December 30 | Daily Devotion

December 30 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a complete reading of the passage

Lectio Semi-continua: a shorter reading of the passage

Lectio Divina

Old Testament

As we draw near to the conclusion of the Old Testament, I want to mention the debate among theologians about the relationship of the Old Testament people of God with the New Testament people of God. In the history of Christian tradition, most theologians have held that the church that will rule and reign with Christ in the kingdom to come is comprised of Jew and Gentile. I certainly lean in this direction.

However, it has become quite popular among many North American fundamentalists to always keep Israel and the church separate. (This is largely due to the influence of the Scofield Reference Bible.) Some interpreters hold that all the promises to Israel and all the promises to the church should be put into separate, airtight categories. These groupings are called dispensations and so purveyors of this viewpoint are called dispensationalists. Dispensationalism even led to a rather curious suggestion that God’s Old Testament people, Israel, would reign on the earth with Christ while the church, the New Testament people, would live in heaven with the Father! While a generation of laypersons and preachers still cling to this outmoded way of reading the Bible, it has been largely abandoned.

Why is this discussion important? Because if one separates the promises to Israel from the promises made to the church, then many of the Old Testament passages (like the one here in Zechariah) are irrelevant to the church. It is better, in my strong opinion, to read the Bible as a story of redemption from beginning to end. The story begins with Adam and the fall and continues with God working in scattered communities and families like Adam, Noah, and the curious Melchizadek, king of Salem (Gen. 14:18-20). The story gets bigger and better when He gathers His people into one community through the “calling” (election) of Abraham.

God gives this special community new laws to live by, they are to love Him and each other. He gives them priests, generals, judges, kings, poets, sages, and prophets to shepherd them. Although the community struggles to be faithful, God does not give up on them. He often disciplines them for their good, even sending them into exile. And He promises to send a Hero, a Christ to save them.

When Christ comes, the story goes global (Acts 2). People from every tribe, tongue, and nation are part of the community, which gives rise to the moniker, “the Third Race, “, a people neither Jew nor Gentile but one great family (Gal. 3:29, Eph. 2-3). Today, the church is comprised of Jews, Americans, Palestinians (yes, there are many Palestinian Christians), Canadians, Africans, Europeans, Asians, and people from every other tribe, tongue and nation. God’s promises in Zechariah 13-14 are for all of us. Christ the Shepherd will return. His feet will literally touch this earth, and He will save His people and establish His kingdom here. He will return to the place long considered the center of the world so that life will flow from Jerusalem to the east and the west, and the earth will be made new.

In our church, we have many families with adopted children. I love seeing children from places like Africa, Asia, and Latin America playing with their brothers and sisters and their friends. When those kids were legally adopted, they received all the same privileges and benefits as their brothers and sisters. They are not considered “second-class” or a separate unit of family. They eat the same meals, ride in the same cars, wear the same clothes, go to the same schools, and worship in the same community. We have been adopted into the Lord’s family, which means that all the promises God made belong to us, including those promising that we will reign with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords on a restored earth (see the language of adoption in Ephesians 1). Let us rejoice in the coming of the King and the restoration of all creation.

New Testament

The language of Revelation 21 provides a bookend for the redemptive narrative that began in Genesis. Moses wrote, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). John wrote, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1). God is on a mission to save creation, and nothing short of total success will do.

Some hold that God will literally destroy the world and start from scratch. I side with those interpreters who see significant continuity between this world and the new world. The few passages that use language of total destruction appear to be hyperbolic in nature. (This is a common feature of apocalyptic language.) Think of the headlines describing New Orleans as completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Of course, we accepted the hyperbole as a fitting description of the devastation, but we did not take it literally and expect a hole in the ground where New Orleans used to be.

There will be changes in the new earth, even geographical ones, but it is abundantly clear that Christ will come to this earth and that God’s dwelling will be here. He will make new what He has already created.

Lectio Divina  is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of  Calvary Church  in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of  A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.