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Water from the Rock: Genre Reading Selections

November 24, 2012 4 comments

From my recent readings in a genre style plan, the following passages came up together one day — a few interesting passages to think upon:

  •  John 7:37-39, when Jesus stood up, on the last day, the great day of the Feast, and proclaimed Himself the source of the river of living water
  • Next, Exodus 17:1-7, the story of that event so well remembered thousands of years later at the Feast in John 7: Moses striking the rock, and water coming out for the thirsty people in the desert
  • An unrelated event, one I wouldn’t have thought of except that it was also in the daily genre reading selection:  Judges 15:19, a time when Samson was given special grace, that a “hollow place” in the wilderness split open and provided him water, so that “his spirit returned, and he revived.”
  • Isaiah 48, a great chapter about the suffering servant, including a well-known Old Testament trinity verse (Isaiah 48:16), and in verse 21 another reference to the water from the rock:

They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts;
he made water flow for them from the rock;
he split the rock and the water gushed out.

In God’s word, water is often used as a picture of the Holy Spirit, that which refreshes our soul as physical water refreshes our thirst.  Many other Bible verses also speak of coming to the water, as for instance Isaiah 55:1 and again at the very end of the Bible, Revelation 22:17.  The rock is our God (the first mention in Deuteronomy 32:31), also Christ specifically (1 Corinthians 10:4).  Thus the scriptures also show the importance of the idea of water from the rock, through repetition and remembrance as in the above mentioned texts.

Haggai’s Prophecy: First or Second Coming?

July 25, 2011 Leave a comment

From my studies through the minor prophets with S. Lewis Johnson, some interesting points  from Haggai 2:1-7.  This prophecy contains a familiar passage, since verse 6 is cited in Hebrews 12:26-27:

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken-that is, things that have been made-in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.

Haggai 2:7 contains a well-known phrase — or rather, the incorrect King James translation of it:  “the desire of all nations.”  This mistake in the grammar, a singular noun instead of plural, goes back to the Latin Vulgate, and from that translation (in the KJV as well as the NIV) has come the common misunderstanding that this passage is talking about the First Coming of Christ.  Indeed I always understood it as such, that “the desire of all nations” and the promise that this temple would be greater than the previous (Solomon’s), referred to Christ coming to that temple a few hundred years later.  The traditional emphasis at Christian churches no doubt reinforced that, with the emphasis that everything in the Old Testament refers to Christ and the New Testament era.  Along with this, many see the citation of the passage in Hebrews, and (as with so many other NT citings of the OT) distort the plain words to conclude that the very fact of the citation means that the quoted passage must have been fulfilled in the first century, Christ’s First Coming.

First, though, the original Greek, properly translated in all modern translations (excepting the NIV) — NASB, ESV, HCSB, NLT, etc. — has a plural noun.  The ESV translates the passage as:

For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts.

Thus, this prophecy in Haggai is actually an indirect Messianic prophecy, to Christ’s Second Coming.  Another Old Testament passage that relates to this one, is Isaiah 60 , a great chapter concerning the restoration of Israel. Consider especially verses 5-7, a clear parallel to the idea here that the nations will bring their treasures to Israel and the millennial temple:

Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and exult,
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
6 A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.
All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you;
the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you;
they shall come up with acceptance on my altar,
and I will beautify my beautiful house.

Isaiah 65: The Millennial Kingdom or the Eternal State?

December 17, 2010 Leave a comment

S. Lewis Johnson’s Isaiah series dealt with a text that I had often wondered about: the description of the New Heavens and New Earth in Isaiah 65.  Is it talking about the Eternal State, or the intermediate state of the Kingdom?

Verse 17 says “create a new heaven and a new earth,” a phrase which sounds similar to the description of the eternal state (Revelation 21-22:5) — as in the words of Revelation 21:1.  Yet the context of the next several verses is clearly describing an intermediary state, in which people still experience death (after longer lives).   Evidently this passage even puzzled Scofield, whose Study Bible says that verse 17 refers to the Eternal State, but verses 18 to 25 to the Kingdom age.

