Cultural Reading of Dinah: Gn 34:1-31

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Set in Shalem, a city of Shechem in Canaan, the Gn 34:1-31 pericope describes in third person the defilement of Jacob’s daughter Dinah and subsequent events. A Hivite named Shechem, defiled Dinah when she visited area women (34:2). Upon Shechem’s request to marry her, his father Hamor approached Jacob with a proposition of land, wives, and trade (vv. 3-4, 6, 9-10). However, Jacob’s sons requested all the city’s men first undergo circumcision (vv. 14-15), which Hamor and his son found favorable (v. 18). The sons did so deceitfully, though, since Shechem defiled Dinah (v. 13). Ultimately, two of Jacob’s sons slew all the city males weakened from circumcision, took Dinah, spoiled the town, and seized the city’s wealth along with the murdered men’s wives and children (vv. 25-29). As the passage unfolds, it weaves in themes of gender, unspoken voice, and honor to the story events and actors.

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Redemption at the Gate: Ruth 4:1-12

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The book of Ruth, a historical work of the narrative genre, occurred during the era of Judges (Ru 1:1). It opened in Moab, where Naomi sojourned from Bethlehem due to famine. She and her two Moabite daughters-in-law survived the death of their husbands while there (1:5). Upon hearing the Lord visited His people and gave them bread, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem (vv. 6-7). While the one daughter-in-law Orpah left for her mother’s house to find rest and a husband upon Naomi’s advice, Ruth cleaved to her mother-in-law and made Elohim her God (Gn 1:1, Ru 1:16-17). Naomi arrived in Bethlehem with Ruth but felt the Lord dealt bitterly with her, bringing her home empty without a husband and sons (1:20-21). However, subsequent events demonstrated the Lord’s redemption, making Naomi full again through Boaz.

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Jan Paron, 2021

Background

In what one might call the story’s peak, Ru 4:1-12 opened with Boaz at the city gate, seeking Naomi’s nearer relative to rescue her from the shame of loss. The discourse announced Boaz’s entrance with the word then, signaling a transition from the previous chapter: “for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day” (3:18b KJV). The discourse focused on Boaz, the central character, regarding what he said (4:1-5, 9) and did (vv. 1-2, 4-5, 9-10) to redeem Naomi and Ruth’s future. Here, Boaz would seek the elders as witnesses to the kinsman-redeemer covenanted for Naomi’s inheritance.

In ancient Israel and Judah, the city gate played a critical function in settling community affairs. Its process reflected a vertical social order governed by a patriarchal societal norm. Thus, males played the dominant role, frequently determining a woman’s fate. Occasionally, a bloody outcome resulted in surrounding events such as in Gn 34:20-25, the first mention of a gate matter involving female honor and shame. While Boaz’s business concerned a more peaceful outcome for Naomi and Ruth, they could not control the decision from their social location. The women had much at stake, impoverished from the loss of their husbands and without an heir.

Redemption

For Boaz to take on the role of kinsman redeemer (3:13), it required community witness. Characteristic to a collectivist culture, he settled the matter among the people. Boaz initiated the act at the gate (v.1) and assembled ten elders and the nearer kinsman. Since the nearer would not accept the land with the provision to marry Ruth the Moabite as well, he signified his intentions by removing his shoe similar to levirate marriage tradition (Deut 25:5-10). Instead, Boaz took up the role. His redemption of Naomi and Ruth concluded with “all the people that were in the gate” (v.11) serving as witnesses. The text highlighted Boaz naming all the people and elders present as witnesses (v. 10), and they, in turn, repeating “We are witnesses” (v.11a).

The focal point occurred when Boaz announced he bought all that belonged to Elimelech, Chilion, and Mahlon from Naomi (4:9), redeeming the land. Further, he acquired Ruth the Moabitess as his wife (v.10b). Boaz’s climactic statement reminds the reader of God’s providential hand resolving Naomi and Ruth’s need for redemption, as well as echoes the types therein that shadow salvation for humankind. As if to draw attention to the redemptive act, the discourse repeated the word redeem eight times in Ru 4:4-6.

Just as Boaz restored Naomi and Ruth in covenant at the gate, Jesus’ death on the cross brought a greater redemption to fallen humanity outside the gate (Heb 13:12) in the new covenant. The gate decision resulted in a royal heir descending from the lineage of Boaz starting from Pharez (Mt 1:1-25, cf. 1 Chron 2:4-13, Ru 4:11-12). The lineage also demonstrated a transformative progression from Rahab as redeemed and her life transformed to Ruth also transformed as a virtuous woman elevated in status (3:12).

Conclusion: God’s Grace and Mercy

The story supports Judges in which “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” because Israel had no king (Judg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1). The Deuteronomic Code lay central to God’s covenant with Israel, the governing law upon living in the land of promise. Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, sojourned to Moab either temporarily or permanently. Further, his two sons married Moabite women. Deuteronomy 7:1-3 prohibited Israel from mingling with or marrying Canaanites. God’s consequences for breaking covenant historically resulted in judgment. It signaled a lack of faith in Yahweh providing for His people in the land of milk and honey by dwelling in a country that oppressed Israel.

Nevertheless, God lifted the famine from Bethlehem, which drew Naomi back to the Promised Land. There, He showed grace and mercy to Naomi and her Gentile daughter-in-law, restoring what Naomi lost and giving her provisions and an heir. Naomi found her redeemer at the gate (4:14-15). The people at the gate saw a seed the Lord would give to build the house of Israel (vv. 11-12). Through redemption at the gate came the lineage that would birth King David (vv. 22) and in time fulfill the begetting of the Redeemer for all creation.

Jan Paron, PhD

6-3-21

Tohu Wabohu

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The human story reflects a contrast between what the Creator intended from the promise of His presence versus humanity’s violation of His will and purpose. This contrast presents itself as a clash between the righteousness of God and corruption of humankind found in the books of Genesis to Revelation.–Thus, an earth without form and void (Gn 1:2a) or tohu wabohu (Hebrew).

To apply the concept of tohu wabohu to contemporary Christianity first necessitates tracing its significance in the Old Testament context. Tohu Wabohu occurs twice in the Old Testament in a combined form after Gn 1:1: Jer 4:23 and Is 34:11. Without form (Heb: tohu) signifies wasteness—that which is wasted, laid waste, formless, a worthless thing, or empty place; while void (Heb: bohu) indicates an undistinguishable ruin, voidness, or desolate—something void and empty. The ancient Israelites viewed the opposite of the created order as something much worse than wasteness and emptiness. To them, tohu wabohu had the characteristics of an active, malevolent force (Jer 4:23; Is 34:11)—chaos signifying God’s judgment culminating in the Battle of Armageddon.  

Tohu Wabohu: Transformation From Wasteness and Emptiness (Gn 1:1)

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gn 1:1-2). When God brought the heaven and the earth into existence from nothing, the earth appeared tohu wabohu–without form and void, in other words, wasteness (tohu) and emptiness (bohu). The earth in its initial state could not sustain life. Elohim had created it as a forerunner for His inhabitants to commune with Him, their covenant God Yahweh. He transformed the earth by His own word from tohu wabohu to order and fullness, a place where He could dwell intimately in the midst of His people and they would come to know Him in relationship. Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden opposed Elohim’s actions of creation for intimacy and fellowship. The Lord God banished them from paradise to the hardship of a land filled with disorder and chaos “to till the ground from whence he was taken”(3:23). 

Tohu Wabohu: Primeval Chaos (Jer 4:23)

Scripture mentions another instance of tohu wabohu. Jeremiah 4:23 describes a land destroyed to the extent of primeval chaos as tofu wabohu. “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.” Just as God created the earth without form and void to order and fullness, His signaled a return to tohu wabohu (barren waste, GNB) from the promised, plentiful land. 

While God remained the faithful husband, Israel (the northern kingdom) rejected Him as the spiritually adulterous wife with false gods, likened to a harlot (2:20). They committed two evils in His sight, “They have abandoned me–the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” (2:13 NIV) Israel refused to repent. Because of their infidelity and lack of repentance, Israel lost her freedom (3:1-5). Judah did not remain loyal as well, lukewarm wanting both God and Baal (3:11). Judah forsake the Lord and and turned to idolatry. The people no longer knew Him. Thus, God allowed the invading Babylonians army to decimate their land until it became a barren waste of complete destruction (tofu wabahu). Even the birds flew away. However, the Spirit of God remained. God promised the Messiah Who foreshadowed a restored land with the fullness of the Godhead.

Tohu Wabohu: God’s Judgment of the Nations (Is 34:11)

“But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it, Also the owl and the raven shall dwell in it. And He shall stretch out over it, the line of confusion and the stones of emptiness.” Isaiah described the day of the Lord’s vengeance against all nations (Is 34:8 KJV). The prophet predicted God’s apocalyptic judgment resulting in tohu wabohu against the Edomites for helping the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and then occupying the southern tip of Judah (Ps 137:1; Lam 4:21-22; Ez 25:12-14; 35:3; 15; Jl 3:19; Mal 1:2-5) The line of confusion symbolizes the Lord’s judgment (cf. 2 Kgs 21:13). Obadiah also warned of no survivor left in the house of Esau because they prevented refugees from leaving and handed them over to the enemy (Ob 11-14). The Lord made Edom a burnt offering (Isa 24:21) and marked the ruins of Bozzrah, its capital, for confusion and chaos (34:11). Only wildcats and goat demons would inhabit it (34:14). This judgment affects all the nations in cataclysmic destruction of humanity ushering in the new heavens and new earth (65:17). God returns the earth to Himself in a perfect, eternal state.

