does not begin with Abraham, it begins with Adam.  And from Adam, through Noah, all peoples are born.

The first 11 chapters of Genesis do not deal specifically with Israel.  They deal with all humanity.  And the much larger story of Israel will unfold the way the summarized story of all humanity unfolded: with the people constantly disobeying God and in need of forgiveness and salvation.  This introduction to the entire Bible is essential because an introduction to any book sets the tone and audience for the book.  So although most of the Old Testament will focus on the story of Israel, the first 11 chapters show us that the story is in the much wider context of all humanity.  In other words, this story is not for Israel alone, but for all people and all nations.  Israel is simply an example.  Any nation would have behaved as they behaved–in fact, they did in Genesis 1-11.

That God is concerned with all of humanity is not seen in Genesis 1-11 alone.  Even after the Bible focuses in on Abraham and the chosen ones after him, God shows He still is the God of all people.  For example, God shows his concern for both Ishmael and Esau later in Genesis, even though it is not through them that the blessing given to Abraham continues.  Moreover, in the prophetic literature, there are numerous references to God reconciling the divisions between Jew and Gentile when the Messiah comes and in the heavenly Jerusalem. Certainly, the New Testament takes off from there with Jesus and His apostles opening up the table of fellowship to the Gentile outsiders so there is no longer a distinction between Jew and Gentile.

Again, although the Old Testament will focus in on Abraham and Jacob’s descendants, the first 11 chapters set both the tone and the audience for the book.  God’s dealings with Israel are an example for all of us.  The instruction in the Old Testament is meant for everyone because God cares for all humanity.

 

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In Genesis 6, we are confronted with a difficult reality.  We tend to think of God in abstract terms.  We also are inclined to think of God as some sort of cosmic ‘nice guy’–you know, like the teacher we have all had who was the easiest grader in the world, who liked to be ‘friends’ with the students, but from whom we learned absolutely nothing about the subject matter of the course. 

Genesis 6 presents us with a different picture of God.  Not because God is ‘mean’ or ‘angry’ per se, but because God is actually a good teacher–he may not be best friends with his students, but he challenges and admonishes them to get the best out of them.  He looks at the bigger picture, like great teachers, who know we will not truly appreciate them for another 10 or 20 years.

As one of my great teachers, Fr Paul Tarazi, used to joke, you will not see Genesis 6:6 on a bumper sticker: “And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”  For some reason, that verse does not give us the warm, fuzzy feeling we like to have towards God.  But it does present us with a tough reality: we often disappoint our Creator because of our sin and disobedience. 

Although we tend to think of God in abstract terms, the Bible regulary assigns human-like attributes and feelings to God.  Genesis 6 reminds us we often grieve God.  It is a sobering thought, if we take it seriously; and one God hopes will lead us to repentance, NOT to despair.  As St Paul said: “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.  For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world” (i.e. despair) “produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).

We can grieve and mope and fall into despair because of Genesis 6:6, thinking God does not love us and having no hope for our salvation.  Or, we can wake up to the reality we often grieve God, and can be motivated to change the way we live our lives.  The fact God gave humanity a second chance after the flood shows that God hopes we will choose the second option–that we will decide to repent and change our lives to live according to His commandments.