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Posts tagged ‘Isaiah’

Okogie: A Profile In Discipleship, Lesson To Jet Pastors By Bayo Oluwasanmi.


By Bayo Oluwasanmi

For the Archbishop Emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, His Eminence, Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, it’s not easy taking a stand for what’s right when every Nigerian Jet Pastor around him is running after what’s wrong. It’s not been fun either for Okogie swimming against the current of public opinion or walking against the wind of selfish pursuits.

Standing alone may not be popular especially in a reprobate nation like Nigeria, but it is always profitable for Okogie who chooses to walk with God. Working with people is not so difficult. All you need is unfailing patience, insight, stability, and tremendous experience. And Okogie is abundantly blessed with all the four qualities – and much more.

God could have chosen to do his work another way, but he didn’t. He chose to use people. People like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and of course Okogie. God asked Moses to demand of Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” And God asked Isaiah and Jeremiah to prophesy to a rebellious nation. Moses said “I won’t.” Isaiah said “Woe is me!” Jeremiah said, “I can’t.” And God asked Okogie to fight for the poor. Okogie said “Here I am God, send me!” Yet God supplied the strength and training to prepare each messenger to deliver his message.

In like manner, when God asked the Jet Pastors to side with poor and oppressed Nigerians and confront the oppressors with truth only the truth, they said “We’ll rather begin our charity abroad in our executive jets than associate with suffering Nigerians.” In unison, they answered, “We can’t,” “We won’t,” and “We will never!”

Though I have never listened to Okogie’s sermon, that’s what he did with his life – in the choices he made, the wisdom demonstrated, the priority that he gave to prayer, and the diligence he demonstrated toward the plight of the poor and voiceless Nigerians. I’m not a Catholic, but Cardinal Okogie’s outspokenness against military dictators and tyrants of a democratic government almost persuaded me to become a Catholic.

Every successive government in Nigeria has received the full brunt of Okogie’s assault. Like a diligent watchman, Okogie guards the Nigerian multitude of poor by warning the “Ogas at the top” of the impending judgement. He calls and calls, but no one is listening.

The career of Okogie, presents the life and ministry of “theology of liberation” as he preaches to his once mighty nation – Nigeria – a withering flower or a passing shadow. For nearly half a century, Okogie proclaims an unpopular message to the politicians as well as the Jet Pastors: do not pray that the poor be fed unless you are willing to provide the bread.

His sermons go unheeded by the headstrong leaders who do their best to silence Okogie by ignoring his cries and counsel. Opposed, hated, and once arrested, the heartbroken priest lives to see the cruel political leaders unleash all forms of barbarity on Nigerians.

Okogie, one of Nigeria’s prophetic mouthpieces – what a privilege and a responsibility – for the 77-year old priest to peer into the troubled waters of 2015 and doles out unpalatable truth to President Goodluck Jonathan not to run in 2015.

In an interview published in The Citizen Online September 22 last year, Okogie focused on 2015 presidential elections. Headlined “Don’t Run, Jonathan, Don’t …” the interview is a deliciously satisfying encounter with the fiery priest. At 77, Okogie remains unbowed and unbought. He dispenses the truth with divine generosity. There is still fire in the belly of the lion.

Excerpts from his interview:

On President Jonathan and 2015: “If I were Jonathan I will not try it because the writing on the wall does not favour it. We have not even got to 2015. There is so much sycophancy and flattery. It is like telling Okogie now to go into politics, ‘come, you are the kind of person we want,’ you think I am stupid.”

“Apart from the story that Jonathan made an agreement that he would do just one term, if it is true, do you think those who were there when he said ‘just one term’ are stupid.”

On corruption: “It is quite true and corruption has been there, but not as strong as it is now. It is now a cankerworm. The only good Lord can help us out of it. But if we want to fight corruption, we should start from the top. The man at the top is thinking when I leave office, what happens to me and he want to build an empire for himself. How did it get it?”

“Why are so many people running into politics? 2015 is two years away; see how they are killing themselves. Who even knows who will get to 2015? What do you think they are looking for, money? Nothing else. They are not patriotic; they are not. All our political leaders, how many of them can beat their chests to say they are patriotic. It is just gimmick and pancake that they are doing.”

On government’s plan for the youth: “They often say the youths are the future leaders of tomorrow; it is not true, because where are the plans they have for the youths; how many of them are truly educating the youths or giving scholarships?”

“Look at the ongoing ASUU strike, then consider the amount of money the senators, president, and governors collect, compared to what others are getting in Europe. And look at our schools, the citadel of learning, where the youths are supposed to be trained for the future of the country, that they claim is for youths.”

“Why are they not sending their own children to those kinds of schools? And those who do not have enough money to take their children to Europe take them to Ghana and even Benin Republic. This is the problem we all have. And this is why corruption is there.”

On the political parties: “The parties are chop, I chop like Fela said; they are all the same. If we are all patriotic, you do not care where the person who rules comes from…” I am looking for job, but I cannot get the job simply because I am from a particular region. What is wrong with us? So, our political leaders should guide and guard their mouths, because some of the people listening to them are stark illiterates, they hear go they do not hear come.”

