(My last post on reading the OT and NT together and what God might have been doing in some of those more "difficult" passages has sparked a good discussion- make sure to check it out. In the meantime, here's a post from 2 years ago on a similar theme. I had been thinking through Jesus in the OT, etc and had attended the "Spurgeon Fellowship" Western to hear a talk on preaching Jesus from every text. This post was the result…)
So, to backtrack just a bit…
I enjoyed the second half of the Spurgeon Fellowship quite a bit- it made me glad I went.
The two halves were each a talk… and when I say talk, I mean sermon, by Art Azurdia :) And apparently, word on the street is, even Art's classes aresermons. Which is fine, but there are times when you know you're being talked to and times when you know you are being preached at, and man, Art is a "preach at-er"… Which too is fine, just a bit unnerving when you are no longer used to or conditioned to expect that sort of thing.
The first half was my least favorite. It was basically a talk, err… sermon, on how Jesus should be preached from all of Scripture including the Old Testament. It was fine as far as it went, but I'm down with that idea already and wanted to hear more of the practicalities. I also have the feeling that most of the men (yep- just dudes… and all the prayers were for the "men of God" who were there, etc) there were already down with that idea as well, it being the Spurgeon Fellowship and all. I'm sure I'm not the only one who got a bit frustrated with the rhetorical question approach that seemed to assume that none of us there had heard of this idea before and thought it kind of iffy… I just wanted to get down to business, but I had to wait for the second part of the talk for that.
The second half of the talk was basically a really well-done and helpful walk through Genesis 39, and how Joseph's story points us to Jesus- how to preach it in context as a chapter, related to the chapters around it and then in the context of the whole redemptive narrative of Scripture. I dug it because it was another piece in helping me see Jesus in all the Scripture…
Jesus in the Old Testament. This is something I, of course, got tastes of in Bible College and Seminary with typology, but it was presented more as a n interesting side note rather than the main theme of Scripture… and I've been thinking more and more about over the last two years, prompted mainly by the most excellent Tim Keller.
Honestly, I don't know why this isn't more of an emphasis in the emerging church.Seeing Jesus in and through all the Scriptures would seem to me to be a very emerging thing to do… as we renew our emphasis on the person of Jesus and what He actually did and said, how better to focus on the King of the Kingdom than to see Him as He presented Himself to those disciples on the road to Emmaus- all through Moses and the Prophets?
Is it that many others who think this way about the Bible tend to be mainly "Reformed" and so emerging church thinkers shy away? Well, what better way to build common ground than to focus on this area of huge agreement? The Bible is not a handbook, not a rulebook, it's a Story. The Story of God's redemption and we see the Hero of that story on every page. Sound "emergent"? It's not- it's Art (paraphrased), about the most non-emerging church guy you could hope to meet this side of Johnnie Mac.
At any rate, as I said, the second part of the talk was great- focusing on the methodology of preaching the Gospel and preaching Jesus in and through every story in Scripture…
For instance, the story of David and Goliath? So not about how you can defeat the giants in your life (how many times have you heard that sermon???)
It's about how you can't- but God can. And it's specifically about how He does so through the weakness of the substitute- the unlikely one who stood in Saul's place, who came in the name of the Lord and the power of the Spirit and defeated the enemy of the people of God. If you read that story and see yourself in David, you are reading i
t wrongly. You're not David- you are the cowering Israelites who face an undefeatable foe…
But God is on the scene, sending One who can defeat whatever we face- and that's who David points us to- Jesus. The point of the story is not "Be like David." Youcan't… it's trust Jesus, the real and true David who wins the victory over death and sin.
The more I read of Scripture, the more I see that this is the way it's meant to be read- it all points to Jesus and in such amazingly literate ways as to boggle the mind. As Art said, the writers of Scripture were better writers than even they knew…
One of the best parts of Tuesday's visit to the Spurgeon Fellowship for me was talking to my old Greek professor, Dr. DeYoung.
James DeYoung was nearly fired from Western for making that same point about the writers of Scripture in mid-90's in his book Beyond The Obvious.
At that time, it was written into the teaching position of the school (which all faculty had to sign) that the literal, historical, grammatical, "authorial-intentical" method of reading Scripture meant that there is only 1 (and Dr DeYoung tells me the number "one" was written into the position) meaning of any and all texts.
Now, any first year Bible-College student who stumbles upon a Messianic Psalm (like Ps 22) knows better, and apparently it was okay to point out certain accepted examples (such as those messianic psalms and places where the NT made OT typology plain), but in suggesting that there was more meaning in Scripture beyond the obvious and that perhaps we should even read the NT the same way we read the OT…? (I'll talk more about what that looks like in a minute)
That got Dr DeYoung nearly banished.
But now the teaching position has changed, and Dr DeYoung is (somewhat!) vindicated by hearing Western's homiletic professor say that authorial intent matters, but there's more than one author to each text in the Bible- the human author AND the Holy Spirit and the human author may not have had a full understanding as to allof the meaning in what he or she was writing.
During the second half of the morning, I found myself sitting up in the balcony next to Dr DeYoung, and afterwards we had a great talk about one of my more recent kicks- not just seeing Jesus in the OT, but seeing the OT in the NT.
This started for me when I was preaching through the book of Luke, and realized that much of it was structured to point back to, and in fact to recapitulate in a sense the Old Testament narrative.Jesus was re-doing much of what happened in the OT, but rather than failing as they did, He was succeeding.
In other words, the idea that He was in the desert for 40 days becoming very hungry wasn't just an arbitrary happening. It's not just that 40 is the "magic" Scriptural number for "testing."
