Tag Archive | Isaiah

Septuagesima / Third Sunday of Epiphany

Canticles & Psalms: Psalm 19
OT Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
NT Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Gospel: Luke 4:14-21

In this passage in the gospel, Jesus is quoting a passage in Isaiah 61 – declaring it to be a prophecy fulfilled in himself.

It is so interesting to me that this passage which occurs in the lectionary of the Anglican church should have come up at the Pentecostal church I attended last week (and I have already written about it here.) I don’t suppose there are many ‘Messianic Anglican Pentecostals’ around, so perhaps this is a repetition and a reminder intended just for me, who knows 🙂

What is also terribly interesting about this passage though, is that the passage in Isaiah is a ‘Haftarah’ portion (a section from the Prophets which is traditionally read after the Torah and usually refers back to, and brings to remembrance a specific section from the Torah) which seems to have been deliberately removed from the Jewish liturgy specifically because it was claimed and quoted by Jesus. (See also a list of Messianic passages from the prophets which are likewise excluded from Jewish liturgy for being obviously connected to Jesus here.)

So what was the Torah portion in question? I read a suggestion once that it was referring back to the section in Exodus 3 where God reveals himself to Moses as “I AM” – in other words, the claim being that, in reading this Haftarah passage, Jesus was drawing attention to His divinity, which the audience would have recognised. However, that portion (Shemot) is traditionally connected to Isaiah 27-28, and there is no evidence for such a claim that I can find. Since this New Testament passage seems to be the first historical evidence of Haftarah portions being read in the synagogue, it would seem to be almost impossible to determine which Torah portion it might originally have referred to, if indeed it was actually connected to a Torah portion (although the connection between Jesus’ mission and Moses’, which was to bring about an end to slavery, is certainly fascinating). Is it a compelling connection that Jesus’ audience in the synagogue would have recognised? I don’t know. But it is interesting that when they commend Him and say how wonderful His words are, that Jesus turns on them, telling them that they will soon change their minds about him, because “No prophet is accepted in his home town.” – Luke 4:24.

The passage in Nehemiah recalls the time when Ezra opened up the Book of the Law (that is, the Torah – the Pentateuch, also called the Books of Moses) and read it aloud to the people, who cried with sorrow that they had not known the great and mighty deeds of the LORD, nor obeyed His commands.

The passage in 1 Corinthians is on spiritual gifts – referring to the way in which we as the Body of Christ, must carry out Jesus’ Mission to preach good news to the poor, bind up the broken-hearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and release for the prisioners; in short: to proclaim the Year of the LORD’s favour – i.e., by the power and work of the Holy Spirit in us.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.” – Psalm 19:7-11 KJV

Advertisements

The Anointing: Isaiah 61

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me,
He has anointed me to preach good news to the [poor]*;
He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD…
[and the day of the vengeance of our God];
To comfort all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified…”


 

At Elim this morning, the sermon was on the topic of “The Anointing”, based on Isaiah 61:1-2a, the first part quoted by Jesus in Luke 4:18,19, with the exception of “the day of vengeance of our god”.

I’m just going to copy up my notes without comment to begin with, and then comment at the end.


Notes:

• This passage is a ‘key scripture’ for Jesus’ life and ministry (and has been adopted as a key scripture for our church in particular).

• The anointing is crucial for ministry

• Oil, or fat, represents the Holy Spirit

• Like the armour of God, you can’t attain it by your own efforts, it has to be given by the Anointed One, ie, Jesus.

• Anointing breaks the yoke of slavery.

• Anointing can’t be lost, but it can be exercised, it must be developed.

• For the Anointing to flow, you need to live righteously.

• The Anointing is ‘attracted’ to righteous living.

• The first step towards righteous living is honesty with God, confession, truth.

• Then, the anointing will bubble up and flow over.

• The Anointing desires intimacy with the Father.

• Oil is for healing.

• We must exercise the anointing by doing the following:

-Proclaim the Good News
(not negativity) because Life and death are in the power of the tongue.

-Proclaim Liberty

-Release the prisoners

-Give Sight to the Blind

• This is the agenda for Jesus’ life, and must be the agenda for the church.

• It is the plum line for all church programs – if they don’t meet the agenda, it’s not worth doing.


Comments:

I suspect, from the sermons I have heard in this church, that this is the standard way that scripture is handled here, and I have to say that I’m feeling a little bit uncomfortable about some aspects of it.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with what was said. It was a pretty ‘fire and brimstone’ sermon, and I quite like the passion of that. The speaker is fond of shouting “Wake up, Church” when he thinks we’re not listening.

But I wish that there was a bit more careful exposition – it’s obviously a Messianic passage, but again if you look at the whole passage you can see the mention of Zion again, and there is a lot more to the whole chapter but only the first 2 verses were addressed (see previous post on Isaiah 2).

Who is the passage addressed to?
Who or what does Zion refer to in this context?
When is the prophecy to be fulfilled?

