Alright ladies and laddies, I’m going to try to keep this one brief, but as they used to say, “There’s meat in them thar hills.” So try and keep up.
We’re doing a pretty interesting bible study over Matthew this summer, sort of a survey of themes, you might say. The current theme is “Fulfillment.” A few interesting quick facts: there are 47 Old Testament quotes in Matthew and he writes “to fulfill what had been spoken by the prophet” ten times. You might even make the claim that the major theme of Matthew is “Jesus is the Messiah of Old Testament prophesy.”
Now before we get into too much, let’s take a brief look at prophecy and its application. There are basically four states of fulfillment we can talk about:
- the immediate fulfillment of the prophecy
- the fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ
- the continual fulfillment in the church
- the fulfillment in the second coming of our Lord
Now, the Isaiah passage is very interesting to me. In this chapter we find the Lord telling the king of Judah to ask for a sign that the Lord will keep His word. Now, I have to admit, right after God himself says “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all,” I probably wouldn’t ask for a sign either. But for whatever reason, the king does not ask for a sign and is reprimanded by Isaiah for testing the patience of God.
Isaiah then offers the prophesy, and begins with “The virgin will be with child, and will give birth to a son.” This was the prophesy given in response to God saying “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
Now, the fulfillment in Christ’s life is easy, but what of the immediate fulfillment? Here is my hypothesis: “The virgin” refers to Virgo, the child, most likely to “Jupiter”. If you’ve ever seen The Star of Bethlehem presentation this might all sound a little familiar. What if God was telling the king that he would give this sign in “the highest heights” as a seal of his promise?
This is just a theory, and I must admit that I don’t have a sufficient grasp of astronomy and ancient history to go test this theory. But to me, it’s not so far fetched, especially given the possibility of the Star of Bethlehem.
A very intelligent friend of mine, a particle physics doctoral candidate and ardent student of the bible, dismissed my theory as sillyness, and dismissed my quick redition of the pertinent parts of the Star of Bethlehem presentation as greater sillyness. No star stops over a house, everyone knows that. His claim is that the star referred to in Matthew is an unidentified heavenly body, near enough to the earth that paralax wouldn’t distort one’s sense of direction.
This seemed quite ridiculous to me. Men who were students of the night sky see an unidentified light in the sky and immediately think that a Jewish king is being born, a king so great that they should run to meet him with extravagant gifts. I just find this incredibly hard to believe.
Our God is the God of nature. It obeys him, and more than that, he is the author of every rotation, every revolution. Which is easier to believe, that he created some afterthought, a light emitting body never before seen in the night sky, or that he had ordained at the beginning of time that the stars and planets should announce the birth of his son?
My friend’s reply was quick. Joshua prayed that the sun would stop in the sky, and it did so for a day. (see Joshua 10:14) God can stop the Earth from spinning for a day. That’s a lot of angular acceleration to deal with. If he can do that, putting a little light in the sky that screams “Jesus is born” in a language an astronomer can somehow understand is a small feat.
I have always been of the opinion that just because we don’t know what happened that day doesn’t mean that there isn’t a natural explanation. And just because there might be a natural explanation doesn’t in any way diminish the miraculous nature of the event.
The Red Sea periodically parts from high winds. What is miraculous about Moses’ parting of the Red Sea is that it stayed parted for just the right amount of time. There are burning bushes in the middle east, but only one God spoke from. Water always turns into wine, Jesus just sped things along.
God is the God of nature. Which is more miraculous, that God kept the earth from spinning for a day, a fact which I can only accept on faith, or that God designed the entire universe as a clock to announce the coming of the Christ, a fact which I can verify (supposedly) with free software and a decent computer?
My friend did not fall for my cheap appeal. A star that stops over a house is like a square circle.
I repeated again, which is more like a square circle, the sun stopping in the sky for a day, or the planets and stars doing what they always do, just with uncanny timing?
“THERE ARE NO SQUARE CIRCLES” was my friend’s response.
“There are only square circles” I muttered under my breath.
“I couldn’t have said it better myself” I almost heard God say, as I smiled on my way to the car.
Our God can stop the sun in the sky, something impossible to physics, nature and our own logic. He can also arrange physics and nature so that the stars and sun align at just the right time, thousands of years after he set them in motion, something impossible to our own logic.
These are the tiniest of miracles. The entire course of history, every instance, every event was set in motion according to his eternal plan of salvation through his son. You want a miracle? How about the fact that this same God became a man? Maybe that’s too small for you, since even the Greek gods did such things. How about that this God-man died and came back to life? How about that this God-man’s death and resurrection has the power to completely alter who you are by completely altering whose you are?
Still not enough?
My friend is not wrong; God doesn’t need nature to exact his will. I’m right too; God doesn’t have to break his own rules to exact his will. Our God is so big that the Bethlehem Star presentation might be right, or the unidentified body might be right. Neither possibility detracts or adds to his godliness. They are wildly different theories, but he is still the same God.
No matter what happened in the sky to drag the Magi out of their luxurious homes and journey across the desert, they weren’t going because of the star; they were going because of the king. They didn’t bring telescopes and star charts; they brought gold frankincense and myrrh.
They believed the promise of the ages had been fulfilled because of an 800 year old prophesy and a bright dot in the sky. Most days I don’t live like I believe, and I know what happened 33 years later, when the moon rose blood red.
So all of these miracles still aren’t enough to convince you to believe that the Lord of all Creation has arranged every single thing so that you might come to know him through the blood of Jesus Christ? I can’t blame you there. The miracles aren’t supposed to make you believe, they’re supposed to give you confidence in your faith once you have it.
So how do you get this faith? Asking the question is a pretty good start. Asking Him the question is an even better start. After all, he set all of this in motion just so you’d be able to talk to him, and get to know him, and get to experience how much he loves you.
I’m not really sure what the Magi saw when they saw that bright dot in the sky. I saw “I love you.” I’m not sure what Joshua saw when he saw the sun stop in the sky. My friend saw “I love you.” I’m not sure what you see in Christ’s death and resurrection. I hope you see “I love you.”
I never thought I’d say this, but I actually miss the unending “discussions” (arguments) that came up no matter what we were talking about! Thanks for blogging - it makes me feel a little closer to home.
Posted with : The Way