On unholy alliance between Jet Pastors and oppressors of the ruling class: “It is pity that a good number of those who call themselves religious leaders today are not religious leaders; they only became religious leaders because they want to feed their tummy… And they feel they can take it up, read, and interpret it (Bible) to suit themselves, but no way. And this is why they are not keeping to their calling.”

The iconic figure of the Roman Catholic Mission in Nigeria, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie retired from the pastoral governance of the See of Lagos having reached the age limit of 75 years May 25, 2012.

Born June 6, 1936 in Lagos, to a royal family of Uromi in Edo State his father was Esan and his mother was Yoruba. He holds a licentiate in sacred theology and was ordained as a priest December 1, 1966. In 1973, he became the Archbishop of Lagos. From 1994 to 2000, he headed the Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria.

Archbishop Okogie is the ultimate friend and companion of the voiceless, the marginalized, the helpless, and the poor. He’s the people’s priest. In my opinion, Cardinal Okogie possesses one of the most revolting pens in the history of clergy in Nigeria. He’s a thorn on politicians and those of the clergy and other appendages who branded with reprobate scandals. He detests their pomp, their pride, and their luxuriousness.

Over the years, Cardinal Okogie has mystified both his critics and admirers of the courage that sustained his heart, and the peace that filled his soul, were reflected upon his countenance and struck the beholders. He once volunteered to die in place of a Muslim woman who had been condemned to death by stoning by an Islamic court for adultery.

A man of super intellect, he never hide his belief in an infallible Bible and the consequences of that belief in his conforming behavior to Biblical precepts. Okogie is a solid excellent Christian, a rare gem among his fellow clergy men both at home and abroad.  A man of great power with great piety. He was one of the few cardinal electors in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI.

With a cheerful countenance and more than stoical constancy, he confronts head on the workers of iniquities that continue to annihilate the very people they sworn to serve and protect.

In June 2005 when the police acting on the orders of the federal government, laid siege on 1004 Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos; Bishop Okogie condemned the action saying “If a soul is lost there (1004 Estate), I will not hesitate to call for civil disobedience and beckon the international community against this government.”

The estate has been a subject of dispute between the federal government who had one time sold the property to the highest bidder and consequently asked its occupants who are mostly civil servants to vacate the building.

Like other helpless Nigerians, the Bishop felt like a prisoner in an outworn, obsolete political and theological system. Worried that religious politics would tear Nigeria apart, the revered Bishop warned that no country could remain one when “adherents of a particular religion are being singled out for persecution and denial of their fundamental rights as citizens of this country.”

Addressing newly ordained priests August 2005, the Cardinal said many priests had failed in their responsibility because of their inability to match their belief with actions. In 2006 speaking on the spate of assassinations in the country, the eminent Bishop had this to say: “The assassination of the former justice minister Bola Ige, Dikibo Marshall, Funso Williams and now Ayo Daramola portends a very great danger for our country, because the killers have not been found and prosecuted to deter others…”

On safety and security, he warned that “A nation without security is not a nation… Such a nation slides gradually into jungle justice, barbarism, anarchy and chaos.” “I am no prophet,” continued the Cardinal, “but if care is not taken, the way we are going, there will be many more assassinations before the 2007 elections.” Events that followed however, proved him to be a prophet!

A champion of public education, Cardinal Okogie berated the federal government when seven private universities were approved. He accused government of promoting private education at the expense of public education. “They are (government) subtly killing education in this country and making same costly for parents,” said the Cardinal.

Never recoiling from torments of enemies of progress and accusers of the brethren, Cardinal Okogie never missed the opportunity to condemn the extravagant riches of secular and church office. In June 2007 in Abuja at the Ordination of Seven Missionaries of Society of St. Paul (MSP), the Bishop took a swipe at priests who enriched themselves in God’s name. With biting sarcasm he lashed out at their hypocrisy:

“We need good Priests to carry out the work of God and lead Nigerians to Christ,” he said. “Now you see men of God involving themselves in negative attitude, bad practices such as enriching themselves with material things under the pretence of working in the Lord’s vineyard. Priests of God should bear good fruits that last,” he warned.

He challenged Nigerians to hold their priests accountable. “You must correct the man of God when they are not getting it right. They’re not saints, they are humans… Do not hesitate to call them back when they go astray.”

Okogie, “Dare to be a Daniel” is more than an old gospel song. It is a timeless challenge for the ruling class, the Jet Pastors, and for each new generation of Nigerians, calling them to be God’s “change agents” wherever he might send them or whatever position he might plant them. Okogie’s confidence in God is nurtured by his communication with God. To Okogie, to trust God is to talk to God, and to talk to God is to trust him all the more.

No doubt, Cardinal Okogie has left a sting in the hearts and a gnawing worm in the consciences of the enemies of the people. The lesson from the Cardinal’s life to the Jet Pastors is clear: A godly life is the best advertisement for Christianity.

