Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Church in Crisis - Reconstituting God's People I

Israel was in crisis. Ruled by Rome in the first century, Israel felt the sharp edge of the pax Romana. They were oppressed by Rome, abused by their local leaders, and heavily taxed by both. And their identity as the covenant people of YHWH was called into question. The promised restoration of the 'saints of the Most High' was still to be achieved - the Gentile's raged and cast doubt on the promises of YHWH to his people. Yet many Israelites were awaiting the restoration of their people. So the key question for Israel was 'What does it mean to be faithful to God?'

How to remain faithful? There seems to have been four responses:
  1. PHARISEES - for the Pharisees, the response was to stand apart in holiness. Amidst a world of sin and darkness, fidelity required living an ultra holy life as the light as you await YHWH to act and reward the righteous (those faithful to the Torah).
  2. SADDUCEES - for the Sadducees, the response was to 'Do a deal; we have the Temple...' The Sadducees were the Jewish group with all the power through their pandering to the Roman overlords. They had control of the centre of Judaism - the Temple - so they should make the best of things and resist these new, radical ideas like angels and the resurrection.
  3. ESSENES - 'Run away!' It may sound like Monty Python, but the Essenes were serious. Israel is completely corrupt, so all that can be down is to head into the wilderness, start again and await YHWH's judgement on Israel.
  4. ZEALOTS - Related to some of the other responses, the Zealots understood fidelity to God via resistance to his enemy, the Romans. 'Trust God and Fight.' Whether you understand them as terrorists or freedom fighters, they wanted to lead God into defeat his enemies.
It is into this search for a solution to Israel's continuing exile that Jesus arrives on the scene.

Series so far: Intro, I, and II


mike said...

Perhaps a related quetion was "What does it mean to be a faithful God?

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Sorry, I thought that I said that.