Tension. Experiencing the dissonance of seemingly irreconcilable perspectives. Tension exists where reality falls disappointingly short of expectations. When the clarity of seeing what ought to be is met with circumstances that ought not be, there we find tension. If asked to sum up the entirety of the Old Testament in one word, tension would be a good candidate.
If you’ve ever begun the year in a one year reading plan that works through the Bible chronologically, you likely were in the Old Testament until sometime in the fall. After that stretch, the Old Testament story leaves you with a feeling that mimics that season’s bleakness from fewer hours of sunlight and the signs of the oncoming barrenness of winter. At that point, turning the page over to the gospels comes as a breath of fresh spring-time air! Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of good news in the Old Testament but ultimately, every Old Testament peak turns out to be a false peak as the heights never reach their fullness, are never sustained, and are quite often followed by stunning descents into ever deeper valleys.
In the Old Testament what God promises will be never actually is. Yet God never backs down. This is why it’d be better to say that the Old Testament story is one of tension and not just depression. In a sentence, that tension is this: The Old Testament clearly reveals God’s relentless commitment to bring about the blessing of life in his kingdom to the whole world and, at the same time, reveals humanity’s perpetual failure to walk in the faithfulness required to inherit that blessing.
Matthew opens his gospel with a genealogy of Jesus where he leans into this tension by including prostitutes, adulterers, and murderers in Jesus’ ancestry as the backdrop of his account of the promised Messiah coming to save his people (Matthew 1:1-17, 21). The fact that Jesus has come highlights God’s faithfulness. Who Jesus came from highlights humanity’s unfaithfulness.
How are we ever going to match God’s faithfulness and so receive God’s blessing? As Pastor Ben declared in his message on Sunday, “Jesus is the answer.” Jesus is the answer to this question in that he is God himself who brings the faithfulness of God to us when he enters our world as one of us. Jesus is God’s faithfulness, lived out in the flesh, to the point of death, on behalf of God’s people. Jesus’ faithfulness for us everlastingly secures a “yes” to every promise of God for all – before and after the cross – who set their hope in this promise-making and promise-keeping God. Tension broken.
The Old Testament story created a longing and waiting in the people of God for the promised one who would come to secure God’s blessing. The New Testament proclaims that this waiting is over. Jesus is that one and he has come and his work is done.
So, now that Jesus has come, there’s no more waiting for God’s people, right? YES! And no! “Yes” because there is nothing left to be done for every promise and blessing of God to be unbreakably and eternally set upon all who are in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Yet, at the same time, “No” because we won’t experience this in fullness until Christ returns (Revelation 21:1-4).
In this advent season, let’s embrace a posture of waiting for the coming of Christ. Let God’s faithfulness in the Old Testament story inspire perseverance and Jesus’ faithfulness in the New Testament story, confidence. In the face of the tension of already having God’s blessing, but not yet experiencing it in fullness, and in the face of all the tension that surrounds us in this particular moment in history, let us be:
- Those who are eagerly waiting for him (Hebrews 9:28)
- Setting our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13)
- Patient until the coming of the Lord (James 5:7)
- Purifying ourselves as he is pure (1 John 3:3)
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)
~ Andy Barker grew up in Boston, Ma. and relocated to Charlotte in 2008. He currently serves as an elder at LIFE Fellowship. He and his wife Melanie have five children and have attended LIFE Fellowship for ten years.