Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Your God Reigns

A congregant asked me to read Showdown of the Gods by Victor Schlatter.

It was a bear to get through. The writing is of a style I shall dub "good-natured fanatic". Mr. Schlatter holds his beliefs very firmly and enjoys poking fun at opposing beliefs. This typically requires him to take twice as long to say anything, and often obscures what he is saying.

Add to the mix that I find many of the views he opposes to be straw men, and others are now obsolete four years after the fact, and that style gets slightly burdensome. Then add a lack of practical applications, and it gets wearisome.

He did make an interesting point in the ninth chapter. He notes that the hymn "Our God Reigns" (warning: link has sound) begins by citing Isaiah 52:7 but changes the text from "Your God reigns!" to "Our God Reigns!"

At a recent Shabbat service, there was a nice discussion about Romans 11 and the concept of "provoking unbelieving Jews to jealousy". The kind of jealousy mentioned there is not the jealousy of wanting what someone else has or has stolen from you. Instead, Paul is asking Gentile believers to give unbelieving Jews a cherished awareness of how much they have.

This is the kind of jealousy that in English uses the phrase "jealous over" instead of "jealous of". When my wife and I go swing dancing I not only like dancing with her but I also like watching her dance. It is nice to see her enjoying dancing while I can rest on the sideline. When I dance with her I look at her face a lot, and this is complimented by how when I watch her dance with someone else I can admire more of her figure. Watching her dance with another man is not threatening. I do not get jealous of the man she is dancing with. But I do feel jealous over her -- I am made aware how much I value and cherish her.

Similarly, in Romans 11, Paul asks Gentile believers to help unbelieving Jews realize how real their God is, how valuable God's promises are, and how much God seeks intimacy with people he has called his own.

In other words, in Romans 11 Paul is urging Gentile believers to tell unbelieving Jews, "Your God reigns!".

Isaiah returns to this in more detail in chapters 61-62. Gentile believers should be an encouragement and assistance to Israel. (Maybe not all of them, but enough of them to fulfill this calling.) In verses 6:1-9 "me" refers to Yeshua, "you" is Israel, and "they" are Gentile believers. In 61:10 through 62:5 the theme remains the same but the pronouns change as the passage shows a first-person perspective of the Gentile believers. Verses 62:5-12 conclude with Yeshua's first-person perspective.

Sadly, Gentile believers almost always fail in this role. It is especially sad because Romans 11 tells us that Yeshua will not return until Gentile believers reach "fullness" in this role!

Usually, unbelieving Jews see the message of the Gentile Church as even being about a totally different God! As with the hymn, the message has been changed from "Your God reigns!" to "Our God reigns!".