(If you’re just joining us, you’ll need to start with Part One for the series to make sense.)
Last week we looked at Israel’s defining story up until the exile in Babylon, which we can summarise:
God’s original image-bearers rebelled, but God acted in mercy to choose for himself a people who will be his image-bearers, showing the world what life is like when lived the way God intended. But God’s people again rejected his “Plan A,” asking for a human king (like everyone else had). So God graciously gave them one, firstly Saul (the typical human king, who was a failure) and then David (a king after God’s own heart). “Plan B” started well, with great ideals, but by the end of Solomon’s reign, that, too had failed. Unjust and idolatrous Israel had been exiled to Babylon – away from the land, away from the presence of God, and under foreign rule.
This week, we saw how exiled Israel had not given up hope:
In Deuteronomy, God promised them that if they repented while in exile, he would gather them back. In Isaiah, they were told that this return from exile would be a time of healing, peace, justice, and self-rule. In Ezekiel, they were promised a new heart – the indwelling Spirit of God – who would enable them, finally, to live as God’s image-bearers under his rule.
We saw from Jeremiah and Daniel that this would happen in two stages:
a first return from exile in which they reoccupy the land, and a second, fuller return when all of God’s promises would be fulfilled. And by the time of Jesus, the expectation was that this would happen any minute now!
And yesterday, the prophets told us that it would be accomplished by God’s “anointed one” (Messiah), and that it would be associated with restored Israel being a blessing to all nations.
Today, it’s your turn to do some of the work in putting it all together – creating a picture of Israel’s defining story at the time of Jesus. Tom Wright (New Testament People of God, p.273) has put this in the form of four questions, which I’ve reproduced below. Spend some time writing your own answer to these questions, based on what we’ve learned over the past two weeks. Tomorrow (being catch-up Friday) we’ll look at Tom’s answers, and begin next week seeing how Jesus fits into Israel’s story.
Israel’s defining story
How do you think Israel, at the time of Jesus, would have answered these questions?
- Who are we? (What’s our identity and our purpose?)
- Where are we? (Are we in the place we’re supposed to be?)
- What is wrong? (How is our story unresolved?)
- What is the solution? (What needs to happen to resolve it?)