Trinitarian Reformational

An integrated vision

Biblical Reflection

In Isaiah 63:7-14,  we see how God relates to his people, and, by the same token, to the world. Firstly we see God’s covenantal faithfulness towards his people and the world. The world cannot make sense in and of itself.  It points beyond itself to the One by whose word all things take their character, meaning and direction, the Origin of all things. Nothing can exist on its own, or even have the possibility of existence, unless it is brought into being, and sustained by the spoken word and breath of God.  We are created for God’s glory (see Isaiah 43:7) – not an arbitrary whim, but a settled purpose. Calvin states: “Deus solus legibus solutus est, sed non exlex”.  This can be paraphrased:  “God alone is not subject to laws, and yet does not act arbitrarily”.  God holds all things in store for us from before the creation of the world in a way which we know will be for our good and the good of the world – something which we can affirm because we trust him.  Our trust in God is confirmed in two ways: his presence with us now and his promise for the future.  In the present, we see God’s personal engagement with his people and the world.  God makes himself known to us, indeed makes himself the object of our encounter with him and opens to us the possibility of entering into a personal relationship with him.  Abraham, the father of the chosen people, and Moses, the receiver of the written law and covenant, both encountered the divine presence (the same figure described variously in Isaiah as the “Angel of his presence” or “the arm of the Lord”) directly in this way.  God’s presence makes it possible the people to be brought together in harmonious obedience under the God’s law.  It is also through God’s presence that the people are assured of redemption and grace.   In the Old Testament, God’s presence is revealed above all in the Tabernacle, later the Temple, where sacrifices took place for the sins of the people, and where the Shekinah (literally the tenting) of God was located.   It is this same ”tenting” that the Gospel of John speaks of in the New Testament – God’s tenting appeared among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (1:14) – we have seen his glory (the Hebrew word corresponding to the Greek text literally means God’s “weightiness”, in other words his embodiment for us) full of grace and truth.  In Paul’s letter to the Colossians (1:17), this same Jesus is described as the one in whom all things hold together, that is, take their coherence.    With respect to God’s promise for the future, we see God’s animating dynamism in his people and the world.  God’s Spirit acts sovereignly in grace and judgment encouraging and cajoling God’s people; but also opening up the richness and diversity of the world.  Isaiah looks towards the New Jerusalem.  This vision is also taken up in the New Testament in the book of Revelation (Chapters 21-22).  God’s Spirit moves in all things to bring them to his perfect future.              

In all of this we see how God acts diversely and yet in a unified and coherent way in the world.      

Having set out the broad vision, we need to think about the working out of this vision in specific areas of life.  What does it mean to affirm God to be the Origin of all things, as well as affirming his presence in the coherence of all things, and power and promise in drawing all things together to his promised future. One important implication is that it frees us from the need to find the origin, coherence and purpose of the world within the confines of the world as we find it. To make sense of the world in its own terms inevitably involves explaining it in terms of one aspect and playing down other aspects which need independently to be taken into account.  This means a distorted and impoverished way of understanding the world.  On the other hand, if we start with God in the way we have described as the basis of all things, this frees us to accept all things in all their diversity without having to construct one form of explanation about how they all fit together.  It also means that we can have confidence in what we do in the present without our feeling that we need to have everything sewn up or brought under our own control.  In other words, we are freed for joyful, trusting and fruitful obedience. 


December 27, 2007 Posted by | Christian Worldview | Leave a comment