We wish the people’s priest a retirement full of happiness and fun.

byolu@aol.com
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

 

 

Advent IV: God Keeps His Promises.


Justin Holcomb

Advent IV: God Keeps His PromisesIntroduction              On the fourth Sunday of Advent (Advent IV), we celebrate God’s faithfulness in sending Jesus, and we remember that faithfulness as we look forward to Christ’s second coming.

The Scripture and Theology of the Fourth Week of Advent

Scripture readings for Advent IV focus on the coming of the Messiah who fulfills God’s covenant with David, bringing salvation for all people and the eternal reign of God on earth.

Old Testament Readings        

Old Testament passages for the final week of Advent reflect on prophecies, which are fulfilled by Jesus’ birth. Isaiah 7:10 recounts the story of King Ahaz, king of Judah at a time when Judah was facing a foreign invasion. Ahaz hoped for help from the king of Assyria. The prophet Isaiah, however, downplays human-oriented deliverance and instead points to God’s divine intervention to bring about his kingdom—an intervention that would come through a baby born in Bethlehem. Isaiah says, “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

We see something similar happen in 2 Samuel 7:1 when God corrects King David’s human plans by revealing his divine plan. When David starts to make plans to build a temple for God to dwell in, God counters that he himself will build his own “house” through the dynasty of David, ultimately dwelling among his people as God with us—Immanuel—in Jesus Christ. God promises that he will make for David a great name, give his people eternal rest from enemies, and give him an everlasting kingdom (Isaiah 7:9); these promises are fulfilled in the coming of Jesus.

Micah 5:4 looks forward to how God will rule over his people through Jesus: “He shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord…And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.”

Readings from the Psalms

In Psalms 80:1 we see the psalmist praying for deliverance and restoration. Because of God’s past deliverance, the psalmist calls for God once again to let his face shine upon his people so that they can be saved. The Gospel of John says that those who have seen the face of Jesus Christ have seen the face of God (John 14:9). In Jesus Christ, God fulfills his promise of salvation by making his face shine upon his people.

Psalms 89:1Psalms 89:19 shows God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. God said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: ‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations’” (Psalms 89:3). God said he would be faithful to David, and through Jesus, God keeps his promise.

New Testament Readings       

New Testament readings for Advent IV continue to reflect on God’s faithfulness to his promises. The gospel was “promised beforehand through [God’s] prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:2). The good news of salvation is that God has been faithful to his promise to David in sending Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.

Hebrews 10:5 reminds us that Christ’s coming obliterates the old system of sacrifice, through the sacrifice Jesus made for us, once for all. Because of Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:9-10). Jesus’ birth points us forward to the cross. As Karl Barth put it, “Except we see the Cross at Golgotha we cannot hear the Gospel at the crib of Bethlehem.”

Gospel Readings

Gospel readings for Advent IV tell the story of the angel coming to Mary and Joseph to announce Christ’s birth. In Matthew 1:18 the angel Gabriel tells Joseph that Mary “will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). This fulfilled what the Lord had promised to the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:22, from Isaiah 7:14).

Luke 1:26 tells another more of the story and connects Jesus’ birth to the lineage of David. The angel tells Mary that her son “will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).

The Symbolic Spirituality of the Fourth Week of Advent

The Jesse Tree and Advent Wreath both bring to conclusion the theme of repentance throughout the Advent season. The Jesse Tree tells the story of God bringing his people out of exile through Jesus Christ, and the Advent Wreath expresses the peace that we experience through God’s redemption.

The Jesse Tree            

The Jesse Tree in Advent III felt somber; Israel was in exile, and there was little hope in sight. But the story now takes a positive turn with the arrival of the one who paves the way for Christ. God’s promise has arrived, and by telling the stories of John the Baptist (Luke 1:57Luke 3:1Luke 7:18), Mary (Luke 1:26), Elizabeth (Luke 1:39), Zechariah (Luke 1:57), Joseph (Matthew 1:19), the Magi (Matthew 2:1), Jesus (Luke 2:1), and Christ (John 1:1), the Jesse Tree becomes fully lit. The story that God began with Adam reaches the top of the tree with the arrival of the Second Adam, Jesus, who reverses the curse of sin by crushing the head of the serpent on the cross.

The Advent Wreath

On the last Sunday of Advent, a fourth candle on the Advent Wreath is lit. Traditionally, this purple candle has been called the “Angel Candle” and represents the peace that Christ’s birth brings to earth. All four of the candles around the Advent Wreath are now burning, each at a different height. Only one candle remains: the center, white Christ Candle that is lit on Christmas Eve, representing the pure Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world.

Conclusion

The Advent season is a journey through the biblical story that shows us how “all the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ]” (2 Corinthians 2:20). Advent points us to Jesus, just like all Scripture. At his first coming, which we celebrate at Christmas, Jesus showed us his humility, his love for us, and his heart of grace toward sinners and sufferers. At his second coming, which we look forward to in Advent, he will complete what he started at his birth, bringing a final end to suffering, sin, and death, restoring his creation, and setting up a new kingdom of righteousness and peace. God keeps his promises.

Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest and teaches theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. Justin wrote On the Grace of God and co-authored with his wife Lindsey Rid of My Disgrace and Save Me from Violence. He is also the editor of Christian Theologies of Scripture. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, and at JustinHolcomb.com.

Advent III: Rejoice! God Is With Us.


Advent III: Rejoice! God Is With Us

Introduction

The third Sunday in Advent (Advent III) shifts from a tone of expectation of Christ’s coming to one of rejoicing at the arrival of God’s kingdom with the coming of Jesus.

The Scripture and Theology of the Third Week of Advent

Scripture readings for Advent III reflect on the salvation and restoration Jesus brings, which is cause for rejoicing and perseverance.

Old Testament Readings        

Old Testament readings for Advent III highlight the universal restoration Jesus accomplishes. InIsaiah 35:1, the prophet looks forward to the future promised for the people of God—a future inaugurated at the first coming of Christ and consummated at his second coming. When Jesus returns, the effects of sin’s curse will be removed: the wildernesses and dry land will blossom, and streams will come forth from the desert. The miracles he did point to his kingdom: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Isaiah 35:5-6).

Isaiah 61:1Isaiah 61:8 shows God’s concern for those on the fringes of society—those who have no voice of their own and cannot speak for themselves. The Messiah has been anointed by God to bring good news to the poor and liberty to the captives, proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of God’s vengeance. God is one who loves justice and mercy, and in his coming kingdom those who suffer from injustice will be restored. The coming Christ “will save the lame and gather the outcast, and [he] will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth” (Zephaniah 3:19).

Readings from the Psalms

The Psalms for Advent III carry on the theme of the justice and mercy brought about by God’s coming kingdom. Psalms 146:4 says that the one “who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry” is blessed. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up the downcast, keeps watch over sojourners, and upholds widows and orphans (146:8-9). When God brings restoration to his people, there will be laughter and joy, and tears shall be turned into shouts of joy (Psalms 126:5).

New Testament Readings       

New Testament readings in the third week of Advent show how believers are motivated to wait patiently for Jesus’ return. As 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says, patience should be accompanied by rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving as well as abstaining from evil. God is faithful, and he is the one who will sanctify us, so Christians can be sure that we will be kept blameless at Christ’s second coming. Only God’s power can do this, and “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:24). Philippians 4:4 continues the theme of rejoicing, because God’s peace for those in Christ will guard our hearts and minds.

Gospel Readings

Gospel readings for Advent III return to John the Baptist, but in a way that points from him to Jesus. In Matthew 11:2, John hears rumors about what Jesus was doing and asks him (through his disciples) “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus responds to John’s followers: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matt. 11:4-5). Jesus’ answer is incredibly fitting—“look at what I’m doing,” he says. “You know that the Messiah will bring healing to those in need, and that’s exactly what I bring.”

John the Baptist came as a witness, “to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him” (John 1:8). John came to bear witness about the light, who is Jesus. John claimed, “I am the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:23).

John preached the gospel to the people—the good news of God’s coming kingdom of justice and peace (Luke 3:18).

The Symbolic Spirituality of the Third Week of Advent

The Jesse Tree

During the third week of Advent, the Jesse Tree recounts the story of how God’s people often failed, revealing their deep need for a Savior. The branches on the tree this week are crooked and deathly-looking, with few leaves on them. Through the stories of David (1 Samuel 16:12 Samuel 5:12 Samuel 7:1), Elijah (1 Kings 17:11 Kings 18:17), Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1), Isaiah (Isaiah 1:10Isaiah 6:1Isaiah 8:11), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:4Jeremiah 7:1Jeremiah 8:22), Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:1Habakkuk 3:16), and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:1Nehemiah 6:15Nehemiah 13:10), the Jesse Tree narrates Israel’s fall into exile and her waiting for the Messiah.

The Advent Wreath     

A third candle—a pink one—is lit on the Advent Wreath for Advent III. This candle, often called the Shepherd’s Candle or the Joy Candle, represents joy, such as the joy the shepherds experienced when the angel told them that Christ was to be born. The Advent season is now half over, and Jesus’ coming—both his first coming, liturgically, and his second coming, historically—is nearer now than it was two weeks ago.

Conclusion

More than any other week during the Advent season, Advent III represents a shift in attitude. One moves from hope, repentance, and fear of the coming Judge to rejoicing at the coming of salvation and the kingdom of God as Jesus makes all things new.

These Advent rhythms represent shifts that we often experience in our Christian lives. Some days we feel like the injustices in this world are more than we can handle, some days we anguish over our sin, and others we long for the day when God will finally defeat the last great enemy, death. Advent III helps us move out of these moods and into rejoicing, because God has come to save us and to be with us, and he will come again.

Justin Holcomb

Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest and teaches theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. Justin wrote On the Grace of God and co-authored with his wife Lindsey Rid of My Disgrace and Save Me from Violence. He is also the editor of Christian Theologies of Scripture. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, and at JustinHolcomb.com.

{ Day 331 }.


