A Light Has Dawned

Sunday, January 26th, 2020.

 

Sources:

Joseph Blenkinsopp. Isaiah 1-39 (AB). New Haven: Yale, 2000.

R.T. France. The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007.

John Goldingay. Isaiah (UBCS). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

Richard B. Hays. Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. Waco: Baylor, 2016.

J. Alec Motyer. The Prophecy of  Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 1993.

Ben Witherington III. Isaiah Old and New: Exegesis, Intertextuality, and Hermeneutics. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017.

Posted in Epiphany, Gospel According to Matthew, Isaiah, Jesus, New Testament, Old Testament, prophets, Sermon Podcast, theology | Leave a comment

A Covenant for the People

Sunday, January 12th, 2020.

 

Sources:

Joseph Blenkinsopp. Isaiah 40-55 (AB). New Haven: Yale, 2000.

R.T. France. The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007.

John Goldingay. Isaiah (UBCS). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

— The Theology of the Book of Isaiah. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2014.

Daniel J. Harrington, S.J. The Gospel of Matthew (Sacra Pagina). Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1991.

Richard B. Hays. Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. Waco: Baylor, 2016.

J. Alec Motyer. The Prophecy of  Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 1993.

John Nolland. The Gospel of Matthew (NIGTC). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005

John N. Oswalt. Isaiah (NIVAC). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

Ben Witherington III. Isaiah Old and New: Exegesis, Intertextuality, and Hermeneutics. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017.

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Rise and Shine

Sunday, January 5th, 2020.

 

Sources:

John Goldingay. Isaiah (UBCS). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

— The Theology of the Book of Isaiah. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2014.

Richard B. Hays. Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. Waco: Baylor, 2016.

J. Alec Motyer. The Prophecy of  Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 1993.

John N. Oswalt. Isaiah (NIVAC). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

Ben Witherington III. Isaiah Old and New: Exegesis, Intertextuality, and Hermeneutics. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017.

Posted in Epiphany, Isaiah, Kingdom of God, mission, Old Testament, prophets, Sermon Podcast | Leave a comment

Immanuel

One of the delightful things about the New Testament is that we have 4 storytellers, 4 evangelists, recount the story of Jesus, and each has their own distinctive way of presenting the same narrative of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel According to Mark was the first to be written. One of the key themes identified by many commentators is the “Messianic secret”. Jesus tells his followers to keep things on the down low. And Mark’s way of revealing the divine presence in Jesus, comes through a series of winks and nudges and echoes and allusions to the OT. The Gospel According to John, the last to be written, features a theologically rich prologue which explains before the narrative who Jesus is. The Gospel According to Matthew is similar to John in that the cards are on the table, but it’s done in a different way. Matthew begins with a genealogy, and then a short (compared to Luke) birth narrative in which we see one of this book’s distinctive features; the prophetic fulfillment formula. We read:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

This of course is a quotation of Isaiah 7:14, our text for today. But when we read that sentence in it’s original context, we may be left scratching our heads as to what Matthew is doing.

Isaiah 7 describes events which occured during the reign of King Ahaz of Judah. To the North, the Kingdom of Israel (sometimes called Samaria or Ephraim) made an alliance with Aram (modern Syria) which threatened Judah, and was part of a larger agenda to build up a defense against the rapidly expanding Assyrian Empire. The allied kingdoms invaded Judah to press them into an agreement to fight with them.

Isaiah is called to take his son, Shear-Jashub to meet with Ahaz and deliver a message- to reassure him, and call him to trust in God (7:1-9). What he fears will not come to pass. Jerusalem will be ok. Ahaz is skeptical. So a second message comes through Isaiah- ask for a sign and it will be given to prove God’s intent. Ahaz says, no, I will not do the Gideon thing and demand a sign. So Isaiah declares:

Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin [in Hebrew this word means more broadly young woman of marrying age, not the specific word for virign] will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”

The text itself doesn’t actually say who this “young woman” and son are, but this isn’t speaking of a miracle baby through Mary, but a son born in Isaiah and Ahaz’s day- and by the time this child reaches the age of moral responsibility, the two kingdoms will be laid waste. Curds and honey are foods of peacetime, of time of doing well. This child will know a time of peace before reaching adolescence.