S. Lewis Johnson observes here that the Hebrew word used here, for “create,” does not have to refer to a totally new creation. The word used there could as easily refer to the renewal of the earth.  We do have a New Testament precedent:  2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that we are “a new creation in Christ.”  Of course, we realize that we are not yet completely new creations, as we still are in our mortal, corruptible bodies and still awaiting the resurrection and our totally new, glorified bodies.  Yet we have been renewed and regenerated in our spirits — just as creation itself (Romans 8:21) will be renewed in the next age.  So SLJ’s explanation here, in reference to our new creation in the New Testament, and Isaiah’s “new heavens and new earth,” makes better sense of the overall passage verses 17 – 25.

S. Lewis Johnson on Isaiah 60: The Future Glory of Israel

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m nearing the end of S. Lewis Johnson’s Isaiah series, originally delivered in 1968 and 1969.  One interesting thing from these audio files is a very early mention of Arnold Fruchtenbaum.  He was then in his mid-twenties, a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, and Johnson mentioned this student a few times –as one of the Jewish remnant in our day — and Fruchtenbaum’s experiences during the 6 day war in 1967.

Isaiah 60 is headed, in the ESV translation, “The Future Glory of Israel,” a very fitting description.  In considering this passage I looked up Isaiah 60 in other Bible translations, and quickly discovered an example of the very thing that J.C. Ryle preached against:

In reading the authorized version of the English Bible, do not put too much confidence in the “headings” of pages and “tables of contents” at the beginning of chapters, which I take leave to consider a most unhappy accompaniment of that admirable translation. Remember that those headings and tables of contents were drawn up by uninspired hands. In reading the Prophets, they are sometimes not helps, but hindrances and less likely to assist a reader than to lead him astray.

— for the King James Bible actually titles this section of scripture as “The glory of the church in the abundant access of the Gentiles.”  Other modern translations give a somewhat ambiguous heading with the word “Zion” instead of “Israel” or “Church” — as in, “The Glory of Zion” (NIV), “A Glorified Zion” (NASB) and “The Gentiles Bless Zion” (NKJV).

Now to some highlights from SLJ’s  Isaiah series.  Isaiah 60 features the following five movements:

1.  Jerusalem Glorified by the Coming Glory of Jehovah:  Isaiah 60:1-3

  • Here SLJ speculates that perhaps the “thick darkness” is a reference to the Great tribulation judgments described in Revelation

2.  Jerusalem Glorified by the Coming of Citizens and Gentile Wealth:  Isaiah 60:4-9

  • Again we note that, even in the future, Israel and the Gentiles are distinguished

3.  Jerusalem Glorified by the Service of the Gentiles:  Isaiah 60:10-14

4.  Jerusalem Glorified by Prosperity and Stability:  Isaiah 60:15-18
5.  Jerusalem Glorified by the Presence of the Holy God Among His Righteous People:  Isaiah 60:19-22

  • The words in these verses are similar to Revelation 21-22

Isaiah 53: The Five Stanzas, and the Five Offerings of Leviticus

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

With Isaiah 52:13 -53:12 the S. Lewis Johnson Isaiah series reaches a high point in Biblical prophecy: the most quoted and referenced passage from OT prophecy, in the New Testament.  This is a well-known text, and yet even here I learned many interesting things from the SLJ Isaiah series.

This passage consists of 5 strophes, or stanzas — 5 facets of the saving work of Jesus Christ.  Each set contains three verses, and the verses increase in length as we go through all five.  The first words of each of the stanzas sets the theme for the verses that follow.

  • Isaiah 52:13-15 — The Suffering Messiah, Successful:  “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.”
  • Isaiah 53:1-3 — The Suffering Messiah, Misunderstood:  “Who has believed what he has heard from us?”
  • Isaiah 53:4-6 — The Suffering Messiah, Substitutionary  (or, A Substitute):  “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows”
  • Isaiah 53:7-9 –The Suffering Messiah, Submissive:  “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,”
  • Isaiah 53:10-12 —  The Suffering Messiah, Foreordained (or Planned, or Purposed):  “it pleased the Lord to bruise/crush Him”

These five stanzas also show similarity to the five Old Testament offerings as described in Leviticus 1 – 5.

