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Covenant, Dispensationalism, Israel

>Who is Israel? (Part 2): God’s man Israel

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Have you ever looked into how a New Testament author used an Old Testament passage with sear confusion? Such was my reaction when going through Matthew with someone reputed to know Scripture well. We came to Matt 2:15 speaking of Jesus coming out of Egypt after some time in his childhood, which reads:

“This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’”

The passage was confusing, since in the Old Testament, this was not a passage of prophecy about the Messiah in Scripture, but you can read it here in Hosea in context:

Hosea 11:1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
Hosea 11:2 The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.

How does Matthew maintain that a statement about Israel was fulfilled by Christ?.

When I asked, the instructor punted by pointing out that Matthew was divinely inspired and can do what he wants with the text. Of course, that does not answer the question, especially if the Gospels were written to an audience that would identify that indeed this was a fulfillment of Hosea 11:1-2.

When reading on my own, I came to find out that most people do not punt on the use by Matthew 2:15 of Hosea 11:1-2. Instead, in reading two camps of scholars that disagreed sharply on the issue of the New Testament use of the Old, (Beale and Carson versus Enns), I was shocked to see they both agreed on why Matthew said Hosea was fulfilled here: Christ is Israel.

Hosea is talking about Israel, whom God loved and gave commandments. Israel, however, was constantly disobedient and breaking God’s Law. Matthew’s thesis throughout his gospel is that Christ is the perfect fulfillment of the Law. Christ obeys where Israel disobeyed. Christ fulfills what Israel could not. Christ is the perfect Israel.

The New Testament appropriates other descriptions of Israel as Christ, such as “my servant” in Matt 12:15-18, which in Isaiah 42 and the context is talking about Israel. Such also is the practice of many of the Messianic Psalms. For instance, Christ quotes Psalm 22 on the cross: “My God, why have you forsaken me!” But this is contrasted to verse 3 that identifies God as the object of praise of Israel in the midst of abandonment. Israel was forsaken and yet glorifying God in the Psalm, and Christ did the same on the cross.

As the perfect Israel, Christ is heir to the promises of Abraham first and foremost. This is Paul’s case in Galatians 3:16:

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.”

Israel is the heir of the promises of God, and Christ is the ultimate mediator of the promise of Abraham for He is the ultimate heir. Christ has been given all things promised to Abraham. He therefore is the ultimate heir of the promises of Abraham. In the Galatians argument, we can also see the importance of Paul’s favorite language for salvation: being “in Christ.” The mystical union (as Calvin called it) is required for Paul to end Galatians 3 with this assurace for those united with Christ:

Gal 3:26,29 – for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

A people of God find their identity in Christ, for the Father rewards the Son, and in the Son are the promises given. To be in Christ is to share in His status as heir.

Who then are these people that are in Christ and share his inheritance? That is what we will look at in Part 3.
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