Lecture 12: Messianic Promises (2)
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“God, who Sends a Savior (continued).” Traces the Messianic promise in connection with the Davidic covenant.
Course: Old Testament Theology
Lecture: Messianic Promises - Part 2
We saw some of the roots of the Davidic promise of the law. Let’s go to the issuing of the promise in the former prophets and the heart of our analysis must be 2nd Samuel 7.
The issuing of the promise in 2nd Samuel 7, 2nd Samuel is going to focus on the Davidic promise. Later on to the New Testament we will note the fact that this is not just the fulfillment of the Davidic promise, but is also the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise. This becomes pulled together for us, but say in Samuel 7 we are at ground zero for the Davidic promise.
Let’s note our context. David rules over Israel roughly 1010 years B.C. to 970 years B.C., 1010 to 970 B.C. That’s a rounded number. It’s at least accurate within 10 years, which is about what we can do at this point in Biblical history.
But, you recall that Israel has come out of the era of the judges. They came out of that era asking for a king as Moses had said would occur. Though he didn’t state exactly when, he did say they would ask for and receive a king, from Deuteronomy 17.
And as Jacob had already said in Genesis 49, there is coming a ruler. What may surprise us is the fact that the first king is not from Judah at all, but from Benjamin.
David, however, is from the tribe of Judah. So perhaps we can say, by the time he’s king, well it seems to me, well, we finally got it right, if there is going to be a king it ought to be from Judah.
So then, remember that though David was chosen king in first Samuel 16, he must suffer many humiliations and difficulties. He must go through many painful toils and snares before he gets to be king and a lot of political intrigue.
One of the best treatments and fairest, I think, and on the one hand reverent, but also, accurate, and doesn’t go into the worship of David would be John Bight’s “History of Israel.” Because Bright gratefully admits God’s work in all of this, but he also notes that David benefits politically from the activities of his friend Joab, who rules the army.
He assassinates Saul’s main army main, Abner. And that it’s not all sweetness and light in above board how David becomes king. His main rival is beheaded by some of David’s adherents. But David punishes them, has them put to death. But still David benefits from some political intrigue.
Once king, he continues what Saul had begun. And does it better, really. He defeats the Philistines and subdues the small nations around ‘em: the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Etimites. And you’ll recall that Balaam’s prophecy, in numbers 24, had said that’s what, eventually that would occur. That somebody would come from Jacob; would defeat Moab, who was primary in that oracle and the others.
So David, defeats his enemies, he centralizes Israel’s government in an unlikely place, in Jerusalem, which at that time, was not an Israelite city, right?
There is no history attached like Bethel or Dan or Beersheba, there is no Israelite history associated with Jerusalem to that point. And that may be why he did it.
It was at the edge of his tribe Judah, but there were always factions, regional factions, and fighting in Israel. Wasn’t there?
The north, which had most of the land and money, resented being ruled by people from the south. Benjamin’s southern tribe had once fought a civil war against all the others. Remember that from Judges?
And Saul’s heirs do not exactly, automatically drop their prominence and swarm to David’s side. Do they, in the rest of Samuel?
So perhaps, David believed that a new city, next to his tribe, without some of the old allegiances would be the best thing to do. But he centralized capital and he centralized the worship there by bringing the arch of the covenant, albeit, in what he says is almost a contentiously or sadly attempt.
He doesn’t believe the arch of the covenant has a fit home and he wants to build a temple. But he localizes the worship there. Not at Shiloh, not anywhere else, but in his capital, in his tribe, and his place.
Now this too, though we didn’t talk about it, this too was something Moses said would occur. He says several times in Deuteronomy the Lord will chose one place. And by the time the temple is built the Lord has said he has chosen this place, Jerusalem.
So historically, then, David is finally ascended to the throne. He has finally gotten all twelve tribes under his rule. He has subdued nations around him. He has centralized the government, centralized the worship and with a heart full of gratitude.
2nd Samuel 1, “now it came about when the King lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest on every side from his enemies. That the King said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in the house of Cesar, but the arch of God dwells within tent curtains.’ Nathan said to the King, ‘Go do all that is in your mind, the Lord is with you.’”
I’ve heard people criticize Nathan fairly severely for not praying about it. I think that’s a bit much, but the word of the Lord comes to Nathan. Doesn’t say to him, hey, why didn’t you pray about it? Just says go to my servant David and ask him, are you the one to build me a house?
Now, that’s an interesting question. But, then in verse 6, God goes on to say to David, I haven’t been miffed because you haven’t built a temple. “For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt. Even to this day, but I’ve been moving about in a tent even in a tabernacle.” So, again, God is not upset.