  • The Burnt Offering (Leviticus 1):  this offering illustrates the one who is whole-hearted to do the will of God.  Here in Isaiah 52:13-15 we see the will of God: Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension and cession
  • The Meal Offering (Leviticus 2):  the meal offering represents, in the fine flour, the perfect humanity and character of Jesus Christ.  Great Christian men of our history, such as Luther and Calvin, were not as fine flour, but had their faults, their coarseness.  Jesus is a “man of sorrows,” the fine flour.
  • The Peace Offering (Leviticus 3):  In Isaiah 53, the substitute is smited — a violent striking.  The peace offering represents an atonement that issues in peace.  Isaiah 53: “upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”
  • The Sin Offering (Leviticus 4):  In the sin offering, the transgression of Israel was covered.  Part of the animal burned, but the body taken outside the camp and destroyed.  Jesus was the sin offering, executed outside the city.
  • The Trespass (Guilt) Offering (Leviticus 5):  In Isaiah 53:10 “when his soul makes an offering for guilt,” the same Hebrew word for guilt is used here, as the Hebrew word for the guilt offering in Leviticus.

 

S. Lewis Johnson: Lessons from Isaiah 48 – 50

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

What follows are several interesting observations from the S. Lewis Johnson Isaiah series.

Isaiah 48
In Isaiah 48 we learn that truth has priority over miracles.  God sometimes allows a false prophet the ability to perform a miracle, but that does not necessarily mean the prophet is of God.  But God alone holds the truth, and He alone can tell the beginning from the end and tell us in advance of the fact.
Isaiah 48:10 deals with God’s testing and trying Israel, though not as silver.  Silver was refined through a process much harsher than other metals, so here is a note of God’s mercy in how He deals with Israel.  S. Lewis Johnson here noted the three types of discipline from God:

  1. Retributive, as with David’s judgment following his sin with Bathsheba; “the sword shall not depart from your house…”
  2. Preventive, as in Paul’s thorn in the flesh, to prevent Paul from becoming conceited
  3. Educative, as in the cases of Job and Jonah, the psalmist’s struggle to understand.  Educative discipline is intended to lead us onward, to another step up in the Christian life.

Isaiah 49
Isaiah 49:1 speaks of the Messiah’s mother  (ESV: The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.), and S. Lewis Johnson here points out that the scriptures never speak of Messiah’s father, but only of His mother.  Consider Psalm 22:9-10 and Micah 5:3.  Again we remember that, because of the prophecy in Jeremiah 22:30, the Messiah had the legal descent of Joseph but could not be descended physically from him.

Passages Concerning the Suffering Servant
The following passages in Isaiah reveal different aspects of the Servant of Jehovah:

  • Isaiah 42:1-8  The Program of the Suffering Servant’s Ministry
  • Isaiah 49:1-7  The Purpose of His ministry
  • Isaiah 50:4-9   The Preparation to which the Servant was submitted in His earthly life

 

The Trinity in the Old Testament: Isaiah 48

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment

From S. Lewis Johnson’s Isaiah series come the following insights regarding Isaiah 48:12-16.

This passage contains a plea of God, for faith on the part of Israel.  This plea has several bases:
1)  Israel is My called; hearken unto me and trust Me (Isaiah 48:12).

2)  Israel’s Covenant Keeping God — “I am He.”  The passage emphasizes God’s complete sovereignty.  God is sovereign in time (v.12) “I am the first, and I am the last,” sovereign in space (v. 13 creation), and sovereign in history.  We also know who this “I am he” refers to:  Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity.  In Revelation (verse ref here), Jesus applies the very next words, “I am the first and the last,” to Himself.  John’s Gospel also includes Jesus’s frequent use of the words “I am” and “I am He.”

3)  Divine calling of Israel’s God.  The last clause tells us, “And now the Lord God has sent me, and his Spirit.”

Well said S. Lewis Johnson in an earlier message that the last part of the book of Isaiah (chapters 40-66) can be called “Isaiah’s Gospel.” For here we also have an Old Testament teaching of the triune God, the Christian understanding of the trinity.  Through the progressive revelation of scripture that began with Moses’ declaration, “Hear, O  Israel, the Lord thy God is one God,” we now see God preparing Israel, in its further history here in Isaiah, to understand God’s three-in-one nature.

For the words “And now the Lord God has sent me” refer to two persons:  the “Lord God” is the Father, and “me” is the “I am he, the first and the last” at the beginning of this passage (verse 12) — Jesus Christ the Son.  The verse also tells us that God has “sent” both “me” (the “I am he,” Jesus Christ) and “his Spirit.”  The Spirit is also someone that can be “sent” — not some impersonal emanation, but a person.

