Monday, November 14, 2011

The Unity of God's Redemptive Story

Yesterday in church, our pastor continued his series through Revelation by preaching on chapter 12 and outlining the Child of Promise, the Seed promised in Genesis 3 who would crush the serpent's head, the dragon. He traced the godly line through the Old Testament, highlighting instances where Satan conspired to snuff it out and thus attempted to make God's Promise of no effect. But God showed Himself faithful so that a remnant always remained. Finally the Promised One was born and even Herod's wicked and cruel murdering heart could not prevent God's purposes from being fulfilled. In light of this recent sermon, I thought about God's covenant-keeping to His people as it is recorded by Luke about the faithful priest, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.

I am quoting extensively from this older post by Pastor Bret McAtee(not our pastor). I hope it provides you with new insight into the Word of God as it did for me. The text to which Pastor Bret refers is Luke 1:67-79, quoted from the NIV as follows:

Zechariah’s Song

His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

We need to keep this in mind when we come to passages like the Benedictus which is before us this morning. If we were to follow an all too typical type of sermon we might say something like,
“Zechariah serves for us as an example of faith, all be it tardy, that we ought to follow. Zechariah eventually obeyed God and we should also. Zechariah teaches us that God never gives up on people, even if he has to discipline them for a season and so if we have failed God we can still be faithful and He will give us another chance.”

But is it really the purpose of this pericope to teach us to emulate Zechariah’s example, or is there something about God’s story that we are to draw out from this?

First we should note that the story is linear and has teleology. That is to say that the part that Zechariah has to play in the story is consistent with earlier portions of the novel and is indicative that the Novel has a destination. This Hero comes from the promised house of Heroes (Luke 1:69) – a house that had been reduced to a withering stump (Isaiah 6:13). Further the coming of the Hero is consistent with promises that were given by God way early in the novel (Luke 1:70 cmp. w/ Genesis 3:15) that He would provide a dragon tyrant slaying Hero who would deliver and redeem His people from the clutches of His enemies (Luke 1:71). Indeed, Zechariah being filled with the Spirit of the Author of the Novel (Luke 1:67) can say that this Hero was part of a storyline that includes in it earlier Heroes such as David (Luke 1:69) and Abraham (Luke 1:73) who were literary anti-types of the great Hero in God’s novel.

Second, as we read this part of the story we realize that this story is framed by covenant (Luke 1:72). This is the literary tool used to unite the whole story. Covenant is how God, as a Novelist, brings unity and diversity into His story. The literary tool of covenant allows the novel to keep building while at the same time providing a sense of wholeness to the story as it unfolds. When Dr. Luke wanted to show early Christians that the Heroes’ life and ministry were the fulfillment of God’s ancient purposes for His chosen people, he pointed to the covenants and quoted Zechariah’s prophecy which reveals that believers such as Zechariah in the very earliest days of ‘the new and better covenant’ understood Jesus and His messianic work as a fulfillment (not a ‘Plan B’) of God’s covenant with Abraham (Luke 1:72-73). God didn’t shelf the previous story of the Old Covenant with the arrival of Jesus and start a new story with the intent of getting back to the previous story once he had finished the new story. No, Zechariah’s appeal to the covenant reveals that the characters in God’s novel understood that this was one incredible narrative.
The Novel doesn’t change plot lines with the coming of Jesus. The author of the Novel doesn’t suddenly switch to an alternate plan of rescue for His people all because His royal people reject the Hero. Quite to the contrary this was part of the Author’s intention from when He began writing His novel.

Another thing we want to see about this novel is that it is interactive, which is to say that God’s story is not a story that leaves us unaffected. While it is certainly not the case that we are to turn God’s story into our story, it is the case that God takes us up into His story so that we become participants in his story. Zechariah notes that the salvation (deliverance, redemption) that is being provided by the Messiah is to have the effect that God’s people might ’serve Him without fear.’ The idea is that having been delivered we might be loyal servants (hence royal priesthood) to God. The redemption provided by God in His story doesn’t end with a people who deaf dumb and mute to the extension of God’s Kingdom. No, in God’s story we are delivered in order to serve. God does not become a participant in our story but we do become participants in His story, and we do so by rendering Him the service a delivered people delight in rendering.

1 comment:

  1. How important to have that clear in our minds... so easy we can become the center and God running behind us.. yet is us who follow His plan... thanks.


I enjoy reading your comments and try to reply as much as I can. Thanks for reading here.