He does not feel put out. He does not feel cold in the winter, or overly warm in the summer. And he says, “When did I ever command people to build a temple?” So, in other words, you have not been disobedient. God affirms David’s sentiments without allowing to build a temple.
God goes on to talk about what He, God, has done for David. Verse 8, “now, therefore, say to my servant David,” servant theology becomes important in Messianic theology, “my servant David, and he says, ‘I took you from the pastor of fallen sheep to be ruler over my people, Israel, I’ve been with you were ever you have gone. I’ve cut off all your enemies. I’ll make you a great name like the names of the great men who are on the Earth.’”
That promise is similar to the one made to whom?
Male voice 2: Abraham.
Sure, to Abraham.
“I will point a place for my people, Israel. I will plant them. That they may live and not be disturbed,” He says in verse 11. That has been occurring since he commanded Judges. He has been giving them rest.
Now, verse 12, promises David, “when your days are completed, you lay down with your fathers,” promise number one, “I will raise up your seed, your [foreign word], your descendent after you. Who will come forth from you. And I will establish his kingdom.”
Promise number one. David’s direct descendant’s going to succeed him on the throne. Doesn’t sound like much until you realize Saul didn’t establish a dynasty, ‘til you read the history of Israel you see how much intrigue and murder and death and stuff goes on and in the history of human beings in general. He says, “your descendent, he will come from you, I’ll establish his kingdom.”
Second promise, verse 13, “he shall build a house for my name.” It is Solomon who will build the temple. At this point, it doesn’t name Solomon, right? Solomon isn’t alive, yet. But, David knows one of his seed, [foreign word] theme all the way through, from Genesis three on, he’s going to build a temple. And I will establish, at least this is the stunner, I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
So the promise made to David is an enduring promise like the one made to Abraham. I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
But then we divide the question again that which is to Solomon and that which is forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to me. Still talking about Solomon. I have heard some launch off into how that’s Christ because God’s son. Remember that in Old Testament theology the Messiah is God’s greater son because the Davidic kings are called God’s sons; the ones that he has favored. His-
But there is a greater son coming. And here, while we know it’s Solomon, when he commits iniquity, Solomon does, doesn’t he? “I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the son’s of men, but my loving kindness shall not depart from him as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” It’s almost like Saul’s an object lesson here.
So that what David comes to find out is that, even though Solomon may be an imperfect ruler, the promise of an eternal kingdom stands anyway.
So, they’re going to be flawed people coming before God’s greater son.
Verse 16, “your house and your kingdom shall endure before me forever. Your throne shall be established forever.” In accordance with all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David. So here, the promise has been issued.
And of course, some of this language, as we mention sounds to some scholars like the Abrahamic covenant. And I want to put the title of three good books on the board so you can – these are works that you might purchase, check out and or use in your studies of Messianic theology.
The first one is Christopher Wright, Old Testament scholar, author of books on Old Testament ethics, I think, Susan, and this is the guy I mentioned to you writes a lot about the land. He’s associated with John Stott’s ministry now. I think, kind of the international director of it.
He also has a book entitled “Knowing Christ Through the Old Testament” and it’s not a heavily documented book. In fact, he said he had always wanted to write a book in which he would state what he learned from the scriptures and not use footnotes. This is what he does. But it’s a good and fair treatment.
Walter Kaiser, Jr., I mentioned him before, “The Messiah in the Old Testament.” He is also the author of “Towards an Old Testament Theology,” and he writes a lot about promise and fulfillment.
Did I have you read him for today or tomorrow? Out of your “Flowering Old Testament Theology”? May well have done. If you looked puzzled, it either means I didn’t, or we haven’t gotten- haven’t read it, yet.
But that’s a good readable-
He’s trying to fit the whole of the scripture into the promise of the Messiah. If he can’t do it textually, he will do it by an era. And what’s going on in a time frame.
Both of these, a British Evangelical and an American Evangelical, and then somebody – for the 19th century, someone somewhat notorious for this and that, your old friend C.A. Briggs of Brown, Driver and Briggs, if you ever use that lexicon. That’s Briggs. “Messianic Prophecy.”
It’s very interesting that in some ways Briggs historical critic and a lot of other things, in some of the Messianic Prophecy that he finds in the Old Testament, that he works with, at least, if not more, conservatively than Wright and Kaiser.
Now, it has been a while, but it’s interesting to me that the more liberal scholar these days haven’t been doing much on Messianic Theology.
