Monday, October 16, 2017

Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 in tandem

From a canonical perspective, both Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 provide important hermeneutical keys for the church to understand the suffering, death, and vindication of Jesus Christ. While both Psalm 22 and Isaiah provide categories of the righteous suffering servant/king being vindicated and the nations coming into the sphere of God’s salvation (cf. Ps 22:27–28 [MT 28–29]), only Isaiah witnesses as to how an individual can become mediator and medium for God’s salvific purposes. In this sense Isaiah 53 is prophetic, not least because Isaiah 53 and the following two chapters contain powerful hyperbolic speeches that transcend Israel’s actual experience in Babylon. Thereby, the prophet’s message assumes an eschatological character that not only points to Jesus, but also beyond to its fulfillment at the consummation of time (Isa 54:11–13).—Standing in the Breach, page 322

Bury the term!

Scot McKnight has a good posting on the use of the word Evangelical. Here's the concluding paragraph, but you really should read the whole thing.
The one thing I despise about Christianity in the USA is its aligning with a political party. Mainliners have done it; they’re Democrats. Evangelicals have followed suit; they’re Republicans. Politicization is accomplished.

Let the rest of us call ourselves Christians.

<idle musing>
I dropped the term many years ago when it became evident that the pro-war people had taken it over. If asked, I will tell people the only way I can be called "Evangelical" is if you use the term to mean the 18th century Evangelicals, who were at the forefront of not just caring about souls, but caring for their physical well-being: establishing schools, orphanages, pushing for social reform, fighting slavery, etc. Those are the heroes of the faith that I can identify with, not the current pro-American, pro-war users of the term that we find today.

So, I'm with Scot, bury the term and call ourselves Christians. And may people know us by the love we have for others. What a radical thought!
<idle musing>

Friday, October 13, 2017

What happened?

Isaiah 53 does not only testify to the prophet’s suffering, but it also provides the reason as to why God restores the covenant relationship with Israel. The righteous one, somehow vicariously takes on himself the sins of Israel (Isa 53:6), intercedes for them (Isa 53:12), and thereby makes many righteous (Isa 53:11). The main thrust of chap. 53 is that of the suffering and wounded healer that gives wholeness to the many.

When we look at the immediate literary context, we can note a clear shift of tone between chaps. 52 and 54. Before Isaiah 53, the prophet still talks of the people’s guilt. The exiles are drunken with the cup of judgment and are full of Yhwh’s wrath (Isa 51:17–20). The time of divine judgment and hopelessness, however, is coming to an end. It is time to wake up and to leave the Babylonian captivity behind (Isa 51:17, 52:1). There is an expectation that Yhwh is resolved to intervene in a dramatic act of redemption.

For thus says the Lord: You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money. . . . Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. (Isa 52:3–10)
The fourth poem is followed by chap. 54, a chapter that replaces the relationship of God and His prophet with the relationship between God and Israel. There is a dramatic shift of images. Israel who was portrayed as a barren, adulterous women who was left by her husband, is now called to rejoice.—Standing in the Breach, page 319

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What is an intercessor?

Intercession according to Isaiah 53, is nothing less than the surrender of one’s own right to life in favor of God’s will. The servant accepts a ministry of nothing but contempt and misunderstanding, even to the point of dying the death of one branded as an evildoer. The servant’s ministry does not show any trace of self-seeking or self-exaltation. His intercession is a conscious surrender to God’s will and yet the servant does it out of his own free will. The servant identifies completely with the divine will.—Standing in the Breach, pages 316–17

<idle musing>
That's a strong definition! I'm not convinced that's the correct definition, but it definitely is a goal to strive for as an intercessor. But perhaps he is correct. Take a look at Paul; he' was willing to have himself condemned in order that Israel be saved.

Food for thought, anyway. I recall that there have been times in my own life when the burden of intercession has been so heavy that I've come almost to the point where Paul was. And in the most recent example I can think of, God answered that prayer. As I said, food for thought.

Just an
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Active prayer

[V]erbal intercessory prayer and intercession in the sense of vicarious suffering and death are not exclusive categories but rather they are intrinsically connected in the ministry of the servant.

We should remember that one fundamental Old Testament concept that led to the formation of the substitutionary understanding as we find it in Isaiah 53, is prophetic intercessory prayer.—Standing in the Breach, page 316

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Delaying the inevitable

In sum, Israel’s pardon, reconciliation with their covenant God, and restoration to the land are always dependent on a fundamental “turning” back to covenant obedience and Yhwh’s compassion evoked by the intercessory prayer of the mediator. The public context of Solomon’s intercession suggests that the prayer partially aims to foster an understanding of the essential nature of repentance among the Israelites. According to classic Christian theology, Jesus’ intercessory act on the cross also demands a wholehearted response in the form of repentance of sin and trusting in the faithful love of God (cf. 1 John 1:8–2:2, Acts 2:37–38). In other words, the intercessor might be able to stand in the breach for a while, prolonging Yhwh’s just punishment from being implemented, but in the long term a breached relationship requires a wholehearted turning to God and a firm commitment to the covenant relationship by the lost wanderer.—Standing in the Breach, page 285

Monday, October 09, 2017

Intercession, yes. Repentance? Essential

As we shall learn from Jeremiah, even the greatest intercessors cannot achieve divine forgiveness, if the party being prayed for remains in their sinful ways. As there is nobody who does not sin, Solomon anticipates in his prayer a future when the people need to turn consciously from their sin in order to attain divine forgiveness (cf. 1 Kgs 8:46). In other words, only if Israel turns from their evil ways and recommits to covenant obedience will Solomon’s intercession find a favorable hearing.—Standing in the Breach, page 284

Friday, October 06, 2017

Forgiveness is only the beginning…

[I]t is important to note that Solomon’s prayer is never, as Fretheim notes:
simply for God to forgive sins, but are also for God to act in other ways to reverse the effects that their sins have had on various aspects of their lives. Salvation, therefore, is understood to comprehend more than forgiveness of sin; it includes also the amelioration of the consequence of sin that have reverberated out into the larger community, including the natural order. (vv. 35–37)
Terence E. Fretheim, First and Second Kings (WBC; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1999), 50—as quoted in Standing in the Breach, page 268