I wait for your salvation, O Lord, and I follow your commands. I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly. I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you. —Psalm 119:166-168

We stumble over the fact that God doesn’t speak or act the way we think He should. But from Isaiah we learn not to manufacture our own light when we walk in darkness. From Saul we learn not to run ahead of God when the answer is delayed. From the Gospels we learn that God’s silence does not mean we are rejected or unloved; it must be understood in the light of God’s redemptive purposes. For those who have allowed the Holy Spirit to perform His work in their lives, the “Why, God?” questions are accompanied by a growing peace and trust rather than disillusionment and unbelief. God wants us to learn to be at peace in our souls by virtue of our relationship with Him, not by virtue of the information about our circumstances that we sometimes receive from Him. People searching for God’s peace and comfort often look for it by asking God for information about their future. But He wants our peace to come first by fixing any problems in our personal relationship with Him.

{ PRAYER STARTER }

Father, how often I run ahead of You and question, “Why?” Teach me to be at peace with Your purposes because of the trusting relationship I have with You.

Our “Why, God?” questions are a normal
part of the walk of faith for all
of us until the very end.

By MIKE BICKLE.

Inside and Outside.


God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed ….
Psalm 46:1-2

Recommended Reading
Psalm 46 ( http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2046%20&version=NKJV )

According to Psalm 46, there are external and internal provisions from the Lord in times of disaster, for God is both our  refuge  and  strength .

Listen to Today’s Radio Message ( http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/radio.aspx?tid=email_listenedevo )

The external provision of His grace is seen in the word  refuge . A person being chased might run toward a fortress and race across the mote as the drawbridge is being raised. He’ll find himself enclosed within the walls of safety. As Martin Luther said, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing!”

The internal provision is the  strength  God gives. According to Psalm 46:1, the same God who is our refuge on the outside is our strength on the inside. I wonder if you’ve discovered the “strength” verses of the Bible. There’s no room to list them here, but sometime when you feel worried or weary look up the references to strength in the Bible. The Book of Isaiah says God renews our strength (Isaiah 40:31), and Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Both within and around you, God is your refuge and strength.

If He is our refuge and strength … then we shall never fear under any circumstances, not even though the earth be removed.
R. A. Torrey

Read-Thru-the-Bible
Mark 6-7

By David Jeremiah.

A Resurrected Servant 500 Years Before Jesus.


A Resurrected Servant 500 Years Before Jesus

A scholar friend of mine once remarked, “I must confess: if there is anything that convinces me that the Bible is inspired, and from God, it is Isaiah 53.” Isaiah 52:13–53:12 comes out of nowhere. There is no precedent for an innocent servant of God suffering and dying for the iniquities of others. It is shocking, graphic and brutal, yet profound.

Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush him; he afflicted [him] (with sickness). If she (or you) places his life a guilt offering, he will see offspring, he will prolong days and the will of Yahweh will succeed in his hand. From the trouble of his life, he will see light.1 He will be satisfied. In his knowledge, my righteous servant shall make many righteous and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide to him [a portion] among the many, and with [the] strong ones he shall divide bounty, because he exposed his life to death and was counted with transgressors, and he carried [the] sin of many and will intercede for transgressors (Isa 53:10–12).2

Who is the Servant in Isaiah?

Is the servant the nation Israel or an individual? Scholars often assume it’s always Israel. At the churches where I have taught, the standard belief is the opposite: The servant is always an individual servant, namely Jesus. Both opinions are problematic. Here’s why.

1 Previous to Isaiah 49, the servant is Israel (or synonymously, Jacob).

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You aremy servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off” (Isa 41:8–9).

You [Israel] are my witnesses (“you” is plural in the Hebrew),” declares Yahweh, “and my servantwhom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me” (Isa 43:10).

“But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen!” Thus says Yahweh who made you, who formed you in the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen (Isa 44:1–2).

Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you, you are to me a servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me (Isa 44:21).

For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me (Isa 45:4).

But is the servant always the people of Israel? No.

2 The servant is sometimes an individual, but there is a shift in Isa 49:1–3. Note the first person language for the servant:

Listen to me coastlands, pay attention peoples from afar. Yahweh called me before I was born, whileI was in my mother’s womb he named me. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me and he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he concealed me away. And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” But I said, “I have labored in vain,I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my judgment is with Yahweh, and mywage with my God.”

At first glance, the line “You are my servant, Israel” seems to confirm that Israel is Yahweh’s servant. But, one line later in Isa 49:5, there is a distinction between Israel and the servant:

And now Yahweh says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of Yahweh, and my God has become my refuge.”

Here the servant that Yahweh formed from the womb is bringing “Jacob back to him” and gathering“Israel.” Isaiah 49:6 continues this direction:

He [Yahweh] says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvationmay reach to the end of the earth.”

Isaiah 49:5–6 tells us that Jacob and Israel will be gathered, raised up, and restored by the servant. The juxtaposition of Israel against the servant suggests that we should understand Isa 49:3’s line, “You are Israel my servant,” as an annunciation of a new servant who will fulfill all or part of Israel’s role (compare Luke 3:22). While Israel is the servant in Isa 40–48Isa 49 identifies an individual servant.

