Messengers

29 Dec

Kathryn Hauser’s Reflection for 01 After Christmas 29 December 2013
Messengers
What does “prophecy fulfilled” mean? On the surface that seems like a stupid question. Prophecy is fulfilled when events play themselves out on the cosmic chessboard, right? Well, I donno. I tend to see prophecy as fulfilled in the small things rather than in the grandiose, larger-than-life big things. God is hidden in plain sight. (Isa 52:8) I don’t know what I don’t know. What I do know is that prophecy is NOT necessarily fulfilled by man’s obedience in order for it to be fulfilled. It is God’s action ensuring that His word gets fulfilled because He keeps His own Word based on what He has said. Surely, we are His people. Jesus became our Savior (Isa 63:8) in all our distress. (v 9)
Isa 63:8 For He said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely”; and He became their Savior …
Hmmm… “not dealing falsely”? Over the last seven-year cycle we certainly have drawn closer to Jesus and to my knowledge, even in our distress we tried to “not deal falsely.” (v 8) Of course I could be wrong because I honestly don’t know. I look for the best in others and that in itself is my blind spot. Still in all, there has been a whole lot of Doin’ Nothin’ but that’s not the same as “dealing falsely.”
Isa 63:9 in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but His Presence that saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
Yep, we’ve aged through this cycle, gotten old, and He lifted us up to God and to His throne (Rev 12:5) and carried us as in all the days of old, but I’d like to think that we’ve matured through it.
Psalm 148:14 He has raised up a horn for His people, praise for all [!] His faithful, for the people of Israel [and the Church] who are close to Him. Praise the LORD!
For all of us who have been learning the hard lessons of forgiving, blessing, and releasing by leaning heavily into our relationships with Jesus Christ, He has shown us how we are His children who share flesh and blood with Him. (Heb 2:14) We have witnessed how He destroys the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil (v 14) as we each went through the crucible of life in learning the art of “dying” to ourselves. We have personally witnessed in our own beings a new freedom from the slavery of the fear of death. (v 15) Because we have experienced this release from the fear of death, it is clear to us that Jesus did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. (v 16) As far as I know, angels have different bodies than ours which don’t die, so they wouldn’t need to be released from the fear of death. If the messengers are the ones delivering the messages, do they need to be “saved” from the message they are delivering? If angels are light beings then do angels need a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God? (v 17) Jesus became flesh and blood like us (and we like Him). Jesus took on the role of High Priest upon Himself. (v 17) He offered His own life as a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. (v 17) He did it on our behalf. CS Lewis explores the atonement concept marvelously:
“When Scripture says that Christ died ‘for’ us, I think the word is usually υπερ (on behalf of), not αντι (instead of). I think the ideas of sacrifice, ransom, championship (over death), substitution et cetera are all images to suggest the reality (not otherwise comprehensible to us) of the atonement. To fix on any one of them as if it contained and limited the truth like a scientific definition would in my opinion be a mistake.” (31 October 1963)
We children of the King know intimately now how Jesus was tested by what He suffered, and we can testify to how He is able to help those who are being tested. (v 18) Our world is being attacked by the spirit of Deprivation, the same spirit which attacked the world in Jesus’ day. This spirit is like a bundled package holding the Seven Deadly Sins with their poisons running like rivers and depositing them into a bottomless sea of Depravity. This spirit of Deprivation leaves an unfillable hole in the soul. Even if it knows justice, righteousness, right and wrong, it doesn’t care. It only runs. So on behalf of the people I speak to it: “Spirit of Deprivation, be gone with you! To the Abyss with you! I say we choose to CELEBRATE life and in choosing to celebrate, we defeat your darkness! We celebrate LIFE! We celebrate God’s very Presence in our midst!”
Since messengers or angels do not “save” but it is God’s very own Presence which saves (Isa 63:9), I wondered some more about this truth and what it means in the context of “prophecy fulfilled,” since in today’s gospel lesson there were three separate angelic visitations to Joseph through the dream realm. (Mt 2:13, 19, 22) The angel didn’t technically “save” the Holy Family, but Joseph’s obedience to the angel’s instructions from God resulted in their being kept safe. In terms of prophecy I think it is a safe bet to say that Joseph and his family didn’t journey to Egypt and back to Israel on the express intention of fulfilling prophecy. I believe it was the community of believers who affirmed that the Holy Family had fulfilled prophecy. Once the community had time to delve deeper into scripture, then they would have been open to the Holy Spirit showing them how prophecy was fulfilled. (v 15, 17, 23) As the community studied the scriptures, they could “see” how God had kept His word. Sometimes His word is kept through obedience of man to God and sometimes His word is kept through another man’s fury (v 16) precisely BECAUSE of another man’s obedience to God. For some odd reason, obedience to God often tends to ignite fury (v 16) in man (especially in men of power.) To be sure, where there is corrupted power there follows God’s righteous indignation. Call it “wrath” if you will. Sophisticated, civilized minds have a hard time wrapping the mind around the idea of God’s wrath. However, I don’t think the civilized mind has difficulty understanding the meaning of righteous indignation. Righteous indignation is rooted in a sense of justice and right and wrong. These concepts are ones the civilized mind can comprehend, where wrath carries the connotation of punitive action and reaction. Again CS Lewis explores the notion of God’s wrath:
