Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jacob, Israel & the Incarnational Church

Jacob, the father of the Hebrew clans, was loved by God. However he was deceptive and arrogant and in need of being humbled. God loved Jacob, but was not content to leave him who we was. God wrestled Jacob, crippled him with a limp, and gave him a new name as a symbol for his true identity. Israel, one who wrestles with God, would become the name of God's tribe on earth.

Through out the prophets God addresses his people by both the name Jacob and the name Israel. Many people ignore this as if they are only synonyms used for literary variety. However, on closer study it becomes clear that God is addressing his people in one of their two states before him. Jacob is the condition of God's people when their mind is set on the carnal things of the kingdom of man. Israel is name used by God to address the heart state of people when their mind is set on the Kingdom of God.

As I was reading Isaiah 9, this idea seemed to break down:
Isaiah 9:8 The Lord has sent a message against Jacob; it will fall on Israel.
At first it seems like both Jacob and Israel are about to receive God's wrath. However after reading and meditating on the chapter several more times, it meaning begins to take shape. There is responsibility placed on Israel for the fulfillment of God's Kingdom on earth.

Let's look first at the 3 promises God gives Isaiah in this prophecy:
Isaiah 9:4 - End of Oppression
Isaiah 9:5 - End of War
Isaiah 9:6-7 - God physical presence on earth

So then did Christ end oppression, end war, and establish an eternal physical presence on earth, or is God a liar? It takes only a very short look at a daily newspaper to know the answer to these questions. Sex Trafficking and the Iraq Conflict stand as testimonies that oppression and war are still among us. As far as Christ physical presence, that is up for debate too. Of course the church is stated to be the physical incarnation of Christ, yet it only seldom seems to reflect the same business and priorities that Christ has in his personal ministry.

This is where verse 8 and following began to make sense. Christ is judgment against all the Kingdoms of man. War, oppression, disease, and poverty are defeated. "It is finished" Christ said in his last words on the cross. Yet as Isaiah 9:9-16 points out the kingdoms of man keep moving onward. Though defeated by God the dark kingdom keeps it's engine spinning, continuing the work that it has always been about. Since we are citizens of a parallel kingdom, this judgment falls on the citizen's of the God's Kingdom to proclaim and act out this defeat in every place we are present. Where Christ is physically present in the words and actions of his church, there is no war, there is no oppression, there is no disease, there is no poverty. The power to be present in healed Kingdom is waiting to be spoken and waiting to be acted upon.

It is our commission to enter the places of filthy darkness. It is our calling to goto the places of disease and oppression. Redemption is realized when we the community of Christ ACTS in the world . Where Christ's church is living out the Kingdom of God, the consequence of sin is redeemed. The church as the incarnational presence of God among the world, is the only hope for darkness to be renewed in light. I want to be living in that Kingdom reality!

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