Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Kings 5 and Ephesians 2

1 Kings 5 – Hiram of Tyre (a great friend of David’s) sent his servants to help Solomon build the temple David had planned for but not built.  Solomon explains to Hiram that David never had the peace he needed to build the Temple; there were endless threats on his borders. But Solomon now has the peace needed to devote himself to the task. They get their timber from Lebanon – cedar and cypress. The king had it made into rafts and sent by sea.  In return, Solomon will provide food to Hiram’s household – wheat and olive oil in large quantities.

Solomon conscripts 30,000 forced laborers in Israel and sent 10,000 to Lebanon in three-month shifts – one months of labor in Lebanon, then two months back at home (5:14).  He also had 75,000 stonecutters in the hill country, and 3,300 supervisors. 

Ephesians 2 - Paul refers to the death that we were in before we “saw” or “knew” Christ, a “spiritual death”  - living according to the dictates of the world, following the desires of our flesh and our impulses.  It is God who raised us, like Christ, from this death and raised us up with him.  This regeneration comes from grace, not from any right we have.

Before Jesus came, the Gentiles “were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  “But now, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13).  He is “our peace”; in his flesh, he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, the hostility between us (2:14).  

He has abolished the Law with its commandments and ordinances, in order to create “in himself” one people. “By his death on the cross Christ destroyed their enmity; by means of the cross he united both races into one body and brought them back to God” (2:16). Through Christ we have become co-heirs with the Jews, adopted sons, and the wall of enmity between the chosen and those outside has been torn down.  He is our peace, the one in whom we are reconciled.

This very important passage explains what we often forget, that Christ’s coming did not terminate the relationship the Jews had with God, but simply offered the rest of us a way into the redemption he had been pursuing with them.  In Christ whose life and very being recapitulate and subsumes the redemptive “means” worked out in the history of God’s first people, we are brought into the “household” of redemption.  We are adopted into the household, and what we must do is adopt it as well.  For every adoption to be successful involves not only a “bringing in,” but the adoptee’s reciprocal adoption of the family he is being joined to.

But what does Paul mean when he says the law with its commandments and ordinances is abolished?  This is the problem.  Does he mean that we are no longer bound by the commandment to “serve the Lord alone,” or to “honor our father and mother”?  Surely he does not mean this. 

Does he mean that the Jewish covenant is now superceded? Maybe he meant this.  It is this supercessionism that has gotten us into trouble over the years.  The very idea that the faithful, steady God whose promises are realities more enduring than anything simple “nature” will ever be able to provide, could suddenly change the grounds on which the redemption of Jews is founded has got to be wrong.  What has happened in Christ is that all that the Jews worked out with God, all they came to know about Him and about what it is He wants us human beings to do and be is gathered and embodied in Jesus.  He is the door through with we come into the light and life of God.  But the earlier promises are not abolished.  They are just not our door. Jesus too does not cancel out the law.  He brings it to us with the deeper wisdom that the prophets gave the Jews concerning it—especially Jeremiah who saw that it would go out to the world in a new dispensation, a dispensation that looked to the law Christ would write on our hearts.

The Church is built on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles.  Jesus is the capstone and we are all part of the structure, a “temple sacred in the Lord” (2:21). The Church is described as a structure held together “through him,” which grows “into a temple sacred to the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (2:22).

It is possible, indeed it is the testimony of Paul that even the prophets and the covenant of God to the Jews is established on Christ, as He is understood by Paul and John and all who see in Him the fullness of God’s Light and Word. 

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