SLJ also gives some interesting information concerning the Hebrew words used in the Jewish saying, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.”  The Hebrew language has two words for unity (compound unity and absolute unity), and that verse literally says “Jehovah our Gods is Jehovah a unity” — Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ehad.  The compound unity word Ehad is the one used in the place where we read that man and wife shall marry and the two become one flesh.  The other word, for absolute unity, is used in the text where God refers to Abraham’s son Isaac as “his only son.”  The Hebrew word for absolute unity is never used to describe God.  As S. Lewis Johnson explains:

Jehovah our God is Jehovah Ehad, a compound unity.  As a matter of fact, as the progressive divine revelation unfolds we could take the Shema Yisrael, the great credo of Judaism and say “Jehovah our God is Jehovah a trinity.”  Now, Jehovah our God is Jehovah a Godhead, compound unity, and the details are spelled out as the revelation unfolds.  Here in Isaiah we are getting preparation for the time when we shall read of Father, Son and Spirit.

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Isaiah’s Gospel: An Overview of Isaiah 40 – 66

November 1, 2010 Leave a comment

The book of Isaiah has often been likened to the full Bible itself, in that it has 66 books, of which the first 39 chapters form one unit (like the 39 books of the Old Testament) and the last 27 chapters (Isaiah 40 – 66) the second unit (like the 27 books of the New Testament).  In my study through Isaiah with S. Lewis Johnson, I’ve now reached the beginning of that second half.  S. Lewis Johnson offers some interesting observations concerning this section of Isaiah.

The first eleven verses of Isaiah 40 serve as a prologue, an outline, to these last 27 chapters of Isaiah.  Within that, the first two verses are “the prologue of the prologue.”  The 27 chapters can be divided into three sections of 9 chapters each, with the following major themes:

  • Chapters 40 – 48:  The end of the Babylonian captivity, yet future to Isaiah’s day
  • Chapters 49 – 57:  The expiation of the guilt of Israel, by the servant of Jehovah
  • Chapters 58 – 66:  The exaltation of Israel and the inauguration of the Kingdom of God

Isaiah 40 introduces the 27 chapters, and verse 2, in its three clauses, provides a summary outline of these three sets:
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended (Isaiah 40-48), that her iniquity is pardoned (Isaiah 49-57), that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. (Isaiah 58-66).

Each of these sections ends with a similar thought, that there is no peace for the wicked.  Note the following verses, the last verse in each section:
Isaiah 48:22 — “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”
Isaiah 57:21 —  “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
Isaiah 66:24 — (the same sentiment, though said differently) “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me.     For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

The prologue in Isaiah 40 also features four “voices” from God:

  • The Voice of Redemption:  Isaiah 40:1-2
  • The Voice of Preparation:  Isaiah 40:3 — a verse fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist
  • The Voice of Perpetuation / or The Voice of the Permanence of the Word of God:  Isaiah 40:6
  • The Voice of Good News: Behold, your God!  — Isaiah 40:9-11

The last verses contain great words that remind me of that part of Handel’s Messiah, “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion,”  (click here for a Youtube sample), which includes the wonderful words of Isaiah’s gospel from Isaiah 40:9 —
Get you up to a high mountain …   lift up your voice with strength … lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

This is a great overview and guide to the rest of the book of Isaiah.  Watch for future updates as I continue the S. Lewis Johnson series through these chapters in Isaiah.

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S. Lewis Johnson: Exposition of Isaiah 28:9

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

An excerpt from S. Lewis Johnson’s message:

Isaiah 28:9 — To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message?  Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast?

I think one of the worst things that can ever happen among the children of God is that sense of pride that comes when a person learns a few verses of Scripture and thinks that because he knows a few verses of Scripture and a few doctrines that now no one can teach him anything. And you know it seems to me that in evangelicalism, we have a great deal of that today. We have a lot of people, because they have been to a few Bible classes and because they have learned a few of the basic doctrines of the word of God, they think there is nothing else in the word of God for them. They think that once they learn these few things, that those Scriptures do not afford them with any opportunity for further knowledge; and it is my firm conviction that we have only begun to understand the word of God, we who teach the scripture.

