24 December 2008

Two things in view and a baby born of a virgin


Pamplona baluarte
Originally uploaded by al_loromanchego
Sometimes two people can be looking at different things and making comments in contrast, and sometimes one person can be looking at two different things at the same time and making comments. This could be confusing. Let me explain.

For the first, the story is told of two ladies sitting on the porch on a Wednesday evening in Tennessee. One is listening to the church choir practicing and the other is listening to the sounds of the crickets. The first, "Don't they make beautiful music?" Replied the second, "Yes, and I hear they do it by rubbing their legs together."

For the 2nd, and more timely to the season is the story told by Isaiah the Jewish prophet some 700 years before the birth of Jesus. Isaiah is writing his prophecy to encourage two different sets of folks. One living in his time, much like the wall and bridge we see in the photo, and the other group of people who are living 7 centuries later, much like the faint far-away building in the background of the photo.

The hint of how this works in found in Isaiah chapter 7 verse 14. There we read "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."

The hint? The Hebrew word for 'you' in verse 14 is in the plural. Whereas the context of the comforting words is a message to the king, King Ahaz, all of a sudden, there is a shift to make this plural. So a larger group can be assured of the sign, of the guarantee of God's presence. I believe this is the double view of the prophet.

The significance for us? God wanted to speak words of comfort to the king in 700 BC (or so) and that's good news for him. And God wants to speak good news and comfort to us about a virgin having a baby and his name would be "God with us" (That's how Immanuel translates).

When I hear the Christmas story, I don't think of Santa, or of presents or reindeer. I think of God comforting us, of sending his presence and of the redemption that's found only in the Son of the Virgin, Y'shua (Jesus), who gives eternal life to all who believe.

That's good news!

To all who read this blog... a very merry Messiah-mas!
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Actual text of Isaiah says this, "Not long after this, the LORD sent this message to King Ahaz: "Ask me for a sign, Ahaz, to prove that I will crush your enemies as I have promised. Ask for anything you like, and make it as difficult as you want." But the king refused. "No," he said, "I wouldn't test the LORD like that."Then Isaiah said, "Listen well, you royal family of David! You aren't satisfied to exhaust my patience. You exhaust the patience of God as well! All right then, the Lord himself will choose the sign. Look! The virgin* will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel--`God is with us.' By the time this child is old enough to eat curds and honey, he will know enough to choose what is right and reject what is wrong. But before he knows right from wrong, the two kings you fear so much--the kings of Israel and Aram--will both be dead. " (Isaiah 7.10-16)

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My new friend Alvaro, who lives in Madrid, shot this photo on a trip to Pamplona last month. Gracias, amigo, por la foto. Y Feliz Navidad y prospero año nuevo.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

there you go again with proselitizing us. no way did isaiah mean jesus. get off your religion and come bakc to judaism, you convert.

Bob said...

Hello Anonymous, that's exactly what I was saying, that Isaiah meant BOTH his prophecy for the days of King Ahaz and for a distant people, including us. I'm so grateful for his words and for God's words, especially.

God designed us to know Him and to participate in His comfort, and that's huge; we need that in these days for sure.

My sharing what Isaiah said is not proselytizing as you say. It's letting Isaiah speak, which is what every Jew should do. Don't you agree?

Margaret Sch. said...

I would like to respond to "Anonymous." On Christmas Eve, I, a gentile Christian, went to a glorious church service at a huge cathedral in New York City, together with my children and two Jewish friends who accompanied us. As we entered the church, the younger of my two Jewish friends, age 17, said something to the effect of, "What would they think if they knew 2 Jews were coming in here?" I told him that Christians would gladly welcome Jews into their midst, and that we gentiles who love the One True God have Israel to thank for the fact that we even know who this God is at all. I told him that Israel was the gate through which light came to us gentiles. Later, during the worship service, the older of my Jewish friends was amazed and very happy to find portions of scripture written by Isaiah in the service and in the church bulletin. "Look," she said, "it's Isaiah!" In that moment, Isaiah spoke to us both, and that was a miracle. The next night, I accompanied these Jewish friends to a menorah lighting ceremony on a New York City street corner. The black-hatted Jewish man who was presiding went on to give all who were gathered there (mostly Jewish people from the neighborhood, I think) a talk about the message of Hannukah. He talked about "letting our lights shine." He gave examples of practical ways to do this, such as by lighting menorah candles in one's windows at home, reading the Torah and so on. At the very end of his talk, he acknowledged that the goal in all spiritual practices was to wait for and expect "the ultimate peace of the messiah." I, a Christian, was encouraged that night by this Jewish man at a Hannukah celebration. God's words (such as Isaiah's prophecies and even the very word "messiah") speak loud and clear on their own. Thanks be to God! When those Jewish celebrants served me latkas after the menorah lighting ceremony, I was thankful to be in their company and hearing what they had to say . . .speaking directly from God to me. P.S. Hello, Bob!

Bob said...

Good commentary Margaret...and good story. I'm glad God reaches out to everyone, one person at a time, and doesn't withhold His love from anyone. It's we who prevent Him, we who strangely can defend ourselves from His grace, by denial. What a waste, isn't it?

Better to welcome Him, as the angels and shepherds and Simeon and wise men and everyone did in the Christmas story... that baby born of a virgin did great things. He wants to do so in us again.

Anonymous said...

Jesus delivered us the Lord's prayer. Its fifth line says "though shalt be done as it is in Heaven".
Irrespective of how people wish to conduct their religious beliefs or rituals, the simple fact is that those who are insightful enough to live their life as they believe "it would done in Heaven" experience daily the joy and wonder that the life God offers is delivered. You don't need special clothes, dogma, rituals, bias, or false allegiances. Put the public interest of your own country first - the country in which you live. If you want to be part of a tribe - follow a football team.

Terry, Hampton Vic, Australia