Knowing God or Living in an Empty Place

“To whom hast thou uttered words? and whose spirit came from thee?” (Jb 26:4). Job responded with a true knowledge of God’s accomplishments to Bilhad’s misguided attacks. Then, Job illustrated the Lord’s divine grandeur, “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Jb 26:7). Job refers to without form as an empty place (tohu), which was chaotic and suspended on nothing but His will and purpose. However, God created earth for His inhabitation (Is 45:18d). To believers in Christ tohu wabohu may represent life in an empty place separated from knowing God, a metaphoric subsequent condition resulting from leaving their First Love. But, abiding in Him, fills that void with His presence.

Jan Paron, PhD

May 25, 2021

Bibliography

Custance, A. C. (2008). Without form and void. Retrieved from http://www.custance.org/Library/WFANDV/index.html#TableofContent

Emmanuel Among the People: Laying Out the Tent’s Foundation

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And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan (Mt 4:25).

The covenant God Yahweh incarnated Himself in Jesus—“Yahweh breaking into the human realm to bring salvation” (Mt 1:21).1 Thus, God manifested Himself as Jesus, who came to rule His kingdom and bring redemption. For this very purpose, God dwelt among His people (Is 7:14) and set up His tent as their heavenly dwelling place on earth. In particular, He did so amidst a diverse segment of a Mediterranean populace from the ruling Jewish class to Gentiles. Jesus spread His tent far and wide from Galilee. Consequently, not only Jews heard about the kingdom of heaven, but also Gentiles.

A well-structured tent involves many preparatory steps to maintain its sturdiness among the elements. One of the initial steps for setting up a tent requires a foundational barrier to protect it from the ground. That barrier should cover an area large enough to support the tent itself. By stationing His ministry in Galilee, Jesus had a locational launchpad giving Him access to the regions encircling it, in turn, expanding His reach to a broad-based demographic for all those who would seek Him where He dwelt. As a result, a diverse multitude of people heard Jesus’ word and witness from within and outside Galilee’s borders.

While the authority of Jesus’ redemptive, divine presence threatened the existing Jewish power structure, the expanse of His dwelling place enlarged out from Galilee, affecting both Jews and Gentiles. Great crowds followed Him from Galilee to the east from Decapolis, south from Jerusalem and surrounding Judean areas, and beyond Jordan (Mt 4:25). In essence, His divinity reached across the masses in His humanity as the Light of life (Jn 8:12). His foundation covered a wide area of which to give access to the gathered into His tent. The better and more perfect tent came in Jesus’ own body in the flesh, a house not made with hands, as God incarnated. Later on the Cross, He would offer it up with His own blood. The expansion of His tent from Galilee’s borders to the surrounding regions gathered those who would hear His teachings on the sermon on the mount (Mt 5).2 3

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Bible History.com

Galilee

Beginning at Galilee to the nations (cf. Mt 28:19), Jesus–Yahweh is salvation–taught in the synagogues and preached the Gospel of the kingdom (Mt 4:23). Preached (Greek: kēryssō) in the context of 4:23 means to proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom openly and matters related to it. In doing so, Jesus also established His credentials as its Messiah among the lost sheep of the house of Israel.4 The gospels mention He taught in the synagogues on ten occasions. Synagogue in Greek means assembly. It formed a key locale for Jews to come together for communal life central to their identity.5 Moreover, Jews held prayer, Torah study, and Scripture readings there. Jesus mingled with the people and brought the presence of the manifested kingdom (12:28) and His eternal rule over His creation. From the synagogue vicinity, He later birthed His new community of believers on the Day of Pentecost. 

Jesus relocated from Nazareth to Galilee in Capernaum, thus fulfilling Emmanuel as the promised light dawning on the territories of the tribes of Zebulun and Nephtali from spiritual darkness.—They who “sat in darkness saw a great light” (Mt 4:16a; Jn 8:12; IS 8:23-9:6). During the time of the prophet Isaiah, the Assyrians conquered the two territories and the whole of the Northern Kingdom. Other invaders occupied it during Neo-Assyrian, Persian, Hellenist, and Roman periods. Isaiah prophesied the light, Emmanuel–God with us, would deliver them from their oppression. Many Galileans received Jesus during His ministry there. Galilee included the cities of Capernaum, Magdala, and Chorazin. Though Jewish in ethos and population, the Romans controlled Galilee and left a Hellenist influence.6 Roman officials resided in Capernaum, even though a Jewish town.7 They also populated Tiberias, just south of Capernaum. However, Tiberias differed culturally from Tiberias since Romans had recently built the city. During Jesus’ ministry, 204 towns and villages spread across Galilee populated primarily by agrarian and fishing communities.9 Due to Roman rule by Herod Antipas, Gentiles also lived in lower Galilee in growing, urbanized city centers. Hence, its residents reflected a culturally and economically mixed demographic. From this rich mix of people, Jesus extended His tent outward from Galilee. The gathered included the multitudes who would hear His teachings on the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5).

Decapolis

Galilee and Decapolis combined comprised the northern area of Jesus’ ministry. Greek settler-soldiers from the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms originally founded Decapolis–known as the ten cities–after the death of Alexander the Great.10 Thus, Decapolis’ demographics primarily comprised a Hellenist population.11 Further, the founders’ cultural origins left a strong influence from Greek worldviews and subsequent practices in the region. Later, Romans ruled Decapolis as one of its provinces. The Roman legate from Syria ruled the inhabitants of Decapolis’ cities. 

Jesus visited the region twice, restoring a demon-possessed man (Mk 5:20) and healing a deaf and mute (7:31). Upon learning of His mercy, it amazed the inhabitants (5:20c; 7:37). While the Pharisees considered the area’s Hellenist practices morally offensive and off-limits due to herds of pigs (5:11), Jesus met its populace on their grounds and confronted darkness. Many from the area followed Him into Galilee, His merciful nature and authority preceding Him. 

Jerusalem

In contrast to Galilee, Jerusalem represented what Ernst Renan described as obstinate Judaism, founded by Pharisees and fixed by the Talmud.12 John the Baptist called the Pharisees and Sadducees a generation of vipers (Mt 3:7)–children from the seed of the serpent following after the lusts of their father the devil (Jn 8:44).  Jesus also likened them to vipers who would try to evade the flames, but the fires would consume them (Mt 23:33). Their corrupt and evil works would not allow them to escape the condemnation of hell.

Both the crowds and the ruling Jews sought after Jesus but for different reasons. Matthew 4:24 points out Jesus’ “fame went throughout all Syria.” The multitudes brought Him their sick, tormented, possessed, lunatick, and palsy for healing. Large crowds continually followed Jesus. His fame also caught the attention of the Pharisees and Sadducees, enraging them. While the crowds anxiously sought out Jesus, the Pharisees and Sadducees plotted His demise. After Jesus healed the lame man in Bethesda on the Sabbath and substantiated His authority by referring to God as His Father, the Jews sought to kill Him (Jn 5:18-47). Ultimately, Jesus died there crucified on the Cross, giving the ultimate sacrifice atoning for humanity’s sin.  

Judea13

Matthew 4:25 separates the multitudes that followed Jesus of Judea from Jerusalem even though the region contained the city. Judea, a province of Rome, lay south of Galilee. It included the former territories of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Dan, Simeon, and part of Ephraim. Considered an upper hill country, it extended from the north to Bethel, south to Beth Zur, west to Emmaus, and east to the Jordan River. Economically, Judeans considered themselves more sophisticated Jews open to Hellenistic influences than their southern, Galilean neighbors (Jn 1:46).14Also, Galileans spoke a different form of Aramaic (Mk 14:7; Jn 7:52; Acts 2:7), which the Judeans looked upon as crude.  

While Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea (Mt 2:1, 5, 6; cf. Mi 5:2), the book of Matthew only features His baptism there before chapter four. Yet, the event marks a pivotal moment in redemptive history. In the Judean wilderness, God publicly announced Jesus as His beloved Son and anointed Him as the Messiah (Mt 3:16-17). Later, Jesus ministered in Judea (Mk 10:1; Jn 4:3). Also, Judeans did hear Jesus’ teachings and witness His miracles (Lk 5:17). Later, however, Jesus experienced persecution there (Jn 4:1-3). 

And from beyond Jordan

Known as Peraea, the area pertains to the territory east of the Jordan River. The territory bounded Decapolis to the north and east with Samaria and Judea to the west. The Jews did not esteem the region east of Jordan since only the land of Canaan (or Israel) symbolized a holier than all lands–the land flowing with milk and honey.15

When the Hebrews had conquered and made ready for settlement the land east of Jordan, the children of Reuben and Gad claimed the lands known as Jazer and Gilead as their inheritance because of its suitability to graze their livestock there (Nm 32:1-5). However, their choice left them vulnerable to attack. Second Kings 15:29 tells that the King of Assyria placed them in captivity there as the first in exile of the tribes from the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Jesus’ Perean ministry began with His departure from Galilee (Mt 19:1; Mk 10:1) and ended with Mary anointing Him in Bethany (Mt 26:6) and His journey towards Jerusalem commencing (Mk 10:32). Mathew previously mentioned the people from that region in the account of John for the baptism of repentance in the Jordan River: that all the areas around it went out to Him (Matt 3:5 NKJV). 

Scope of Jesus’ Tent

As Jesus unfolded the range of His tent’s groundsheet, He ministered to Jews and Gentiles as well. Beginning in Mt 2:12 with the pagan magi and spreading to all Syria and Decapolis, non-Jews experienced the kingdom of heaven, too. Jesus saw no class or ethnic distinctions among people. In contrast, the Pharisees created a dichotomy labeling people as insiders or outsiders, with outsiders considered unworthy sinners (i.e., Lk 7:37). He offered salvation to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles. He also did not esteem one nation over the other, as did the Jews with Israel.