Does the fact that Jesus stopped prior to “the day of the vengeance of our God” mean that there are multiple, partial fullfillments to this propecy?
When is the Day of Vengeance?
Is it significant that some of the good things come after the Day of Vengeance in the passage?
(Again, this was not mentioned at all. Does it matter?)

The speaker said that, in the Old Testament, one individual was specially anointed (like Isaiah or Ezekiel), whereas in the New Testament, every believer is anointed (Acts 2). Therefore, you (as a Christian) already have the anointing, you just have to exercise it.

So, is the Pentecost infilling of the Holy Spirit the same thing as Anointing?

This is interesting to me, because previously I have heard sermons saying the opposite, ie that the Anointing is something special, particularly for ministers, who have a particular, perhaps temporary anointing for a specific task or work of God.

Perhaps both are true. I’m not sure, I would like to know on what basis the two different claims are made (ie, more thorough scripture proofs), as they don’t seem to mean quite the same thing.

The very word Messiah, Mashiach in Hebrew, actually means ‘anointed’. Is that relevant at all?

I have a book on my shelf (or, I suspect, currently in storage with the rest of my books) called ‘The Anointing’ by R T Kendall, which I haven’t yet read, but I would like to. I don’t know whether it covers the first or second meaning or both, or takes a different view altogether.

*Where the KJV has the word ‘meek’, the NIV has the word ‘poor’.


I don’t know whether I am being unreasonably or unduly critical, or whether that may be due to my state of mind because I’m not well, as it takes a lot out of me to get to church.

I was a little bit heartbroken today to hear that the church had purposely decided to abandon their ministry websites, so there is no longer any provision for those who are housebound to download and listen to sermons online. As far as I could see, the sermons are no longer recorded so it doesn’t look like there’s a tape/cd ministry anymore either.

I really think that churches are unaware of how devastating the isolation from the community is for people who become housebound, and that really, really makes me sad.

When I had a relapse in 2014, I had no visits whatsoever from anybody in the Anglican church in more than six months, despite requesting one, and despite every level of the church being aware I was ill. (It’s not the first church that has happened in either.)

At some point I will put together a list of resources for people who need to worship from home, as that seems to be the only option for a lot of people. But it is really not the same as feeling that you are welcomed and included in your own physical, local community.

***This, church, is part of the ministry of the Anointing, to “proclaim liberty to the captives”, and you’re not doing it.***

Wake up, Church!

Isaiah 62:1-5

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
    for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her vindication shines out like the dawn,
    her salvation like a blazing torch.
The nations will see your vindication,
    and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
    that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand,
    a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
No longer will they call you Deserted,
    or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
    and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you,
    and your land will be married.
As a young man marries a young woman,
    so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
    so will your God rejoice over you.


I looked again and realised that of course the connection between Isaiah 62:1-5 and the Wedding at Cana, is of course the last verse which talks about being married!

This passage was obviously referring to the literal Mount Zion in Jerusalem and the land of Israel when it was written, but it has traditionally been understood by Christian theologians as prophetically referring rather to the Church, on the basis of New Testament references (Hebrews 12:22 and Revelation 14:1) which allude to a metaphorical, spirtual New Jerusalem.

In Messianic Jewish thought, a more literal interpretation makes more sense, with one exception – that the Bridgroom in question is Christ, God Himself. So in other words – whatever your view on the identity of Israel and the Church in Christianity – God ‘marries’ himself to His people, being an unbreakable, eternal Covenant.

“Whom God joins together, let no man put asunder.”

Going back to the Wedding at Cana, Christ can then be understood as mystically symbolising the eternal Bridgroom.

But the passage goes on to say that the righteousness of Zion (the people of God) will shine out like the dawn, that the nations will see her righteousness, that the LORD will delight in her and that she will be called by a new name.

Is this ‘new name’ possibly an allusion to the people of God becoming known as ‘Christians’? Is it just referring to the names Beulah (married) and Hephzibah (‘My delight is in her’?) Or is it some future epithet that we haven’t yet encountered?

How and when will this prophecy be fulfilled? When will the righteousness of Christians shine forth so brilliantly that the nations and the kings cannot but help be impressed by it?

In Ephesians 3:24 we are given a glimpse of a time when the Church reaches unity, being ‘mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’ and Ephesians 5:27 alludes to a glorious Church, without spot or blemish.

Must the Church accomplish this unity, maturity and purity by her own efforts? Thankfully, no. We are back again at the Wedding of Cana, where Mary draws our attention to the need for God’s Holy Spirit to ferment our ‘water’ and turn it into ‘wine’.

Track back to the passage in Ephesians 5, and you will see that the Bridgroom is able to accomplish this by ‘washing’ her, by the ‘water of the Word’.  How does this work? Jesus says in John 15:3

“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”

This is the wondrous mystical, mystery of sanctification. We do not achieve it by our own efforts, but by Jesus’ efforts on our behalf.

