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What do all of the following have in common? Cars, antique boats, dilapidated homes, poor health, furniture, watches, historic buildings, art pieces, neighbourhoods, family heirlooms, church and school buildings, bodies, …
The title probably provided too generous a tip! Some in each of these categories are at one time or another restored to former elegance and condition. For some reason, the old reminds us of a time when quality and design were done in a different way than today - with different motives - and we long for those times and values which seem to have been replaced with similar, more transient, disposable, and less enduring replacements under the guise of progress.
But there is another mindset in vogue today which is the antithesis of quality - build articles so that they appeal to the necessity urge in us, yet find themselves too soon out of date, needing to be replaced. Many such items are not worthy of spending the money to be restored because it is easier to replace rather than restore - ask most mechanics who work on your vehicle!
Let’s permit our thoughts to move from physical things to people. Is there an aspect of restoration which applies to us? Can people become so discouraged with life, despondent about their futures, discouraged with their circumstances, dependant on drugs or others, that some degree of restoration is helpful?
Psychologists are booked with those who need such help – returning to what they were made to be. Most find it quite easy to be critical of the circumstances in which others find themselves, especially if they are somehow exhibiting behaviours which give an insight into their plight. Like the priest and the Levi in the biblical story of the Good Samaritan, it is easy to walk by, letting someone else deal with the perceived problems. Besides, we can phone 911 and allow ourselves to pass by on the other side.
In ancient Palestine, there was no 911 to call, so one man, a despised Samaritan who was referred to by the Jews as a half-breed (Assyrian-Israelite) stopped his journey and looked after the plight of an injured man. But he also went beyond the minimum of care by binding up his wounds and the taking him to the nearest inn where he paid for his keep and promised the inn-keeper that if he owed more, when he next passed through he would reimburse him for any costs.
Sometimes, restoration involves involvement. How much easier in our culture to pass the problem on to others with some legitimate excuse or reason. The measure of our humanness is our identity with those whom we find easiest to ignore or avoid.
The August 5, 2022 New York Post reports an interesting need for restoration of employees back to their workplace. Canadian Malcolm Gladwell comments: “It’s very hard to feel necessary when you’re physically disconnected. If we don’t feel like we’re part of something important, what’s the point?…If it’s just a pay check, then it’s like what have you reduced your life to?”
Another consequence of our global situation needing restoration.
Let’s go back to the nation of Israel under the reign of King David or King Solomon. This was the apex of Israel’s identity as a Godly Kingdom - united, rich, possessing the presence of God in the glittering Temple, envied by world leaders, garnering taxes from foreign rulers … It was the best of times!
But as in many areas of life, epitome is often followed by decline whether slow or rapid, as division, degeneration, crumbling of that which was once great, manifests itself. People remember what they have been told or experienced about former times. Deterioration eventually becomes the worst of times - exile, judgment, decaying society, idolatry, and the ways of God are set aside and replaced with worthless substitutes.
As Israel’s decline became more pronounced, the decay could not be denied.
God sent prophets with not only messages of judgment, but also of hope, of restoration, of a return of the Throne of David, of a Messianic leader who restores Israel’s fortunes with blessings sourced only in the Creator.
But promises of renewal don’t often materialize within our timeframes, do they? Hope begins to turn into hopelessness, and like the decaying of kingdoms, the anticipation of restoration promised, diminishes like a flickering candle and then darkness!
Between the two Testaments of Scripture we have 300 years of silence - God had no spokesmen giving a new message to Israel - just waiting, wondering, hoping but gradually diminishing yearning. Darkness, with its strong octopus-like tentacles was squeezing the diminishing light from Israel’s national psyche covering the last vestiges with the ink of obliteration!
Mark begins his Gospel with these words: “The beginning of the gospel [good news] of Jesus Christ …” immediately followed by a quotation which connects this statement with the prophecy of Isaiah - judgment and restoration - OT language and imagery. Later in the same chapter after the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus goes into Galilee, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel [good tidings] of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
“The word "gospel" comes from the Greek "euangelion" and referred to a messenger bringing "good tidings" or "good news”. It is used most often in the First Testament regarding military victory. An example is: “Good news for my lord the king! For the Lord has delivered you this day from the hand of all who rose up against you.” 2 Samuel 18:31.
Isaiah 52:7 is well known, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.””
In the former reference, David is receiving news from a military conquest and in the latter, the news that is being carried by a messenger is of the victorious king whose triumph is proclaimed to the previously captive city of Jerusalem. The euangelion is the announcement of “the return of the Lord to Zion.” (Isaiah 52:8). This is the background which Mark’s use of euangelion is to be understood.
Mark has already drawn our attention to the importance of Isaiah’s prophecy in 40:3 to his narrative in Mark 1:2, 3 and now a few verses later makes a connection in the same Isaiah chapter 40:9, “Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!””
This prophetic announcement for which Israel was waiting, is another background element in Mark’s unfolding account.
In light of these OT inter-textual connections what can we deduce? The Good News which was anticipated is now arriving in a person - Jesus Christ. And, the military conflict is part of that Good News scenario. Who is the enemy? None other than what John tells us “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” (12:31) There’s the battle context. But let us pause and reflect. Did not Yahweh, in Genesis 1:26 give the dominion of all creation to us? It was usurped and now in Christ has been restored to the rightful owners!
But what about the theme of restoration that Isaiah spoke about, and for which people were waiting and longing?
Paul tells us:“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
In Christ Jesus, the euangelion is that we have been brought back into relationship with God as it was “in the beginning” - face-to-face with God because of the battle which Jesus Christ fought and won on behalf of all creation - a new creation!
Creation Restored - Celebrate the Good News!