Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 3) What’s All This Old Testament Stuff About?

In the pervious articles we answered: What is a covenant and the Ark? We also learned about the ancient Jewish Tabernacle and Temple and even sacrifices (and not the type in the Temple of Doom). Before we get back into Indy and Raiders, it’ll be helpful to understand what all this ancient Jewish ritual is about…

Read Part 1: Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 1) What’s a Covenant?

Read Part 2: Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 2) What’s the Ark Anyway?

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SO, WHAT’S ALL THIS OLD TESTAMENT STUFF ABOUT ANYWAY?

As Christians, we interpret all of the events written of in the Old Testament in the light of the revelation of God through Jesus Christ, who came not to abolish the Old Testament, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). In other words, the whole of the Old Testament is foreshadowing Christ and preparing Israel, God’s chosen people, for his coming – and through this God will bless the whole world (as we saw in God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. Read more in Part 1.)

The Book of Hebrews (especially chapters 8-9) in the New Testament helps us to understand the significance of the Tabernacle (and later the Temple), the rituals, and the Ark in light of Christ’s work.

The Tabernacle/Temple (and rituals) are a “shadow of the heavenly things” (Heb.8:5). In other words, they are physical representations of spiritual realities. The Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle/Temple represents coming into God’s presence, but there is a separation between God and his people, symbolized by the veil. This separation is caused by our sin, and the “wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Thus, to enter into the presence of the Holy God will kill us. To atone for sins, the High Priest makes a blood sacrifice as a substitute, enters the Most Holy Place, and sprinkles the blood on the Mercy Seat above the Ark.

Hebrews 9:22 tells us, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” But Hebrews 10:4 also tells us, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” So, why does God make Israel do all this? To point to our need for a sacrifice that can truly take away sin and reunite us with God — to point to our need for a savior — to point us to Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death on the cross. Thus, the answer to the mysteries of the Old Testament is revealed in Jesus Christ.

Jesus said at the Last Supper, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20), and Hebrews 9:15 calls Christ “the mediator of a new covenant.”

Remember, covenants can be mutually binding, and God made a mutually binding covenant with Israel after freeing them from slavery in Egypt in Exodus 19-24. God promised to protect and bless them, and Israel said,

“’All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood [of the peace offerings] and threw it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.’” (Exodus 24:7-8)

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But Israel didn’t keep up their end of the deal. Israel rebelled against God; Israel turned from God’s moral law; Israel worshipped other gods. Like a cheating wife, Israel broke their vow, and, thus, the contract was null and void. So, God removed his protection and blessings. He allowed them to be taken into exile; he allowed Jerusalem, even his own Temple — the very way Israel had access to God — to be destroyed.

But he didn’t forget his promises in his earlier covenants, and in his mercy, he promised a new covenant. The writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah’s Old Testament prophecy:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:31-34)

And Hebrews 9:11-14 says,

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent [Tabernacle] (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Christ is our perfect high priest who gave his body — a perfect temple — and became our perfect sacrifice. And in this new covenant, one has only to believe in what Christ did for them and they’ll enter into God’s presence no longer fearing death.

Thus, there’s no more need for the Tabernacle/Temple, the high priest, the sacrifices, or the Ark. The work is finished by Christ’s work, not our own.

Jeremiah 3:16 even spoke of this day, a day when the Ark will not be needed anymore:

And when you have multiplied and been fruitful in the land, in those days, declares the Lord, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again.

NEXT: The Ark in Action! Let the bodies start dropping!

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Other related GFTM articles:

Making Sense of Old Testament Laws (Part 1 of 2) Are OT laws arbitrary, offensive & silly?

Making Sense of Old Testament Laws (Part 2 of 2) Why do Christians follow some OT laws & not others?

Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 1) What’s a Covenant?

 Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 2) What’s the Ark Anyway?

 

Christmas in the Old (Yes, Old) Testament

What can we learn about Christmas from the Old Testament? Are the passages Matthew cites really about Jesus? What is typology?

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What can we learn about Christmas from the Old Testament?

Since it’s Christmas time, it’s a good time to read through the birth narrative of Jesus as told by Matthew, comprising of only two short chapters of his Gospel. (Go ahead and do it right now. I’ll wait!)

In Matthew 1:1, Matthew calls Jesus “the son of David, the son of Abraham” and then goes on to give us Jesus’ genealogy. This is important for Matthew’s readers to know because all Jews knew the Messiah would be a descendent of Abraham and King David. Matthew is often called the “most Jewish” Gospel because Matthew is clearly concerned with showing that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and the fulfillment of the Jewish Scripture.

Thus, to truly understand Jesus, we need to understand the Old Testament (OT), and this is exactly why the writers of the New Testament (NT) constantly refer back to the OT. In fact, Matthew does this more than any other Gospel writer.

When reading the Christmas story in Matthew 1-2, you’ll notice that Matthew references the OT four different times in this short narrative – four references to four different OT prophets: Isaiah, Micah, Hosea, and Jeremiah. But when we turn to the OT to read these passages, we run into some problems: It’s not so clear they’re about Jesus!

