We’ve been talking about The Story and ways to tell it. For my own process, I began by framing The Story with exile and launched The Story with God’s deliverance. The next movement, in my mind, has to do with the purpose of deliverance. God saves for a reason.
Take for a moment the example of Israel’s exodus out of Egypt. Yahweh rescues the Hebrews from certain doom at the hands of the pursuing Egyptian army, bringing the people through the Red Sea. Salvation. But the Lord doesn’t end His relationship with the Hebrews there. In fact, this is just the beginning of the relationship. And it’s the relationship that is the thing.
Even before the exodus occurs and the Israelites are saved from Egypt, God explains to Moses what He is planning:
Therefore, say to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. (Exo 6:6-7, NIV, my emphasis)
Notice how the Lord intended first to rescue the people from their slavery, but the purpose, in italics, is that Israel will become a people related to their God. The Lord’s desire is for intimate relationship with His people.
The second movement, following deliverance, is a heart-to-heart connection between the Creator and His created.
This, in part, explains to me the notion behind the body of Christ imagery found in the New Testament. This, it seems to me, is a part of what it means that God has created for Himself a new temple, the temple of His people, in whom He resides.
There are many people around who have a huge difficulty with this kind of concept. Many people simply cannot conceive of a God who would desire to be so close to them – a God who so dearly loves them. Nevertheless, that is the second scandalous movement.