Character(s) Referred to as “my servant(s)”

Isaiah

Isa 20:3

Eliakim, son of Hilkiah

Isa 22:20

Israel

Isa 41:8–942:11943:1044:1–22145:4; (compare Jer 30:1046:27–28Ezek 28:2537:25)

An Individual Servant3

Isa 49:3Isa 52:1353:12

Israel (Plural—“my servants”)

Isa 65:8–913–14

The individual in Isa 52:13–53:12 has taken up Israel’s role as God’s chosen and called servant. It is his duty to reconcile the relationship between God and His people. But how will the servant do this? And how do the results of our interpretation align with biblical scholarship?

Where Our Logic Got Fouled Up

For the last 30 years, biblical scholarship has generally followed the leads of Harry M. Orlinsky and R. N. Whybray when interpreting Isa 53:10–12.4 Although these two scholars had a lot right, they failed to detect the individual servant and his resurrection.

Part of the failure in their interpretation of Isa 53:10–12 is that their focus was only on the servant;not the other characters. They didn’t ask the basic questions: “Who causes the servant’s suffering? Who kills him?” Here’s how we find those answers. When we identify who the pronouns (e.g., she, he, you) refer to, the major players emerge: “the prophet” speaking, “Zion or Jerusalem” acting (Isa 51:3–2352:7), the servant, and Yahweh.5 The result is that Isa 53:10–12 reads:

[The prophet says,] “Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush [the servant]; he afflicted [the servant] (with sickness). If [Zion/Jerusalem] places [the servant’s] life a guilt offering, [the servant] will see offspring, [the servant] will prolong days. And the will of Yahweh is in [the servant’s] hand, it will succeed. Out of trouble of his life [the servant] will see light; [the servant] will be satisfied by his knowledge.” [Yahweh says,] “My righteous servant will bring justice to many and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I [Yahweh] will divide to [the servant] a portion among the many, and with [the] strong ones [the servant] shall divide bounty, because he exposed his life to death and was counted with transgressors, and he carried the sin of the many and will intercede for transgressors.

God is the ultimate cause behind the servant’s suffering (53:12)—it was in His will (Isa 53:10)—but Zion or Jerusalem (who symbolize God’s people) make the servant a “guilt offering.” In ancient Israel, a “guilt offering” was made by someone who had deceived, robbed, defrauded, lied, or swore falsely. In addition to making things right with other people, the Israelites needed to make things right with Yahweh; hence the offering (Lev 5:10–19). Guilt offerings of bulls (or goats) died when offered. So the servant, as the “guilt offering” for God’s people, dies in Isa 53:10.

But something miraculous happens: The servant “sees offspring” and “prolongs days.” Both of these things happen in life (e.g., Gen 48:11Isa 61:9and Exod 20:12Deut 4:405:1617:20;25:15Josh 24:31Judg 2:7Prov 3:1–2). The servant is alive—he is resurrected. Everything in Isa 53:11 also points to resurrection: “he will see light” (compare Isa 9:6Psa 36:1049:20Job 3:16;33:28), and “he will be satisfied in his knowledge.”

“Because the servant exposed his life to death,” and was resurrected, he was able to “carry the sin of many and intercede for transgressors” (Isa 53:12). It is because of the servant’s death and resurrection that God’s relationship with Israel, and with all of us, is reconciled. Now what man does that sound like? Who was killed in Zion by the Jerusalem priesthood? More than 500 years before Jesus, this was prophesied (Acts 2:14–39).

John D. Barry, Editor in Chief, Bible Study Magazine


All Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) contain the word“light.”

All translations in this article are my own or adapted from the NRSV.

The servant in Isa 49 may be the second-generation of Israelites living in Babylon. For a discussion of this, see my book The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah (Paternoster Press, 2010).

Orlinsky, The So-Called “Servant of the LORD” and “Suffering Servant” in Second Isaiah (Vetus Testamentum Sup 14, Leiden: Brill, 1977) and Whybray, Thanksgiving for a Liberated Prophet: An Interpretation of Isaiah Chapter 53 (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Sup 4, Sheffield: Sheffield, 1978).

For the full analysis of Isa 49 forward and an identification of all the characters involved, see The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazinepublished by Logos Bible Software. Each issue of Bible Study Magazine provides tools and methods for Bible study as well as insights from people like John Piper, Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Kay Arthur, Randy Alcorn, John MacArthur, Barry Black, and more. More information is available at http://www.biblestudymagazine.com. Originally published in print: Copyright Bible Study Magazine (Mar–Apr 2010): pgs. 37–39.

Does the Bible Predict the Destruction of Syria?.


Syria destruction
Smoke rises after what activists say was shelling by forces loyal to Syria‘s President Bashar Assad in the village of Dourit, in Latakia countryside, Aug. 17, 2013. (Reuters/Khattab Abdulaa )

Over the last few weeks, I have been asked many times if I believe that the prophecy recorded in Isaiah 17 refers to Syria today, since the text predicts the total destruction of Damascus, the ancient and modern capital of the nation.

