Wednesday, December 31, 2014

This is the end...

...of the year of our Lord two thousand and fourteen.

As I write, the New Year has already swept over Asia and Europe, and very shortly will be reaching the North America continent. Time is a peculiar thing. We know time is not absolute but is relative. Or as the fictional Doctor would put it time is, “Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey-stuff”. The Apostle Peter tells us that with God, one year is as a thousand, and a thousand years are as one. But for us in our finiteness, time goes forward without any going back; though we know it is not absolute in the scale of the universe, it is absolute to us in our experience of it. The end of the year means we are another year closer to the end; the end of our finite lives; the end of the world and universe as it will someday soon or later come to its cataclysmic end. Thus we are told to number our days, knowing that our life under the sun is brief and transitory. But we do not count them with the angst of stoic resignation. We count them in the hope of ultimate redemption and restoration; the New heavens and new earth where in dwells righteousness. So it is in that ultimate hope we enter into this new year of our Lord, two thousand and fifteen.

Peace be unto you...

.

A Union Soldier's Year End Reflections

"Another year has rolled past and joined the many gone before in the vistas of the past. Its glorious deeds of valor and achievements, its scenes of anguish and bloodshed, of wrong and oppression, are subjects for the future historian. Its ever varying scenes and emotions are indelibly impressed upon my mind, which death alone can efface. The snow has clothed the earth in a lovely mantle of white as though to hide the sad past, and offer a clear page for me in the coming year. Let me then look forward with hope and determination to keep in the path of virtue and right, striving to improve the blessings and privileges offered me, so that when 1865 closes I need not look back with regret at the year spent."

~ Jenkin Lloyd Jones, 6th Battery, Wisconsin Artillery, December 31, 1864, writing from Nashville, TN.

(Copied from DOTCW.)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Blessed...

"...Blessed is he who is alone in the strength of the fellowship and blessed is he who keeps the fellowship in the strength of aloneness. But the strength of aloneness and the strength of fellowship is solely the strength of the Word of God, which is addressed to the individual in the fellowship."

~ Life Together, "The Day Alone", Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Understanding “Immanuel” in Isaiah 7

“Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.” (Isaiah 7:10-17)

Observations:

Ahaz was asked to request a sign, but in his unbelief refuses to do so. Isaiah in his rebuke of Ahaz announces the Lord will “give you (in context referring to Ahaz) a sign.” A time frame is given which is a critical part of the sign to Ahaz. A child will be born, and by the time the child attains a certain age of discernment Syria and Israel will be no more. Commentators debate what that age is, but none will say it is more than the age of 12. Both the child and the child’s age are critical components of the sign to Ahaz. The name Immanuel (God with us) was a sign to Ahaz that God had not abandoned His people. God’s purposes for His people would be accomplished in spite of Ahaz’s unbelief.

As Leupold observes, “The major difficulty happens to be that a contemporary person is almost demanded by the very situation involved… At the same time a contemporary child seems to be inexorably demanded by the passage.” (Exposition of Isaiah, H.C. Leupold)

Then we come to the Gospel of Matthew where this prophecy of Immanuel is cited:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:18-25)

Leupold holds the view that the fulfillment of the Isaiah 7 prophecy was delayed until the time Matthew speaks of. I find that explanation unsatisfactory and problematic. For the matter prophesied to be a sign to Ahaz, there had to be some kind of fulfillment in Ahaz’s lifetime. The birth of Isaiah's child, Maher-shalal-baz, in the immediate succeeding context of Isaiah 8:1-3 seems the best understanding of the immediate fulfillment of the sign prophecy to Ahaz in chapter 7.

How then are we to understand Matthew’s use of the Isaiah 7 prophecy of Immanuel?

The best understanding of Matthew’s reference is that the woman who at the time of the prophecy was an unmarried virgin and then became Isaiah’s wife and bore him the son spoken of in chapter 8, is a type or foreshadowing of the Virgin Mary. Likewise the child of Isaiah 8:1-3 was a type of or foreshadowing of the Messiah Jesus. This is in essence, the view of the following commentators:

"Language is selected such as, while partially applicable to the immediate event, receives its fullest, most appropriate, and exhaustive accomplishment in Messianic events. The New Testament application of such prophecies is not a strained “accommodation”; rather the temporary fulfilment of an adaptation of the far-reaching prophecy to the present passing event, which foreshadows typically the great central end of prophecy, Jesus Christ (Rev 19:10). Evidently the wording is such as to apply more fully to Jesus Christ than to the prophet’s son; “virgin” applies, in its simplest sense, to the Virgin Mary, rather than to the prophetess who ceased to be a virgin when she “conceived”; “Immanuel,” God with us (Jn 1:14; Rev 21:3), cannot in a strict sense apply to Isaiah’s son, but only to Him who is presently called expressly (Is 9:6), “the Child, the Son, Wonderful (compare Is 8:18), the mighty God.” Local and temporary features (as in Is 7:15, 16) are added in every type; otherwise it would be no type, but the thing itself. There are resemblances to the great Antitype sufficient to be recognized by those who seek them; dissimilarities enough to confound those who do not desire to discover them." (Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown, “Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible”)