It was meant to point us back to both the Moses and the Israelites and Elijah and their times in the desert… And it was meant to show us that Jesus did what they wouldn't/couldn't, not only in His trust of His Father but in the resisting of temptation. The whole modern evangelical message of seeing those passages in the Gospels as mainly a 3 point sermon on "How to Avoid Temptation" so miss the point they make me want to bang my head against the wall- it's not about "how to avoid temptation… so be like Jesus!" It's about how we try and try and just can't- but Jesus can and did. Not that we should never look at a Gospel narrative and pick up things to emulate in Jesus (of course), but the point of this narrative is not simply example- it's a comparison/contrast between Christ and Moses/Israel and Elijah, and on a certain level between The Gospel and the Law/Prophets.
The Old Testament is a record of failure and the New a record of Jesus and His success where others had failed- His success and the success of the Gospel in bringing the life that the Law could not bring through obedience and the Prophets couldn't bring through their preaching.
Much of the Gospel narrative works this way- Why does Jesus feed 5,000 with 12 baskets left over? Neat party trick? No- Elisha did the same thing, but he fed only a hundred or so. Jesus fed many times that and with 12 baskets (enough for all of Israel- all the people) left over. Jesus is the true and better Elisha.
Why appear on the Mount of Transfiguration with M
oses and Elijah? Because they are the ones who pointed the people to Him, and He's constantly pointing us back to them… saying- "See what they failed to do? I'm now doing it. I'm the true and better Moses, the true and better Elijah."
Could keeping the Law bring righteousness? No.
Could war and killing all their enemies bring peace? No…
and that right there has been a HUGE piece in helping me understand the OT- the point of all the violence in the OT is that IT DOESN'T WORK. It doesn't bring them peace. If you read the OT as anything but a record of failure that points us to the ultimate success of Jesus, you get to some odd places and find yourself trying to wrap your head around and defend some wild things.
Jesus comes and gives a new and better way to righteousness and peace…
There are these three "peaks" in the Scriptural narrative- Moses and Joshua/the Law, Elijah and Elisha/ the Prophets and…
And here's where it gets interesting with Jesus. The Gospel narrative refers to John the Baptist as the "Elijah" who would precede the Messiah, so in a sense it's John and Jesus… but here's the interesting thing about the whole Moses/Joshua, Elijah/Elisha typology- the first is always better known, but the second, in a sense gets the job done. It's Joshua who leads the people into the Promised Land, it's Elisha with the double-portion of Elijah's spirit…
And in the NT narrative it's the Church in the book of Acts who does "greater works" than Jesus in the sense of taking the Gospel message beyond the borders of Israel to the whole world. So the picture has this dual hinge of John the Baptist and Jesus, Jesus being in that second place as the one who really gets the job done, and then Jesus and the Church- with the Church in that spot.
And the "recapitulation" we see in the Gospels isn't only found there- it's in the book of Acts as well.
For instance, Pentecost.
It's 50 days after Passover.
Everyone thinks the people are drunk because the Holy Spirit has filled them.
Peter steps up and preaches the Gospel
3,000 believe and are given new life.
Cool story, eh? I especially love it when it's used to justify big churches, because that's totally the point
I kid, I kid…
Actually, the point is this- it's meant to point us back to Sinai, when:
50 days after Passover,
Moses came down from the mountain and found everyone actually drunk.
He gives them the Law, and…
3,000 of them die.
See? It's not just a story about how the Church was born. It's a story about the difference between the Gospel and the Law, between the Law/Moses who brings death, Jesus (who Moses told the people would come) who brings new life.
Did Luke see that when writing Acts? I think maybe he did, but I'm not sure. I think the Gospel writers saw a lot of the parallels and structured their narratives accordingly- but in the same way the authors of those Messianic Psalms didn't get all the import of everything they wrote, I have no trouble in seeing the same thing happening with the Gospel writers.
Does that mean it didn't happen the way they record it (with allowances for rearranging some of the parts to make specific points)? Not at all…
It's fascinating to me that more non-Christian scholars of Scripture see these things than Christian ones. I think it's because they aren't looking for "lessons for living" in the text, but approaching it as purely literature and so seeing some of the literary features Christians miss in their effort to make every part of the text about some kind of life application. Unfortunately, the conclusion most of those scholars draw is that the Gospel/Acts narratives MUST be fictional- nothing could fit together that well with the OT narrative.
I don't know about that…
You all heard OJ was recently re-arrested? For (allegedly) trying to "steal" back some items of his… at gunpoint. Of course you heard that…
What you may not have heard is that among the items he was trying to retrieve was a suit.
A suit he was apparently wearing the day he was declared "not guilty" way back when.
Ten felony charges, and possible life in prison, for trying to steal back the suit he wore when he was found "not guilty" for the crime everyone knows he committed.
Further, there's some dispute about the suit. A judge says the Goldmans (who have a $30 million judgment against OJ and get basically everything he makes) can't prove it's the suit and so collect. But apparently, OJ cut himself shaving on the day of the trial and there was a noticeable blood stain that could be linked back to OJ and used to prove it was, in fact, his suit.
See, you couldn't make that stuff up.
So when someone says that the parallels and "coincidences" in Scripture prove it's fictional, I say- Yeah- and OJ is "not guilty."
There's more to say on all this… Dr DeYoung and I got to talking about if/how this reading of Scripture applies to the Epistles… He thinks it does, but is not exactly sure how. As for me, I want to spend the next decade or so thinking about how this reading informs my understanding of the OT/Gospels and Acts. Maybe in 10 years, or 20… I'll be as smart as Dr DeYoung and able to see more in the NT letters that show that just as Moses, the Prophets and the authors of the Go
spels /Acts were better writers than even they knew, so were the authors of the Epistles.
But one hermeneutical paradigm shift at a time, yeah?