Monday, June 23, 2014

Forth Telling

Adam Hamilton, in his book Making Sense of the Bible (chapter 7), says:
When Matthew quotes an Old Testament passage and concludes, "This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet," it is helpful to know that the Greek word translated as "fulfill" can also mean "complete."
One of the potential pitfalls of reading books like Isaiah is that we forget that the words were written to a particular audience in a particular circumstance.  We will read them - especially if we are reading just a couple of verses lifted out of context - and we hear only a prophecy predicting the coming of Christ.

I think prophecy is most correctly seen as forth-telling.  The prophets are so close to God and so able to discern God's word, that their prophecies tell forth the truth of God.  For instance, think about the older brother in a family, who has so much experience with the parenting style of the Mom and Dad, as well as experience in life, that he can tell his younger siblings the most likely outcomes of their actions and how their parents will react.  Add to that the image of the family's mom standing close by, whispering to the older brother.  Forth-telling of truth.

Much of what Isaiah spoke was fulfilled nearer the time in which he lived.  These weren't prophesies waiting for Jesus.  But add to that idea that fulfill can also mean complete.  Hamilton says, "Jesus offered a completion, or a climactic redefinition, of what these ancient words meant because Jesus is the climax of God's saving work in the world."

That isn't to say that a beautiful passage like Is 53:5 doesn't speak to us about the coming of Christ:
"But he was pierced for our trasngressions, he was crushed for our iniquities: the punishment that brought us peace wwas on him, and by his wounds we are heaed." doesn't speak of Jesus.  I just mean that it doesn't only speak of Jesus.  
When the big brother speaks of what Mom and Dad will do in a particular situation, doesn't that wisdom have some application in not only the present but also the future?  Could it be that the prophets were so close to God, and had such a communion with God, that their words had present meaning but also future meaning?  Couldn't their words tell truth in the time in which they were speaking but also in the time to come? And wouldn't our understanding of what they were saying be enhanced if we understood all of that?

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