Further, the Messiah did not distinguish between statuses of personages; instead, He brought forth all who came to Him into a new community of believers as one. Paul described this unity in Gal 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” He freed the oppressed, the afflicted, and the wounded, preaching the gospel to the poor, healing the brokenhearted, bringing deliverance to the captives, and recovering the sight to the blind to free the bruised (Luke 4:18). The foundation for His tent set initially in Galilee extended across the world, offering rest in Him to all humanity.

Jan Paron, PhD

5/14/21

Notes

David K. Bernard, Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ: Deification of Jesus in Early Christian Discourse (Deo Publishing, 2016), 87.

E. Masterman, “Galilee in the Time of Christ,” The Biblical World 32, no. 6 (1908): pp. 405-416, https://doi.org/10.1086/474135.

3 According to Ex 33:7-11, this tent was for communion with Yahweh, to receive oracles and to understand the divine will.

4 G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, 2007) 21.

5 Ray Vander Laan, “He Went to the Synagogue,” That the World May Know, accessed May 13, 2021, https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/He-went-to-synagogue.

6 Randall Niles, “Galilee at the time of Jesus,” Drive Through History, accessed May 11, 2021 https://drivethruhistory.com/galilee-at-the-time-of-jesus/.

7 R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007), chap. 2, Kindle.

8 France, The Gospel of Matthew, chap. 2.

9 Selah Merrill, Galilee in the Time of Christ (Elibron Books, 2006), chap. 2,  Kindle.

10 Ray Vander Laan, “He Went to the Synagogue.”

11 Ray Vander Laan, ”A Far Country Decapolis,” That the World May Know, accessed May 10, 2011, https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/a-far-country-decapolis.

12 E. Renan, The Life of Jesus (trans. C.E. Wilbour; New York, 1991) 56f.

13 “What Is the Significance of Judea?” Got Questions?, accessed May 12, 2021, https://www.gotquestions.org/Judea-in-the-Bible.html

14 Justin Taylor “7 Differences Between Galilee and Judea in the Time of Jesus,” Gospel Coalition, accessed May 9, 2021, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/7-differences-between-galilee-and-judea-in-the-time-of-jesus/.

15 “Mishnah Kelim 1:6,” Sefaria.org, accessed May 9, 2021, https://www.sefaria.org/English_Explanation_of_Mishnah_Kelim.1.6?lang=bi

Jehovah-Jireh (The LORD Provides in His Provision)

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Jehovah signifies the covenant name God revealed to the people of Israel. When Moses asked God who sent him, He replied, “Thou shalt say to the people of Israel, Jehovah sent me unto you; this is My name forever” (Exod 3:15 KJV). The name makes known the Coming One and His action of redemption for the Israelites. The Messiah will come for the final crushing of the serpent’s head and provide salvation for His people (Gen 3:15).

Jehovah’s name remains immutable. “I am Jehovah, I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal 3:6.) When coupled with another descriptor in a compound name, it explains other roles and natures of who He is and what He will do. The incarnate God in Jesus continues in these roles to supply all our needs “according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19). This writing explores the first expression of His redemptive title and nature, Jehovah-jireh. Barry Liesch in People in the Presence of God said, “God by His very character, loves to bless His people” (1988, p. 22). The incarnate God in Jesus’ divine and human character blesses His people as Jehovah-jireh illustrating its fullness by four redemptive provisions[1] and three redemptive roles.[2]      

Rembrandt van Rijn, Abraham’s Sacrifice. Etching and drypoint on paper, 1655. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

(Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, Abraham’s Sacrifice, 1655) 


Four Provisions of Jehovah-jireh     

Jehovah-jireh means the LORD that provides (Gen 22:14; cf. John 1:29; Heb 11:17-19). The Lord revealed His first redemptive name in a place up yonder on Mt. Moriah (Gen 22) when He tested and proved Abraham’s faith with the command to sacrifice his only son Isaac as a burnt offering. Upon examination of Gen 22, Scripture uncovers four aspects of Jehovah-jireh’s provision:

  1. Blessings from one’s faithful response to testing (22:1-2; 16-18) 
  2. Opportunity to worship through sacrifice (vv. 5-10)
  3. God’s presence during tests (vv. 11-13)
  4. Promise of redemption through a Seed Messiah (vv. 16-18)

Provision 1: Blessing From One’s Faithful Response to Testing (22:1-2; 16-18) 

Jesus embodies the one, true God with the character, quality, and personality of the express image of God’s own substance (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15; 1 Tim 3:16; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:3; and 2 Pet 1:1). All the names and titles of the Deity apply to Jesus including Jehovah-jireh. Thus, Jehovah first revealed His unchangeable nature as Jehovah-jireh at a place called yonder or Jehovahjireh (Gen 22:13-14) with the provision of a blessing:

And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice (22:16-18).

Testing means temptation. Before the provisions of covenant, God tested Abraham’s faith on Mt. Moriah by asking him to sacrifice his son, his only son Isaac, “whom though lovest” (21:5; 22:2). He tempted Abraham to act in faithful obedience. Faith appropriates His provisions as Jehovah-jireh. God already had pre-established with Abraham that through Isaac He would establish His covenant “for an everlasting covenant and his seed after him” (17:19). God identified Isaac by name as the legal heir to the promise years prior to Mt. Moriah.

The promise of Isaac as the legal seed to the inheritance required Abraham to stand in faith on what God ordained. James 2:14-26 teaches faith comes alive with active obedience by response, commitment, and action (Bernard, Message of Romans, 2010). Abraham responded yielded to God’s command without objection or hesitation. One does not read of Abraham negotiating otherwise with the Lord, rather Scripture tells he rose early the following morning to take the three-day journey to Moriah. He showed commitment by ascending the mountain with Isaac carrying wood, fire, and knife. Abraham’s action of declaration to his son Isaac that God will provide a lamb for a burnt offering displayed steadfast faith (22:7). 

By Abraham’s obedience to heed the Lord’s command, Jehovah supplied a ram to sacrifice instead of Isaac to insure the future seed for provisions of the messianic promise “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen 22:13, 18; Heb 11:17). Because of Abraham’s obedience, God would fulfill the everlasting covenant through the sacrificial Lamb of God (Gen 17:7; John 1:29). Abraham’s obedience by faith provided not only for him in the immediate context, but also to generations to come. As the father of those who walk in the righteousness of faith, Abraham exemplifies provisions coming from God’s grace (Rom 4:1-16).

Provision 2: Worship Through Sacrifice (vv. 5-10)

In the Old Testament, the Israelites considered rendering sacrificial offerings as a means to worship their God (Kurtz, 2004). A true sacrifice for worship must be what God wants and by faith. The Lord respected Abel’s offering of the firstborn of his flock by faith because he followed5 according the instructions; however, God rejected Cain’s of the fruit from the ground since he gave what he desired (Gen 4:3-5). One presented acceptable worship and the other unacceptable. 

The first mention of worship in connection with worship occurred with Abraham (Gen 22:4), back dropping the essence of Jehovah-jireh in covenant. Abraham presented a blood sacrifice of his own son acting out his faith and obedience. God stated the test in emotional descriptors depicting Isaac as if to emphasize the gravity and magnitude of the command: “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest” (22:2a). Worship requires complete reliance on God when releasing sacrifice in worship. On the third day of their journey, Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place yonder of which the Lord would tell him. He went up yonder with Isaac who carried his own wood of the burnt offering for sacrifice. Abraham then drew near to Yahweh’s presence standing on the everlasting covenant between God, himself, and his seed through worship. When Abraham bound Isaac covenant on the firewood and raised the sacrificial knife, the father of many nations demonstrated the full reliance and uncompromising trust in relationship Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, to whom he relinquished his son, the heir to the covenantal promise.  

Worship gives God glory, fueled by faith. Generations gain understanding of God’s desire for true sacrificial worship in Abraham offering Isaac; and at the same time, see Abraham “against hope believed in hope in an unchanging God (Rom 4:18a). Abraham “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able to perform” (4:20-21). God honors true sacrifice in worship with His provisions.

Provision 3: God’s Presence During Trials (vv. 11-13)

             Just as Abraham readied to slay his beloved son Issac with hand outstretched (22:10, a voice from heaven identified as the angel of the Lord called out to Abraham:

Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.12And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me (Gen 22:11b-12).

The angel of the Lord commanded Abraham to release Isaac, render another sacrifice, and promised his descendants will be “numerous as the stars of heaven” (22:22b). Biblical interpreters vary as to whether the angel of the Lord juxtaposed as Yahweh with the two names interchangeable or the term exclusively refers to the angel of the Lord as His messenger. Internal) textual evidence of the Gen 22:11-12 (cf. 15-18) narrative suggests the former. The speaker called Abraham by name with divine authority in the first person. He ordered two commands and made a promise to Abraham. Most notably, the angel of Yahweh talked to Abraham as the Lord Himself (22:12, 17-18). The manner and content in which He spoke suggests a theophany, a manifestation of God. 

Consequently, God did not leave Abraham during the testing, rather walked alongside him and then honored his yielding to Him. As a result, the covenant-keeping God not only supplied a substitutionary blood sacrifice with a ram in the bush, but also reiterated the regeneration of the Abramaic lineage through the fulfillment of the Seed Messiah. In the midst of a dark trial, Yahweh confirmed the promised Light—the sacrificial Lamb who would redeem Israel. 

Provision 4: Redemption Through a Seed Messiah (vv. 16-18)

Abraham’s story teaches that God’s blessings come by faith, not works. Faith saved Abraham. Without faith, Abraham would not have realized the promised seed. 