I can’t remember if it’s he who cometh or he that cometh, but about 50 years ago, Sigom Movicol [Unknown spelling of names], some of you know from Psalm scholarship. He who cometh in an Old Testament Messianic theology, and of course, to the extent that he can in systematic theology, you’ll get someone, I’m trying to think of non-evangelicals now.
Karl Barth does a lot with Messianic theology in his volumes on reconciliation and really the Old Testament scholars who are neo-orthodox or even farther left, haven’t been doing much. But the systematic theologians of that vent still will deal with Messianic Theology as they deal with Christology.
You can take a look there-mhmm
Male Voice 3: [Inaudible question]
Van Groningen would be one, and also, I’m trying to think what are the top titles of it. Maybe just Messianic Theologies and also Van Groningen is V-A-N G-R-O-N-I-N-G-E-N.
Van Groningen then also, if you want to see a Biblical Theological approach, that does more than the Old Testament, but it’s from an Old Testament scholar. Willem Van Gemeren, “The Progress of Redemption,” straight forward salvation history approach to the issue. Van Groningen is good because he does a lot of exegetical work. At times, I wonder if we aren’t forcing the Messiah onto some texts, but you know those things happen.
You can force worse things onto a text. And I certainly have. With love and respect, I always say, there are the reformed, the utterly reformed and then the TRs the totally reformed. I don’t know if you’re utterly and totally I don’t know, but anyways we would have strong agreements and strong disagreements at certain points.
It’s hard to have a mild disagreement with someone who is totally reformed or totally [foreign word] or totally anything. But anyway it’s –um- Van Groningen, Van Gemeren- both of them really Dutch Calvinists in their- and –
Willem Van Gemeren is –uh- if you haven’t had him here you ought to ask him to have him for either lectures or for class because he is an excellent Old Testament Theologian. Very much in the strong salvation history approach to the text very linguistically oriented because he is the editor of the international dictionary of Old Testament Theology - you know, 5 volumes.-
Once you get his accent because he is Dutch. So-
There are others. These are three extremely readable and fairly straight forward. So if you were going to teach a series or a series in your church, say at advent time, or at any other point in time, that might also be a good way for those of you who follow a church here if you ever wonder what to do with the 26 or so weeks of Pentecost- about a long season.
You might lay some foundation that –uh- traditional advent time didn’t offer you.
The top three that find a lot of correspondence between the Davidic and the Abrahamic covenant at this point.
Briggs notes that the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15, the seed of Abraham in Genesis 19, the seed of David here. A skeptic here would say just because [foreign word for seed] is used all over the Old Testament – but it’s interesting though that when you’re talking about descendents the same word is used here. It would at least make you think.
Also, the promise of renown, also, the promise of the theme of calling Abraham out and calling David out. The issue of blessing. There’re a lot of correspondents here. To be fair, you have to ask, if it’s simply the type of literature involved that calls it out, or whether it’s trying to draw the two together.
Don’t know here. But in Isaiah the explicit bringing them together is done. So it’s for sure that other place in the Old Testament they bring them together by name.
So, here Davis is at least compared in away to Abraham. That’s Briggs.
Kaiser, offers seven provisions in the Davidic covenant. You know the different blessings that we were talking about. He lines them all out. He compares them to the Abrahamic covenant and chief of the Davidic provisions is the fact, for him, the God calls David my servant.
That’s primary because servant theology will be important in Isaiah and elsewhere. He calls Solomon my son, which becomes significant because of the son theology in Psalms. And third that he declares the covenant eternal.
Kaiser notes the importance of the woman and the seed. And then Kaiser draws out several things. I would site servant, son and eternal as significant points for future reference in Messianic Theology.
Well, the covenant with David includes an eternal kingdom. So I mean, [inaudible voice] I’d say it’s the same thing. He calls it- declares the covenant eternal, and I would say that’s a good question of distinction.
I think he would say the covenant is eternal because the kingdom is eternal. David makes quiet a response of gratitude, but we won’t labor over that at this point.
So, after 2 Samuel 7, you are aware that the laws focus on Judah. Has become a focus on David. Right? It has become more specific. We started Genesis 3 with the seed of the woman. In a way, you could say that could be any kid born from now on.
But, it specifies in Judah as the ruler. Focuses upon David as the ruler forever. Focus on David and his dependents role as servant, son and ongoing kingdom. So I would borrow from Kaiser there.
So on the one hand, we’ve gotten clarity as to whose family in Judah we’re going to focus on. But, now at this point having gotten some clarity, now open up a whole set of questions.
