Monday 21 September 2009

Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible (25/50) – A Partial Restoration

‘Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible’, from London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, is a series of fifty emails designed to look at the main milestones of the biblical story, seeking to show how whole-life discipleship is woven through Scripture as a whole, from beginning to end. Here is the twenty-fifth of the fifty emails, this one written by Margaret Killingray.

You have wearied the LORD with your words. ‘How have we wearied him?’ you ask. By saying… ‘Where is the God of justice?’ ‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?… Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace…’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.’
Malachi 2:17-3:2; 4:1-2

Still disobedient, still wearying the Lord, the exiles found that their return had only partially fulfilled the promises to Abraham, Moses and David. There was a measure of return, a measure of rebuilding – temple, walls – a measure of restoration for Jerusalem and her people. Yet even as Ezra led the worship in the newly built temple, might they recall in their hearts the great days of David and Solomon when their kingdom was powerful and prosperous, the envy of their neighbours? And that first generation back from exile, would they not remember the Jews left behind in Babylon, and the graves of those who had died there? Would they not look at the neglected villages and fields and the strangers living around them with little knowledge of the Lord God? Did they wonder when other conquerors would come?

There must have been great joy as they sang God’s praises in a rebuilt temple and city. But just as their joy was tinged with some regret, some sadness, some sense of repentance that their ancestors had brought it on themselves, so is all human joy tempered. Whether it’s love in relationships, beauty in art, music and nature, or whether it’s seeing health restored, some justice delivered, some of the hungry fed, our joys are tempered by the partial nature of all good things.

For them and for us these glimpses of joy are heralds of promise – that one day all the promises of God will be fulfilled, that joy will be complete. Malachi looked forward to the day when the Lord’s messenger would come and prepare the way for the Son of righteousness with healing in his rays – the Lamb, the Saviour and Redeemer. He would come, as a man, to this earth as it is, with its broken walls and ruined cities, exiled people, conquerors and conquered. And his death and resurrection would speak of eternity in place of fleeting time. A promise fulfilled for us, who wait for the day of his final coming as judge and king, when we shall see the glory of a world made young again, death defeated and his kingdom complete, a new Jerusalem, with no temple in the city ‘for its temple will be the Lord God and the Lamb’ (Revelation 21:22).

Margaret Killingray

For further reflection and action:

1. Read Isaiah chapter 60. See how the imagery of the land, the exile and return is used to express God’s promises of restoration and salvation. The chapter also speaks of God’s people as a light and beacon, to which peoples and nations flock not as enemies but as suppliants and gift bearers. How would these images apply to the church today?

2. Next week we move into the New Testament. Jesus was born into all the ambiguities and messiness of a nation ruled by puppet kings and priests under Roman conquerors. Some would see John the Baptist as the messenger promised by Malachi, and Jesus as the Messiah. Others would oppose John and Jesus. Reflect on the continuity here with the return from exile – and with the position of the church today.

No comments: