Sunday, January 13, 2008

The New Israel

Isaiah 49.1-7
The Prophet foretells the words of God's chosen representative, Israel, which could be the name of a righteous minority of faithful followers of God, whose task is to purify and renew their nation, or could be the name of a groundbreaking new leader cast in the same mould as Jacob, the father of the nation. The new Israel's arrival signifies a radical new beginning, the emergence of a reborn nation better able to live up to its calling as God's chosen people.

And yet there is a jarring note in the prophecy. The new leader's mission will appear to have come to nothing because the rest of the nation will reject it and the leader will be treated everywhere like a deeply-despised and worthless slave, but God has a greater purpose than simply saving the old nation of Israel. The renewed holy nation is going to be an international project, which will gather in all the world's peoples, and there is a further surprise in store. Although the new Israel will at first appear to have failed in his mission, eventually even kings, princes and rulers will come to recognise his authority and dominion over them.

The parallels with the crucified Jesus, who was raised by God from death and defeat to become Lord of a new Israel - the Church - with followers all over the world, is - of course - so striking that Christians have always seen this passage as a reference to his coming.

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