God created human beings so that we might have fellowship with him and serve as faithful managers of his creation (Gen 1-2). God was to be the King who reigned over heaven and earth, and we were to be his royal family, those through whom he would implement his reign.
Yet we sinned against God, disobeying him because of our prideful desire to equal to him. We were not satisfied with fellowship with the King as his prince and princess. We wanted to be king and queen ourselves. Our sin was not some minor peccadillo, something a holy God could simply ignore, but rather outright rebellion against his reign. The result of sin was pervasive brokenness, in our relationship with God, with each other, and with creation itself (Gen 3). We shattered the gift of divine fellowship and the perfection of God’s world.
From the moment of the first sin, human beings have tried to evade its implications. We have made excuses. We have tried to earn our way back into God’s favor. But no human scheme ever works. Only God can mend that which we have broken. And that is exactly the mission he graciously adopts: to reconcile us to himself, to one another, and to bring reconciliation to creation. Reconciliation, therefore, is the means by which God will restore the fellowship that was broken through sin. Even though we have rebelled against him, God still wants us to have fellowship with him and to serve as stewards of his renewed creation.
God begins to fulfill his mission by forming a special people – Israel – with whom he will have intimate relationship and through whom he will bless all nations (Gen 12:1-3; Exod 19:3-6). He reveals his gracious nature to the Israelites and rules over them as their king (Exod 34:4-7; Judg 8:23). But they repeatedly rebel, rejecting God as king and preferring to serve idols (1 Sam 10:19; Ezek 20:16).
What seems like an irreparable setback in God’s plan, however, in fact prepares the way for the crucial step in his reconciling program. God uses the occasion of Israel’s rebellion to make promises of his future reconciliation. “Someday,” the Lord says through his prophets, “I will restore my chosen nation and, in the process, reach out to all nations on earth.” God will save his chosen people from their distress through a unique individual who will extend divine salvation to the ends of the earth (Isa 49:6). This unequaled Savior will be the suffering Servant of God, who bears the sin of all humanity, offering His life for us so that we might be made whole as we are reconciled to God (Isa 53). Centuries before God’s Redeemer comes, the Jewish prophet Isaiah speaks words that will one day fill his mouth:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come (Isa 61:1-2).
In that time of favor, God will remove the plague of sin and restore his rightful reign upon the earth. That which has been damaged because of sin will be mended, as God reconciles people to himself and to each other. It will be a day of great rejoicing, as Isaiah acknowledges:
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns! The watchmen shout and sing for joy, for before their very eyes they see the Lord bringing his people home to Jerusalem. Let the ruins of Jerusalem break into joyful song, for the Lord has comforted his people. He has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord will demonstrate his holy power before the eyes of all the nations. The ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God (Isa 52:7-10).
Someday God will reign! God’s people will be comforted and reconciled to their Creator. God’s salvation will reach even to the ends of the earth.
In my next post I’ll connect this Old Testament mission of God to the ministry of Jesus.