Relevant Biblical Passages: Genesis 6:5, 12:1-3; Isaiah 7:14; Jeremiah 32
Old Testament Hope. In contrast with the surrounding cultures which embraced various forms of “natural” religion, ancient Israel lived in hope, hope of deliverance, hope of restoration.
- Genesis 6:5: Yet another judgment against sinful humanity. Expulsion from Eden wasn’t enough to teach human beings the hazards of sin. According to Genesis 6:5, the degradation of humanity was virtually total at the time of the flood. What were the conditions on earth which led to the decision on God’s part to cleanse the earth by water and start over again? If the people aren’t committing mass suicide because of their “meaningless” and “hopeless” world, how can God be justified in destroying them?
- Genesis 12:1-3: Abraham and the patriarchs. Following the flood, God’s judgment against the tower of Babel showed that humanity had again corrupted itself, at least in God’s eyes. But God intervened in a positive way in the call of Abraham, promising to make him a blessing to the world. It is easy for Christians to read back into the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the elements of hope that have become important for Christians. But how do the narratives in Genesis actually portray “hope”? For example, there is no explicit reference to resurrection in Genesis; indeed a general resurrection at the end of time is rarely mentioned in the Old Testament. How did the patriarchs find hope from their perspective?
- Isaiah 7:14: A virgin shall conceive. Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 as a prophetic passage that was “fulfilled” in the birth of Jesus. Again, isn’t this a “hope” which is seen more clearly after the event than before? To what extent is the OT passage clearly a harbinger of hope in the days of Isaiah and King Ahaz? Can smaller, local incidents point to larger, universal events?
- Jeremiah 32: Buying a field at Anathoth. The desperate nature of hope is reflected in the remarkable incident when Jeremiah buys property in his home town of Anathoth right at the point when the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem looks most ominous. Jeremiah obeyed God’s command and “redeemed” his ancestral plot from his cousin Hanamel, an act which symbolized to the people of Judah that “houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land” (Jer. 32:15). Jeremiah reminds the Lord in a desperate prayer that appearances are all against hope. But God declared that he would bring the people back. To what extent does the Christian hope today seem to fly in the face of all the “evidence” – as it did in Jeremiah’s day?
- Old Testament visions of restoration. Old Testament visions of restoration are not as tidy as those found in Revelation 21-22. In Isaiah 65-66, a new earth is described, but a “new” earth in which “death” is still an expected part of the cycle of life. There would be no premature death; every person would “live out a lifetime” (Isa. 65:20); but still there is death in the end. Zechariah 14 presents an even more mixed picture of a restored world, with pockets of resistance still lurking in the corners of the kingdom and sacrifices still being offered. How should these Old Testament passages shape our thinking about a restored world?