Friday, September 5, 2008

Reflections on Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament

I want to begin by thanking John for telling me I had to get this book and read it. Once again John was right. This is certainly one the most insightful and biblical books that I have ever read. As I was reading, it felt as if a curtain had been pulled back and I was now seeing the Old Testament (OT) in a clearer way than ever before. So thank you John and I am now genuinely sorry that it took me so long to get to it.

I don't really want to attempt a book review, the scope of this book makes it hard to review here but I want to share some reflections from the reading of this book, and hopefully encourage you read it as well.

1) I am often wrong and don't know everything. To those who know me this would seem to go without saying. How could I ever come under the delusion that I know everything or that I have achieved some deep wisdom. Christopher Wright showed me this because every time that my presuppositions clashed with his explanations I was forced to admit by the end of contest that he was right and I was wrong. I need to be reminded that I haven't arrived, that I am not quite as brilliant as I might daydream that I am. Thank you Christopher Wright for bringing a humbling measure into this book.

2) My understanding of the OT as demanding a primarily external obedience was wrong. Dr. Wright proved conclusively that the OT demanded both external obedience and internal obedience. Love and commitment were essential under the Old Covenant. He focuses on Deuteronomy 4-11, where Moses is preaching to the people, challenging them to follow and obey God whole-heartedly not just outwardly.

3) My understanding of prophecy was sharpened by Christopher Wright. He has a brilliant section where he compares and contrasts promise and prediction (this is all in chapter 2). He shows how prophecy is based on relationship and demands a response whereas prediction is not relational, it is simply an announcement of an event. A promise demands action from the promiser, not just announcement.

Wright also showed the ongoing cycle in the OT of promise, fulfillment, and fresh promise. Jesus fulfills all the promises of the OT by being all that the promises pointed to. He is the last stop on this cycle. This does not deny the reality of meaning in OT context promises meant something to the people they were directly given to. It was not like some code book that was gobbledygook to them. It had meaning for them, but Jesus as the final stop on the cycle of promise, fulfillment, and fresh promise, was the ultimate answer to all the promises of God. Jesus is all that those promises were pointing to.

4) The last thing that I want to mention is the mission of Israel, that we in our sad ignorance of the OT so often overlook. We think that the Great Commission was a new thing that God was doing. This is insane for us to think. We know better, look with me at Genesis 12:1-3

Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

God is blessing Abraham and Israel for the purpose of blessing all the nations. This is a theme that as Wright so powerfully shows runs through the OT. We are part of that blessing, I as a gentile benefited from the fulfillment of this promise to Abraham fulfilled in Christ, through His atoning work I now am blessed of God. But the only difference that I can discern is a subtle shift in the NT. In the NT we are commanded to go to the nations, whereas in the OT the nations are describes as coming to Israel.

My only complaint was that he left some avenues untraveled. I would have liked an appendix of his view of the OT was a shadow of Christ (see Hebrews 8:5 and 10:1 for example). His brief section on Typology did not satisfactorily answer this question. A small complaint, I know.

Thank you Dr.Wright, your book is a gift and I have become an unabashed fan. I will be adding Wright's books to my reading diet as long as their are Wright books and as long as he doesn't lose his mind or fall off the deep end.


Joshua Owen said...

Hey Jaimie, thanks for the synopsis of Wright's book. If you haven't read his "Mission of God" I highly recommend it, though he digresses into environmental concerns more than I think is justified.

I'd add one thing to your comment about the presence of the great commission in the OT. I believe the universal mission to make the entire globe a sanctuary for the glory of God is present in Genesis 1-2. What we call the cultural commission has at its heart the same mission as the G.C. of Jesus - the knowledge of the glory of God covering the earth.

John Lucas said...

Hey Jamie, I agree with Josh in recommending "Mission of God." He also has two other follow ups to Knowing Jesus Called "Knowing the Holy Spirit" and "Knowing God the Father." The latter I have and it is great. I think the best thing for me in that book was his arguement concerning how the OT was the Bible Jesus used and ultimately what shaped his entire humanity. Great stuff.

Jamie Fugate said...

Yeah and I really loved the way he argued that God is doing what He has always been doing, that really helped me to better understand the relationship of the covenants. There is fresh promise in each covenant but they all reflect the nature of the same God who gave them.