Wednesday, December 4, 2013

1. The Meaning Of Salvation Part 1: Abraham through Joshua

The Meaning Of Salvation, Part : Abraham through Joshua

 The meaning of the term "Salvation" begins in the Old Testament, and requires an understanding of the story of the people of Israel. The Bible traces the continuation of God's people from the Old Testament into the New, and the history of Israel begins in Genesis Chapter 12, verses 1- 3: 

 Now the Lord said to Abram, go from your Country and your kindred and your father's house, to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Gen 12:1-3

The above verses describe a call into an unknown future. All Abram knows is that it is God's will. Abram is to be a great people, who will be a blessing to all peoples. God will make this happen, and Abram's role is to obey God. This he does, so God changes his name in recognition of his obedience, from Abram to Abraham ie from Avram to Avra-ha'am - he is no longer a great Father, but the Father of a multitude, a great people. And this great people will be the people of God, chosen to be God's instrument of blessing to all people. 

Why is God doing this? Well, the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis tell of human beginnings, and do this by means of myth and legend. Out of chaos, God creates order. Humankind is created in God's own image, is given every blessing, receives God's imperatives for the stewardship of the earth, and then receives the ability to exercise intention and choice, so that human will may be brought, by choice, into accord with God's will. God gives direction and outlines boundaries for this fellowship. But, as related in the Adam and Eve story, humankind chooses against God's will. Order is rejected, and chaos ensues. Self help turns out to be self deception.

The result is dis-order. : a return to chaos. Our unwillingness to live in accord with God becomes the sin that separates, and this brings the possibility of evil into human society. The result is harmful to us. Paradise is now lost, and everything good easily goes sour. All of this is symbolized in the Adam and Eve story. We cannot go backwards, for access is denied. (note the flaming sword at the entrance to the garden ...) and a new pathway is needed. Loss of the possibility of fellowship with God is loss of a spiritual relationship essential to the well being of all humankind. God then calls Abram, in order to initiate a mission aimed at restoring lost relationship. 

So the story of salvation begins with Abraham,  goes through the Isaac and Ishmael division, and by the end of the Genesis recounting the 12 sons of Jacob have become the 12 tribes of Israel. The Israelites' prosper in Egypt, despite a time of famine. They grow in strength and in numbers. But a new Pharoah sees such growth as a political threat, and sets about enslaving them in order to reduce this threat. Israel is enslaved, and slaves carry no blessing..

Hence, when the oppressed Israelites' cry out to God, God calls Moses, and we see the significance of the covenant relationship that Israel now shares with God.  Living in protective covenant, Israel is safe from oppression or failure. God initiates a geopolitical saving act - salvation - delivering Israel from the hand of the Egyptian Pharoah in our space time existence, and leading and providing for the Israelites throughout their journey to the promised land. To be saved and set free becomes the first experiential, not intellectual, meaning of salvation. Israel goes forward under the leadership of Moses and then Joshua. After generations in the desert, Israel reaches and enters the promised land, declaring covenant loyalty in Joshua 24:24....

The people said to Joshua, the Lord our God we will serve, and Him will we obey...Joshua 24:24

But this loyalty is not maintained. Despite the many victories enabled by God's defeat of their enemies, Israel does not keep covenant faith. The Book of Judges shows that Israel continually ignores the critical essential of covenant faithfulness to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in favor of worldly temptations, as personified by Canaanite practice and custom. Israel ends up worshiping foreign "Gods", and abandons her covenant with the Almighty. The consequence is realized when Israel discovers that God no longer protects her, and no longer fights for her. Victory is no longer assured. Protective Covenant is not an entitlement. ...

(PS ..this first part assumes you know your Old Testament, from Genesis through Joshua...and raises questions for you to think through...from Adam and Eve as the first human beings (!) to the business of being saved and becoming Christian because "I don't want to go to hell"...which is absolutely the wrong reason and renders a default judgement anyhow....(to be continued in Part 2)