Ahaz was a young man when he assumed the throne, and died still relatively young leaving the crown to his son Hezekiah. Some interpreters argued that the son prophesied here is Hezekiah, but the dates don’t quite work (Hezekiah was almost certainly born before Ahaz became king). Roughly 10 years after Ahaz become king, Assyria invaded and destroyed the Northern kingdom (meaning Isaiah’s prophecy was entirely accurate), and not long after that, Ahaz died, and Hezekiah ascended to the throne, already an adult. Some interpreters therefore conclude this is a younger son of Ahaz. Others, myself included, tend to believe this son is a son of the prophet himself; not a hill I’m prepared to die on, but that seems most likely. Isaiah has two other sons mentioned, both given symbolic names (similar to the children of Isaiah’s contemporary Hosea, see Hosea ch 1-3). The book of Isaiah mentions Shear-Jashub (“a remnant will return”) and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (“swift to the plunder”). So this son, Immanuel, was to be a sign to Ahaz, God is with Judah, therefore, you will be ok.

So what does that have to do with the story Matthew tells? Is Matthew playing fast and loose with the text of Isaiah? To understand we have to know something about ancient Jewish interpretation. Repetition of words or images were often used to link two very different texts or ideas. We see a lot of this in Hebrews for example, but one real solid example is Paul’s interpretation in 1 Cor 10 that Jesus was the rock from which Israel received water. The water came from a literal rock, not Christ. So how can Paul say the rock was Christ? This is a figural or typological reaing (see Richard Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul).

When it comes to Isa 7:14, when it was translated into Greek the word “young woman” was translated as the more specific Greek word which means virgin. So Matthew sees in Isaiah the word virgin, a son born, and Immanuel- God with us, and links the two things. No, Isaiah didn’t predict a virgin birth of the Messiah, but Matthew sees a parallel in the words and images. The words used to describe Israel’s story can now be employed to describe the story of Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment not of a specific prediction, but of the trajectory of Israel. What Matthew is trying to emphasize is the point Isaiah was making- God is with his people. Matthew’s first readers are believed to be Jewish Christians living probably in Syria, having fled the violence of the Jewish-Roman war which led to the destruction of the Temple in 70AD. They are wondering if they’ve been abandoned. Are we going to be wiped out? Has God left us here to be pillaged by the Romans? No- Christ is the presence of God with his people. God is not far off or aloof, but the opposite- he draws near in the midst of what appears to us as hopeless.

Matthew opens with this- with Jesus bringing God’s presence near. And how does he end? “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Our challenge is this- will we be attentive to that presence coming in our midst, or will we be like Ahaz, who was promised this, but turned to Assyria, and paid huge sums of money for protection? Or will we be like Ahaz’s son, Hezekiah, who at the darkest moment, went to the Temple- the dwelling place of God’s glory and presence?

God has drawn near to us in the person of Jesus- “the word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). In one of the most important theological works of the early church, On the Incarnation, Athanasius of Alexandria lays out a theology of the incarnation, with special attention to the question why? Why did the Word become incarnate? Athanasius argues that the Son became human “For this reason only, out of the love and goodness of his Father, for the salvation of us humans … and the renewal of creation.” (On the Incarnation 1.1.26). God, in his great love, has come to us, to be present with us, to be light shining in the darkness. That’s what Matthew hears in Isaiah, and in the incarnation- God coming to humanity. That’s the connection- the coming of a son as a sign that God is with his people in their most trying time. When the night seems darkest, the light begins to break in.

 

Sources:

Sources:

Joseph Blenkinsopp. Isaiah 1-39 (AB). New Haven: Yale, 2000.

Peter Enns. “The ‘Pete Ruins Christmas’ Series: The Virgin Shall Conceive”. Pete Enns (blog). https://peteenns.com/virgin-shall-conceive/

R.T. France. The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007.

John Goldingay. Isaiah (UBCS). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

— Old Testament Theology, Vol 2: Israel’s Faith. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2006.

— The Theology of the Book of Isaiah. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2014.

Donald Hagner. Matthew 1-13 (WBC). Dallas: Word, 1993.

Daniel J. Harrington, S.J. The Gospel of Matthew (Sacra Pagina). Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1991.

Richard B. Hays. Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. Waco: Baylor, 2016.

J. Alec Motyer. The Prophecy of  Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 1993.

John Nolland. The Gospel of Matthew (NIGTC). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005.

