The return to the blogosphere. Sorry to have been away. The time spent with Michael Weaver (our intern from Scotland) and his family was wonderful. Mike will make a great minister: reflective, thoughtful, studious, passionate, loving God and people. Now it is back to some final thoughts on the Old Testament.
OT Part 6: God Hints about the Future
Six blogs ago I said that both the Old and New Testaments were important for us in the 21st Century. I have attempted to share in these past 6 blogs some of the highlights as to how and where I see that importance being expressed. In this blog I will complete this very short overview, it will launch us into our discussion on the New Testament.
In the midst of all the events recorded in the Old Testament: the forming of the world, the creating of a people, the establishment of a nation, the wars, the triumphs, the sins, the repentance, the forgiveness…, there are also glimpses into the future. These revelations from God are given so that anyone willing to listen will know that God is overseeing human history as it moves through the apparent craziness of this world. Just as water leaves its points of origin and travels to the ocean moving through calm spots, rapids, twists and turns, fallen trees, rock slides, drought and flood seasons, so history moves toward God’s ultimate destination.
Sometimes these revelations come through a prophetic word to the immediate circumstances of a people. Scholars call this glimpse into the future as an ‘already … not yet’ experience. What they mean in that phrase is that there is an immediate fulfillment to the word of the prophet but, the ultimate fulfillment is down the road of history. Isaiah 2:1ff is an example.
In the last days (a key word pointing to prophecy) the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; … Many people will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob … They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks…
Many believe that there was a near fulfillment to Isaiah’s prophetic word. There is an “already” fulfillment component. However, coupled with other passages of scripture we understand that the ultimate fulfillment, the “Not Yet,” will not take place until God re-enters history, defeats the forces of evil, and establishes the Kingdom of God forever.
Another way these revelations are understood is through 20/20 hindsight. We don’t know the historical situation to which David was referring when he wrote Psalm 22. What we do know is there is an eerie similarity, a fulfilling similarity to Jesus’ death on the cross. Beginning with Jesus quoting
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” to
I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cost lots for my clothing.
In a similar way Isaiah 53 points to Jesus’ death with an added message of application.
He was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.
Sometimes Old Testament revelations are couched in ‘coded language’ (apocalyptic). Such are the cases in Daniel (the visions of Nebuchadnezzar) and Ezekiel (Valley of dry bones). We also see coded language in the Gospels (Matthew 24) and John’s Revelation. The only problem with these prophetic words is that we can’t find the ‘decoder ring.’ Many people have spent countless hours attempting to piece these images and their message together so they might better understand the events of our day and where the course of history is taking us.
Sometimes these revelations have worked their way into our present Christian reality, the revelations of old have become imbedded in who we are today as in Jeremiah 31:31-34.
“The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “When I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel… I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be there God, and they will be my people…”
Of course this “New Covenant” is what Jesus addressed in the Upper Room on the night of his betrayal and the phrase Christians have repeated every time we receive the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper.
Prophetic revelation: Glimpses into the future revealed in a variety of ways. The most important glimpse given through these revelations was in their pointing to the coming of Jesus the Messiah. It is here that we now move in our brief overview of the Bible, a look into the New Testament.