For the week of September 17, 2011 / 18 Elul 5771
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8
Haftarah: Isaiah 60:1-22
Half Empty or Half Full?
And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:3; ESV)
I have been accused of being a "half-empty" kind of guy. Personally I think of myself as a realist, but I admit that I do have trouble seeing silver linings around clouds. It doesn't help that God has brought people into my life that don't even see the clouds or that to them it's not that the glass is half full, it's overflowing! I know...it actually does help that these people are in my life.
Whatever the reasons for my psychological or spiritual deficiencies (or strengths!), I mention this to say that I don't tend to put a positive slant on things. This means that I usually need some pretty good reasons to see things in a positive light. One of those things is the impact of the coming of the Messiah into the world.
The human experience since creation has been mixed. Life is full of ecstatic pleasures and agonizing suffering. Dreams come true beyond expectations; hopes dashed and hearts crushed. Goodness, kindness, and sacrifice abound amidst evils beyond comprehension. Half-full or half empty? How do you see human history?
The Torah sees history as a process. Creation was deemed "very good" by God himself (Bereshit / Genesis 1:31), but due to our first parents' disobedience, the human experience was thrust into a negative trajectory. Yet not without hope as God promised the eventual destruction of evil (see Bereshit / Genesis 3:15). The rest of the Hebrew Bible lays out for us the outworking of this promise culminating in the expectation of the coming of the Messiah (see Isaiah 9:6; 11:1-10; 53:1-12; Micah 5:1 [English: 5:2], Zechariah 12:10; Daniel 9:24-27; etc.). The Messiah's coming would mark a major positive transition in history. In fact in Jewish tradition, the Messiah's coming would put an end to evil once and for all. What our ancient teachers failed to see was that the Messiah's coming would initiate a new stage in the process, rather than the final transformation itself.
The claim of the New Covenant Scriptures is that the Messiah has come and has set history on a new course. The evil that first entered the human heart in Eden has been dealt a substantial blow. The followers of the Messiah are called to extend his rule throughout the world and in all of life.
What has been happening since Yeshua's coming two thousand years ago is that the glass has been filling up. So while life has included both negative and positive aspects, the process which God has been developing over time is a positive one.
Many followers of the Messiah don't see it this way, however. To them the evil still prevalent in the world colors the whole picture. The glass is not only half empty, it is emptying at an ever increasing rate. The culmination of history will occur when the glass is completely empty. While grateful for whatever positive effects the messianic mission has on the world, to them the world is going down the drain.
This way of looking at history fails to understand what really happened when Yeshua came. Until that time the hope of the world had been kept under a bushel, so to speak. The nation of Israel had hope that God's rule would prevail, but their hope was faint and for the most part kept to themselves. But with the coming of the Messiah the message of salvation and restoration burst onto the world's stage and has been transforming individuals, communities, and cultures ever since. No matter how dismal life seems, God through the Messiah is triumphing the world over.
The glass is definitely half full (maybe a lot more than half).
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