Resolution of the Pentateuch’s Narrative Problem

More from Arie Leder’s book Waiting for the Land about the central narrative theme of the Pentateuch:

As a “royal inscription” of a Great King’s victory over disorder in his empire, Exodus not only recalls the fundamental conflict between God and humanity and proclaims the Lord’s victory over it at the Sea, but also witnesses to the construction of a concrete historical monument that proclaims his cosmic rule from a historically particular building: the tabernacle in the midst of Israel.  As a coherent “royal inscription” Exodus must be heard as a whole, not from the perspective of one of its subplots, such as the victory at the Sea, or even that of the Sinai covenant legislation, but from the viewpoint of the cancellation of the narrative deficit: the “incarnation” of the triumphant King in the midst of his vassal people in the tabernacle.  Neither victory at the Sea, Israel’s submission to the covenant, nor the Lord’s forgiveness of Israel’s idolatry – individually or together – can express the full meaning of the Exodus narrative for they do not resolve the fundamental narrative problem which Exodus’ plot structure develops: humanity’s refusal of divine instruction and its consequent exile from God’s presence. The resolution begins with the Lord’s covenant and building instructions from Sinai, the glory cloud’s indwelling of the tabernacle, and the subsequent instructions from the Tent of Meeting (Lev. 1:1). Similarly with the entire Pentateuch.

Pgs. 56-57. (Bold emphasis added.)

He concludes this whole discussion of God’s presence by tracing this theme into the New Testament, the book of Revelation in particular.  Though Jerusalem and its temple played a central role in the typological foreshadowing of the Old Testament, the New Jerusalem is an unequaled place of God’s presence:

According to the New Testament the body of Christ becomes the temple of God’s presence (John 1:14; 2:20-21; 1 Cor. 3:16) and earthly Jerusalem loses it centrality; the Lord’s disciples move from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) with the good news of the gospel, but torah of the Lord Jesus. The church is now the place of God’s presence and the locus of divine instruction. Thus the building project begun in creation and redemptively renewed in Exodus continues until a temple is no longer necessary and all the nations enjoy the presence of the Great King and walk by the light of the Lamb in the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:22-27), the joy of the whole earth (Ps. 48:2).

Pg. 58.

In the next five chapters, Leder walks through each of the books of the Pentateuch before concluding with an interesting looking final chapter: “Waiting for the Land Today: The Church as a Desert People.”  This has been a really enjoyable book!

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Rev. R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)
Anaheim, CA

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