Three Redemptive Roles of Jehovah-jireh

Jesus is Jehovah Jireh, the place called yonder, for “On the mountain of the Lord it will be seen and provided” (Gen 22:14b AMP). Some archeological evidence suggests Golgotha as one of the hills on Mt. Moriah. God clothed in flesh sacrificed His only Begotten Son as the sacrificial sin offering for humankind on the hill of Golgotha at Calvary. Thus, this same name Jehovah-jireh embodies God incarnated in Jesus to complete the fullness of this title with three redemptive roles fulfilled as the son of Abraham, Saving-Seed Messiah (Matt 1:1; Luke 19:9; John 8:58; Rom 9-11; Gal 3:16; Heb 11:8); Only Begotten Son, Word made flesh; and Son of God, Servant Son.

Jehovah-Jireh: Son of Abraham, Saving-Seed Messiah

Jesus fulfilled Yahweh’s child of promise, as the ultimate substitutionary sacrifice who would atone for the sins of humanity. Jehovah-jireh, revealed Himself as the Saving Seed to both Jews and Gentiles, found in the Son of Abraham in the Matthean genealogy (Matt 1:1). The evangelist Matthew showed Abraham’s seed as the Lord God of Israel in flesh (Cox, Reader, p. 13; Matt 1:22-23). 

Abraham fathered Ishmael by Hagar a slave women, and Isaac through Sarah a free woman. Isaac exclusively holds the claim of Abraham’s son of promise and legal heir. Therefore, Isaac typed Jesus, who fulfilled the Saving Seed called the Messiah (Matt 1:16). God required only Abraham and Isaac to go up to the place called yonder where they would receive the provision, which the Lord revealed as Jehovahjireh. Jesus descended 42 generations after Abraham (Matt 1: 1-13) through Isaac the son of promise to fulfill the ultimate provision with the sin sacrifice as the Son of Abraham and Saving-Seed Messiah. Therefore, Jesus is the place called Yonder, the Jehovah-jireh. In Jesus’ First Coming He established the messianic promise “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” for the Lord’s provision of a substitutionary sacrifice.

Jehovah-Jireh: Only Begotten Son, Word Made Flesh

In the messianic genealogies in the gospels, both Luke and Matthew in their infancy narratives explain the Lord God of Israel in flesh, beget through Jesus’ Sonship as the Son of God. When the Spirit came upon the virgin, the power of the Most High overshadowed her and conceived the begotten Son uniting flesh with divinity in the incarnate Jesus who would “save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:18, 20-21; Luke 1:35). 

The only son offering (Isaac) in the Genesis narrative (22:2) typed a greater Son (Jesus) offering profiled in the Gospel of John prologue (1:14, 18; 3:16) the Only Begotten Son, the Word made flesh. The Begotten Son fulfilled “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” or God will provide a Lamb for Himself (22:8a; Bernard, 2014). God made flesh in Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb (John 1:29). John in his Gospel supported the manifestation of divinity in humanity in the begotten Son as well: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14; cf. 1:18). This divine procreation in Mary’s womb begetting the Son of God provides a continual redemption for humanity, completed in Jesus’ second coming (cf. Isa 7:14). Through the Word made flesh humanity received their provision, Jehovah-jireh.

In another Gospel exposition, the Book of Matthew, God publically announced Jesus as His beloved Son with His anointing symbolically represented with the descent of the dove upon Jesus (Matt 3:17). The Holy Spirit did not baptize Jesus for the beloved Son already had the fullness of God in Him at conception. 

Jehovah Jireh: Son of God, Servant Son

Mark’s Gospel also reveals this same Saving-Seed Messiah and Word Made Flesh through God’s manifestation in Jesus as the Servant Son (1:1-11). He would serve humanity by sacrificing Himself on the Cross as a sin offering.

God incarnated Himself in Jesus as the Son of God assuming the likeness of humanity but without sin when the Spirit came upon the virgin. In sonship, Jehovah-jireh assumes the role of Jesus as the Servant Lord manifested in the form and nature of a bondservant, a slave–Jesus the Servant Son (Luke, 1:35; Phil 2:6-8).  This sinless Son of Man, the Servant Son, gave His life as the substitutionary sin sacrifice on the Cross to serve humanity as a sin offering.

“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:27- 28). The evangelist Matthew speaks of a servant in this verse meaning bondservant (Grk: doulos; cf. Phil 2:7a). As the Servant Son, a bondservant, Jesus gave up His self-interests and will in His humanity to advance God’s mission as a slave. By definition, a bondservant approaches enslavement with joy, devotion, obedience, yielding, and sacrifice (Paron, 2013). “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all’” (Mark 9:35). He served all of humankind fulfilling the Saving-Seed Messiah from the lineage of Abraham as Jehovah Jireh, the Son of God and Servant Son.

References

Bernard, D. Message of Romans. (1982). Word Aflame Press.

Bullinger, E. W. (2014). Divine names and title. Open Bible Trust.

Conner, K. J. and Malmin, K. (1983). Interpreting the Scriptures: A textbook on how to interpret the Bible. Bible Publishing. 

Deffinbaugh, B. (2004, May 28). The story of the Seed⎯The coming of the promised messiah [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://bible.org/article/story-seed-coming-promised-messiah

Evans, C. (2012). Matthew: New Cambridge Bible commentary. Cambridge University Press. 

Humphreys, W. L. (2001). Character of God in the book of Genesis. Westminster John Knox Press.

Jukes, A. (1981). Types in the New Testament. Krefeld Publications. 

Kaiser, W. C. (1995).The Messiah in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MO: Zondervan Publishing House. 

Kurtz, J. H. (2004). The sacrificial worship of the Old Testament. Edinburgh, GB: T & T Clark. 

Liesch, B. (1988). People in the presence of God: Models and directions for worship. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 

Reeves, K. V. (1962). The Godhead, book 1. St. Louis, MO: Trio Printing Co. 

Reeves, K. V. (1984). The supreme Godhead, book 2. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.

Schultz, S. J. (2000). The Old Testament speaks: A complete survey of Old Testament history and literature (5th ed.). HarperCollins Publishers. 

White, S. L. (1999). Angel of The Lord: Messenger or euphemism? https://legacy.tyndalehouse.com/tynbul/Library/TynBull_1999_50_2_10_White_AngelofLord.pdf

Jan Paron, PhD

3.15.21

Excerpt from The Redemptive Names of Jehovah

See also The Doctrine of Immutability and God’s Immutable Purpose: The Revealed Redemptive Jehovah Titles in the Incarnate Jesus


[1] The four redemptive provisions include (1) blessings from one’s faithful response to testing (22:1-2; 16-18), (2) opportunity to worship through sacrifice (vv. 5-10), (3) God’s presence during tests (vv. 11-13), and (4) promise of redemption through a Seed Messiah (vv. 16-18).

[2]The redemptive roles uncover Jehovah-Jireh: Son of Abraham, Saving-Seed Messiah; Only Begotten Son, Word Made Flesh; and Son of God, Servant Son.

Theology of Unity

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New Covenant Unity: Exegesis and Theology

“God promised to build David a house (2 Sam. 13-14; cf Act 15:16-17). This house is not the ancient family of David, but the house of God made up of the people of God from all nations and time, a people born of the water and Spirit of God” (Cox, 2012, From Calling to Covenant: The Story of David). Just as Jewish scribes carefully examined jots and tittles joined with Hebrew consonants for detailed meaning throughout ancient text; metaphorically, so too must one turn to these same in Scripture to understand unity in Christ with respect to fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in the New Testament with the house of the living God, the Church of Jesus Christ, comprised of the called from all tribes and nations. To determine critical biblical exegesis, this essay utilizes the hermeneutical triad method, examining New Testament unity in the context of history-culture, literature and theology in harmony with Scripture.

unity3

Background

Historical Setting

John 17 contains Jesus’ fourth and parting prayer that closes the Johannine Farewell Discourse (Köstenberger, 2007). It occurred during Passion Week, as Jesus sat with His disciples at a meal [1] immediately before His arrest (Matt. 26:17-29). Jesus prays that the “hour is come” (v. 1, cf Matt 26:18; John 7:30; 12:23 and 13:1). He was about to complete His mission. Now, at the threshold of the cross, Jesus submits “as a man to the plan of God through the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension” (Bernard, 1994, p. 113;  cf. Isa. 55:10-11; John 13:1, 3).  It is a mark of transition from His earthly ministry to completion and triumph over the world. Glory is one of the central themes of the Book of John. One sees that His glory fulfills the past and provides a trajectory of future eternal life for those who believe in Him in generations to come (v. 20).

Cultural Background Issues

The Jewish people believed that the “Gentile nations hated them because they were chosen and sent by God and suffered on his account” (Keener, 1993, 302). On the other hand, the Jews resented Jesus grouping most of them with the world. This created great opposition among Jews towards Jesus (cf. John 15:18-19). The author explains that God ‘sanctified’ or “set apart” Israel for himself as holy, especially by giving them his commandments” (Lev 11:44-45). If God had sanctified his people, or set them apart among the nations by giving them the law, how much more are followers of Jesus set apart by his coming as the law made flesh (John 1:1-18 and John 17:17; 1993, p. 305). Unity, and thus covenant, now is extended to those beyond Israel through the glorification of Jesus at the cross. As God and Jesus are one, the disciples and future generations to come are to be one in Him.

Here’s the dilemma, though. Prior to the crucifixion, as related in John 16, the disciples could not fully comprehend what Jesus told them about things to come (John 16:18-19). When Jesus prays, He does so against this backdrop. However, the disciples’ attitude about Jesus as the Messiah changes to that of unity with Him after His ascension. In Acts 1, one reads of them being in one accord, waiting for the Holy Spirit. Further, the disciples speak and witness with boldness and authority to the crowd at Pentecost once they are filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).

Literary Background

The Book of John contains two main sections which are the Book of Signs (1:19-12:50) and the Book of Glory (13:1-20:31) wrapped in a prologue (1:1-18) and epilogue (21). John 17 is a prayer and part of the Book of Glory (Green, McKnight & Marshall, 1992). Fittingly, the two central themes of this prayer show glory and unity.