So, let’s look at these passages more closely and see what the Old Testament tells us about the first Christmas.

Bethlehem Christmas. Star in night sky above Mary and Joseph

Matthew 2:15 / Hosea 11:1

After Jesus’ birth, Joseph, Mary, and the newborn Jesus flee to Egypt to escape the persecution of Herod, and they would not return until after Herod’s death. Matthew tells us this was to fulfill what the LORD had spoken in Hosea 11:1:

“Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Now, when we turn to Hosea 11:1 and read the context of the passage, we run in to a problem: this passage is not a prediction about Jesus! In fact, it’s not about the Messiah at all! Hosea is clearly speaking about the nation of Israel, and the line “Out of Egypt I called my son” is clearly referring to the Exodus, when God liberated Israel from slavery under Pharaoh.

What’s going on here? How does Jesus “fulfill” something not even about him?

Often, when we think of prophets and “fulfillment,” we think of prophets making specific Nostradamus-like predictions about the future and those predictions coming true. Though these types of predictions do occur in the Bible, often this is not the type of “fulfillment” the NT writers have in mind. What they have in mind is something called typology.

What is typology? Events, persons, or institutions that become patterns – that “echo” throughout God’s redemptive history as recorded in Scripture – are called types. These types or patterns are seen throughout Scripture and foreshadow a future, ultimate fulfillment, called an antitype.

For example, the Passover lamb and the Jewish sacrificial system are types that point forward to Jesus’ sacrificial death for the sins of the world. Jesus’ death (the antitype) fulfills the purpose of the Passover lamb and the OT sacrifices (the types).

When Matthew refers to OT verses like Hosea 11:1 and says they were “fulfilled,” he is speaking of typology. Here, he isn’t saying Jesus fulfilled specific predictions about the Messiah, but that Jesus is the fulfillment of a pattern seen throughout God’s redemptive plan. After all, Jesus says in Matthew 5:17,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

To illustrate, Israel is often referred to as “God’s son,” but Jesus is considered the true Israel because he is God’s true Son. Just like God liberated Israel from slavery in Egypt, Matthew is telling us that Jesus is the new Exodus, because through Jesus, God will liberate us from our slavery to sin. Scholar R.T. France writes in his commentary on Matthew that the Exodus is a powerful symbol of “the even greater work of deliverance” which God will accomplish through Jesus Christ.

What Matthew is doing by using these OT passages is pointing us to the prophets’ larger message. This connection to the larger story of the Bible would not have been lost on his original Jewish audience as it is often lost on us today. Usually, we’re only looking at the little details; we want to know how this one NT verse fulfills this one OT verse, yet we miss the big picture Matthew is painting.

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Matthew 2:18 / Jeremiah 31:15

Now, let’s keep in mind what was just said about typology and fulfillment as we look at Matthew’s use ofJeremiah 31:15:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew uses this OT reference after he reports that Herod killed all of the male children age two-years-old and younger in Bethlehem. Again, we run into a similar problem as before: This section of Jeremiah is about the Babylonian exile; it has nothing to do with the Messiah! The Babylonian Empire had conquered Jerusalem and destroyed their Temple, and now the Jews were being deported to Babylon.

This is a catastrophic event for the Jewish people. What’s worse is that they brought it upon themselves. Since their rebellion against God had become so great, God withdrew his protection and allowed this to happen to Israel.

Typologically, we can say the suffering of children due to evil is certainly a pattern we see in Scripture. But is Matthew pointing us to Jeremiah to make a bigger point? I certainly think so.

Despite the messages of God’s judgment and wrath, this section of Jeremiah is not one of gloom and punishment, but one of hope and restoration. I recommend you read the whole chapter of Jeremiah 31 to see.

If nothing else, take note that shortly after the verse Matthew quotes, we’re told of the coming “new covenant” (31:31) where God “…will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people… For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (31:33-34)

Clip Art Illustration of a Silhouette of the Three Wise Men Foll

Matthew 2:6 / Micah 5:2

Matthew Chapter 2 begins with the story of the magi, who come looking for the new king of the Jews. When they inquire in Jerusalem, Herod goes to the chief priests and scribes and asks where this new king will be born. Matthew tells us:

They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (2:5-6)

Finally, we have an undeniable prediction about the future Messiah (and one written approximately 700 years before Christ)! This passage, Micah 5:2, clearly speaks of a future leader coming from Bethlehem, and Jews have always understood Micah 5:2 to be about the Messiah. But is there even more to this passage than that?

It’s safe to say that when most of us think of the prophets, we think of messages of doom and gloom for Israel, but often – maybe even more than we realize – during their tirades we find messages of a future hope. Often these messages of hope include God’s future restoration of his people, his protection of his faithful remnant, and sometimes even words about a mysterious future leader.

Micah 5 speaks of this new ruler and a new peace. He will be born in Bethlehem (like Jesus) and from the tribe of Judah (like Jesus) and he will come from “of old, from ancient days,” a reference to the covenant God made with King David in 2 Samuel 7:12-13:

“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”

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Matthew 1:23 / Isaiah 7:14

To end, we come to perhaps the most hotly debated prophecy in the Bible. Matthew tells us Mary, an unwed virgin, finds herself “to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (1:18), and Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14, telling us:

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel’

(which means, God with us).”

