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  • Mrs Chakotay 6:23 pm on January 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bride, bridegroom, Christian Unity, , Greek, , , , Jerusalem, maturity, purity, , , Word, Zion   

    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!

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  • Mrs Chakotay 11:46 pm on January 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Day of the LORD, end-times, exposition, , , Jerusalem, , judgement, Left Behind, , Millennium, prophecy, Rapture, Scripture, , , Tribulation   

    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.

     
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