Some call this the Farewell Discourse, others the High Priestly Prayer. Both a prayer and discourse, it combines elements of each into a cohesive and powerful whole. When viewing it as the High Priestly Prayer, one sees that Jesus serves as a priestly mediator by interceding for His disciples and those to come who will believe in the disciples’ teachings (cf. Ps 110:1, 4). Jesus, the High Priest, is one “who can boldly and permanently pull back the great curtain that shuts us out from God and invite us all, as brothers and sisters, to come in, to enter into intimacy with the living God” (Long, 1994, p. 96). The Farewell Discourse runs from John 13-17. In this particular portion of the discourse, Jesus, both human and divine, has a serious conversation with the Father through prayer in His humanity.

Linguistically, a discourse is a written or verbal conversation that is serious, lengthy and topic specific (Bing, 2012).  This discourse is in the form of a prayer. It reflects a one-to-one communication between Jesus, the God-man, and the Father on the subjects of glory and unity insofar as the vision for humankind. The action of lifting up your eyes to heaven is an expression commonly used at this time to describe a formal posture for prayer; followed by addressing prayer to “Father, to open” both indicate that the passage is a prayer (Moloney,1989; v.1a). The prayer text verses are either in petitionary or self-focused forms, with one an acknowledgment. [2]

Positioned at the end of the Farewell Discourse, the prayer transitions the reader to forthcoming events. This prayer sums up John’s Gospel account focusing on the unity of believers (MacArthur Bible, p. 1618). Scholars organize this prayer into three or four parts. For the purpose of highlighting the unity of believers, this essay will use Renee Kieffer’s outline of the prayer’s contents: (1) Jesus asked the Father to be glorified (vv. 1-5); (2) Jesus prays for the disciples – chosen, (vv. 6-11a) protected (vv. 11b-16) and sanctified (vv. 17-19); (3) Jesus prays for unity of all believers (vv. 20-23) and (4) Jesus prays for the disciples love (vv.24-26; Oxford Bible Dictionary, 2001).

Jesus anchors His prayer to the setting of 13:1-4. Physically, Jesus still sits at the table with His disciples. Yet, He prays undisturbed, making known publically that His hour has come and He is no longer of the world. Throughout He petitions, discourses and intercedes. Moloney believed this prayer is both a unified literary structure and theological argument (2009).

Consider for a moment the broader purpose and audience for this prayer. While Jesus prays for His disciples, and does so in their presence, the long-term implication is that He addresses unity of the yet formed Christian community of the future (vv. 20-23). In doing so, Jesus lays foundational direction for a unified, greater body of subsequent believers from all tribes and nations. Unity embeds itself within references to oneness for the body of believers found in John 17:20-23: 

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. 

Jesus, as a man praying for men, yet at the same time “The AM” (ego eime) come in flesh (13:19; 18:4-5), petitions for oneness four times within this passage (vv.21-23): (1) “That they all may be one” (v. 21a); (2) “that they also may be one in us:” (v. 21b); (3) “that they may be one, even as we are one” (v. 22) and (4) “that they may be made perfect in one;” (v. 23).  

One (G1520, transliterated as hā’s from the Greek εἷς) is a cardinal number, in nominative masculine form. While a number, it connotes different meanings such as one in contrast to many, single to the exclusion to others, one alone, one and the same, union and concord, a certain one, every one and first (Vine’s in Blue Letter Bible, 2012). Since the meaning depends on factors like context within the actual verse, cross reference with other verses and parallel structures, decidedly, one must look at each occurrence of one in John 17:21-23.

Do note that each of the verses in John 17:21-23 begins with the word that, signifying a prayer of petition. Further, the conjunction that, or ἵνα in Greek (transliterated as hina), indicates a subjunctive clause will follow. In a general sense the conjunction ἵνα means “that or in order that” (Dana & Matey, 1955). Further, according to Dana and Matey, when the ἵνα is final, as is in these passages, it translates to “in order that.”  Accordingly, a verb constructed in present subjunctive tense “signals continuous action and a statement of purpose” (Mounce, 1987, p. 187). Each one of the statements referencing oneness in John 21-23 is in hina, subjunctive clause construction. It would appear that these clauses highlight a statement of result that predicates on an issue, need or subject from the preceding sentence.

“That they may be one” (v. 21a).  The hina clause, “that they may be one” (v. 21a) connects to the preceding subjects, “for these alone” and “them also which shall believe on me through their word” (v. 20). Jesus prays for a union of people from the disciples to generations to come (allusion. Deut 29:14-15), consisting of “one fold and one shepherd” (cf John 10:16; 11:51-52; 56:8; Isa. 42:6b), with the result of being joined in “unity of purpose and knowledge through Jesus” (cf John 10:30; Miller, 2011). Beale and Carson parallel Jesus’ concern for unity to “fraternal love and harmony in Jewish testamentary literature” (2007, p.499).

“That they also may be one in us” (v. 21b).  With this hina clause the subjects are the same, “for these alone” and “them also which shall believe on me through their word” (v. 20). This time, Jesus prays for the result “That they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (v. 21b). He petitions that the disciples, as well as those to come abide in the one Shepherd, as one fold to bear unified witness to the identity of Jesus as the Sent One (John 17:5, 24; Zech 2:9).

“That they may be one, even as we are one” (v. 22b). In this hina clause, one sees a need in the preceding sentence that is “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them;” (v. 22a). It results in “that they may be one, even as we are one” (v.22b) Apostle Paul picks this same up referring to unveiled faces, transformed into His likeness that reflect the Lord’s glory (2 Cor 3:18). Of importance is group solidarity. Jesus asks that they be kept together as one fold, just as he did with the disciples (cf 17:11). Bruce Malina (2009) likened this solidarity to group glue founded on love (in Neyrey, Gospel of John in Cultural and Rhetorical Perspective, p. 469). Just as Jesus “loved his own who were in the world, he loved them perfectly” (13:1). Facing His own departure He gave a new command that “you love one another’ even as I have love you, that you also love one another” (13:34).  Solidarity in maintained when one loves (ἀγαπάω) one another. Love is the glue of solidarity that solidifies relationship.

“That they may be made perfect in one” (v.23b).“The sentence prior to the hina clause shows need: “I in them, and thou in me (v. 23a), so that “they may be made perfect in one” (v.23b). When the fold remains unified, all the while abiding in Christ and Him dwelling within them, He matures them as one and makes them complete His fullness.

Theological Message

One sees the historical, cultural, and literary background of the High-Priestly prayer. Jesus faced great opposition. Strife and conflict among Jews prevailed over the message of the forthcoming Messiah. Even Jesus’ own disciples did not grasp the full implications of His discourse and revealed identity in John 13-16. Consider for a moment the broader purpose and audience for this prayer. While Jesus prays for His disciples, He not only prays that they remain one, but addresses future unity of the yet formed Christian community (vv. 20-23).

This prayer serves the purpose of providing direction for a unified, body of believers from all tribes and nations – The Church of Jesus Christ. An analysis of the result statements (hina clauses) for oneness shows four major premises for unity of the Church in the areas of purpose and knowledge, bearing witness, reflecting His glory and perfecting as one in Him:

  1. That believers may be joined together as “one fold and one shepherd” with “unity of purpose and knowledge through Jesus” (cf John 10:30; 17:21a; Miller, 2011).
  2. That believers abide in the one Shepherd and as one fold to bear unified witness in unity to the identity of Jesus as the Sent One (John 17:21b).
  3. That they may be kept in solidarity as one fold, transformed into His likeness to reflect the His glory (John 17:22; 2 Cor 3:18).
  4. That they may be made complete and full as one, collectively abiding in Christ and Him dwelling within every believer (John 17:23).

Taking into consideration the central theme of unity found in the Book of John and four premises that direct unity in John 17:20-23, one can formulate a theology that informs practice for the local church. With this in mind, the M.O.S.A.I.C. framework for a heterogeneous church was created as a tool to bring to life a user-friendly unity (Paron, 2012). The framework aligns itself to the unity Jesus prayed for in His Church during the High Priestly prayer that would bring His church into oneness. This framework references six scriptural-based elements that support unity of the body [4].

“M” Intentional Ministry to the Multitudes

“Intentional steps to direct the salvation message to different people groups representing God’s elect” (Paron, 2012, Framework PPT) In order to join the called from every tribe and nation into one fold with one Shepherd, one must take intentional steps in ministry to support “unity through opportunities for reconciliation, invitation across cultures, diverse ministry team, brotherhood, cross-cultural relationships, spiritual growth measures, community and culture needs” (Paron, 2012, Framework).

Jesus freely offered the salvation message to the marginalized of society. He broke “down the middle wall of partition between us; by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace”(Eph 2:14-15 KJV). These were intentional acts on His part. Several examples can be found of Him reaching out to the multitudes, and in the process, He tore down the wall that separated people from the salvation message.  You see example of His reach to the multitudes: Jesus evangelized to the Samaritan woman at the well and dwelled with her town people (John 4); ate with sinners and tax collectors, i.e., Levi the publican (Luke 5:29); healed a man with dropsy (14:2); forgave a criminal while He was on the Cross (23:43). After His ascension, Jesus sent power, “after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” to be witnesses “to the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8) The infilling of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2:38; cf 2:4; 10:46; 19:6) during New Birth, enables believers to show the aspects of forbearance and love from the fruit of the Spirit (Eph 4:2-3) to each other that brings about unity of the multitudes.

“O” Views Others with Openness

 “Invite and embrace the diversity of God’s chosen by extending the love of Christ to people within and outside your community” (Paron, 2012).  One shows openness by “willingly learning and seeking to understand different cultures for the cause of the Gospel; viewing without judgment; honoring all people and showing that each have equal status in the Kingdom; exhibiting cross-cultural servitude; practicing hospitality in the context of another person’s culture;showing love, compassion, care and person hood, connection to brotherhood within community and valuing the diversity of the one human family who God created in His image” (Paron, 2012). As such, you respect other people’s culture and consider their viewpoint as influenced by cultural background.

