Relevant Verses: Deut. 4:5-8; 13-14; 5:22-33
Leading Question: How is an Old Testament Hope different from a New Testament Hope?
This will be a challenging lesson for those who want a more open approach to the exegesis of Scripture. For those who want a more thorough and open discussion of the topic, three of my books will provide insight. Who’s Afraid of the Old Testament God? addresses the OT/NT divide. But in so doing, adopts what could be described as a “radical accommodationist” approach to Scripture. The late David Wright, the left-of-center Evangelical historian at the University of Edinburgh who helped me get Who’s Afraid? published by Paternoster, UK, and then Zondervan, US, told me that InterVarsity UK would never touch the book because the note of accommodation in it was far too strong. Who’s Afraid? is currently published by Energion.
One can sense that note of accommodation in several of the WA chapter titles: “Behold it was very good, and then it all turned sour” and “Strange people need strange laws.”
My book Inspiration: Hard Questions, Honest Answers (RH, 1991; Energion, 2016) develops that note of accommodation in a more thorough-going manner. Finally, Beyond Common Ground: Why Liberals and Conservatives Need Each Other (PPPA, 2009) addresses the topics that were omitted from Inspiration because they were potentially too volatile: diversity an eschatology. Those topics come into play in this study guide because eschatology plays a key role in these lessons. My main “practical” argument is that one should lay the passages of Scripture side-by-side, not attempting to impose them on top of each other. That enables us to compare the differing passages of Scripture as they appear in their respective contexts without having to choose one or the other.
In my experience the two most difficult concepts for devout conservatives to address are diversity and change. And we get plenty of both in this quarter’s lessons.
Question: How can two different hopes be the same when they are different?
Restoration is the common ground on which both testaments stand. Isaiah’s vision of God’s vegetarian kingdom is a wonderful vision a restored world which on one has ever seen but which has to be true if there is a good God:
Isaiah 11:6 The wolf shall live with the lamb; the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the lion will feed together, and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Question: When Job mentions that he will “see God” (Job 19:25-27), he refers to the “Redeemer” in this famous passage. Who is this “Redeemer”?
Job 19:25-27 (KJV): 25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.
Comment: The goel is a word with very vivid, even violent roots. A more literal translation would be “the near-kinsman who comes to the rescue of the family name, honor, and property.”
In the story of Ruth, Boaz is the one who comes to “rescue” the family property. In the Leviate marriage law (Deut. 25:5-10) it was the husband’s brother who was obligated to carry on the family name. But it is the Cities of Refuge scheme that reflects the violence. Numbers 35 describes the tradition in all its violence.
Many scholars interpret Job in terms of the goel whom Job is summoning to defend him. They would see the figure of Jesus having nothing to do with it. The narrative easily moves that direction in a secondary application. But it is not the first meaning of the text.
Question: Is rescuing from sheol the same as resurrection?
Both Psalm 49:15 and Psalm 71:20 would be understood in the Old Testament as restoration from sheol, though in the light of Jesus’ resurrection they are very easily applied to resurrection and eternal life. After all, as we have already seen, the Old Testament believers were looking forward to being gathered to their fathers, not to resurrection. Old Testament believers don’t need to believe in everything we believe in for it to be true.
Question: How does ont explain all the parallels with the New Testament in Isaiah 24-27?
Comment: Scholars have called Isaiah 24-27 “The Little Apocalypse” because it has so many elements that parallel the other apocalyptic passages in Scripture. But it is as though the New Testament writers were simply using this part of Isaiah as a treasure chest for many of the ideas that appear in a more organized manner in the New Testament. In particular, Isaiah 25:8-10 points to restoration and Isaiah 26:19 talks of resurrection. These were not ideas that were “precious” to OT people as they are to those you live in the new. But they are a resource from which the New Testament writers drew:
Isaiah 25:8-9 He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. 9 In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” Isaiah 26:19 (NIV): But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise— let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy— your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.
Comment: Finally a resurrection at the end of time! In Daniel 12:2 we have the first reference in Scripture to a resurrection at the end of time. But note how his passage differs from NT passages. Only some are raised to everlasting life and some to everlasting contempt. The eschatology that one finds in the Book of Revelation is just a bit tidier.