Friday, November 30, 2007

Seeing Double

At LABC we are beginning a new series titled “The Birth of the Sovereign Savior” taken from the birth narrative found in Matthew’s gospel. This Sunday we will review the incarnation of Christ and specifically consider the implications of virgin birth. Matthew tells us that this event was foretold by the prophet Isaiah over 730 years before Jesus was born.

When you look at the context of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 7-9) it appears that at least some of the prophecy was fulfilled in Isaiah day. Other than the fact that Matthew was inspired by God to make the connection, are there any clues that Isaiah’s prophecy had future implications. I think a careful analysis of the text will result in the affirmative. Prophecy in the Old Testament seems to consistently have both an immediate fulfillment and a future fulfillment. Below

I have cited Craig Blomberg’s brief summary of this principle using Isaiah 7:14 as a guide. More examples of this hermeneutical principle can be viewed by clicking on the link that follows this article below.

"So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”" (Matthew 1:22-23, NKJV)

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14, NKJV)

Interpreting Old Testament Prophetic Literature in Matthew: Double Fulfillment Craig Blomberg, Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary

“Because of the controversies spawned by Isaiah’s famous prophecy of a virginal conception, it might seem unwise to begin with this illustration. But in fact it seems to me one of the clearest examples, and one that sets the stage for several others. Despite staunch conservative resistance to the idea, [18] I cannot see how the “plain meaning” of Isa 7:15-”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” [19]-can mean anything other than that Isaiah believes the child he has just described (v. 14) will be born within his lifetime, as a harbinger of the destruction (by Assyria!) of kings Rezin of Aram and Pekah of Remaliah (7:1). [20] The language of 8:3 echoes that of 7:14 as Isaiah goes in to the prophetess and she conceives and gives birth to a son. It is no longer controversial to observe that the ‘almah of 7:14 simply refers to a young woman of marriageable age, without settling the question of her virginity. [21] Thus it seems most likely that the child of 7:14 is Isaiah’s son, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. [22] Isaiah 8:4 reinforces this equation, with language carefully reminiscent of 7:15-”Before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.” Only now Israel is explicitly included among Assyria’s victims.

At the same time, 7:14 also refers to the enigmatic child as Immanuel, “God with us,” the name that recurs in 8:8 and 10. This name likewise links the child with Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz but also points forward to a more distant time when the plans of Israel’s enemies will be thwarted (8:9-10). [23] This “bifocal vision” prepares the reader for 9:1-7, which is all about restoration after the punishment begun by Assyria. In this context appear the words musically immortalized by Handel, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (9:6a).

Against the current critical consensus it is difficult to identify this son, who is an heir to David’s throne, “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” “Prince of Peace,” and governing eternally (9:6b-7), with anyone other than Israel’s royal Messiah, [24] and we ought not be surprised to learn that that is precisely how the post-Christian Jewish Targum understood it. While dating traditions in the Isaiah Targum proves notoriously difficult, it does seem unlikely that any Scripture would first be taken as messianic in any Jewish context aware of Christian claims for that text. [25] We do not know why the translators of the LXX chose parthenos-a term that does imply sexual virginity-to render ‘almah, but it seems reasonable to assume that part of the reason was that they too recognized Immanuel was no ordinary child whose fulfillment was exhausted in the life of Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. [26] Certainly no figures in between Isaiah’s day and Jesus’ birth even remotely qualify for this child who is a sign of divine presence; [27] hence it seems appropriate to use the expression, “double fulfillment.” Isaiah recognized that his son would be a sign and symbol (8:18), both of God’s activity in his day and of the ultimate child who would comprehensively fulfill the Immanuel promises of chaps. 7-9.” [28]

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Favorite Preacher

If you ever get bored of watching situation comedies or if the news gets too depressing you may want to consider watching one of my favorite preachers online. I have been listening to John MacArthur on the radio for about thirty years now. His expository preaching has made a great impact on my spiritual life.

John usually preaches for an hour, but on this internet broadcast they have reduced his sermons to smaller segments to give you an opportunity to watch with a shorter time commitment. Clicking on the above link will be a good investment of your time.

Ephesians 5:16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.