John N. Oswalt. Isaiah (NIVAC). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

Ben Witherington III. Isaiah Old and New: Exegesis, Intertextuality, and Hermeneutics. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017.

Posted in advent, gospel, Gospel According to Matthew, hermeneutics, Isaiah, Jesus, New Testament, Old Testament, prophets, Sermon Podcast, theology | Leave a comment

The Stump of Jesse (Advent 2)

Sources:

Joseph Blenkinsopp. Isaiah 1-39 (AB). New Haven: Yale, 2000.

John Goldingay. Isaiah (UBCS). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

— The Theology of the Book of Isaiah. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2014.

Richard B. Hays. Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. Waco: Baylor, 2016.

J. Alec Motyer. The Prophecy of  Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 1993.

John N. Oswalt. Isaiah (NIVAC). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

Ben Witherington III. Isaiah Old and New: Exegesis, Intertextuality, and Hermeneutics. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017.

Posted in advent, forgiveness, gospel, hermeneutics, Isaiah, Jesus, Kingdom of God, New Testament, Old Testament, prophets, Sermon Podcast, theology | Leave a comment

The Son and His Kingdom

Sunday, November 24th 2019 (Christ the King/Reign of Christ)

 

Sources:

Michael F. Bird. Colossians and Philemon (NCCS). Eugene: Cascade, 2009.

F.F. Bruce. The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (NICNT). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984.

James D.G. Dunn. The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (NIGTC). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.

Gordon D. Fee. Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study. Gran Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.

David E. Gardland. Colossians and Philemon (NIVAC). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.

Scot McKnight. The Letter to the Colossians (NICNT). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018.

Jerry L. Sumney. Colossians: A Commentary (NTL). Louisville: WJK, 2008.

Posted in Christ the King, christology, Colossians, gospel, Jesus, New Testament, Sermon Podcast, theology | Leave a comment

Swords into Plowshares (A Sermon for Advent 1)


 

This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.

Come, descendants of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord.

In 1742 in Dublin, Handel premiered his now famous oratorio Messiah as a charity concert (it raised about £400). Interestingly it was premiered in April, around Easter. It’s now more commonly performed during Advent. Messiah is divided into 3 parts, with a total of 53 movements, and tells the story of the Messiah. The first movement is orchestral, very dramatic, and fluctuating. Then the second movement begins a fairly light bit with harpsichord and strings, and in comes the tenor soloist with the words “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people”. These are of course words from Isaiah 40:1. In fact, most of of Part 1 is taken from Isaiah. Why? Why would Handel begin with Isaiah? The answer is of course, that is actually what all four evangelists do. When the NT authors generally, and the evangelists especially, set out to describe what they had experienced, seen, and understood God was up to in the work of Jesus, the language, ideas, images of the Book of Isaiah became essential. In fact several scholars have suggested that the 4 Gospel accounts, and Luke especially are written through the lens of Isaiah. Isaiah and the Psalms are by far the two OT books most quoted in the NT. Counts of quotes, allusions, and echoes vary, but a reliable estimate is over 400 times in the NT Isaiah is quoted or borrowed from to articulate the person and work of Jesus. The Gospel is couched in the language of Isaiah. St Jerome even wrote that Isaiah “was more of an Evangelist than a Prophet” (quoted in Ben Witherington III. Isaiah Old and New: Exegesis, Intertextuality, and Hermeneutics. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017).

Mark, the first of the four Gospel accounts to be written begins;

“The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way”— [this line is actually from Malachi 3, not Isaiah)
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’” (Mark 1:1-3)

In fact the term “Gospel” is almost certainly borrow from Isaiah as well;

You who bring good news to Zion,
    go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
    lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
    say to the towns of Judah,
    “Here is your God!” (40:9)

How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
    who bring good tidings,
    who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
    “Your God reigns!” (52:7)

That verb “bring good news/tidings” in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT which was the common Scripture of the early Christians) is the verb form of euangelizomai (this is the same verb used by the angel in Luke 2:10), the noun form being euangelion usually translated “Gospel”- as in Mark 1:1. Mark then narrates the baptism of Jesus, saying “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.” (Mark 1:9-10). In Isaiah 63, we have the prophet lament- in the past God had looked favourably and guided Israel as a father, and now it feels like heaven has been sealed up, and God is silent, and the prophet cried out (Isa. 64:1), “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down”. The Greek verbs in Mark and Isaiah 64:1 are the same. Mark is intentionally appealing to Isaiah, and announcing that in Jesus, the hopes and pleas of God’s people are being revealed; God will no longer be silent, and now he has torn open heaven and come down.

