700 Years Before Christmas

nativityscene

 

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

–Isaiah 9 ESV

Following 739 B.C., Isaiah exposes the hearts of the unrepentant children of God beginning in Chapter One, which leads up to this verdict:

…they have no dawn. 21 They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry…. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.”–Isaiah 8.

The fall of Israel and, then, Judah lies just ahead. Slaughter and captivity await them. But hope is given to the faithful remnant. God will have the ultimate victory.

Isaiah 9 brings light to the gloom.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.

For unto us a child is born…

In his magnum opus, Prof. John N. Oswalt writes:

Medieval Jewish commentators, combatting the prevailing messianic claims of Christians, argued that all this was simply in recognition of the birth of the crown prince, Hezekiah, and was only a simple royal birth hymn. However, this view flies in the face of the chronology of Hezekiah’s birth, and even more seriously, it is evident from the language that no merely human king is being spoken of. This is clearly an eschatalogical figure, the Messiah.*

The titles [9:6] underscore the ultimate deity of this child-deliverer. Although some commentators have expended a great deal of energy attempting to make these titles appear normal, they are not. . . .this is not a coronation hymn but a birth announcement. . . .the point remains that such extraordinary titling was not normal for Israelite kings. . . .All of this points to a remarkable congruence with the Immanuel prophecy.

(Isaiah, NICOT)

God with us.

*”The Targ. explicitly identifies the person as the Messiah.”

https://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/2016/12/19/immanuel-god-with-us/ Immanuel–wonderful video, words of Charles Spurgeon

Timeline B.C.

739 following–Isaiah’s Prophecies

721 Samaria Falls; the end of the Northern Kingdom of Israel

701 Sennacherib Invades Judah, deporting 200,000 to Assyria. ‘I shut up Hezekiah in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage.’

597 Jerusalem captured by Babylon. Deportations begin.

586 Temple Destroyed

c.538 Edict of Cyrus. First return of captives

515 Second Temple Completed

4 B.C. Death of Herod which followed the Birth of Jesus

Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.”–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Fr. Ted’s Blog: Parable of the Sower

sower

“A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell along the path, and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew, and yielded a hundredfold.”

As he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Fr. Ted’s Blog Post Here

 

 

Of Lawyers, Language, and Learning

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And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Luke 10 ESV

From the Kings James Version till today’s English Standard Version, the common translation of “lawyer” has been used for nomikos (“according to the law” Kittel). In King James’ day, Christians understood what that meant. Today, most Christians are clueless. We must not neglect the details.

Other versions, like the NIV, have helped some with “expert in the law.” But the unknown in most minds today, is ‘to what does “law” [nomos] refer?’ “It normally denotes the Pentateuch.”–Kittel

Thus, Jesus’ interrogator was one “learned in the Law” of Moses. Then, we come to two of the major characters of the parable, the priest and the Levite. We are, now, set up for the shock (in Jesus’ day) of the despised Samaritan.

Good Friday–Dying for the Ungodly

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Romans 5

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

We, as Christians, need to hold onto a keen awareness of the facts to which Paul points us in Romans 5.

Christ died for the ungodly (v. 6).

While we were sinners, Christ died for us (v. 8).

Even while we were enemies, . . . (v. 10)!

Accepting this sharpens our hearing as we listen to the words of our Lord:  “ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”–Matthew 5

Christ tells us to imitate our Father.

 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. . . .  and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”–Luke 6

What resources do we have to obey? The gift given when we were reconciled. Romans 5 tells us that   “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Adolf Schlatter writes, “The ungodly were loved by the one who did the will of God.  The act of love by which he unites the ungodly with himself, at the same time is the act of obedience by which he does the will of God. Hence his love originates from God’s love. He has demonstrated the extent to which God values the person and intently unites him with himself, in that Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans, p. 123f)

Thus, we (who were loved even as enemies) trust and obey and praise God for Good Friday! You might like to read Charles Spurgeon’s reflections on this day. See April 10 in his Morning and Evening book and read some of the days before and after. (You can find this to read on-line.) Spurgeon truly understood the effects and implications of Good Friday, both in what Christ did for us, and what He calls us to do for others.  Spurgeon Quotes Here

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Holy Week–Hossanna!

palm sunday

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.
–Zechariah 9

Jerusalem and The Passover Feast

The ISBE sets the scene:

Pilgrimage was made annually to Jerusalem for the Passover sacrifice…
Passover in NT temple days was a spectacle of excitement and devotion. Pilgrims near and far ascended to the holy city…
Days before Passover began, Jerusalem was a hubbub…Many pilgrims…arrived early to sell or barter their wares…

And numbers? Josephus’ assessment of 3 million Jews (including the city residents) is considered an “extreme exaggeration” or symbolic. But the throngs of pilgrims would have swelled to well over one hundred thousand.

