Friday, April 29, 2011
Darkness Has Fallen
II Kings wrestles with the first two questions, but it ends on a cliff-hanger. It doesn't provide us with an answer to the third question. There is no final message of hope. There is no assurance of what is to come. As I closed my Bible today, I couldn't help but feel the tension of II Kings, the still unanswered question hanging in the air, "Surely this isn't the end...?"Although one of my pet peeves is when people automatically jump to the New Testament to explain everything in the Old Testament, the end of II Kings is one of those moments when it is hard not to look forward to Jesus.
There are many such moments in the Old Testament, moments of groaning and despair, moments where people ask, "What will happen to us? Will anyone rescue us? Will we ever be free?" Abraham wanders through the fertile crescent with no place to call home. What will happen to him and his family? The Israelites find themselves in Egypt under a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph. Will anyone rescue them? The northern nation of Israel is gone forever; the southern nation of Judah is taken into exile. Will they ever be free? To jump ahead in history, the Greeks occupy Palestine and Hellenize the land. Rome overthrows the Greeks and sets up their own cronies as high priest and king. What will happen to the disenfranchised, the poor, God's people under foreign rule? Dark times...exile was supposed to be over, but the Hebrews had a nagging feeling that they weren't quite home.
But then light breaks into the darkness. The Messiah, the true king of Israel, has come to reclaim his thrown and set his people free. In the context of the Old Testament we discover that the coming of Christ is about far more then dealing with some nebulous idea of sin. Jesus was the answer to the question. What will happen next? Not exile. Not feeling oppressed in your own land. Not being abused by your own leaders. Darkness does not have the final say, but light.
Jesus is the only positive answer to the question, "What will happen to us?" That answer is: we will discover what it means to be home within the community of restored humanity. Will we be rescued? Absolutely, resoundingly, yes...from oppression, from disillusionment, from hopelessness, from separation, from death. Will we ever be free? Again, yes, but not just from a foreign tyrant, but from the type of existence that creates foreign tyrants to begin with. Because of Jesus, we are not just freed from something but to something, to the calm of peace, to the joy of an altruistic life, to the celebration of relationship, to the fulfillment of life.
Thank God the Bible does not end at II Kings. Exile does not have the final word. Mourning and loss are not the end of the story. God and humanity are not separated for all time.
Stopping point: II Kings 25