Welcome to ‘…for he has made you beautiful’, a blog and resource site for Old Testament ethics and the mission of the local church. The site is reformed, missional and seeks to engage culture. The name ‘…for he has made you beautiful’ is from Isaiah 60:9, which pictures the nations streaming to Israel, attracted by her life of worship and justice:
For the coastlands shall hope for me, the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your children from afar, their silver and gold with them, for the name of the LORD your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because he has made you beautiful.
The image is a painting of the French industrial city of Rouen by Camille Pissarro, ‘Pont Boieldieu, Rouen, sunset, misty weather’ (1896). Pissarro exemplifies for me what it means to ‘love a place’, an activity which is the beginning of local mission. Chimney stacks, crowded sidewalks and grey sky may make Rouen an unlikely subject of affection. Yet the playfulness with which light dances in the water below and the smoke above betrays Pissarro’s deep affection for his subject.
The site is authored by Mark Glanville (hi!). Mark resides in Vancouver and is studying toward PhD in Old Testament at Trinity College, Bristol University, U.K (Supervisors: Craig Bartholomew and Gordon Wenham). Area of study: the refugee/outsider in Deuteronomy. Mark serves as preaching pastor at Willoughby CRC, Langley, B.C. Canada. He also works as a jazz pianist. He speaks regularly on mission, justice and the Old Testament, including Pastorum Live (Chicago, Apr 2013) and Missional Hermeneutics Conference (Grand Rapids, Nov 2013). Mark is Aussie – like all Aussies he can break a crocodile’s neck with two fingers.
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Back to Isaiah’s vision of the nations streaming because of Israel’s beauty: Beauty for Isaiah was not something external to the life of Israel: God’s people were to live as a contrast community of worship and justice – irresistibly alluring.
The church of Christ too is called to be a contrast community rejecting the idols of our time living instead with generosity and joy. We are to be a community that displays in life, words and deeds the restorative rule of Christ. The Lordship of Christ mobilizes us to engage our world in all its fullness: relationally, financially, spiritually, vocationally, etc. Leslie Newbigin writes:
The church is nothing other than that movement launched into the public life of the world by its sovereign Lord to continue that which he came to do until it is finished in his return in glory.
For Isaiah, Israel’s beauty was displayed in part through her life of justice and inclusion (see Isaiah Chapters 58-59). Israel’s laws formed the community of God’s people into a community that practised inclusion and generosity.
Israel’s ethics of justice and inclusion are embedded in her worldview, and must be examined in this context. A three part dynamic is central to Israel’s worldview:
- God has given generosity
- His people respond with thanksgiving
- Thanksgiving ensues in generosity, justice and inclusion
Christians appropriate the Old Testament to ourselves through Christ: his life, death, resurrection, ascension and return. The three part dynamic above may be applied in this way: First, at the heart of reality is a generous God. God has given us the world; in the resurrection of Christ new creation has begun! The ‘myth of scarcity’ (Douglas Meek’s term) that inhabits our satiated culture is replaced by an assurance that we have enough to live and enough to be generous.
Second a posture of thanksgiving follows from knowledge of this reality. Thanksgiving holds our lives and the world ever before us as a gift. It is at odds with the myth of the ‘self made man’ and a posture of grasping.
Third generosity, justice and inclusion are a reflex of thanksgiving. For thanksgiving affirms that ‘God owns it all and wants all people to be able to enjoy some of it’. Our lives, land, possessions and even families remain gifts. They are given to us, and through us to the world.
The ethics and theology of the Old Testament launches the local church into the life of the world. It authorises us to speak to global issues. It empowers the church to display in life, word and deed the beautifying reign of Christ.
Thanks for spending some time here!