The God of Promise: Moltmann #2

As I said in my previous post, I’m trudging my way through
Theology of Hope by Jürgen Moltmann.
I’ve just finished Chapter 2 – Promise and History.
One thing that has stood out to me particularly is how Moltmann refers to God. His recurring terminology is that God is the God of Promise.
This is a fantastic way of summing up God, especially in a chapter dedicated to exploring how God interacts with his people throughout history.
This happens, Moltmann insists, through promises – promises which create history for the people God reveals himself to.
When we open the Old Testament we see this quite clearly.
God reveals himself as
YHWH
or
Yahweh
or
I am who I am
or
I will be who I will be.
The question is; who will God be?
Well what we see is that God is known in what He promises and how He fulfils and keeps those promises.
God makes promises to Abraham. Promises that include children and ancestry and land and blessing for all.
These create a historic reference point with God. They define, and are fulfilled in, the present and open up expectations for the future.
God makes promises to Moses and Israel. Promises that include rescue and nationhood and land and blessing for all.
The promises of the past move into the new present and in finding fulfilment bring new promises that elaborate on the old fixed points of God’s interaction with this people.
God makes promises to Israel’s kings. Promises that include descendants and legacy, hope and eternal kingdom’s and blessing for all.
The promises of the past continue to be reference points for the present but are always impacting the hopes for the future and are always broadening upon fulfilment – living out of the past actions and promises of God and creating and defining new ones.
God makes promises to Israel through prophets. Promises that include rescue from exile and redemption and hope and blessing for all.
It is here we surprisingly find that even when God recants on what his promises have created, because he himself has been rejected, it is the very actions the past promise making and promise fulfilment that foster security in what God has still promised to do as the present marches into the future.
The act of promise is so significant for Israel that it is in promise itself we come to see that 
“The promises of God initiate history for Israel and retain the control in all historic experiences.”[1]
These promises render God known.
These promises in rendering God known create history. History, for Israel, we find stands upon them and moves within them.
“The promises of God disclose the horizons of history – ‘horizon’ is not to be understood as ‘a rigid boundary’ but as ‘a thing toward which we are moving, and which moves along with us.’”[2]
The promises of God create past; affect, or are even affected in, the present; and move us into the future expectant and hopeful in the knowledge of what God has done with His people before and what He may do with them next.
However the “fact of God’s accompanying his people was always seen within the area of tension between a manifest promise on the one hand and the expected redeeming of the promise on the other. It was within the span of this tension that history became of interest to Israel.”[3]
God had acted through promise making in the past. Promises had been fulfilled. When would they be fulfilled again? What was to be expected when they were? What expansion would be generated? Where would it take Israel with God?
History was created in this tension for Israel.
The God of Promise; YHWH, I will be who I will be; known in and by what he does. God is known in his faithfulness to the promises He makes to His people.
Yet at all times these promises are God’s own. He is the subject of them and the one who brings about their fulfilment. The tension of history is found in the hoping and waiting and expecting for the God of Promise to act and do what He will do.
God’s promises are His own and accord only with the future He is creating. This allows Him to void any realities His promises make, i.e the judgment of Israel and Judah in exile. However, in His faithfulness to the promise, God overcomes these judgments and turns them to blessing.
This “shows itself in the overcoming of God by God – of the judging, annihilating God by the saving, life-giving God, of the wrath of God by his goodness.”[4]
This is how the freedom God expresses itself.
This is taken up further in the realisation that, as Moltmann puts it
“The God who is present in his promises is for the human spirit an object in the sense that he stands opposed to the human spirit until a reality is created which accords and becomes knowable which wholly accords with his promises and can be called ‘very good’.”[5]
The idea of the God of Promise is one that puts meat, for me at least, on the ideas of recent books such as the The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight, which underlined that the gospel is “the Story of Jesus fulfilling the Story of Israel.” Jesus is connected so deeply to the God of Promise that we see that he embodies the fulfilment and realisation of God’s promises.
“If the Christ event contains the validation of the promise, then this means no less than that through the faithfulness and truth of God the promise is made true in Christ – and made true wholly, unbreakably, forever and for all.”[6]
In fact,
“In the gospel the Old Testament history of promise finds more than a fulfilment which does away with it; it finds its future.”[7]
It is in this we find the ultimate and most open expression of the eschatological nature of promise – which sits at the heart of theology because promise is how God reveals himself – in that we find the promises of the past taken up into the gospel and fulfilled and expanded in a wholly new and eschatological way.
It is here that we see why eschatology lies at the heart of promise. It is at its heart because as the promise creates history and moves in parallel with the horizon of the future we find it broadening and expanding and developing and taking up into itself all addition and adaptation until it encompasses all things.
Wee this in the widening of promise from focus on particular people and their families. To nations and the promises extended to them in regards land and prosperity, to Kingdoms that shall never end. To the promise that the God of Israel shall judge allpeople.
Eschatology, as future hope, expressed and awakened by promise is ever expanding until it reaches the only boundary of God himself, where it in turn finds fulfilment – through the gospel “so that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).
Promise becomes eschatological in its movent from one man, Abraham, to its eventual expansion and inclusion of promises that – through the gospel – witness God judging and blessing all peoples which not even death can stop this taking place.
There are no greater horizons than that, and Israel’s received promises and hopes have grown to include them.
Why? Because this is the future the God of Promise has been creating and moving His people into. The stunning news we hear is that, as we meet Jesus Christ, these promises take on a new level of eschatological expansion in who we move forward, within the history of promise, toward the future God Himself is establishing.

[1] 96
[2] 93
[3] 94
[4] 118
[5] 107
[6] 134
[7] 134
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