OST is closed for business but its spirit survives on my blog.
I fully agree with the basic point about the foundational character of faith in the Old Testament - the lack of clarity arises from trying to say too much in too few words. Sorry about that. I noticed that Larry had also drawn attention to this.
I wonder, though, if we don’t make too much of the faith issue, in this respect: Israel was under judgment (experienced concretely as foreign oppression and the prospect of war) not because of a lack of faith but because of a lack of righteousness, a failure of obedience (= idolatry, immorality, injustice).
The question that then arises is: How should the people respond to this state of failure? How can righteousness be recovered and the destruction of judgment avoided. Isn’t it right to say that Jesus called a people to receive forgiveness (still understood primarily in national terms) and righteousness as a gift of grace (cf. Dan. 9) in himself, centred around him. To the extent that this hope was realized and people experienced reconciliation with YHWH and a renewal of spiritual life in the Spirit, Jesus came to replace the structures and practices of Israel’s political-religious life by which people had sought to deal with the crisis that the nation faced. These ‘structures and practices’ included the major religious symbols, but we could also include separationism, asceticism, and armed rebellion. None of these things would ensure the concrete, historical ‘salvation’ of a covenant people.
I’m not sure if this is helpful or not, but there is perhaps something to be gained by recognizing that at the heart of this whole question is not the more abstract religious debate over faith and works but the call to be a God-centred and righteous people. Of course, that ‘call’ is already a matter of grace, but it is a call not to be a people of faith primarily but to be a people who genuinely express in their lives the character (or spirit) of the living God. Am I getting this all screwed up?