A virgin shall conceive. The word for virgin here is carefully chosen. Etymologically ‘almậ does not necessarily signify a virgo intacta (an untouched maiden). In actual usage in the Hebrew Scriptures, however, it refers only to a maiden chaste and unmarried (so far as the context shows). This well fits the prospective mother alluded to in this situation. Judging from 8:1-4, the typical mother was the prophetess who became Isaiah’s wife within a short time after this prophecy was spoken. Therefore she was a virgin at the time this promise was given. She serves as a type of the Virgin Mary, who remained a virgin even after her miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit. The son of this prophetess, correspondingly, is a type of the Messianic Immanuel as shortly will be explained.” (Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Isaiah contribution by Gleason L. Archer Jr.)

This view of type and fulfillment best satisfies the demand for an immediate fulfillment in the time of Isaiah and Ahaz, and allowing for an understanding of Jesus Christ being the fullness of what is meant by the name Immanuel per Matthew’s citation. This is what is pointed to by the more direct prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7:

“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.”

Monday, December 01, 2014

Salvation?

Salvation is not a one time experience. Salvation is a lifetime experience. I was saved. I am being saved. I will be saved. Solo Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Dancing Street Light

For some reason there were not any light poles as we know them today. In those days of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, to illuminate the streets of the small rural town, lights were stretched across the streets; wires would go from a pole on one side of the street to another pole directly across the street and the street light would dangle there suspended in the middle, the metal fixture including a shade that directed the light from the incandescent bulbs downward, illuminating the street and immediate adjacent sidewalks and lawns.

It was the end of October, the Halloween time of the year. The local fire department had put on their annual Halloween party for the kids of the area; bobbing for apples, the “haunted house”, and we in our varied Halloween costumes. Along with the fire department festivities we also did the usual trick or treating; a time to fill the sack with candy, popcorn balls, cookies, and other goodies. This was a whole generation before sick psychos used Halloween trick or treating to intentionally put harmful things in the treats handed out on Halloween. That year was going to be my last year of trick or treating. The general rule of thumb was once you were in junior high, your trick or treating days were over. So it was I headed out from the school were the firemen's Halloween party was held, to hit the town and pick up a few treats.

The first street of houses I worked that particular night was a cul-de-sac running off of the main street. At the corner of the main street and the cul-de-sac was a street light stretched across the main street as previously described. I had hit all the houses on the cul-de-sac and was ready to head back to the main street. There were was a good steady wind blowing, and I was struck with how the street light was swaying back and forth, dancing in the wind. It was there that a sort of magic took hold of my imagination.

Oddly enough the sense was not a foreboding fear of some evil supernatural apparition coming to life an All Hallows Eve. It was more a sense of being alone in a deserted place. There was no traffic on the street. There was just the street light dancing in the wind. For those few brief moments the only living things in that town were myself and that dancing street light. In those moments, the image of that dancing street light was forever indelibly imprinted on my mind and in my memory.

In the years that followed I would from time to time come across a few literary descriptions that reminded me of that image.

In Ray Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles” the point comes toward the end of the book were all the Earth people who settled on Mars are called back to Earth at the outbreak of war. The Earth colonies and settlements on Mars are abandoned, but a few people are left behind; left behind to wander over the surface of Mars from deserted town to deserted town living out the rest of their lives alone. In that narrative the image of the dancing street light comes to my mind.

I sat in the theater as the movie; “To Kill a Mockingbird” was nearing its end. The fall harvest festival at the local school is over, and Scout and Jem are about to walk home and into the dramatic climax of the whole story. It is night and we see the street lights of that small rural town through the eyes of Scout as she peers through the eyes of her ham costume. In that image, I see the dancing street light of my youth.

Over fifty years later as the fall of the year comes around and the leaves on the trees are changing color, and the corn is ripe for the picking, and the days grow colder, I think back to that autumn night so long, long ago when the street light danced, sparking the imagination and stirring the feelings; one of those magical moments that stay with you for a life time; those moments in life that give hints of stories to be told, other worlds to be discovered, and adventures yet to come.

~ The Billy Goat ~