Monday, June 14, 2010

The Far Country

So, I've been kicking this thought around in my head for a long time now, ever since I read part of Karl Barth's "Way of the Son of God into the Far Country." In that work, Barth mainly focuses, as the title implies, on the Son of God and his incarnation, where he left heaven and came into the Far Country of our sinful, rebellious world. However, he also addresses the Old Testament extensively and says this--
"We are unequivocally and indispensably told by the Old Testament [that] the man elected by God, the object of divine grace, is not in any way worthy of it. From what we hear of the people of Israel and its kings, he shows by his action that he is a transgressor of the commandment imposed on him with his election, an enemy of the will of God directed and revealed to him. The God of the Old Testament rules amongst His enemies. He is already on the way into the far country to the extent that it is an unfaithful people to whom He gives and maintains His faithfulness." (emphasis mine).

Now, I read that last year, but then kind of forgot about it until this last spring when my Torrey group read Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Hosea. If you've read parts of any of those books lately, you'll know what I'm talking about. Those books are built upon the assumption that God is higher than the people of Israel, that God is a holy God and Israel is an unholy people, that God is a loving God and Israel is a rebellious people. I was particularly struck by Hosea (and I encourage you guys to read it, if you've never done so. It's a short book). Throughout the book, God stresses his love and faithfulness and contrasts it with the faithlessness and literal whoredom of Israel. God says that he will punish Israel for this, and says at one point, "I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face." (Hosea 5:15).

This really interested me, especially God saying he will return to his place. It reminded me that God's place is not naturally here, among the sinful, rebellious people that dwell on this fallen earth. God is the Most High God, and his place is the most high place. And yet he shows again and again that he is willing to make this far journey from his high, glorious place to this low, dark, fallen place to be among low, dark, fallen people. Hosea and the other two books I mentioned especially stress this in the Old Testament. In Hosea 11, God remembers the origins of Israel and how he "bent down to them and fed them." When God chooses to interact with us. he really is bending down to us, stooping to our level. In being faithful to a sinful, rebellious, faithless people, God demonstrates the great lengths to which he will go to show love to the world. And they are great lengths. It is no small thing when the infinite Creator of the Universe condescends to not only make himself known to us, but to help us, to reason with us, to remain faithful to us even when we are faithless to him. Praise be to God that he makes this far journey for us, that he is "God and not a man, the Holy One in [our] midst."

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