So, back to Isaiah 2:1-5; what do we learn here about the hopes of Judah/Jerusalem? I’d propose 3 specific items:

  1. The vision of universality- the God of Israel as the God of all nations.

Israelite religion is typically not viewed as a “missionary faith”. But when we read Isaiah we get a clear message that YHWH, the God of Abraham, is God of the whole world and all nations will come. But notice one important piece; the nations will come to Jerusalem… the Torah will go out from Jerusalem. In Acts 1 Jesus commissions his people; they will receive power and will go out and witness is Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Throughout the New Testament we have the announcement that there is, in Christ, one people of God- Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female (Gal 3:28) alike coming together, people of every nation and every tongue will gather at the throne (Rev 7:9-10). The NT authors, Paul especially, understood this, and understood the Gentile mission to be the ultimate fulfillment of this hope.

  1. The reign of God bringing about an end to violence.

This piece is hard to miss, right? Nations will lay aside aggression and turn weapons of war into tools for agriculture. The hopeful vision of Isaiah is a vision of peace, of a world without war. There will be more on this next week from Isa. 11, but one thing worth noting about Isa 2, is almost verbatim language in the Book of the Prophet Micah (a contemporary of Isaiah ben Amoz);

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and peoples will stream to it.

Many nations will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between many peoples
    and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.
Everyone will sit under their own vine
    and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
    for the Lord Almighty has spoken. (Micah 4:1-4)

The vision of the mountain of God being elevated (an image of the recognition that God is sovereign over all), followed by the setting aside of conflict, and the adjudication by God leading to the end of violence. The hope of God’s people has been the establishment of God’s reign, which is characterized by peace.

3. The call to “walk in the light of the Lord”

As we noted last week, the image of “walk” is used in Jewish though to depict conduct and living one’s life. Judah was called by Isaiah to walk in the light of the Lord, to live their lives as people who have experienced God’s presence. Walking in the light of the Lord means being people of hospitality, compassion, kindness, mercy, charity, and love. It means we look outward. As Christ himself taught, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15). The hope of Judah which is offered through Isaiah, calls for a renewed life that impacts the world around us. As we journey is Isaiah between now and Lent, we will see that this life is not one of individual piety and religiosity, but of justice, mercy, and peace; the same life Jesus describes in the beatitudes. Also, notice that Isaiah 2:5 is imperative- it’s a command the people of Judah. Let us now walk in the light of the Lord. That means the light was there already. The light was, and is, already breaking in. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

The hope of Isaiah is the hope of Advent, the hope of light breaking in, of God stepping into the mess to renew and restore;

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)

Where do we see God at work now? Do we see it? Or have we been hardened by injustice, by the immensity of the wrong in the world? Hope is hard to sustain in the midst of overwhelming evidence that we should despair, but all around us, if we are prepared to stop and listen, and look, the light is there. Yes, the weapons of war have not yet been turned into plows and pruning hooks. But the prince of peace has overcome, and will come again in glory. Let that be your hope as we prepare ourselves to again receive the in-breaking light, the bright morning star, God’s glory revealed in the face of baby.

Sources:

Joseph Blenkinsopp. Isaiah 1-39 (AB). New Haven: Yale, 2000.

John Goldingay. Isaiah (UBCS). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

— The Theology of the Book of Isaiah. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2014.

Richard B. Hays. Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. Waco: Baylor, 2016.

J. Alec Motyer. The Prophecy of  Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 1993.

John N. Oswalt. Isaiah (NIVAC). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

H.G.M. Williamson. “Isaiah, Book of”. Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets. Mark Boda and J. Gordon McConville (eds). Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2013.

Ben Witherington III. Isaiah Old and New: Exegesis, Intertextuality, and Hermeneutics. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017.

Posted in advent, gospel, Isaiah, Jesus, Kingdom of God, New Testament, Old Testament, prophets, Sermon Podcast, Social Justice | Leave a comment