So as the answer to the question ‘how and when will this prophecy be fulfilled’, it would seem to be another case of the prophecy having multiple fulfillments, or fulfillment in installments: yes, we are “already clean” in theory, so it is a ‘now’ but in practice, we are not so unified, mature or purified; so it is also ‘not yet’. This is something that is very common in Hebraic thinking, where the two possibilities seem to be opposite and apparently contradictory: the Hebrew mind, in opposition to the Greek linear logical way of thinking, is able to accept the seeming contradiction, and hold it in a tension.

With regard to what these difficult terms – ‘clean’, ‘pure’ and ‘righteous’ actually signify, that is the topic for another post!

The Mountain of the Lord

This blog was intended to be primarily Anglican, and I do intend to start looking at the readings from the lectionary, but I haven’t been able to get to an Anglican service in a while due to illness, and the fact that I can’t get a lift before 10am.

So, lately, I have been hanging out at a local evangelical/ pentecostal church.

The most recent sermon was on a the topic of a single verse (verse 2) in Isaiah chapter 2:

“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.”

I am aware of course that there is a range of differing eschatological positions, and that the standard Anglican eschatology is basically preterist – i.e. (if I understand it correctly) that the majority of prophecy has already been fulfilled and/ or is to be taken metaphorically rather than literally.

I was raised in a church (an American Baptist from Grand Rapids, Michigan in fact!) that took the Pre-Trib, Pre-Millennial view (with the idea that the Rapture would occur literally, prior to a literal Tribulation and followed by a literal Millennium of the rule of the Kingdom of God) very seriously.

Eschatology is a branch of Theology that isn’t generally popular, but Tim LaHaye’s ‘Left Behind’ series (which advocated that same Pre-Trib, Pre-Millennial view) brought it into the public view and made it popular.

But having read a few of those books, one thing they did for me was to make me seriously doubt that I had it all figured out or that the view I had been brought up with was the one true interpretation it was presented as being.

So back to Isaiah 2. It would seem that the basic options for interpreting this verse (or rather passage, as it’s really just asking for misinterpretation if you take a single verse out of context) are either:

– that a literal temple will be established in the literal Jerusalem (as the rest of the passage suggests), at a future time (or that this literally happened at some past point that would have been future when it was written), OR

– that the temple is metaphorical, and that this metaphorical temple will be established (in either the literal or a metaphorical Jerusalem) in the future or has already been established. (Although once a passage is taken to be metaphorical, the time element can legitimately be ignored.)

The speaker in this case, without any apparent reference to the rest of the passage or the context, what it meant to the original writer or readers, or how the passage has traditionally been understood, spiritualised the meaning of the verse, suggesting that the ‘mountain’ referred to success, prosperity, and the proliferation of the Gospel, that the ‘Temple’ referred to men’s hearts, and that this was something that would happen in the future but that the ‘Last Days’ were now.  By extension, it was used to suggest that the future of the local church was very bright.

It is not my intention to slander anybody of course nor to offend or upset the speaker in question. (If he is reading this, I would be happy to discuss it!) But this struck me as a particularly careless handling of Scripture. Not because it wasn’t a possible interpretation (it fits with the second option, although what ‘Jerusalem’ represents wasn’t addressed because it was outside of the scope of that single verse), but rather because the suggestion really was that, if you take a verse out of context, it’s alright to make it mean anything you want it to mean, and that the original intention is of no consequence. Of course, in some ways, that would seem to be the prevailing view anyway.

The rest of the passage continues:

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.

The line ‘They will beat their swords into plowshares’ is a very famous phrase which is often quoted at memorial services for servicemen, in a wish to end the ongoing futility of war, so there is a lot in the passage that wasn’t even touched on in the sermon, and the passage immediately following this one is about the ‘Day of the Lord’ which is usually understood to refer to judgement rather than blessing and reward.

What does it matter whether or not we get our eschatology right? Do we need to know what is coming up in the future? Do we need to have a right understanding of the chronology of end-time events? Will it alter our thinking and behaviour if we have different ideas about the flow of history, the direction of events and the ultimate end-game? Or should we just be faithful in every age?

There is a sense in which Scripture can be understood to have multiple fulfillments so, for example, some of the passages in Isaiah which are clearly understood to be Messianic in nature – foretelling the coming of Christ – may have had an early fulfillment (a ‘shadow’ of things to come), a fulfillment at the time of Christ, and/ or possibly an ultimate fulfillment at the end of the age. So from that point of view it may be possible to accommodate multiple interpretations without one cancelling out the other. As a Messianic Jewish Anglican who tends to see a future for Israel, the Jewish people and Torah in the church, I would support that ‘multiple fulfillments’ view.

But does that make it possible for Isaiah 2:2 to be telling us that the future of the local church in Cornwall is prosperity and success in evangelism? It seems a bit of a stretch to me.