Monday, December 12, 2016

Isaiah 7:10-16 Bringing New Truth from Old Text

KEY TEXT: Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

KEY THOT: Isaiah 7:14 is probably one of the most familiar passages about the coming of Christ read during the Christmas season. It speaks of a virgin conceiving and bearing a son whose name shall be called Immanuel. Yet in the immediate context of this verse, the reference is not to some distant future event but an immediate event in Isaiah's time. Isaiah was pointing out to king Ahaz that the sign of the birth of a boy by a virgin (or maiden) would signal the end of the northen alliance between Aram and Israel. This Aram-Israel confederacy was threatening the southern kingdom Judah at the time this sign was given to Ahaz. And it happened as Isaiah prophesied: a baby was born and the alliance was broken before the baby "knows how to refuse the evil and choose good" (v.16).  Yet, Matthew in his Gospel quotes this verse as a reference to Christ: "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:21-23). How can the same text have two meanings?

This apparent "proof-texting" of Isaiah 7:14 by Matthew demonstrates to us that Scripture is not to be interpreted only in its historical context. We must always leave room for the Holy Spirit, who is the Author of Scripture, to reveal timeless truth hidden in the historical texts of Scripture. God's revelation is often hidden in historical narratives, not just in the so-called teaching segments of Scripture (e.g. Psalms & Proverbs). Even Psalms and Proverbs were written in their historical contexts. No Scripture is to be rejected as irrelevant to us because it has already taken place in the past. God's eternal truth is revealed in a historical event or context. Every historical text carries in it an eternal message that is both timeless and timely for all believers everywhere. All scripture truths reveal the character of an eternal God--and God's character doesn't change with time.

The key to uncovering truths of Scripture that is both timeless and timely is not to rely purely on the historical-critical method nor even on what past biblical scholars have taught about that particular Scripture (commentaries). Every scripture needs to be re-interpreted by the Holy Spirit in order to be timely for our contexts. If our theology is founded only on what dead bible scholars have taught in their historical contexts, it may be irrelevant to our contemporary situations. The battle-lines have been re-drawn by the enemy and we should not be fighting old battles of the past.

So, when Matthew read Isaiah 7:14, the Holy Spirit pointed out to him the timely application of that verse to his historical context--viz., Jesus' virgin birth. As bible teachers and preachers, we need to listen to the Author of Scripture for His timely message  for today's listeners. And only the Holy Spirit can bring out new treasures out of old Scriptures: "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old" (Matthew 13:52).

May the Holy Spirit help us uncover timely sermons from timeless scriptures.

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