In what sense is this king eternal or otherwise going to bless all nations? In what sense is this Messianic at all?
So about the time you get certain things lined out, you then have some other ones. But we see here David’s the focal point for an eternal kingdom. His seed like the seed of Abraham and the seed of Eve are significant.
At the end of the former prophets, what we typically call the historical books, but the end of the former prophets from this point on Judah has nothing but Davidic kings, right?
One exception, Athaliah rules for a while, but in general they accept no one but – the authors of the Bible accept no one except Davidic kings as legitimate kings in Judah.
The northern tribes after the death of Solomon go off in their own kingdom. And they do not have a Davidic ruler. But so serious is the text about tracing the Davidic ruler that the last person noted in 2 Kings, the end of the history, is a Davidic king who has been in exile for thirty some years and who is elevated above other kings amongst the exiles in Babylon.
So, the text becomes dedicated to tracing the Davidic line. The promise is to David. And, as we will see later, in the book of Psalms, say Psalms 89, which is the Psalm about how the nation had fallen because of its’ sin. It concludes with a question. What happened to the Davidic promise then?
If there is no king of Israel period, what happened to the Davidic promise of always having – so what happened to this eternal kingdom? And perhaps 2 Kings is trying to answer that question. There is still a Davidic king around, even if he doesn’t get to rule. We don’t know if that’s the intent.
But the point is it’s not just skeptics like you or me asking what about this kingdom? The Bible itself asks the question. What happened, then, to the Davidic king?
At this point in Messianic theology, you see where we are. We have a focus upon the seed of the woman, we have a focus upon the seed of Abraham we have a focus upon Judah and David. They’re getting more specific.
We have a sense that there is going to be an eternal kingdom. But we do not yet know how this will bless all nations nor do we know exactly how this will eliminate the sin problem.
And, I guess, one of the things I’m trying to do is we walk through this- I want to keep an eye on New Testament theology at this point. But I want us to have a sense of what the Old Testament people had, then. So, that when we read that David had faith in God, you know, texts like Hebrews 11 or in Romans 4, we’re going to have a sense that it was real faith. There was information there but, that there was still a lot to come.
So, the seeds or the roots of promise are in the plenitude or in the law. The actual giving of the promise is in the former prophets.
And in the prophets and writings the promise is developed. And it is these passages that we have come to know, mostly in Christian circles, as Messianic promises.
But my point is if you don’t have what we have already seen we won’t know from which the prophets derived their statements. And we won’t see how God is keeping faith with promises made. As Jesus said, “when Moses wrote of me,” and these other texts.
But I admit that’s a bit of work to slog through. I understand that.
So then, now, the text we know more about. We will sample some Messianic texts because the prophets in writing have many, many of them.
And in your test paper for next time, it might be you could develop one of those themes. You know say, I think, there’s you know House’s admitted you can only do so much, so I’d like to develop one. Obviously, it might be helpful to you if it’s a stream what you already know or one that you want to develop.
But Isaiah is the first book of the latter prophets. And Isaiah is going to pick up two themes in particular. Those themes are that the coming savior is a righteous ruler- the coming savior is a righteous ruler- and the other theme is that he is a servant of God.
It’s as if they assume now, [inaudible voice]
First book of the latter prophets, former prophets are Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. Latter prophets Isaiah, Jeremy, Ezekiel and the twelve- the twelve are treated as one book in the Hebrew cannon.
Male Voice 3: [Inaudible male voice]
Dr. House: In the writings, hmmhm.
It’s interesting how the writings unfold. You start with Psalms go to Job and it’s only in our minds- I think it’s in the current Christian mind that we marvel at that.
But in Psalms, if we just remember that have of them are laments.
Laments- We forget that we don’t know or we often forget, if half of Psalms are lament it won’t surprise us so much that Job’s next.
I mean, I just don’t think it would. It seems more natural. Because the Psalms raise a lot of questions about what God’s doing in history. How he is doing it -a lot on evil and suffering in the Psalms, my goodness.
Then you have Proverbs, which is a sister to Job because of its interest in wisdom literature. Then you have some interesting connections starting.
Proverbs 31 ends in, what?
Virtues woman, yep, virtues wife. –Um- She is a busy lady. Then the next book in the Hebrew Cannon is Ruth because, though Proverbs ends in what amounts to a wise a virtues woman a lot of its space has been taken up with what is a wise virtues man. And in Ruth we have examples of Boaz and of Naomi and Ruth. And Ruth is virtues woman. The traits you find in Proverbs 31 you find in Ruth, really.