In principle, I have no problem with the concept that ancient biblical prophecies can refer to contemporary events, since it’s clear that there are many prophecies still to be fulfilled, including the future world war against Jerusalem. (See Zechariah 12 and 14.)

But it’s obvious from the historical context that Isaiah was speaking of his own day, and so we can safely say that Isaiah 17 almost certainly has nothing to do with the current conflict in Syria. (What follows may be a little technical, but stay with me; it’s important we rightly interpret God’s Word.)

The text states, “An oracle concerning Damascus. Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins. … The fortress will disappear from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus; and the remnant of Syria will be like the glory of the children of Israel, declares the Lord of hosts” (Is. 17:1, 3).

We don’t know the exact date this was written, but the best guess is somewhere between 735-732 B.C., since:

1) Ephraim (meaning the kingdom of Northern Israel, the 10 tribes of Israel) had aligned itself with Syria (called Aram in Hebrew) in 734 B.C. with the hope of being able to stand together against the king of Assyria, who was bent on a brutal conquest of the region. Together, they planned to attack the kingdom of Judah, which was to the immediate south, thereby bringing Judah into their alliance against Assyria. This is recorded in Isaiah 7:2, where the house of David (meaning the kingdom of Judah) is told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim.” God told Ahaz, the faithless king of Judah, that this alliance would be crushed (vv. 5-9).

2) In the years 734-732 B.C.—meaning, within a matter of months or years from when Isaiah delivered the prophetic message found in Isaiah 17—the Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser III absolutely devastated Syria and Israel (meaning Ephraim, northern Israel). And note carefully that both of them are mentioned together in Isaiah 17:1-3, so this prophecy concerns the two nations together.

According to the IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, “Tiglath-Pileser III’s Annals describe how he completely destroyed the sixteen districts and most of the cities of Aram [Syria] in 732, deported portions of the population and gave charge of most of the cities and territories of Syria to other, more loyal vassals (the list includes 591 towns destroyed). Damascus was badly damaged but survived the experience to become the capital of a newly constituted Assyrian province. Subsequently Damascus joined yet another anti-Assyrian coalition, led by the Syrian state of Hamath, in 720. This rebellion was crushed by Sargon II in 720, and thereafter Damascus is ruled by Assyrian governors until 609. The city only regained its independence temporarily until the Neo-Babylonian empire absorbed it in 604.”

And in the year 722 B.C., Assyria completed its destruction of Israel (meaning, again, the northern kingdom, Ephraim), sending many of the Israelites into exile.

So, within a few short years of Isaiah prophesying the destruction of Syria and Israel, his words came to pass, with God using the king of Assyria to bring the devastating judgment.

This obviously has nothing to do with the situation today, more than 2,700 years later.

What about the fact that Isaiah declared that “Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins”? This is basically what happened under the Assyrians, and it is in keeping with prophetic language that often describes divine judgment in extremely vivid terms like this. (In other words, the powerful language of the prophets often describes a snapshot of the destruction and judgment, and so from a literal viewpoint it sounds like hyperbole.)

Is it possible that Isaiah was speaking of a still future, more complete destruction of Damascus?

It’s remotely possible, but the whole context of Isaiah 17 is against it, and rather than speculate on whether Isaiah was predicting the destruction of Damascus in the 21st century—again, a highly unlikely proposition—we would do better to focus on other issues, like praying for God’s kingdom to come in power to Syria and the region; praying for the name of Jesus to be exalted in that war-torn nation; praying for mercy on those deeply affected by the war (and working to help them however we can); praying for grace on the Christian population there (and for the nominal Christians to truly come to know the Lord); praying for the salvation of many Muslims; praying for God’s hand of restraint on America, Russia and the nations; and praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

That should keep us busy for some time to come.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

MICHAEL BROWN

Michael Brown is author of The Real Kosher Jesus and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown onFacebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

Are You a Fearless Christian?.


Fearful man
Do you allow Satan to render you ineffective with fear? (Imagery Majestic)

Fear consumes our energy. Fear leaves us empty. Fear makes us ineffective. Fear is a parasite. Fear is real.

Sometimes it is so invasive that it feels tangible. And the more it controls us, the more real it starts to feel, and we gradually lose control. Do we have to be controlled by these feelings that are constantly trying to invite themselves in?

Fear is always looking for an entryway. We are the ones who give it a home in our life. (Just to be clear, I’m not talking about that healthy fear that works like your conscience trying to keep you safe.)

I once heard that darkness is the absence of light. So fear comes from the absence of what? Maybe a lack of confidence? Maybe faith? Maybe inexperience? Maybe bad experiences? Maybe not trusting God? Maybe trying to control everything? What do you think?

Am I fearless? I definitely ask myself this question from time to time. I think every man and boy does.

Inherently, we all want to be called fearless or daring. Call a boy a chicken, and it can stick with him for life. As a kid, I wanted to be a knight. Once I learned—sitting in history class—that they didn’t exist anymore, I switched to wanting to be a FBI agent.

