The Bible as God’s biography

At the Trinity House website, Peter Leithart recently published a twopart exposition of Jesus’ two claims in Luke 24 that He fulfills the Old Testament. Leithart discusses typology, the OT promises awaiting fulfillment, God’s character as being for and with His people, and His “lament” over His people.

Here was a powerful passage from the section “God-for-Israel”:

First, we’ve learned that Yahweh has bound His own name with Israel. He has bound Himself with His bride, and in a sense takes on His bride’s name as surely as she takes on His. He identifies Himself by His works, and specifically by His works for Israel. When Moses asks about His name, He doesn’t identify Himself as “Being” or “The Nameless One” or “The Greatest Good” or “That which nothing greater can be conceived.” He doesn’t give Himself a philosophical name. He gives Himself a name that ties Him to the patriarchs. The name “I am” has often been interpreted in philosophical terms, but Yahweh immediately goes on to expound His name with reference to the patriarchs.

And a few chapters later, Yahweh reinforces this point: “I am Yahweh, and I am the one who makes promises and keeps promises” (Exodus 6). Who is God? He’s the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Elijah, Nehemiah. He is the God of Israel. He has bound Himself to His people. If Israel fails, then God has failed. If the promises to the patriarchs are not fulfilled, then God’s reputation, His name, is not true or faithful. Then His righteousness is thrown into question. He is either powerless to perform His promises, or has backed off from those promises. Either way, the failure of Israel will bring shame on the Name of Yahweh. Is He going to let that happen? Surely not. He’s the God of Israel, He’s God-for-Israel, and He won’t leave Israel in the grave. He has committed Himself and His infinite resources – He’s staked His name on what He does with Israel.  We come to the end of the Old Testament knowing that He will do something.

Leithart’s conclusion is beautiful and provocative:

It is often said that the incarnation is wholly unanticipated in the Old Testament, but that’s not true.  The Old Testament leads us to think that incarnation would be the most natural thing for Israel’s God to do next. To put it another way, the Old Testament is a biography, but it’s an unfinished biography. It tells the story of Jesus, but it tells the story of Jesus without telling us the main event.  But it leads up to the main event.

It’s the most natural thing in the world for Him to draw near to His people by becoming one of them; it is perfectly in keeping with His character to so identify with Israel that He becomes Israel and suffers all they have suffered; it is entirely consistent for Him to go to the extremity of incarnation, the cross, the tomb for the sake of His bride. By revealing this God, the Old Testament reveals Jesus, who is the express image of His Father.


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