Then after Ruth, which is among other things is a love story, you get Song of Solomon. So you can see some natural progression that is thematic as well as Ruth and Song of Solomon are used at certain festivals in –in later years.
But then you have Ecclesiastes after Song of Solomon. It’s almost like the youth group doesn’t want to get too excited after Song of Solomon so we are going to have Ecclesiastes. So, on the one hand, you can see that- how exciting things can be when they go well and then how difficult they can be when they don’t.
Then you have Lamentations, which kicks off- obviously it has the same tone in many ways as Ecclesiastes- it kicks off the interest in the writings on the exile.
That’s when you get Ester and Daniel together as exilic books.
And then Ezra-Nehemiah chronicles as books about rebuilding, actually. You know, coming along. So, it is not that the Old Testament cannon treats Ezra Nehemiah as if they are not historical, it gives them a different emphasis.
The other thing that’s interesting, they just expected that their people knew the history. It is our problem to have to read Ezra Nehemiah after 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles to know what’s going on. It was not their problem.
Isaiah, as we’ve already seen, is a prophet who works during difficult days. Of course, that becomes a standard line about the prophets. It’s almost as if, if they weren’t difficult days the Lord wouldn’t have need of them, so Isaiah prophesized 740 to700 roughly.
And he sets forth a problem in Isaiah 1 to 5. The problem with 8th century Israel is that they are sitting against God, oppressing one another, coming to the temple offering sacrifices that are abhorrent to God because of their wicked hearts. That’s the first five chapters of Isaiah.
It ends with a song on a vineyard. God planted a wonderful vineyard and somehow the vine went bad. Subsided to sin.
What’s God gonna do?
He announces a day of judgment. He announces that all these things are coming. What’s He going to do?
Chapter 6 he calls a prophet. Calls a prophet, preach to the people, that’s one thing he is going to do. But, then, starting in Isaiah 7, you see something else he is going to do that is already based in the history we’ve seen.
He’s going to send a savior. This is always God’s response to call servants and to send the servant savior. That’s always- if you get right down to it that’s still God’s antidote, right?
Where ever you go in your ministry, you remember you are a part of a twofold plan. So, he calls a prophet. A holy God, in Isaiah 6, calls a prophet who recognizes his own sin, to go to an even more sinful people.
To what result, God tells Isaiah they will not listen to you, what effect will your preaching have in general? It will cause their eyes to glaze over, their ears to become dull. They will do this so they won’t have to repent and turn to God. That’s Isaiah 9 and 10.
So the prophet who was so enthusiastic about going for God asks how long. Typical Biblical question. How long? So God tells him until cities are devastated, until the nation lays in ruin. And he describes Israel like a tree that has been cut down, hauled away and then the stump has been set on fire.
Now this comes about in Isaiah’s time because all of Judah is conquered. All the 53 cities, we’ve already talked about this in light of Isaiah 40, and Jerusalem itself is devastated and starved and bare.
And it is just a burnt up stump of a tree. That’s what’s left.
So Isaiah is not given a happy word, is he? [Laughing]
How long and what will be the evidence of his ministries effectiveness and truthfulness- that’s all that will be left.
I use those terms synonymously, unfortunately. But the truth is in his career both, In 722, of course, the northern tribes are devastated by Syria. It’s not to lie in Judah in 701 is the stump that is burnt up.
Isaiah has a tough ministry. Not as tough as Jeremiah, but one of the things God is going to do, though, begins in chapter 7. In one of the famous, maybe some would say infamous, because of its difficulty Messianic passages.
In Judah, they have a king names Ahaz. Chapter 7 verse 3. “Lord said to Isaiah, ‘go out now to meet Ahaz.’” Ahaz is king roughly from 735 to 715. And during his time, this is the first two verses of the chapter, okay. Assyria is the dominate nation.
You had a few choices with Assyria. You could- they demanded first that you give them tribute money.
If you didn’t give it, they would try to put their king on your throne so that he would help you give the money.
If that didn’t work, they would come and destroy you. Like all bullies they preferred to get the money. But if they couldn’t get the money they would terrorize you and destroy you.
The smaller nations around Judah were trying to fend off the Assyrians by having an alliance together. Ahaz decided, whether than join the alliance, which he considered doomed to failure, he would make a pact with the Assyrians.
That’s dining with the devil, for sure.
Isaiah says you should consider a third option that is keeping your covenant with the Lord. And then you will not need to be in league with these or with Assyria.
