Another jewel from Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament (p. 173).
“All of these [OT redemptive] promises of Yahweh, of every sort, on every subject, intend that Israel should not surrender its life or its destiny to the present circumstance, especially when that present circumstance is deathly and appears insurmountable.”
The alternative to accepting the dark circumstances of life is “to rely on Yahweh’s oath as a resolve to override circumstance, so that it is the oath and not the circumstance that tells the truth about reality. In this theological intentionality, Israel embraces this uttered testimony as the true version of its life.”
“This testimony would have been odd and daring in the ancient world, because lived circumstance has a certain credibility on the face of it. Thus this testimony is accepted publicly only by the boldest. One may indeed conclude that this testimony is even more odd and more daring in our contemporary world. In our current theological work we recognize that the epistemological assumptions of our world tilt our inclination toward visible circumstance. Indeed, the epistemology of modernity has, as much as possible, banished promise from our world.”
“It has become evident, however, that when promise is banished and circumstance governs, we are most likely left with nothing but despair, whether that despair of the self-sufficient or of the disempowered. And despair is no basis for a viable social community. Thus our recovery of these texts brings a wonderment about whether such old utterance is a credible antidote to our ready embrace of despair. Such utterance may strike us as remote from our circumstance. But then, it has always struck Israel as remote from circumstance. In the end, our consideration of these, promissory statements is as it always was for Israel: A massive assurance grounded in the flimsy evidence of the witnesses.”
The Christian epistemology of God’s oath: in Horton’s great terms, it is a covenantal epistemology.