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the disciples did not join seamlessly together as a group. They showed sometimes jealously and conflict or judged those within and outside their own circle. Jesus stressed solidarity. One example can be shown in Christ’s ministry that demonstrates His unconditional and unwavering love for His disciples, even under conditions of duress. For “Christ loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 1:1). Even before the feast of the Passover, Jesus knew His time had come (13:1). The disciples and Jesus finished their supper (13:2), the devil “put into the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray” Jesus (13.2) and Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands…” (13:3). Yet, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, including those of Judas. In ancient times, foot washing was deemed a task for slaves. Jesus performed this act, showing the love of a servant’s heart. He did not breach His love, showing the same for each. He also modeled that they should wash each other’s feet in this save type of servitude (John 13:14-16).

“S” Adapt the Method, Keeping the MeSSage

Be open and flexible with people from different backgrounds; while at the same time, have a willingness to examine and change existing perceptions them. In order to adapt to different cultures to bring about unity you have to contextualize the message, yet sift through and practices that do not align with Scripture. You “realize that people perceive communication and interaction differently; adapt ministry to include people, change practices to adapt to different cultures and avoids practices that promote colonialism” to support unity as a body of believers. The goal is to unite the body in Christ and as He within the body to be “made perfect in one” (John 17:23). It is through the process of adaptation that you open doors to reconciliation. If you look again at the foot washing, Peter twice protested to Jesus about it. The second time that Jesus responded to Peter, the answer was stronger and clearer. Jesus had to change the message’s content so Peter could understand that he needed to be washed in a spiritual way and perfected in Christ.

“A” Focuses on the Call to the All

Christ’s vision stretched forward to them who would believe in Him through the disciples’ word, “that they all may be one” (John 17:20.) This means that as a leader, you have the responsibility to carry forward Jesus’ vision and minister to the all of society. You must be in unity with His vision for humankind. The Blue Letter Bible defines all in Matt 28:19, as “each, every, all, the whole, all things, and everything” (2012). As leader then must support impartiality and inclusivity in all aspects of ministry, as well as show actions of acceptance through inclusion and hold attitudes that are impartial or unbiased towards others. Above all, this requires that a leader not move, yield or waver in the call — Endure and stand in calling through Christ.  Other actions associated with the call to the all are to

bring together a diverse congregation; nurture a faith community that supports transformation for all people; negotiate cultural boundaries; create a culture for discipleship to develop leaders across cultures and generations  in an indigenous context; model actions of a peacemaker; prays unity for and with  leaders, believers, and those to come (Paron, 2012).

In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. Jesus stayed true to this mission, despite great opposition. Likewise, Jesus commanded His disciples to, “Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:20).

The Apostle Paul took up this charge and kept his focus as missionary to the Gentiles. Paul did not stray from his purpose despite being shipwrecked, bitten by a snake, beaten, verbally assaulted, run out of town, imprisoned and beheaded. After his conversion, he took missionary journeys, planted churches, wrote letters, disciple leaders and supported established churches. He said, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” (1 Cor 9:24). When believers keep to this call across culture, shoulder-to-shoulder as one fold, they to bear witness in unity to the identity of Jesus as the Sent One (John 17:21b).

“I” Shows Inclusion and Impartiality

This type of unity supports actions of acceptance through inclusion and impartiality towards others (Paron, 2012).  This means that there is no room for racial superiority, inaccessibility or partiality. You must  “incorporate methods/activities that give access, invite and welcome a broad base of people groups across cultures; model impartiality and inclusivity across cultures; celebrate and encourage the presence of a variety of people in all activities and recognize differences as diversity rather than inappropriate responses” (Paron, 2012).

 Luke 7:36-49 compares exclusionary and inclusionary attitudes and practices. On one hand is the exclusionary practice of the Pharisee who was concerned about the “woman of the city who was a sinner,” weeping as she wiped, kissed and anointed Jesus feed with ointment (7:37-28). On the other from an inclusive perspective, Jesus commended the woman for her faithfulness and forgave her sins (7:44-48). As a result of the latter, the woman joined the “one fold and one shepherd” (John 10:30).

“C” Uses Value Communication

Communication connects people from different cultural backgrounds to the Gospel message by serving as a bridge.Apostle Peter says to “be of one mind, having compassion on one of another, love as a brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that year are called, that we should inherit a blessing” Cross-cultural communication comes into play to launch and maintain unity. This is not a one-style or one-way type of communication. You

value deep listening with others, seeking to hear the said and unsaid; receptively listen with patience and respect; realize your one’s own expectations and learned experiences serve as a filter to understanding; aim to understand and emphasize with others regardless of denomination, race, ethnicity, socio economics, gender or age, etc.; affirm when communicating and value deep listening with others, seeking to hear the said and unsaid (Paron, 2012).

The apostles used affirming language that showed the love of Christ. For example, Apostle Paul gave Timothy a holy greeting with, “Grace, mercy and peace” (1 Tim 1:2) and the Roman saints, as Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 1: 7). He spoke life into the saints at Ephesus by telling of their identity in Christ (Eph 1, 2). Whether Jew or Gentile, Paul affirmed their identity in Christ, thus, keeping everyone equally valued.

The premises stand the test of time, reminding believers of true unity. The hallmark is to view unity as one whole that leads to “one fold and one shepherd” (John 10:16). Ephesians 4:3-45states, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Simply stated, one is one: one times one equals one and one divided by one still equals one. Believers must unite as one, across all cultural boundaries to fulfill Christ’s petition for His people.

Reprint and Updated, (All Rights Reserved, 2021)

Jan Paron, PhD

3.12.21 (2nd revision)

References

  • Arbuckle, G. (2010). Culture, inculturation and theologians: A postmodern critique. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.
  • Barton, J. & Muddiman, J. (2001). The Oxford Bible dictionary. New York: NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Beale, G. & Carson, D. (eds). (2007). Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
  • Bernard, D. (1994). The oneness view of Jesus Christ. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.
  • Bing. “Discourse” Retrieved on May 6, 2012, from http://www.bing.com/Dictionary/search q=define+discourse&qpvt=What+is+a+discourse&FORM=DTPDIA
  • Campolo, T. & Battle, M. (2005) The church enslaved: A spirituality of racial reconciliation. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Press (loc. 146)
  • Census.gov. (2011). The White population 2010: The census brief. Retrieved on February 22, 2012, from http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-05.pdf
  • Chambers, D. (2012). Oasis church: Our story. Retrieved March 18, 2012, from  http://www.oasischurch.tv/about/our-story/http://www.oasischurch.tv/about/our-story/
  • Dana, H. & Mantey, J. (1955). A manual grammar of the Greek New Testament. Toronto, ON: MacMillan Company.
  • DeYmaz, M. (2007) Building a healthy multi-ethnic church. San Franciscio, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Dictionary.com. (2012). Ethinicity. Retrieved on February 2, 2012, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ethnicity
  • Dictionary.com. (2012). Race. Retrieved on February 2, 2012, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/race
  • Evans, T. (2011). Oneness embraced through the eyes of Tony Evans. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
  • Fleming, D. (2005). Contextualization in the New Testament: Patterns for theology and mission. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  • Foley-Garces, K. (2007). Crossing the ethnic divide: The multiethnic church on a mission. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Green, J., McKnight, S. & Marshall, H. (eds). (1984). Dictionary: Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.
  • Green, J. (1985). The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew Greek English: New Testament. Vol. IV. Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers.
  • Han, N. (1971). A parsing guide to the Greek New Testament. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press.
  • Hiebert, P. (1985). Anthropological insights for missionaries. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
  • Howell, & Paris. J. (2011). Introducing cultural anthropological. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
  • Keener, C. (1993).The Bible background commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.
  • King, M. (1962). The case for tokenism.
  • Köstenberger, A. (2004). John: Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
  • Köstenberger, A. (2011). An invitation to biblical interpretation: Exploring the hermeneutical triad of history, literature and theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
  • Köstenberger, A. (1999). Encountering John: The Gospel in historical, literary and theological perspectives. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
  • Köstenberger, A. (2009). A theology of John’s Gospels and letters: A biblical theology of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Kruse, C. (2003). John: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  • Long, V. (1994). The art of biblical narrative. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Mathews, K. & Park, M. (2011). The post-racial church: A biblical framework for multiethnic reconciliation. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic.
  • Metzger, P. (2010). The Gospel of John: When love comes to town. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.
  • Miller, C. (2011). John: Immersion Bible studies. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
  • Moloney, F. (1989). Sacra pagina: The Gospel of John. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.
  • Mounce, W. (2003). Greek for the rest of us. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 
  • Neyrey, J. (2007). The Gospel of John. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  • Neyrey, J. (2009). The Gospel of John in cultural and rhetorical perspective. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.
  • Norris, D. (2009). I am: A oneness Pentecostal theology. Hazelwood, MO: WAP Academic.
  • Manuel Ortiz. (1996). One new people: Models for developing a multiethnic church, 149. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity.
  • Paron, J. (2012).The Call to the All: Inclusivity and Impartiality in Ministry, Part I: PerSpectives12. Retrieved February 19, 2012, from https://specs12.wordpress.com/
  • 2012/01/21/ the-call-to-the-all-inclusivity-and-impartiality-in-ministry-part-i/
  • Paron, J. (2012). What’s So Amazing About Grace: Including the Excluded. Retrieved February 19, 2012, from https://specs12.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/whats-so-amazing-about-grace-including-the-excluded/
  • Paron, J. (2012). PerSpectives 12 training: Mosaic level 1. Palos Park, IL.
  • Paron, J. (2012). Mosaic framework: PerSpectives 12 training power point. Palos Park, IL>
  • Pfeiffer, C., Vos, H., & Rea, J. (eds). (2005). Wycliffe Bible dictionary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.
  • Robins, N, Lindsey, R., Lindsey, D & Terrell, R. (2002) Culturally proficient instruction: A guide for people who teach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.
  • Schultz, S. (2000). The Old Testament speaks: A complete survey of Old Testament history and literature, 5th edition. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
  • Seagraves, D. (2008). Reading between the lines: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.Schwager, D. (2008). The parables of Jesus. Retrieved on October 25, 2011, from http://www.rc.net/wcc/parable1.htm
  • Schwager, D. (2008). The parables of Jesus. Retrieved on October 25, 2011, from http://www.rc.net/wcc/parable1.htm
  • Thompson, F. (ed). (2007). Thompson chain-reference Bible: Special centennial edition. Indianapolis, IN: B.B. Kirkbride Bible Co., Inc.
  • Vine, W. E. (1940). “One,” Vine’s expository dictionary of New Testament Words. Blue Letter Bible. 1940. Retrieved on May 5, 2012 from http://www.blueletterbible.org/Search/
    Dictionary/viewTopic.cfm?type=GetTopic&Topic=One&DictList=9#Vine’s
  • Woo, R. (2009). The color of church. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishers.
  • Yancey, G. (2003). One body, one spirit: Principles of a successful multiracial church. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Endnotes