To be honest, though, being in league with Assyria or trusting in the Lord had one of the same results. That is that all these little nations were going to threaten and send troops against Judah to try to draw them into the confederacy of countries against Assyria.
So basically what Isaiah is going to say is, “look these people are going to fight you anyway, why don’t you do what’s right?”
And never forget in your ministries that if people are going to oppose you anyway, whether you do right or wrong that should make it easier to do what’s right. It makes it easier what you have to do.
So, Ahaz still sticks with Assyria. God in his mercy sends Isaiah to tell him that’s not necessary. Verse 3, “Lord said, ‘go out to meet Ahaz. You and your son, Shear-Jashub,’” the boys means a remnant shall return, a hopeful sign, right? At least a remnant will return, that’s more hopeful than none of us will return.
And notice that he takes the boy with him. The boy has something to do with the word. He said go meet the king.
Verse 4, “tell him take care and be calm. Have no fear and don’t be faint hearted.” This is a message of mercy. Don’t worry Ahaz. He says they’ve said, verse 6, “go against Judah and terrorize it and make for ourselves a breach in its walls.”
Verse 7, “it shall not stand or come to pass.” God, in his mercy, is sending the prophet and his son to be a prophetic word to this king.
Verse 10, it’s even more, the grace is even further extended. The Lord spoke again to Ahaz, ask a sign. You know this goes against Biblical truth, right? It’s very rare that God says ask a sign.
So again, he is not only sent a prophet, and the prophet son is an object lesson, he has not only got a word of comfort and a word of hope and a word of freedom, he is told, here take a sign ask whatever you want. So later on, Ahaz says, well make the shadow go the opposite way of normal.
Gideon, one of the few offered, God doesn’t say to everybody, ask a sign. So he says to Gideon to get this fleece. Wet one time; dry the other -something unusual. Ahaz, all of a sudden sounds pious. I won’t ask and I won’t test the Lord. Why is it not testing the Lord? Cause the Lord offered it to him. It’s testing the Lord to demand a sign when it’s not offered. So basically, he is refusing the whole oracle object lesson and promise.
“Listen now, House of David, is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men that you will try the patience of my God, as well?” So the Lord will give you a sign.
Now, remember this sign is suppose to be a big sign. Or is it seems to be ask a big sign- high as heaven deep as a grave. Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign.
“Behold a virgin will be with child and bare a son. And she will call his name Emanuel, God with us. He will eat curds and honey at the time he knows enough to refuse evil and chose good. But before the boy will no one have to refuse evil and chose good. The land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”
Now of course this whole passage has sparked a whole history of controversy. Because Matthew 1:23 says the virgin birth is a fulfillment of this passage. And this has led some to say, see the New Testament will do anything to a passage to make it work for Jesus sake.
Jesus may be the ultimate fulfillment of this, but there is no way that in its original context Isaiah 7:10 to 16 is about a virgin born person.
And the argument goes like this and you can read it in a variety of commentators. The Lord himself will give you a sign. A maiden, in other words a woman, she’ll bare and before the boy knows good and evil the land, the two kings you dread, will be forsaken, in other words it can’t be Jesus because you’ve got a short order. A kid being born living a couple years and kings being gone. That’s how the argument goes.
However, note Herbert Wolf’s commentary on Isaiah. The variety of commentators that do something along the following in response; first of all, it’s not much of a big sign for just a woman to get married and have a baby.
Therefore, in this case you would have to say the miracle would have to be the timing. Cause it’s no big miracle. No offense to all of us. Who some of us our parents were happy to hear that we were coming. My mother came to accept that over time.
But, understand it’s not a great miracle for babies to be born in the sense of extraordinary- just go to the global center and watch the clock rock. It’s not to minimize people being made in God’s image or anything else.
So you’d have to at this point say it would just be the timing that was the miracle, but the sign itself of a child being born, Wolf says, is surely a bigger thing. And it says the word can mean maiden in the sense of a woman of marriageable age, but it can also simply mean a woman without sexual experience.
Now then, he will eat curds and honey, according to Alec Motyer, which is spelled M-O-T-Y-E-R, I pronounced it ‘Motear’ for a long time before I was corrected by people who knew Motyer. I know he has been here to speak. –But Motyer says that is the food of a peasant. Emanuel, the person God with us, is going to eat the food not of royalty, but of peasant.
And connects that to the life of Jesus. Jesus is virgin born. Jesus is god with us. Jesus is living among the poor.
