Covenant Through New Eyes: Part 2 — The Covenant's Framework
My pastor has told our congregation many times that we, as a church, have one main underlying presupposition: God is at work. No matter what you are doing, where you are, or who you are with, this concept stands: God is at work. One of the reasons I love this emphasis is because it's covenantal to its core. All too often it can be easy to get bogged down into the details when you are studying the covenants. But what should never be forgotten in the process is that simple phrase: God is at work.
The covenants of the Bible set forth this simple, yet profound reality. The God who said "let there be light" is at work in history. This God is not sterile. This God is a gnostic's nightmare, for He "Formed man from the dirt of the ground" and said it was "good." As we spend the coming weeks exploring the world's of God's covenants we must always remember that it is God who is acting. He is not Ben Franklin's "clockmaker God" who wound up our world and now sits back to watch it all unfold. No, He is an artist, taking the world he made and refashioning it into a more glorious form.
As I highlighted in Part 1 of this series, we will take James B. Jordan's lead on this journey following the map he's laid out in his book Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World. Today's post will serve, in many ways, as a foundation for the following eight installments. Jordan lays out a "five-fold pattern" for the way God works in the world. We will come to see, in the coming weeks, that this pattern is repeated over and over as God tears down old worlds and raise up new ones throughout Biblical history. Today's post will examine this five fold pattern before previewing next week's installment about the six-fold pattern of man's work.
The reason today's post will conclude by previewing man's six-fold pattern of work is because "man is God's agent for the glorification of the world" (pg. 117). For reasons unknown us, God has chosen to perform his covenantal actions in and through man. This means that God's work of creation is to serve as a prototype for man's work of recreation. We will keep this in mind as we look at the five-fold pattern of God's work.
1. — God Takes Hold of Creation
The first thing God does in his work is to take hold of his object. It is important to note that God does this by His Word. The reason this is important is because we know God's Word is a part of the Divine Trinity. We see God taking hold of the original creation in the repeated phrase "And God said." Jordan highlights the Trinitarian interplay in all of God's work by stating the following:
The Word of God is the member of the Divine Trinity who acts in the world to restructure it according to the plan of the Father and under the hovering guidance of the Spirit...The Father plans; the Son executes. The Son comes to do the will of the Father. Thus, the Word of God is the "hand" of God; and accordingly, the glorified Son is seated at the right hand of the Father. (pg. 119)
As Christians, the fact that God takes hold of his creation by His Word/Son has staggering implications.
2. — God Restructures the Creation
The second thing God does in his pattern of work is to restructure His creation. Jordan points to the first three days of creation as particularly indicative of this restructuring:
God separated light from darkness, waters above from waters below, and land from sea. The world, which was already glorious in that it reflected God's glorious person, was rendered even more glorious in the course of time by being broken down and restructured. (pg. 119)
Jordan also notes that this restructuring brings forth a new creation which is in need of a new name. Hence we see God give names to the new objets of restructured creation: day, night, heaven, earth and seas.
3. — God Distributes His Work
Upon taking hold of His creation by His Word and restructuring it, God then turns to distribute His work. Jordan points to the last three days of creation to show how God distributes His work. The sun, moon, and stars are given to the firmament while fish are given to the sea and animals and men are given to the land. Within this distribution God offers directions, rules and commandments, thus, God's distribution is also distinctly Trinitarian. Further, Jordan makes it a point to show that God's distributive gifts always precede his commands:
Notice that the order is gift and then rules, promises and then law. God gives the Kingdom, and then He gives us rules to live by. The order is never Law and then Gospel. God's Word comes to us first as a Tree of Life, giving us grace, and then afterwards as a Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, giving us rules. (pg. 120)
4. — God Evaluates His Work
After distributing His work God then evaluates. At this point it will probably be obvious to you that God's evaluation is seen in the repeated phrase: "it is good." Now, Jordan makes an important distinction at this point. He says that God's evaluation of His work is distinct from God's enjoyment of his work. Jordan likens this initial evaluation as a cook who tastes his soup before serving it up and enjoying it.
5. — God Enjoys His Work
The last step in God's five-fold pattern of work is in His sabbath enjoyment of it. At this point I would like to step aside for Jordan's poignant remarks on the matter:
God's sabbath rest on the seventh day was not apart from the creation but in it. God's temple, where He rested enthroned, was always set up in the world—for instance, in the midst of the Israelite camp, or in the center of the land. Having tasted His work and found it good, God relaxed and enjoyed it. Similarly, if the soup is good, we enjoy a whole bowl of it and maybe a second. (pg. 120)
As we move on in this series we will come to find that each covenantal turn of history involves God taking hold of His creation, restructuring it, distributing gifts & responsibilities, evaluating it, and then enjoying it. But as noted earlier in this post, Man is God's chosen tool to bring about this process of glorification in history. Therefore, God's actions serve as a prototype for man's actions. Yet, man's pattern is a six-fold pattern, not a five-fold pattern like God's. Jordan states that the additional action in man's pattern of work is giving thanks to God. We will look further into this in next week's installment!
Food for thought.