  1. Each of the synoptic account, indicates that the Last Supper took place “on the night in which he was betrayed” (1 Cor 11:23). Diverse opinions exist, though, whether the meal was part of the Passover. For a detailed account of the Last Supper, I suggest reading M.O.Wise’s commentary on the Last Supper in The dictionary of Jesus and the Gospel.
  2. Malina’s taxonomy of prayer show two basic forms of prayer in John 17: Petitionary and self-focused. Verses 17:2, 5, 9,11,15,17, 20,21and 24 are petionary, while 6, 6-8, 9, 10, 12, 13-14, 16, 18-19, 20-21. 22-23 and 25-26 are self focused. One verse is acknowledgement (v. 3).
  3. Jesus, as a man praying for men, yet at the same time the AM (ego eime) come in flesh (13:19; 18:4-5), petitions for oneness four times within this passage (vv.21-23).
  4.  I created the framework as a means to guide the thought and practices of field practitioners on component of a heterogeneous, multicultural church. Various researchers, most notably Mark DeYmaz, extracted key factors for unity, but none provided a detailed account. This framework launches from John 17:20-23, utilizing the Book of John as a foundation for actions of unity. In turn, these actions cross referenced with those from the rest of the New Testament. So that users remember the key components, I attached these elements to the acronym M.O.S.A.I.C. to give a visual reminder for unity of diversity in the body of Christ. The acronym has six basic elements, with indicators to detail it further: (1) “M” intentionally ministers to the multitudes; (2) “O” views others with openness; (3) “S” adapts the method, not the meSSage; (4) “A” focuses on the call to the all; (5) “I” shows inclusion and impartiality and (f) “C” uses value communication. 

Himself Took on Our Infirmities, and Bare Our Sicknesses (Matt 8:17)

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Advent Day 17

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses (Matt 8:17).

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isa 53:4).

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In the midst of a chapter in Matthew that chronicled healing and casting out demonic oppression, Scripture reveals Jesus as the Suffering Servant—the One who carries our illnesses with all authority of the Son of God, the Incarnate God in flesh through His Spirit’s conception (Matt 8:29; Luke 1:35 ). As the Son, Jesus has the very nature and character of God. Jesus cleansed a leper with the touch of His hand (8:3), healed the centurion’s servant through the power of His word (vv. 7,13) healed Peter’s mother-in-law by the touch of His hand (v. 15), cast out the many possessed with devils by casting out spirits (v. 16), rebuked the raging sea through His own command (v. v. 28), and exorcised two demoniacs with the one-word “Go” (v. 32). Matthew wrote in 8:16 that Jesus, “cast out spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick.”

The messianic nature fulfills the words of Esaias in Isa 53:4 by Jesus taking our infirmities and bearing our diseases: “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” Took and bare together encompass the Hebrew bore from Isa 53:4 (Bullinger). The verb bore (Heb: נָשָׂא; nasa’) means to lift, lay upon, or carry (qal perfect). Conjugated in the qal, active tense perfect, it points to the actions of Jesus the Messiah.

But, what did Jesus lay upon Himself? The verb nasa’ signifies sin and the making atonement for it. Jesus the Suffering Servant, who did not come in sinful flesh, would bear all infirmities and take away the sin of humanity—diseases, griefs, and punishment of the world. He would bare sin on the Cross at Calvary so that His children would be dead to sin, but alive in righteousness (1 Pet 2:24).

Jan Paron, PhD

12.15.20
(Excerpt from Incarnational Theology of Emmanuel in the Book of Matthew)

The Coming King: When Love Arrived (Matt 21:5)

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Advent Day 13

Say to the Daughter of Zion, See, your King comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Mat 21:5; Zech 9:9).

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Often titled Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem prior to His crucifixion, signaled a journey of life or death for the people in the crowd that surrounded Him that day. Who was in that crowd? The mix of people reflected Jews in Jerusalem for the Passover feast who came out to greet Jesus having heard He resurrected Lazarus from the dead, and those following behind Him, mainly His disciples (Matt 21:9; Mark 11:9). But also among this crowd stood the Pharisees, displeased over Jesus’ public honoring (Luke 19:39). The excitement from the crowd even caught the attention of the rest of the city.

Did the crowd recognize that Love had arrived as the King who came riding in a donkey? This very King, God manifested in flesh as Jesus, traveled the road to the Cross for the greatest and ultimate display of love—The Messiah who would redeem humanity at the Cross as their Conqueror over sins. What greater love than this! Let’s reflect on how those present may have responded to Jesus’ query to His disciples in Luke 9:18: “Who do the crowds say that I am?” —The pilgrims at the Feast, Jesus’ disciples, the Pharisees, and the city inhabitants.
For the multitudes of Jews who went to meet Jesus on the road he traveled into Jerusalem, the pilgrims at the Feast, their spreading of palm branches before Him may have signified recognition of their awaited messiah who would liberate them in victory from Roman occupation. They looked at the raising of Lazarus as a sign. Perhaps, in affirmation of Jesus as their political and national King of Israel they shouted “ Hosanna! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (Mark 11: 9-10).

In Hebrew, Hosanna means “save indeed.” However, during the time of Jesus, it had evolved into a greeting that expressed a wish rather than a fact. Also, Jews greeted pilgrims arriving into Jerusalem with “Blessed in the Lord’s name be he who comes, Even the king of Israel.” Thus, did those who went to meet Jesus affirm Him as their Messiah or acclaim Him as a special dignitary entering the city?

For His disciples that had been with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness. Luke 19:28 describes them rejoicing and praising God for all the mighty works they had seen. However, they did not understand the recognition until Jesus’ glorification. John 12:16 explained “they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him.”

For the Pharisees viewing the procession, it further demonstrated their contempt toward Him and possibly envy, when murmured to one another, “You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him.” (John 12:16-19 RSV). Some of the Pharisees from the crowd even asked Jesus to control His disciples (Luke 19:39).

For those in the city they suspiciously asked, “Who is this?” Instead of shouting “Hosanna.” The crowd informed them, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee” (Matt 21:11). In reality, Jesus rode into Jerusalem as the Suffering Servant, the Love who had arrived in Jerusalem. He later experienced extreme physical and emotional pain to accomplish His mission of atoning love in His glorification at the Cross.

Despite the crowd laying palm branches and shouting Hosanna, the entry into Jerusalem did not bring Jesus joy. Luke 19:41 described Him weeping over Jerusalem as He beheld it. He lamented their fate of forfeiting the peace that belonged to them. In John 12:37, Scripture highlighted the Jews unbelief. Despite Jesus’ numerous signs, they believed not in Him.

Those who acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, walk the pathway of life that led to His victory over sin at His crucifixion. In Col 2:15, Paul wrote that Jesus triumphed over principalities and authorities. As the Conqueror, He defeated sin. His death brings eternal life. Christ proved His immense love by dying for us.

Jan Paron, PhD
12-11-20

(Excerpt from the Theology of Emmanuel in the Book of Matthew)

Seeking the Star of Jacob: Where Can God Be Found (Unabridged Sermon)

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Advent Day 12

2Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 3Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him (Matt 2:1-2).

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With the constant broadcast of bad news, the media inundates the public with a daily narrative of despair and bleakness to create the sense of a dark, dark winter ahead due to the pandemic effect. I imagine some may have cried out in discouragement: God, where are you? Where can God be found? But, I’m here to tell you today–based on the story of the magi in Matt 2 as its backdrop–of a long-lasting truth from an everlasting Savior in this advent season–one of hope…one of love…one of joy…and one of peace, 

Where can God be found? God made Himself known to man in the Son of God as deity incarnated in humanity as Jesus or Emmanuel, God with us–The agency of God’s Spirit conceived Jesus in the expectant Mary, a child born in humanity and Son in divinity (Isa 9:6a; Matt 1:23a,b)–Emmanuel, God’s revelation of  Himself as the Light that shines in the darkness, that darkness cannot overcome (John 15:1).

Over 2,000 years ago, the Gentile magi came from the east asking the question, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? (Matt 2:2). Though a Roman title for Israel’s monarch, prophecy fulfilled a much greater role in Jesus as King of the Jews–the King who descended from the Davidic line having a God identity. The Matthean infancy narrative in 1:22-23 first explained Jesus’ kingly nature as God with Us who “will save His people from their sins.” Reading on from the infancy narrative in this same book, the author portrayed Jesus as the King of the Jews. This echoes Num 24:17 as the Star out of Jacob as well as Isaiah 60:1, “arise, shine, for thy light is come.” As the book of Matthew unfolds, the author uncovers a full portrait of Jesus as the Servant-King.