Verse 16, “before the boy” and the hey on could also mean this boy- one must decide- “will refuse evil and chose good and the land of whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”
Wolf and Motyer and others note that Shear-Jashub brought along as an object lesson. Before this boy, Shear-Jashub, knows enough to refuse evil and chose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken. There are two boys involved here -Shear-Jashub, the son of Isaiah, and Emanuel, who is yet to come.
If this is the case, and I think it is, it is in keeping with Isaiah’s practice of consistently talking about current and future events. And you really have to be awake in Isaiah to know which one he is doing.
He is not always talking about the future. He is not always talking about the present. And he often brings them together at the same. And this is what I think is occurring here.
At this point, if indeed this is a Messianic prophecy we could say that the virgin birth is important as a sign. The name is important as a statement of fact that God is with them. Humility is important. Humble origins in verse 15.
Which is, according to Motyer, another way of telling Ahaz your lineage is going down. By the time Emanuel comes the heir to the throne is going to be eating peasants’ food.
And you’ll note that Matthew and Luke take some pains to give Christ genealogy through David to say he is the legitimate heir of David. But he is born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth.
You have to wonder if you go to Nazareth to hear a lecture as to how small that town was when Jesus was there and how humble it was.
Maybe it was fewer than 200 inhabitants. Mostly dwelling in caves that had been fitted like houses and below the church the enunciation they have some excavated there and fitted out to look like it would have at that time.
Pretty humble. Pretty humble.
So, even if you have questions about this text, which I think can be worked out, Isaiah 9 is pretty clear.
And that’s why I think Wolf’s interpretation is correct. Wolf’s point is that the New Testament writers didn’t have to do any special pleading. They interpreted this text the way he just did, which is virgin birth, Emanuel are a messianic promise so are the curds and honey. This boy must not be Emanuel, but Isaiah’s son.
There are two kids involved in Emanuel and Shear-Jashub, both of whom have symbolic names. So Matthew 1:23, absolutely reads the passage as the fulfillment. No one disputes that and the reason you go through this text like this is to the extent of what scholars think the original context was.
Did Matthew just find a phrase? Did he think Jesus was God and he found Emanuel and that’s God with us and Jesus was virgin born and you had this passage so you applied it to Jesus even though it’s not the original context?
A lot of liberal scholars would do that. And a lot of conservative scholars, rather than trying to see if there is a context in which the New Testament writer is accurate, both contextually and theologically, would just say it’s irrelevant. It’s a fuller. Well, Christ fulfills it, whether it was intended or not.
I find that to be quick sand, honestly. Because I think it’s a legitimate question, then, for someone who doesn’t believe in the virgin birth, in the Christian tradition or outside of it, to say well, okay, then how dependable are these predictions anyway. If they can rework them anyway they want to, it’s not something you ought to be able to claim as evidence of the New Testament inspiration.
Male Voice: [Inaudible question]
They would say it’s not a virgin per say, nor the New Testament, Mary says how’s this going to be since I’ve never known a man. That’s pretty clear. They would say, well it’s not a virgin- virgin. It’s just somebody of that age -a woman of marriageable age.
Which it is true. That is a possible translation. But in context it doesn’t seem to work. It’s also equally true that virgin- virgin is a –um- accurate –uh- possibility for it. And so when you have two possibilities you go by context.
You also go, in some ways, by translation traditions. And the [foreign word] before there was ever Christian church translated it clearly as virgin as in no sexual experience. That’s the way they understood it. That’s the way they thought.
So before there was a Christian church there was an interpretation. Because translation is minimal interpretation- we all know that.
Sometimes it’s a lot of interpretation. It has to be that there was interpretation that had 7-14 virgin woman meaning virgin woman with no sexual experience.
But I do want to hasten it to say that those who do translate it to say this as a woman of marriageable age or something like it are not necessarily just being obstinate against the scripture. That is one possible translation of the word, in other texts.
Well, I think, Matthew’s working both contextually in his own time in Isaiah’s time. Then in Isaiah 9, 1 through 7, I guess, if I had to say, if I had a favorite Messianic text, this is mine. That’s worth nothing- just is. “But there will be no more gloom for whom who is in anguish. In earlier times, he treated the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali with contempt. But later he shall make it glorious by the way of the sea on the other side of Jordan. Galilee of the Gentiles.
Well, what’s all that?
Galilee, as you know, is in the northern part of Israel, right? Sea of Galilee is north. Dead Sea south, Jordan River runs one to the other; 125 miles by 40 or 50 miles wide. Okay. In Galilee, that was kind of the northern door to Israel. Right?
Where would Babylon and Assyria and other conquering nations have entered the country?
