Tuesday, January 02, 2007

On the Ninth Day of the Christmas

The Sea post IV (?): Israel.


God is determined to rescue his creation from evil and death. He called Abraham, and God promised that through Abraham’s descendants (Israel), he would work to undo the problem of evil. Israel was to be in the world for the world – a light to the nations to show all the earth the glories of YHWH. Sadly, her history showed that despite Israel’s vocation as God’ agents to solve the evil in the world, they were themselves part of the problem. So much so that their blatant disobedience to God and the covenant he had established with them resulted in Israel being sent into exile. How would God restore his creation through Israel now?

Unlike the neighboring Phoenicians, the Israelites were not renowned for their seafaring prowess. The sea was something in God’s creation that was, if anything, to be feared. It was where strange beasts like the Leviathan dwelt (Job 41). Symbols of Israel’s grandiose could very easily find themselves ruined upon the sea [insert 1 kgs reference]. The beasts representing Israel’s surrounding pagan enemies emerged from the Sea (inserts Daniel 7 reference). The sea was a symbol of dread and chaos for the Israelites (Psalm 107:23ff.). Somehow, it had come to represent the forces of uncreation at work within God’s creation itself – the very forces that Israel was commissioned to defeat through her covenant with YHWH.

And yet, the psalmist held out the hope of the seas declaring the glory of God (Psalm 96:11, 98:7, 148). The Sea belongs to the LORD (95:5, 104:25 – notably creating the Leviathan as a rubber ducky typology), he made them and will bring them to order (33:7, 74:13 ff. – notably crushing the Leviathan, 89:9). In fact, an Israelite could not even hide from the LORD in the Sea (139, Jonah).

More so, but the Lord’s messiah, the King will rule from Sea to Sea (72:8) and will exercise his rule over them (89.25). It is the LORD’s anointed, the representative of the anointed people, who will defeat the LORD’s enemies, the raging pagan nations (Psalm 2), who have become dehumanized by worshipping wood and stone (also Daniel 7 where the “son of Man” – Israel, the “second Adam”, the true humanity – defeated the beasts who arose out of the Sea). It is for this reason that we read of Solomon and Hiriam of Phonecia in 1 Kings 9, who build a fleet at Ezion-geber that sail to Ophir bringing back 420 talents of gold. The other fleets effectively under Solomon’s authority brought back “almug wood and precious stones” (1 Kgs. 10:11) , and “gold, silver, ivory, apes (or baboons) and peacocks” (1 Kgs 10:22). Part of being king meant establishing the kingdom of God over all of his creation, including the Sea. This explanation has also been used to justify why there is a basin called “the sea” (Heb - ם , Gk - θάλασσα) built within the temple compound in 1 Kings 7. For similar reasons we read of King Jehoshaphat trying to emulate Solomon in 1 Kings 22:47-50. His refusal to allow Ahaziah of Israel to send his own men on the mission is because, to do so, would be to acknowledge Ahaziah’s legitimacy as king (and messiah) of Israel.

The greatest hope for Israel and the Sea lay in the principal point of reference between the two. Israel were a people for whom the LORD had pulled back the Sea so that they could cross it. (Ps. 66:6, 77:19, 78, 106, 114, 136). Why exactly is this hopeful for Israel? Due to her continued disobedience and sin, Israel was sent into exile. Apocalyptically speaking, this threatened to render the creation formless and void again (Jer. 4.23), Yet the Psalmist declares that to the Lord who divided the Red Sea in two belongs thanks, because his steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 136.13. See also Isaiah 51.10, 15). Israel will go into exile, but will do so knowing that the LORD is faithful regardless of their faithlessness. The hope is for a new covenant and new hearts, the restoration of Israel. Her enemies will be overthrown, and Babylon will be drowned by the waves of the Sea (Jer. 51:42). There will be a new temple, from which water will flow into the Dead Sea and make the water fresh so that it will teem with life (cf. Ezekiel 47). It is a hope for a world set to order, a renewed creation where the people of God rule over land and sea under the Lordship of YHWH. This is what an Israelite expected when the exile was completed. The only question was when would it end?

10 points if you can tell me which Sesame Street character loved his Rubber Ducky?


spally said...


Nice post :)

Anonymous said...

Spally, thats cheating, you aren't allowed to go for points.Thats probably the only one I would ever get Hey by the way, rosie got the job. Yay! Michael

byron said...

Ah, too slow. Ernie indeed.

Your yam in Hebrew seems to be missing a yod.

Anonymous said...

Matt, what's happened to your index and all your links? They appear to have disappeared... and the page is getting a bit too big and too long to load too. :-(

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Fixed my index!!! yeah! that was a hastle.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

What should my Hebrew be? Thats worrying that it is wrong because I grabbed it off e-sword