Sunday, September 23, 2012

Chapter 4: "Creation and Foundation Narratives of Israel" *

*from God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology by Terence E. Fretheim

We probably take  the influence of the natural world on the people of Israel in the OT for granted. Dr. Fretheim doesn't do this. His window is even wider: Individuals, family, extended family, community exist in a larger context - not just the God-created natural world, a world full of neighboring peoples and cultures.

The author continually points out to us that Creation's story continues. It doesn't stop because we begin to focus on the life of God's "chosen" people. God is still Creator. Creation continues to be an integral part (the very context) of Israel's story. (pg 91)  Dr Fretheim emphasizes often that God's created world is bigger than His chosen people.

The story of God's work in His people ultimately affects the greater cosmos: the land, other peoples. ( p 92)

In Genesis, man is called to care for what God has made. Despite the Fall, man is still called to faithfulness. (p. 93)

Man is good - created in the image of God. Man chose not to trust God and he will continually battle with that inclination. Yet, on occasion, men like Noah and Moses overcome and chose to faithfully serve the God who created them. (p. 94)

Humans are individuals but always part of communities. "To be concerned about the development and continuing dynamic of  family is a creational matter." (p. 94)

The author makes an interesting comment about family conflict: "A key to understanding the family stories [in the OT] is that God's choosing, speaking, and acting generate much of the conflict. At the same time, God does not leave the principals to stew in their own often ill-conceived interactions. God remains at work in and through an amazing range of family problems and possibilities, finally for purposes of reconciliation. (Gen 50:20)" (p. 94) This extends to God's concern for a nation and even for those "outsiders" - not the chosen Israel. (p. 95)

The author notes the creation theme in Joseph's story."This story draws important links between family life and national life and, and in the person Joseph, demonstrates the importance of good national leadership for the proper development of social life, indeed God's entire creation (Gen 41:53-57). National life is often compromised by the sinfulness of individual leaders and systemic forms of evil (including Joseph), but the nation remains a key structure of creation in and through which God is at work for life and blessing."(p 95)

Land adds creational focus in these narratives. Land is a source of God's provision. It is a gift. It is a source of blessing. Sin may affect the land but "...the land is apparently understood to be subject to such realities as drought just by virtue of its createdness." (p. 97)

He says, "cosmic order is linked to moral order" and gives examples. (p. 97)

He talks about "implied law" before Moses. "By building the law into the created order, the point is made that every human being, not simply the chosen people, is to attend to the law for the sake of the creation and all its creatures." (p 99) " As with the relational model of creation with which we have been working , we have here a relational model of the development of law." (p 100)

He successfully looks for ways that creation, not just salvation, themes from Genesis 1-11 continue through Israel's story. "Most fundamentally, the images of God in Genesis 1-11 witness to a God who is present and active in the world more generally, not just in Israel." God intends "Abraham to be a blessing to all 'families'" (p 101)

God is the God who "Speaks/Reveals" (p 102), "the God who Elects" (p.102) "the God Who Saves" (p. 103), the "God who Makes (Covenant) Promises," "The God Who Blesses" (p. 106-108), the God Who Judges (p 108), the God Who is Relational ( p 108-109).

He looks at creation themes in Exodus: "Pharoah, a historical symbol for the anticreational forces of death, seeks to subvert God's life-giving work with death-dealing efforts, to close down God's work of multiplication and fruitfulness. Such efforts are a threat to undo God's creative work with negative macrocosmic ramifications." (p 112-113) He puts this part of Israel's story in a bigger context. The redemption story is bigger than just Israel.

He talks about the plagues and how "they are all out of kilter with their created way of being." (p 119)

He spends a number of pages talking about the parting of the Red Sea. "Given the anticreational forces incarnate in Egypt and the pharaoh, no simple local or historical victory will do; God's victory must be and is cosmic in scope." (p 124) God's liberation is universal. "God's redemptive act reclaims Israel as God's own and reconstitutes them as a living, growing people." (p 125) "The effect that God intends in the act of redemption is a new creation -in the dynamic sense." (p 126). 
The author draws attention to the re-creational themes expressed through God's provision for Israel in the wilderness. If God's miracles use natural means, is it less God? If God leads us to provision already available through the natural world, but unknown to us, is it less a miracle? Is it less God's provision? (p 126-8) Again, the author keeps highlighting parallels and similarities to the creations story in Genesis as Israel's story unfolds.

He links the tabernacle and creation - a movable "place" spoken and built to God's specifications, the way creation was - a sanctuary for God moving in the midst of His people. (128-131)

Dr. Fretheim ends the chapter with a reminder that all that God created, all that God creates, all that continues to reproduce what God has made is still good! "The glory manifest [in the tabernacle] is to stream out into the larger world. The shining of Moses' face in the wake of the experience of the divine glory (Exod 34:29-35) is to become characteristic of Israel as a whole, a radiating out into the larger world of those glorious effects of God's dwelling among Israel." (p. 131)

These are just bits and pieces. We don't always know and understand why God does what He does but there are things that  make more sense in the context of all that God has created that don't make sense when we narrow our focus.

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