There’s a reason “No Fear” became a popular tagline across the world. But we all have our fears, and they come in different sizes. Mine is fear of failure and not being someone others can depend on. If I fail at these, then I’m not a man (at least, that’s my fear).

A smaller fear of mine is heights. I didn’t learn how to ride a swing until I was 8 because that “exhilarating rush” scared me. I didn’t trust the structure of the swing to keep me from tumbling away in the wind. My fear restricted me from this simple pleasure. While this latter one isn’t life-debilitating, it is still a fear. Some fear eating or going to the movies alone. Right now there is a lot of fear in holding a job, financial security and the future.

“Imagine your life, wholly untouched by angst. What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats?” —Max Lucado

Fear is an emotion that will overcome us if we let it. So, how do we not give in to this parasitic fear? Do we embrace it? I’m sure we’ve all heard this. I disagree with this statement, however. I’m not going to embrace it when I’m trying to rid my life of it.

I’m not saying fear isn’t real. We’ve already established that it is. It would actually be unwise to not recognize the power and real existence of fear. Some try to ignore it, and that works for a time. Some build up confidence in themselves through knowledge and experience. I did this. But fear will eventually penetrate through any of this. Fear is bigger than us.

What are your thoughts on fear? How do you deal with it? Do you think fear only affects the weak? Think about it, chew on it and share your thoughts. We look forward to discussing this with you.

Think about who it is that wants us to fear and be afraid. A lot of fears are based on lies or misconstrued truths. And who is the father of lies? It’s Satan. I didn’t get this before.

It was easier to say Satan didn’t exist and that I’d overcome my fear. “I’m the master of my fate” was fun to say. Society has marginalized Satan into a little imp with horns and a pitchfork that we can point and laugh at. Who would be afraid of that? He looks weak and smaller than us.

We should recognize the danger, though, because he’s a master of disguises. He is bigger than us, and we need someone bigger to fight for us, to shed light on these lies and to help reveal the truth, which will ultimately free us. We need the God factor.

God says He is love and that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). We know with confidence that we aren’t in this battle alone. God is a fortress we can run to and be safe (Ps. 144:2).

For myself, I now place my confidence in God. There’s no shame in that. I have full confidence in my strength and abilities, but I also know my limits. I know my fears and that my knowledge and strength will fail me at some point. They have in the past.

I still have to jump in the ring and put on the gloves to do my part. The enemy also knows my fears and will try to exploit them every chance he gets. He wants to knock me down and stomp on me.

It took a while, but I finally came to the realization that some things, like Satan, are bigger than me. In my own strength I can’t defeat him. God will.

Remember the promises He has given us that we can hold on to. Don’t let go. Trust in God. Live the fearless life God wants for you. No fear.

Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (NIV).

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

For the original article, visit fearlessmen.com.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ NEW MAN.

JOHN MUMMERY/FEARLESSMEN.COM

Sprayed With Foolishness.


Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.
Isaiah 1:18

Recommended Reading
Isaiah 1:16-20 ( http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%201:16-20&version=NKJV )

Earlier this year, a TSA agent at JFK International Airport in New York found a device he thought was a laser pointer, and he started playing around with it. It was actually a canister of pepper spray, which he accidentally discharged on fellow workers. Six TSA employees were taken to the hospital, and security checks were halted for fifteen minutes due to the incident.

Listen to Today’s Radio Message ( http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/radio.aspx?tid=email_listenedevo )

Perhaps no great harm was done, but this story illustrates how easily we can hurt others by just “playing around.” A moment of carelessness, a wrong action, a foolish decision, a rash word, a yielding to temptation — and the results can be far worse than a dose of pepper spray. They can inflict lifelong damage.

The effects of foolishness may be irreversible, painful, and deep; but God can restore any heart, forgive any sin, and turn all things for good. If you’ve hurt someone through past foolishness or if your heart is heavy with the weight of bygone failures, place your sin under the blood of Christ. He can give you total forgiveness and give you a new start today.

Though your sins should be double-dyed as crimson was, though you have sinned again and again and again… yet He is able to cleanse you.
Charles H. Spurgeon

Read-Thru-the-Bible
Jeremiah 28-30

By David Jeremiah.

{ Day 221 }.


If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. —Isaiah 58:10-11

The prophet Isaiah said that if we extend our souls for others, then our hearts would be like a well-watered garden. Some of God‘s people carefully guard their lives from all inconvenience and only contribute as long as their comfort zone isn’t disturbed. But we must give ourselves away to God’s people as servants of God’s purpose. Jesus said the greatest among us would be the servant of all. We can’t gaze into the heart of God and retain a “me first” attitude.

{ PRAYER STARTER }

Others, Lord, others. Let me reach out with Your love to others. Let me tell them of the miracle of salvation through Your sacrifice on Calvary. Make me a soulwinner, Lord. Let me share in the harvest of souls before You return.

We become devoted to the things and people
He is devoted to.

By MIKE BICKLE.

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