At church this morning, one of the prayers stood out to me. It said:
“Today we light the Candle of Hope. The people of Israel hoped in God’s promises and were disappointed. Again and again God delivered Israel from its enemies. We too have the same experience of salvation. That is why we believe in God’s promise to send Jesus forever upon the earth.”
If God delivered Israel from her enemies on a continual basis, why was she disappointed? Is the point of this prayer that the Kingdom of God is already and not yet? Israel experienced deliverance, but she still lived in an insecure world, and the prophets therefore predicted a time of lasting peace, prosperity, and spiritual transformation under a Davidic king, or (arguably in the case of Second-Third Isaiah) apart from the institution of the Davidic monarchy and the Zadokite priesthood. Similarly, according to Christianity, those who believe in Christ are forgiven, experience redemption and transformation, and enter the Kingdom of God, yet the world is still a broken place, plagued with sin and disease.
Or is the point of the prayer that God continually showed his love and faithfulness to Israel when he delivered her from her enemies, but God’s promise to bless the nations through Abraham’s seed was thwarted by Israel’s habitual sin—-and yet the promise was fulfilled when God sent Jesus Christ, Abraham’s seed? But sin and death still remain, and, while Christianity has arguably blessed people from many nations, the world is still a broken place. And so, even though people have been delivered by Christ’s first Advent, Christians hope for the full redemption that will come in the second Advent.
I suppose I could ask somebody what the prayer means, but my hunch is that this prayer was taken from a book. Plus, it’s fun to speculate on the basis of the ambiguity of language!