In evangelical circles I am speaking of, I mean in places where we acknowledge that the Bible is the word of God and that the truth of Scripture is the truth of God, we have only begun to plumb the depths that are in the holy Scriptures. . . . And I think that when we ever get to the stage in our Christian life that we think that we have arrived, and that there is no more in the word of God, then we are in a sad condition. And then Judah, they had arrived. They had arrived at the place when the Prophet Isaiah gave his messages. Wouldn’t you love to have heard Isaiah? My goodness, I would travel for miles to hear Isaiah preach once, and they had the opportunity to hear him day after day, and what did they say? Who will he teach knowledge? Who will he teach doctrine? Well he can teach babies, but he can’t teach us anything.

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Isaiah’s Little Apocalypse and Progressive Revelation

October 11, 2010 Leave a comment

In my study through Isaiah with S. Lewis Johnson, the book can be outlined (so far) as follows:

Isaiah 7-12 — The Book Of Immanuel
Isaiah 14-23 — Judgments against the Nations
Isaiah 24-27 — Isaiah’s “Mini-Apocalypse”
Isaiah 28-33 — The Book of Woe

SLJ dealt with each of these sections in its own sub-series within the overall Isaiah series.  I have previously blogged about the Book of Immanuel.  Now to a brief summary of the “Little Apocalypse” section (here in part 1 and part 2).

The mini-apocalypse is one of several parallel prophecies concerning the Second Coming of our Lord, and the progressive revelation of scripture is important at this point.  Revelation given in earlier books is less detailed, but later Old Testament revelation expands on earlier revelation, just as New Testament revelation expands further — and even some New Testament revelation expands with more details not found in earlier NT texts.  The book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament, completes the progress of revelation.

Isaiah 24:5-6 make reference to an everlasting covenant that has been broken.  The next sentence relates, “a curse devours the earth.”  Which everlasting covenant has been broken?  The description suggests that the Noahic covenant is in view here, a covenant that provided basic law and order, human government.  Though God has been incredibly patient with mankind throughout history, the time will come when God finally says “enough!”  All government is after all under God, appointed by Him, and the final breakdown of government will result in God’s destruction of this world.

Verse 10 describes (in KJV) the “city of confusion”  (ESV translates it “wasted city”).  Though Isaiah’s text does not specify the city, and it could be taken in a general sense, S. Lewis Johnson saw this — in the light of later biblical revelation — as a reference to Babylon, the city of man always opposed to God.  Babylon does play that special role, the first city that rebelled against God (Genesis 11), which will be rebuilt and destroyed in the future, as described in Revelation 18.

Verses 14 and 15 describe the people, the remnant of Israel, as including those who live in the land as well as some in the east (verse 15) and some in the west. S. Lewis Johnson, reading from the KJV, noted that the phrase “glorify God in the fires” has the Hebrew word for “lights,” the word Urim — as also used in the phrase “Urim and Thummim” of the priest’s attire.

Isaiah 24:21 indicates that this judgment will be against both this world and the demons:  On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth.  Then verse 22 is a parallel to other, later, biblical texts:  in this case, another description of Satan and his angels being bound in the abyss (Revelation 20:1-3).  The phrase that begins with “after many days” refers to the thousand years and Satan’s subsequent release and final punishment, the lake of fire.

Isaiah 25-27 is a series of songs in response to the judgment of chapter 24.  Isaiah 26:3 is a familiar, oft-quoted verse — and I think of the scripture-song from George and Kathy Abbas here:   “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.”  The context, though, is a praise from Israel rejoicing in Christ at the Second Advent.  Consider further the verse’s meaning:  “whose mind” — the mind is kept by God’s word, and emphasizes the importance of staying in and seeking God in His word, the scriptures.

Isaiah 26:20 is another parallel reference to the Great Tribulation, and especially to Revelation 12, where the woman (Israel) flees to safety.  From the Revelation text, which agrees with Daniel’s prophecy as well concerning the time period, we also know that “a little while” is the 3 1/2 years  (ref. Revelation 12:14).

Isaiah 27:1 contains a symbolic reference to Assyria, Babylon and Egypt, the enemies of Israel who are referred to as Leviathan.   Isaiah 27:9 has a New Testament reference, in Romans 11:26, the time Paul speaks of when God will “turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”

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