To those who fear that “it just seems to be taking too long here – are God’s promises really reliable?”, Peter gives his readers a wonderful word of encouragement: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9).
I thought of this passage while reading this section from Thomas Schreiner’s The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Baker Academic, 2013). Indeed, in some ways, this is sort of a “riff” on 2 Peter 3:8-9:
The OT concludes with the prophets. The prophets warn Israel and interpret for them the significance of the covenant. Why were Israel and Judah sent into exile? Because they violated the stipulations of the Mosaic covenant. They failed to obey their master and king. Hence, the day of the Lord for disobedient Israel and Judah would be a day not of deliverance, but of disaster. We see the fulfillment of these prophecies in 1-2 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles, which recount the story of the demise of Israel and Judah.
And yet the prophets do not stop there. The promise of Gen. 3:15 has not been overturned. The promises to Abraham (land, offspring, and worldwide blessing) have not been withdrawn. So the prophets are full of hope. A new exodus, like the first exodus and even greater, is coming. A new creation will dawn. A new covenant will be established, whereby Yahweh writes his law on the hearts of his people. And a new David will arise. The promise that blessing will come through David is reiterated, not rejected. Indeed, this future deliverer is also described as the son of man and the servant of the Lord. He will restore Israel by suffering for their sake, by absorbing the punishment that they deserve so that their sins are forgiven. And he is the glorious son of man who will receive the kingdom from the Father. The saints who belong to him will reign with him. They will reign because they belong to the new David, who has suffered for them and received the kingdom as their representative and king. Indeed, the prophets make it clear that these blessings are not only for Israel. The universal promises made to Abraham will be fulfilled. Gentiles too will be members of the new covenant, beneficiaries of the new exodus, and recipients of the new creation. Their king will be the new David, who atones for their sins as well. The promise of universal blessing made to Abraham will be fulfilled.
The prophets after the return from exile (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi) surprise us, for we expect at the return from exile the fulfillments of the promises of a new creation. We anticipate that the curse will be lifted entirely. Instead, Israel returned from exile as expected, but things are at a low ebb. For those who have read the story carefully, this is no surprise. Every stage of the story has been fulfilled much more slowly than we would have ever imagined. The hope is not abandoned, but it is delayed. The victory over the serpent will come. The new creation will dawn, and a new David is still coming. The slowness of the triumph etches on our minds the depth and breadth of human sin, but also the miracle of God’s grace. The Bible is the story of the triumph of the kingdom, and the story plays out as it does because thereby it brings glory to God.
The King in His Beauty, pgs. 426-427. Bold emphasis added.
Schreiner’s book does not strike me as groundbreaking and I’m not suggesting that people move it to the top of their wishlist. I do, however, appreciate his emphasis on the King and his kingdom even in the OT, a theme more prominent in the NT and often neglected in OT theological discussions, and I like that the book is littered with nicely put sections like this.
R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)