Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Faith is not resignation

In his commentary on 1-2 Kings, Peter Leithart provides some very helpful pastoral insights concerning the prophecy of Ahijah against Jeroboam’s son in 1 Kings 14. He writes:
Faith is often confused with resignation. The prophetic word comes, cutting like a double-edged sword, and we respond with tight-lipped silence. This is not faith. Faith responds to God’s word, not with silent submission, but with confession, praise, earnest and anguished petition. Faith responds with the desperate cries of a Job, the “my God, my God” of David and Jesus, the “how long, O Lord?” of the Psalms. God’s word is not the end of a conversation, but an invitation to renew conversation. God does not judge and condemn to send us slinking away in resigned silence. God judges and condemns so that we can give our “amen” to his judgment, humble ourselves, and be saved. Ultimately, the issues go to theology proper: the Triune God, the God whose life is an eternal conversation, does not create a world as a stage where he performs soliloquies before a respectfully hushed audience. God creates the world and humanity to enter into a dialogue. Ahijah delivers a devastating oracle to Jeroboam, but that is an invitation to repentance, as is Elijah’s oracle to Ahab (1 Kgs. 21). The text gives us a hint, if only a hint, that the end is not set out by the beginning, that there is yet hope for Israel.

Commenting on the way passages like this speak to Christians today, he concludes:
Jesus’s death, unlike the death of Jeroboam’s good son, does not spell the end of things, but the beginning of things, because Jesus’s death is followed by his resurrection. Jesus’s death is not an inverted Passover that leads to destruction, but a true Passover that liberates the people of God. Through Jesus, the guilt that plagues us from the past is forgiven, and through forgiveness and the renewing power of the Spirit the world is opened—Israel is opened—to a future for which none had dared to hope. This simply is the gospel, the good news that ends are not straight-line extrapolations from beginnings; this is the gospel, that the end reverses the beginning, as tears are washed away, the curse removed, the dead raised. The world is not condemned by its beginnings to a certain ending, for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
That is the gospel we celebrate at the Lord’s Table: this is the blood of the new covenant, Jesus says, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. At the table, we are renewed in covenant, freshly forgiven, so that the past can be put behind us. At the table, we celebrate the opening of a new future, for Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.2

1.  Leithart, P. J. (2006). 1 & 2 Kings (p. 107). Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press.
2.  Ibid., p. 109

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