“All associations of human passions to God are analogical. The wrath of God: ‘something in God of which the best image in the created world is righteous indignation’. I think it quite a mistake to try to soften the idea of anger by substituting something like disapproval or regret. Even with men real anger is far more likely than cold disapproval to lead to full reconciliation. Hot love, hot wrath. . . .”
In our society (and in the Church today) I have run into much more “cold disapproval” than I have run into real anger. And I am certain this accounts for the non-progress (dead standstill actually!) blocking the path to full reconciliation of the Churches. I have not seen much hot love or hot wrath from the Churches in relation to bridal devotion to Jesus Christ. (Rev 3:16) I have seen hot tempers over issues, but since when did issues become paramount to the covenantal relationship with God Himself? Putting issues before relationship is like getting a divorce over squeezing the toothpaste tube in the “wrong” place. I believe there is one thing that we could do to turn the tides on this inverse thinking and that is by doing what St Matthew spearheaded and actively researched in his day. Matthew studied the old scriptures and was shown by the Holy Spirit how prophecy had been fulfilled in his day; not only the scriptures which proved Jesus the Messiah, but also other scriptures which were fulfilled on the cosmic chessboard (like with Herod slaughtering the Innocents (Mt 2:16) and how that fulfilled the prophecy of Rachel weeping for her children. (v 18)) What St Matthew provided to his community in his day needs to be continued in our day, because more prophecy has been fulfilled. Prophecy fulfilled does not change or alter Jesus’ Messiahship in any way. In fact it supports it! Seeing how prophecy has been fulfilled brings a sense of relief and awe to one’s being. It provides a sense of closure in some way. It’s hard to describe, but it is very real. Recounting God’s gracious deeds (Isa 63:7) is exactly what St Matthew did as he focused his gospel account on how prophecy was fulfilled.
Paul Keith Davis, would you be willing to spearhead this project in our day?
In closing, ‘Prophecy fulfilled’ is all tied up in the incarnate process itself. Again, CS Lewis explains this much better than I could.
“Let us suppose we possess parts of a novel or a symphony. Someone now brings us a newly discovered piece of manuscript and says, ‘This is the missing part of the work. This is the chapter on which the whole plot of the novel really turned. This is the main theme of the symphony’. Our business would be to see whether the new passage, if admitted to the central place which the discoverer claimed for it, did actually illuminate all the parts we had already seen and ‘pull them together’. Nor should we be likely to go very far wrong. The new passage, if spurious, however attractive it looked at the first glance, would become harder and harder to reconcile with the rest of the work the longer we considered the matter. But if it were genuine then at every fresh hearing of the music or every fresh reading of the book, we should find it settling down, making itself more at home and eliciting significance from all sorts of details in the whole work which we had hitherto neglected. Even though the new central chapter or main theme contained great difficulties in itself, we should still think it genuine provided that it continually removed difficulties elsewhere. Something like this we must do with the doctrine of the Incarnation. Here, instead of a symphony or a novel, we have the whole mass of our knowledge. The credibility will depend on the extent to which the doctrine, if accepted, can illuminate and integrate that whole mass. It is much less important that the doctrine itself should be fully comprehensible. We believe that the sun is in the sky at midday in summer not because we can clearly see the sun (in fact, we cannot) but because we can see everything else.”
From Miracles (1947)

01 After Christmas 29 Dec 2013 Gospel: Matthew 2:13-23
Isaiah 63:7-9
63:7 I will recount the gracious deeds of the LORD, the praiseworthy acts of the LORD, because of all that the LORD has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

63:8 For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely”; and he became their savior

63:9 in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

Psalm 148
148:1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

148:2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!

148:3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!

148:4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.

148:6 He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

148:7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,

148:8 fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

148:9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!

148:10 Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

148:11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

148:12 Young men and women alike, old and young together!

148:13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.

148:14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!

Hebrews 2:10-18
2:10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

2:11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,

2:12 saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

2:13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”

2:14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

2:15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.

2:16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham.

2:17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.

2:18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Matthew 2:13-23
2:13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”

2:14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt,

2:15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

2:16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.

2:17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

2:18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

2:19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,

2:20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”

2:21 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.

2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.

2:23 There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

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