Former Principal, Marthoma Theological Seminary,
Adjunct Faculty, IBC & Seminary, Kumbanad
Reconciliation carries the idea of restoration of relationship and fellowship after estrangement. The divine purpose and plan for human is to live in harmony with God, the Creator and with the rest of God’s creation. The Old Testament begins with this beautiful picture of harmony in Eden and ends with the final destiny of restoration of everything.
Fall of Man and the Consequence of Sin
Creation accounts in Genesis provide as a clear picture of harmony between God and his creation. God created human in his own ‘image’ and ‘likeness’. He wanted Adam and Eve to enjoy their freedom abiding in God’s plan and purpose. This freedom was a responsible kind of freedom to be enjoyed in harmony, and obedience with the creator. The limitation on Adam and Eve cannot be construed as a restriction of their freedom. It is rather a definition of it . Man and woman will not find freedom outside the divine order that is defined by God’s Word.
The fall of man is described in Genesis 3 is an estrangement from God. Sin is understood as alienation from God and his purposes. The disobedience of man resulted in breaking his fellowship with the Creator God. The openness and naturalness of creation was destroyed. Their first reaction was ‘feeling of shame’.They knew their guilt had reached the most elementary of their relationships, and they tried pathetically to cover themselves. But human effort to cover their guilt is futile. There God Himself takes the initiative to make garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and to clothe them. Gen 3:21.
We also find here the theme of God’s redemptive judgement of sin. Sin not only alienates human from divine fellowship but also disrupts all other relationships. The relationship between men and earth is spoiled. The harmonious relationship with animal kingdom and nature is disrupted. Even the relationship between men and women is destroyed. Disruption of relationship is the natural consequences of human sin.
Sin has different dimensions in the Old Testament. It is evident from different words used in the Hebrew for Sin. The basic Hebrew word hatea means ‘deviation’ from the right way. This is reflected in Ps. 51:4 “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.” It is deviating from God’s path. It also conveys the idea of ‘missing the mark’ or falling short of ‘Gods’ standard’. Another word is awon (iniquity). It suggests a deliberate attempt to deviate from the norms of the community. The word ‘pesa’ (rebellion) implies a personal act of rebellion. In Isaiah it is used of Israel rebelling against God who raised them (Isa. 1:2). These words used in the Old Testament explain various effects of sin and how it affects unity and harmony in relationships.
Covenant is a divine plan of reconciliation
Estrangement from God disrupts all other relationship and acts as a hindrance to the fulfilment of divine purpose. Therefore God look the initiative to enter into a covenant relationship with His people Israel. We find different expressions of it in the history of the people of Israel. Covenant with Noah is a promise of deliverance to Noah and his family (Gen. 6:18). This covenant was renewed after the flood (Gen 9:1-17). Covent with Abraham promises to make him a great nation. (Gen. an12:1–3; 15–17). The Mosaic covenant is considered to be the basis of the nation Israel in continuity with earlier promises. Deliverance from bondage in Egypt is to be understood as a expression of remembrance of his covenant with the fathers (Ex. 2:24; 19:4). In his covenant with David, the promise to the patriarchs is fulfilled and renewed (2 Sam. 7:12–17).
Prophet Jeremiah speaks about a new covenant of God with God’s people (Ger. 3:31–34). The new covenant will be different from the earlier covenants. It would involve placing the law in the heart, which is interpreted as knowing the Lord (v. 34). The idea of the covenant explains God’s initiative in bringing reconciliation with God and with other realms. The Old Testament also envisages future restoration of relationships and harmonious relationships as final consummation (Is. 11, 35).
Sacrificial worship as a means of reconciliation
Sacrificial worship was developed in Israel with a purpose of atonement (Kopher, Keppar) for sins and restore fellowship with God. The book of Leviticus provides the details of various sacrifices and their purposes. Burnt offering (Lev. 6:22) was described as “that which goes up” to God. The entire (whole) offering was to be brunt upon the altar. It was an act of full and complete dedication to God. Meal offerings were prepared and presented to God as a meal, symbolically presenting the first fruits of human living to God. In peace offering part of the offering was eaten by the priests and part was eaten by worshippers and their guests. It was intended for restoration of right relationship with God and with others. Sin offering was presented for unintentional or intentional sins for which there was no possible restoration (Lev. 4:5–13; 6:24–30). Even though we do not find sacrificial worship in the context of the New Testament faith, the theological motive behind it is still relevant and meaningful. The main purpose was to bring reconciliation with God and reconciliation with fellow beings. Reconciliation does not bring about a change in God but only in sinful men, who returns to God and is welcomed by him. Paul clearly describes how Jesus Christ through his sacrificial death reconciled everything into himself (Eph. 2:11–22). Not only in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, he has also given us the ministry of reconciliation and therefore we are ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:11–21).
Reconciliation with God and reconciliation with other
In the Old Testament two aspects of reconciliation is strongly emphasised. Reconciliation with God and reconciliation with the other. Without reconciliation with God proper relationship cannot be maintained with the rest of the creation. This Old Testament perspectives can be understood from Jacob–Esau stories. Just before meeting Esau, his brother Jacob wrestles with God at Peniel (Gen. 32:22–32). Jacob’s past history of sinful life alienated him from God and his brother. He felt that he could not meet his brother Esau whom he cheated, without the blessing of Yahuweh. His prayer, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me” (Gen. 32:26) explains his desperate condition. He met God face to face and reconciled with him.
The meeting of Jacob with his brother Esau describes the change in relationship that both of the brothers experienced. Jacob said, “ for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God.” The reconciliation of Joseph with his brother also depicts how estranged relationships can be restored through one’s experience with God. (Gen.45). The words of Joseph to his brothers, “And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Gen.45:5)
In disrupts all relationships. And God always takes the initiative to restore our relationship with him. Reconciliation with God is the pre-requisite for reconciliation with the rest of his creation. Reconciliation is not limited to our relationship with God and our fellowmen but to everything that God has created in goodness.