“Israel’s testimony to Yahweh as a promise-maker presents Yahweh as both powerful and reliable enough to turn life in the world, for Israel and for all peoples beyond present circumstance to new life-giving possibility. Yahweh’s promises keep the world open toward well-being, even in the face of deathly circumstance.” Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Professor of Old Testament
As I have mentioned several times over the years in our Thursday Bible Study: it is false teaching, heresy, to say that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are not the same. They are. God is. There is only one God who was, who is and who will be.
The God known to us in Christ Jesus, the word of God made flesh, was known to the people of Israel as YHWH, a mystic combination of Hebrew consonants that was too holy to be spoken. They would only ever say “Adoni,” (Hebrew: Lord) when God’s true name appeared in the text of Scripture. Yet, this same God would draw near to the people of Israel, and through them to all peoples of the earth, through a series of promises called “Covenants”.
First came the Covenant with Adam and Eve to take care of God’s good creation, the first community. God walks with them in the garden, but they choose their own way over dwelling in community with God. Then came the Covenant with Noah after the Flood. Here God promised never to destroy the world by flood and water. As a sign of that promise we still cannot take our eyes off of a rainbow when we see it!
God’s promises don’t end there, however.
God continued to draw closer to His creation and that movement of ever increasing closeness came to center on the family of Abraham and Sarah, who were righteous people, but old and barren. The Covenant promise to make of them a great nation and to bless all people through their family, bound God to us for all times. These promises, as ‘weird’ as they may have seemed to a very elderly couple, did indeed bring the hoped-for offspring, and, as we say, the rest is indeed biblical history.
God’s Covenant promises were operative in the work of Moses and Aaron and Joshua, who were called into community with one another and helped lead the people of Israel into the hope of God’s liberation – while God’s faithfulness turned Egypt upside down with plagues. Once the people were freed, they were bound by Covenant promises at Mt. Sinai which carried them through to the Promised Land, the Promised Land itself being part of God’s Covenant with Abraham.
Each time God makes a promise, it is not just to one person, but to a community. Their descendants become heirs to the promises that God, in perfect faithfulness, fulfills.
What Professor Walter Brueggemann points to in the quote above is nothing less than the enduring character of God, to bring God’s people together and reveal to them the life that can be found amid barrenness, the Manna in the wilderness, and the hope for a new day regardless of what life around them looks like. A hope that is easier to hold in community, with others to share the load. A hope for us that is finally founded upon the Resurrection of Christ, whose blood shared in Communion is the enduring sign of forgiveness for us. This, Christ’s Resurrection, is proof that God will lead us into life abundant and everlasting from the deepest, most barren places of this world. Together. Amen