Some of the controversy concerning Matthew’s use of Isaiah 7:14 has to do with the word “virgin.” In the ancient Hebrew of Isaiah, the word could be translated “young woman.” A young woman is not particularly a virgin, some argue; yet, it’s a weak argument since the word is understood to refer to an unmarried, sexually chaste maiden.

Moreover, why would Isaiah not write the much more commonly-used Hebrew words for “woman” or “wife” if there was nothing unique about his woman? Instead, he chose to use a word scholar R.T. France describes as “unusual” and rarely used in the OT. (Furthermore, Matthew, under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, used the Greek word that undeniably means “virgin”!)

But there is another problem with Matthew’s use of Isaiah 7:14. This passage doesn’t seem to be about the far future; the “son” which is to come seems to be coming during the time period of Isaiah’s writing. Frankly, the passage is perplexing. Yet, again, our understanding of typology helps us here: If this passage does, in fact, refer to a child other than the Messiah, this child is a foreshadow of the coming Christ.

If this is not a satisfying answer for you, then we only have to ask again, Why does Matthew point us to this particular Scripture? We only have to read a little farther in Isaiah to Chapter 9 to find out. Here, we again come across a child born, and this time it is clear whom this child is:

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (9:6)

Amen! Grace and Peace and Merry Christmas!

This post appears in longer form in the GFTM-published book Who Jesus Ain’t, available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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Here are some other Christmas-related articles on GFTM blog:

Christmas According to History

Christmas According to an English Teacher

Jesus Ain’t Born on December 25th

Jesus Ain’t Born to Privilege

Christmas Comics!

More Christmas Comics!

GOD FROM THE MACHINE has published it’s first book! Searching the Bible for Mother God is for educating and evangelizing those in the growing “Mother God cult.” Visit our page HERE.

Book Review: “What is Biblical Theology?”

BOOK REVIEW:

What is Biblical Theology?

by James M. Hamilton Jr.

(Crossway Books)

Great book for helping to understand the symbols used in the Bible.

This past summer I went out to Kentucky to take some summer classes at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a friend invited me to his church.  When I arrived, the first person I just happened to meet was James Hamilton, who I later learned is the head pastor.  (For the record, I had already received my free copy of What is Biblical Theology? from Crossway’s Beyond the Page program, but had not yet read it for this review.)

Dr. Hamilton opened his sermon with an illustration from a Shakespeare play — and not one of Shakespeare’s more popular ones.  Later in the sermon, he quoted John Gardener, a writer’s writer, author of books like Grendel and The Art of Fiction.  Having a B.A. in English myself, I concluded Dr. Hamilton must have an English/literature background.  Later, I found out I was correct.

Maybe I’m a bit biased, but I do believe having a background in literature gives a biblical scholar a unique advantage.  The Bible, after all, is a work of literature.  Not only is it a collection of various genres of literature, many of the more poetic parts is abound with figurative language.  Further, even the histories use literary devices to tell history as narrative.  James Hamilton is the right man for writing a book like this.

Biblical theology is the study of the story of the Bible as a whole.  Many of us grew up hearing stories from the Bible, thinking that the Bible is just a collection of random, unconnected stories.  Yet there is one overarching story-line that continues throughout the whole Bible.  In order to better understand this metanarrative, one must see the connection between the themes, symbols, and patterns (typology) of the Bible.  Again, call me biased, but I believe someone with a literature background is best qualified to do this.

We need more books like this: books written by quality scholars who can break down big ideas into readable books for everyday readers.  Biblical theology is an important subject for all Christians to be familiar with because it leads to a huge jump in understanding and confidence in their faith.  This short, readable book would be ideal for pastors to use to lead a group of laypeople through lessons on the unity of the Bible and the harder-to-grasp concepts like symbolism, theme, and typology (patterns that repeat throughout biblical history and even foreshadow future events).

As Dr. Hamilton states, if we don’t understand the symbolism used by the authors, we’ll miss the meanings of the authors’ messages.  As an English teacher, I find symbolism is one of the harder concepts for people to grasp, yet the Bible is filled with symbols.  If you pick up What is Biblical Theology? for nothing else, it’s a great explanation of the predominate symbols seen throughout the Bible.

Sometimes, Dr. Hamilton’s short, terse sentences reminded me of Hemingway’s style, and sometimes I found myself wishing he’d expound of an idea more.  There’s a lot packed into this short book, but obviously a book this length can only serve as an introduction — but an extremely useful and important one.  (And at the end of the book, Dr. Hamilton suggests books for deeper study on biblical theology.)

As Dr. Hamilton writes, “[T]he Bible’s story and symbolism teach us as the church to understand who we are, what we face, and how we should live as we wait for the coming of our King and Lord… Biblical theology is not just an interesting topic.  It informs who we are and how we live.”

(To read my blog article titled “2-Minute Lesson on Biblical Theology — the Progressive Revelation of God in Human History” click here.)