Friday, 11 December 2009

Going digital

Digital Media is the latest thing in the Bible Translation world. Everyone's talking about it! The fact is that whether those of us over 40 like it or not, most of the younger generation inhabit a virtual world that intersects more or less with the real world. To them the virtual world is real. This means they are far more likely to spend time interacting with others online than sitting watching TV. If they are into gaming they game with others, online. The question is, will we soon be moving in the direction of virtual Bible studies, and virtual worship? Hmmm... Most of us are not too sure about the latter. But virtual churches do exist, and are likely to become more and more popular in the future. I think it might work as long as folk get together periodically. To be only virtual would be odd. How can you truly interact with each other?

As for virtual Bibles - you can now read or listen to the Bible online, download it for your computer, PDA or mobile phone, read and listen to it on your DVD player, or get it on an MP3 player. There are even tiny solar-powered mp3 players with Bible readings on them for places where electricity and batteries are hard to get hold of. This is all very exciting! It means that speakers of languages all over the world will be able to access the scriptures in a format that suits them, wherever they live. A lot of us are going to be putting a great deal of work into making sure that this is done in a good way. Please remember us all!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Jesus the Messiah

I was reading in the paper the other day that there is a group of orthodox Jews called the Haredim who don't approve of Zionism. This may seem rather odd until you realise that they are still waiting for the Messiah, and don't believe that God will give them the promised land back until the Messiah comes. Any attempt to fulfill the Messianic promise without the Messiah is therefore doomed to failure, in their view.

In Jesus day there was a similar expectation of a Messiah to come and throw out the Roman invaders by taking over as a Jewish King. Hence the title attached to the cross 'This is Jesus, King of the Jews'. [The name Jesus is the same as Joshua in Hebrew, and means 'Saviour']. Jesus himself did not easily fit into this box. Although he fulfilled Moses and the Prophets, he did it in his own way. When on trial before the high priest, the following exchange took place:

Matthew 26
59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward 61 and declared, "This fellow said, `I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'" 62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" 63 But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, {Or Messiah; also in verse 68} the Son of God." 64 "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?" "He is worthy of death," they answered.

Jesus agrees that he is the son of God (i.e. the one chosen by God to rule), but then moves the goalposts by using the title 'son of man'. This comes from Daniel 7, and refers to the one coming with the clouds of heaven, who is given authority over all nations for ever (cf. Mat. 24:27). Jesus' kingdom is not an earthly kingdom!

A similar thing happens in Acts 1. The disciples want to know if Jesus is finally going to kick the Romans out, after all, that is what everyone has been waiting for:

Acts 1:4-9 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptised with {Or in} water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit." 6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

Jesus gently rebukes them, and gives them a new commission. Then he disappears into the clouds - a kind of reverse of Daniel 7, if you like. He also promises the coming of the Holy Spirit, who will lead them into sharing the gospel to all nations. All of this goes to show that it is the covenant with Abraham that is more important than the one with Moses. Abraham was promised that all nations would be blessed through him (Gen 12). So Jesus' coming was a fulfillment of that promise, and we are also called, before anything else, to be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Mat. 28:19-20). Mission! And not just in our local community, but worldwide. In these end times we are called to be the people of God, and witness to all nations before Jesus returns as the glorified Son of Man, coming with the clouds...

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Fulfillment in Matthew

I've just done a quick study on the word πληροω 'fulfill' in Matthew, and found that it occurs fourteen times in the sense of fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. Now, those of you who know a bit about Matthew will realise that fourteen is a significant number. Apart from being twice seven (the perfect number), it is also the number of generations listed in the three sections of the genealogy of the Messiah:

NLT Matthew 1:17 All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.

This means that the word 'fulfill' is key to understanding the whole gospel! Not only is fourteen used in the introduction, but it is also the number of times the Greek word occurs, in the sense of fulfilling scripture.

Here are the references, for you Bible scholars: Matt. 1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 3:15; 4:14; 5:17; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 26:54, 56; 27:9. Enjoy!

Now, you may be wondering what on earth the relevance of all of this is. I was just reading in Philip Yancey's 'The Bible Jesus Read' that he saw some graffiti saying 'Jesus is the answer', then somebody had scrawled underneath, 'Yes, but what's the question?' The question is pretty much framed by the Old Testament - Moses and the Prophets, as Luke calls it in Luke 24, the Emmaus road.

Luke 24:25-27 25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ {Or Messiah; also in verse 46} have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Later the two disciples say, Luke 24:32 "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

I believe that much preaching today lacks the biblical foundation of the Old Testament necessary for understanding the New. Chris Wright says that some evangelicals are 'Practising Marcionites' - Marcion being a 2nd Century heritic who believed that the Old Testament wasn't inspired by the Holy Spirit, contra. Paul (2Ti 3:16) and Peter (2Pe 1:16-21). We need to keep the message of 'Jesus is Messiah and Lord' relevant but also rooted in Moses and the Prophets, where it has its foundation...