Jesus and the Crowds

John tells us that “six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was…” (John 12:1), and dined with him and his sisters. This event attracted its own crowd of disciples and others.
“Now [on the next day] when they drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples” (Mat. 21), to fetch a donkey.
And then, “a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him…” (John 12:12).

So, here is the scene. With crowds of pilgrims converging on Jerusalem from every direction, some pilgrims who have heard of his approach meet Jesus, accompanied by a crowd of disciples, on the road outside of Jerusalem.

[Looking Ahead: As an important side note, let us not overlook the unfounded equating, that we may hear, of the “crowds” accompanying Jesus outside the city, shouting, “Hosanna” with the “crowd” in the city before Pilate’s seat, shouting “crucify.” Though a popular refrain, it is poor speculation, which pays no attention to the setting and has no foundation in the text itself.]

Hosanna

Hosanna is a transliteration [“to represent or spell in the characters of another alphabet” a word from a different language in one’s own language] of the Hebrew word from Psalm 118:25 which is translated, “Save now, I pray, O LORD;…”

W.F. Albright notes, in Matthew (AB) that it “is a prayer for deliverance (“Save now!”); it is not in any way a cry of praise….The meaning of the vocative [“a grammatical case in certain inflected languages to indicate the person…being addressed.”] la was misunderstood quite early, and the Greek translation therefore rendered the vocative O son of David as “to the son of David,”…[italic mine] What we have here, therefore, is an ancient liturgical text, a cry to the anointed king for deliverance”.

We see the same picture in the episode immediately preceding the Triumphal Entry, in the plea of the Two Blind Men (Mat. 20:29-34): “Take pity on us, son of David!”

“Sir, let our eyes be opened.”

[This is the first post with which I began this blog on 1 April 2012 #Palm Sunday]

 

On Earth Peace . . .

PeacedoveGlory to God

in the highest,

and on earth peace

to men on whom

his favor rests.

Luke 2:14 (NIV)

We may pause amid this season’s bustle and reflect on familiar words–yet a bit unfamiliar in recent versions which bring out the Christmas message.  Peace is rooted in God’s favor, in his grace.  Peace comes through God’s act of sending the Christ for the purpose of bringing salvation to many.  Peace dwells in the household of faith.  For all this we with the angels may truly utter praise, “Glory to God . . .”

The clear note of the gospel is muffled by the phrase “‘men of goodwill’ [which] ought to disappear entirely from Bible translations and Christmas meditations!” (NIDNT).  And we ought not to muffle the message.  For multitudes, there is no peace, only dread.  Many long to hear tidings of comfort and joy, and to partake of that peace that passes understanding, singing with the redeemed, “peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”

The Faithful (O Come, All Ye . . .) will declare these tidings to their neighbor. God’s gift of peace is intimately joined with obedience to all that our Lord Jesus Christ commands (Isaiah 48:18), including his call to us to be his witnesses.  At Christmas, opportunities abound for sharing with those in darkness tidings of the Prince of Peace.

For those in darkness, George Fox was clear about the first step to peace:

I directed them to the Divine Light of Christ . . . by which Light they might see their sin and also their Saviour Christ Jesus to save them from their sins.  This I told them was their first step to peace . . .

We, too, must be clear about this.  Where “the whole world is in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), and where peddlers abound selling panaceas for peace, we must declare:

Peace is not bought but brought;

not gotten but given;

not  “hyped” but hidden.

And for them that have faith,

faith in the only Son begotten of

the Father,

the promise is fulfilled–

Salvation comes.

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1 Peter 1:2), and through you this Christmas.

–First published in Quaker Life, December, 1985.  Here is one way to share the Christmas story with others.

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