CHIII - III. I AM Yahweh: The exodus-experience permeated...

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III. I AM Yahweh: The exodus-experience permeated Israel's faith at almost every level, but nowhere was it evidenced more explicitly than in her understanding of God. YHWH's self revelation to Moses, initially in the prophet's call, "I am Yahweh, the God of your fathers. .." (Ex. 3:15) and subsequently in the extended theophany (Ex. 19f) at Mt. Sinai, irrevocably shaped Israel's under- standing of God and distinguished Israel's understanding of God from that of her neighbors in the ANE. The existence of God is assumed in the Hebrew Bible. There is no attempt to prove God's existence in the OT. Rarely is God's existence even questioned; when that question is raised, as it is occasionally in the Wisdom Literature, it is found only in the mouths of "fools" (Ps. 141:1; 52:2). For those who had been brought of Egypt by YHWH's liberating signs and wonders, for those who had followed YHWH in the long trek across the wilderness, and heard YHWH's commandments thundered down from on high at Mt. Sinai it seemed utterly pointless to speculate about God's existence. So it is worth pointing out that those OT texts which Christians point to in attempts to prove the existence of God were intended, in their OT context, to describe the existence of God. The existence of YHWH seemed as obvious to Israel her own existence; indeed, those two truths were deemed to be utterly inseparable because it was in the historical deliverance of the nation that YHWH's supreme self-manifestation was given. Not only is the existence of God the most obvious truth in the OT teaching, it is also the most integral. Everything else that is taught in the OT depends on and has its inner cohesion in the OT understanding of God. The nature of the world has its basis in God's creative act and declaration -- "It is very good." 1 The nature and character of humanity stems from our having 1 The Genesis narrative, with God's repeating pronouncements on the goodness of creation, as in 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, and 1
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been created "in the image of God" (Gen. 1:26), for living in relationship with God. The OT notion of sin presupposes the existence of God; sin is estrangement from God, disobedience towards God's commandments, or a revolt against God's will. OT ethics are thoroughly shaped and conditioned by the self-revelation of YHWH's will in the Torah , and OT life is nothing less than a call from YHWH "be ye holy as I am holy" (Lev. 11:44 etc.). The liturgies, festivals, and sacrifices were designed to celebrate YHWH's presence and saving deeds, or to enter God's saving presence in repentance so that forgiveness might be received and that reconciliation might occur. Although we could go on and on with examples, the integral role of the OT under- standing of God soon becomes self evident to the careful reader of the OT text. No stronger contrast exists between Israelite faith and that of other ANE cultures than
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This note was uploaded on 04/17/2008 for the course REL THEL 353 taught by Professor Tyson during the Spring '08 term at Houghton College.

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CHIII - III. I AM Yahweh: The exodus-experience permeated...

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