Wow, its been nearly two months without blogging. Not sure how that happened. Life just got crazy. Hopefully there is now the opportunity to get going. Here is a beginning reflection on how the Bible is all about Jesus, and how missing the fact that he is the goal of the plotline is the biggest mistake anyone can make in understanding and applying it.
Jesus is the New Israel
Here is the biggest mistake in interpreting and applying the Old Testament: to forget about Jesus. People who teach how to handle the Bible regularly teach something like this: that it is vital to set any Bible passage in its context (correct), and that the more immediate context governs the meaning of the text more that remote contexts do (also correct) and therefore the immediate context of any passage is the most important thing that governs what it means and how we should apply it (incorrect – at least in one very important way).
This last principle works only if we are considering how a passage works as a unit within its particular historical and literary context. Critically it does not set a passage within the large sweep of God’s purposes in history, or the plot line of the whole Bible. Therefore only considering immediate context when trying to determine meaning and application will fatally omit whether God subsequently introduced new elements in salvation history that alter how the application should be done. Most crucially, many people assume that whatever God says to Old Covenant national Israel, is applicable directly and without qualification to New Covenant church of Jesus Christ. Whatever he said to them, he now says to us, it is now argued without qualification.
It sounds holy to say “we are teaching the plain meaning of a passage and teaching people to obey it.” It sounds like the easy and obvious option. But it misses the most critical step in Bible handling – how does this passage relate to Jesus as the culmination of the Bible’s plotline? And does the coming of God’s king and rescuer, his institution of a new covenant of grace, and his insistence that he, rather than a geographical place, is the focus of the worship of Yahweh alter the application of Old Covenant passages?
I’ll say it does! And here is the single biggest way: the New Testament equivalent of Old Testament national Israel is not the church. It is not present day national Israel. It is Jesus Christ. He is the Israel of God, the true worshipper, the Son, the prophet, priest and king. The temple and the sacrifice. The son of Abraham and the greater prophet promised by Moses.
When Isaiah introduces the figure of the Servant of the Lord, he first shows that this servant will fulfil all the plans of God that national Israel didn’t (42:1-7) and that he will rescue the pitiful and plundered people of God (42:18-22). He will bring salvation to the ends of the earth and to the Gentiles (49:5-6). And, most critically, he will be given the title “Israel” (49:3). This is not national Israel, because this new Israel rescues national Israel in 49:5. He is the new Israel, the perfect fulfilment. The title is taken away from the Old Testament nation and given to the servant – Jesus.
Be glad to worship Jesus and be found in Him today.