Where would nations who wanted to do battle with Egypt, which was in the south, where would they have entered?
Right up there in Galilee.
So, in a way, no part of Israel knew the misery that Galilee knew. The other thing was, remember those armies had to be sustained off the land.
Galilee was the best region to get fruit, food and stuff on your way. And then they were also the last place these armies came coming back. So if they marched out the Spring to go to war they would devastate the northern part, go down for war, and then come back in the Fall and take what was left.
So the northern part of the kingdom, Galilee, they had suffered plenty. But there is going to be a time in which they are glorious.
So, verse 2, “the people who walk in darkness will see a great light. Those who live in a dark land the light will shine on them.”
They are still talking about Galilee, the Gentiles.
So, verse 3, promises, “you shall multiply the nation and you shall increase their gladness.”
Verse, 4, “you shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of the oppressor is at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior and the battle tumult and cloak rolled in blood will be burning fuel for the fire.” Peace is the promise.
Now then, we are about to get a Messianic promise. But we have also just gotten the context that caused first century Jews the most problem in accepting Jesus as the Messiah.
Let’s be honest about that. We’ve been given a promise of peace. And in Isaiah you always have to ask: is this a short term promise or a long term promise?
Verse 6, “for a child will be born on to us. A son will be given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulder. And his name shall be called wonderful counselor, Mighty God.”
Which is the only text in the Old Testament that equates the Davidic heir, the greater son of David, with God, overtly. Mighty God. Eternal Father, which is nearly to say the same thing. Prince of Peace, so these are the names.
It’s going to have all the counsel of a wise king all the power not only of a mighty king, but of God. All the endurance needed to fulfill the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. And the element of peace. There will be no end to the increase of his government or of peace on the throne of David.
Of course, it must be on the throne of David. And over his kingdom to establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness. From then on and forever more the zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
So, we have clear cut royal imagery here. The Davidic line, government on his shoulders.
The emphasis on David and on the righteous and eternal ruler.
We are about to see in this text a hermeneutical principle that will help us as we look at Psalms. It is simply this; in the Psalm you often wonder and in the prophets you may wonder, from time to time, is this text talking about an earthly ruler? Is this a promise to a normal Davidic king? Or is it a promise of the Messiah?
One way we can tell is are things promised to the person in the text that go well beyond what God ever promised David?
This kingdom, for this individual is forever, that was part of the Davidic promise, but he is going to have more territory than God ever promised to David.
He is going to have more victories than God ever promised to David and more than he ever promised to any other king. So remember, there is no end to the increase of his government or of peace. And he is going to be a wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
In the midst of the eighth century, historical context in which Israel and Judah were constantly faced with the Assyrians and if not with them, one of their minions, and if not with them, somebody who wanted to recruit them for a war against the Assyrians. War was a daily fact of life. Threats were a daily fact of life.
And, so, they wanted someone to give them peace. And not only that, to somebody like Isaiah, he looks at Ahab and he knows this is not the Messiah. He longed for someone on the David throne who will set things right.
And, so, the promise is that in the future such a person will come. So, if as I think is true, and Matthew thinks Isaiah 7 is a Messianic text, you need a virgin born person for whom his birth will be God with us. You need someone who will be a wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Son of David, no end to his kingdom this is what you need so far.
And you need to be able to discern which ones will be true of the Messiah on Earth and in the [foreign word], in the end of time.
Or should we make that distinction?
This was the dividing point between the Christians and a lot of Jewish interpreters of the first century. The Christians said some of this was for the time of the Messiah and some for the end of time. Others said no, it’s all the same thing. So that when the Messiah comes, all of these things must be fulfilled when he comes.
Because the Christians answer to the legitimate question well when are these things going to happen? Was, later. The end of time. And those who did not agree with that would have said that’s very convenient, but it doesn’t fit the portrait. I would disagree with those folks, but-
Just so you’ll know that if you’ve ever heard it said that well, you know the first century Jews they wanted somebody to relieve their burdens, somebody set them free. Just remember those issues were considerable. They were real issues. But that the question was not so much one of what the Davidic king would do, but when.
When. How long becomes the question again.
And we will see more of that as we develop the promise in Isaiah, in particular, but you’ll see in chapter 11:1 through 10, similar sentiments as this in chapter 9.
Start there. But also develop servant theology. Isaiah has the boldest to say the coming king is also a suffering servant. And that just sounds self contradictory to the average mind. Doesn’t it?
A ruler won’t suffer, at least not in the ancient near eastern context.
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