Where can God be found? The magi located God in flesh, Emmanuel, in the village of Bethlehem, the city of David in Judah. They honored Him as a great king by worshiping or paying homage to Him. Why does the fulfillment of two prophecies from Numbers and Isaiah hold importance echoing the magi matter? Because it points to where God abodes for all men–the Light dwelling among His people accessible even to the pagan Gentiles. For “from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord (Isa 60:6b). God will remember His covenant with Israel and save them, but also will give salvation to the Gentiles (Rom 11:27). 

Where can God be found? We need not look far to find Emmanuel, God with us. Through the sealing of His Spirit we find Him dwelling within us in our tabernacle. Through Jesus’ Spirit we inherit His divine nature. During Advent from November 29 to December 24, we celebrate and affirm He who lives in us remembering His hope, love, peace, and joy. 

Hope 

The magi arrived in Jerusalem seeking the King of the Jews to worship Him. They made their entrance into Jesus’ early life with a trip based on hope and faith, after traveling from a distant land somewhere in the East. Quite possibly, they traveled from Parthia, off the Persian Gulf over the International Highway from Southern Iraq and Iran through Syria and finally to Jerusalem. The trip posed many risks for them. While wise men often paid tribute to kings, they journeyed over land traveling 500 miles to the Jerusalem area. If they went by camel, the trip would have taken them approximately 25-50 days at 10-20 miles per day over rough terrain. Also, they carried a valuable cargo of gold, frankincense, and myrrh equivalent to several million dollars in today’s economy. Perhaps, soldiers accompanied them as protection, which would have intimidated local leaders as they passed through various villages. The trip into Judea further carried political risk that Herod Antipitas the king  and the Romans could have viewed as an act of war. It had not been that long ago that Judea had been under Parthian control as they supported the Hasmonean Dynasty that ruled the land before Herod and the Romans took over. Between the distance, terrain, economic, and political dynamics, the trip carried many risks. 

But, notice how Scripture describes the star in Matt 2:2 as “His star,” meaning it signified “the one who has been born king of the Jews,” none other than Jesus. Matthew 1 and 2 unpack His identity in the infancy narrative giving a periscope view of Him: Jesus, called the Christ in His genealogy (Matt 1:16), meaning the Messiah, the Anointed One; Jesus, who would save His people from their sins (1:21); and God with us, Emmanuel (v. 23). He is our Hope!

The general New Testament definition from Vine’s Expository Dictionary described hope as a favorable and confident expectation. How did the magi possibly know where to find Emmanuel? God sent a supernatural star to them where He chose to reveal Himself in Emmanuel, God with us–the Hope of Salvation. They believed and acted upon the hope they saw.

Where can God be found? God with us, the Hope of our Salvation, dwells in His redeemed. God with us provides us the object upon which hope comes (1 Tim 1:1). The New Testament describes hope with three adjectives: good (2 Thess 2:16), blessed (Titus 2:13), and living (1 Pet 1:3). Hebrews adds a better hope because of the better New Covenant in Jesus. While the magi journeyed to find Him, even in the face of many risks, they followed His star as a guide. Our better Hope lives within us illuminated by the light from His star–the Holy Ghost!

Love

Interestingly, Matthew contrasted two kings of the Jews in the passage about the magi: Herod and Jesus, former self-serving and latter a servant to others. The kingship of Jesus roots itself in prophecy and will result in the salvation of His people. While Jesus loved His people so much He died for them as their King so they would live, Herod slew his Bethlehem subjects; children (two and under) so that he could live and reign as king. Love as a deliverer distinguishes Jesus as the heavenly Star and Scepter, while hate in suspicion characterized Herod as a temporary, earthly king.

The genealogy of Jesus in Matt 1, identified Him as the Messiah, the King of Israel. As King David’s descendant to the throne of Israel, Jesus fulfills the greater reign and authority of the Almighty promised in the Old Testament. In Num 24:17, Balaam prophesied the Messiah’s future comings in kingdom language as the Star out of Jacob and the Scepter that would rise out of Israel. The Star out of Jacob refers to the Son of David–the incarnation of the one true God who dwells among His people–who would redeem His people from their sin. The scepter describes His authority over kings, peoples, and nations. In Jesus second coming, He will rule with a scepter taking His rightful place with authority over worldly kingdoms (Rev 12:4; 19:15). 

The Roman senate appointed Herod, king of the Jews. He came from south of Judea in Idumea, the second son of Antipater. Herod descended from the Edomites, whose ancestors converted to Judaism. Herod was raised as a Jew, albeit in name only. He made a number of achievements including liberating Jerusalem in 38-37 BC, which also made his control over Judea complete. However, achieved his kingship through deceit, bribery, assassination, and cruelty. He did anything but liberate the Jews.

Where can God be found? Jesus died to offer eternal life by His unconditional grace that only comes through His great love for us! We must accept the love offered in absolute, perfect expression among men in the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:14; Eph 2:4; 3:19; 5:2).

Joy

For one special event in history, the God who rules the heavens chose to reveal Himself–the Lord is come, Joy to the world to those who know Him–where pagans looked (cf. Acts 19: 12, 15-20). God illuminated the pathway to Jesus with a supernatural sign, just as He led his own people by the fire and cloud in the wilderness (Exod 13:21-22).

The Magi commonly would represent the Persian king to honor a reigning king. They were sages, wise men, and astrologists often in positions of responsibility commanding respect because of their wisdom. They prophesied, explained omens, interpreted dreams, and practiced divination (Dan 2:2, 48; 4:9). God used these pagan Gentiles entering into Jerusalem to announce the birth of a king. More than likely, they came with a large caravan and caught the attention of Herod and everyone else in Jerusalem. 

A star guided the magi to the King of the Jews whom they sought. Jesus’ Spirit serves as the believer’s guide–a light in the darkness for His complete joy. Herod and the scribes knew where the Messiah would be born according to Scripture, but did not act on it in faith.

Where can God be found? Matthew 2:9-10 says that when the magi  “heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them.The magi did not have to look for the Child because the star literally stood over the place where Jesus lay. When the wise men saw the star, they rejoiced with “exceeding great joy” (2:10). Exceedingly means that joy overwhelmed the wise men. May I suggest the Magi recognized the presence of God Himself in the Christ child whom they would worship as a cause for joy. Likewise, Jesus’ star stands over us to let us know of His presence. That same star serves as a type to locate “God with us” in every believer. Jesus promises us in the book of Mathew’s close in chapter 28:20 with the words “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” Look at the star that stands over us for Emmanuel.

Peace

God alone provides our source of peace. God robed in humanity as Emmanuel reflects the full embodiment of Him. Therefore, Jesus–God with us–manifests Yahweh Shalom (Judg 6:24 ) in His fulfilled nature as the Lord is Peace. The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, means wholeness in all of life, completeness, welfare, and safety. The Lord came to sinful humankind, historically first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles, desiring to enter into a relationship with them to give them His peace. He established with them a covenant of peace, which He sealed with His presence (Num 6:24-26 ). 

Herod sought to destroy Yahweh Shalom viewing the infant Jesus as a threat to his rule. However, the pagan Magi looked for Jesus so they could worship Him. God never held the Gentiles as an afterthought in His redemptive plan, but they had been part of His work in history from the beginning.

Where can God be found? He offers redemption through His Name to all people. With redemption comes His peace. The name Yahweh Shalom represents His self-revealed character in Emmanuel– God with us–as the Lord is Peace. When we come to Him in worship, we feel the  holy presence of His perfect peace in harmony with our Savior.

Closing

The story of the Magi and the star that guided them accomplished many purposes in the infancy narrative of Jesus: it acknowledged the birth of the King–the Star of Jacob and Scepter of Israel, gave access to the Gentiles, fulfilled prophecy, and guided the Magi. It was a divine, heavenly sign God used for a historical purpose. Though news of the Star of Bethlehem signaling a new ruler troubled King Herod, it serves as a divine, heavenly reminder to believers in Christ of the Deliverer who ushered in a new Kingdom. Perhaps, God plans to send another with the Christmas Star to appear on December 21, that God with us still provides hope, love, joy, and peace.

Jan Paron, PhD

12.10.20

Preached at Lighthouse Church of All Nations (12.9.20)

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done (Matt 6:10)

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Advent Day 11

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10).

In the fullness of time, the kingdom came nigh. God incarnated Himself in Jesus as Emmanuel, the Dayspring from on high (Luke 1:78). The conception of the Holy Ghost in the virgin Mary initiated the kingdom (Matt 1:23). God with us–the appearing of the Mighty God, our Father–rules over the true kingdom on earth and heaven, as Star in the first coming and Scepter in the second (Num 24:17). Glorious like a star, the Bright and Morning Star (Rev 2:18; 22:16), Emmanuel shined His light in dark places to bring salvation (2 Pet 1:19) during His earthly ministry. He governs the kingdom with all authority to rule as a scepter fulfilling the future kingdom in which there will be no end (Isa 9:6-7; Dan 7:13-14; Luke 1:32-33; Rev 11:15).

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Jesus reigns over no ordinary kingdom, rather one messianic with all divine power in this present age and that to come. Thy kingdom come in Matt 6:10 reflects not only Emmanuel in His future second coming but also His desire for His servants to broaden kingdom purposes after His first coming during the Church Age. His servants spread His kingdom with their beatitude character qualities and actions (Matt 7:16, 20; John 13:35; 1 John 3:10).

Jan Paron, PhD

12.9.20

(Excerpt from the Incarnational Theology of Emmanuel in the Book of Matthew)