Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 8
Thesis: John's summons was set within the meaning of Isaiah 40.
Introduction: As we have considered the introduction to John's preaching ministry, we have made much of the fact that the content of his preaching was rejected by "official" Israel. The predominant theology of Israel was a theology of the human acquisition of favor in the eyes of God by submission to His Law. Underlying this theology were two fundamental roots: a desire to boast; and a belief in one's own abilities to do the right thing. In unmasking the demonic roots of that theology, the apostle Paul first carefully detailed the delusion of the belief that man has any capacity in his flesh to do the right thing (Romans 1-3, summarized in 3:9; Romans 7:14; and Galatians 3:22) and then called for a conclusion about "boasting" (Romans 3:27, backed up by the carefully developed example of Abraham in 4:2 and restated in Philippians 3:3). John, on the other hand, began to introduce "Grace" into the theological climate. His overarching declaration was that God would forgive anyone who "repented". But, as with all "declarations", there is a huge necessity to understand what "repentance" is, or it will simply be absorbed into the theology that already exists in a person's mind and heart. For example, if a person is already heavily involved in a "T"heology of Justice, the preaching of "repentance" will be turned into just another divine demand to be met by man out of his own "free will abilities" and the penchant for "boasting" will see no challenge whatsoever in the message. John, however, would not tolerate that even to the slightest degree. He heavily prejudiced how his message was to be defined by two things: his name; and his deliberate opening salvo (Luke 3:7) in which he clearly distanced his message from the "general status quo" theology of his day.
Because we have pretty much come full circle in our day so that the "received theological orientation" is back to "free will abilities" and "unabashed boasting", we are going to look again at the background of John's message as Luke gives it to us in Luke 3:4-6. For our study this morning, we are going to consider Luke's claim that John was both the fulfillment of the Isaiah 40:3-5 text and the dawning of the theology of Grace.
January 8, 2006
- I. The Link to Isaiah 40.
- A. Luke claims that the word of God came to John and he came into the region of the Jordan "as it stands written".
- B. Luke claims that the message of the word of God through John was "repentance unto forgiveness" in fulfillment of Isaiah's particular words.
- II. The Dawning of the Theology of Grace.
- A. The type of meaning found in Isaiah's words.
- 1. First, the quote is set in the midst of three major conceptual issues [the voice that cries in 40:3 is preceded by the "cry" to Jerusalem in 40:2 and followed by the "cry" of 40:6 regarding the grass/flower condition of all flesh, which, in turn, is followed by the cry of Jerusalem ("lift up thy voice with strength") of 40:9].
- 2. The 40:1-2 text: a presentation of Israel's release from Justice.
- a. The first "comforting" thought is that the "struggle" (my translation of the term 'warfare' derived from Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament's article on the word in our text) is over.
- 1) The "bottom line" in every "struggle" is the competition for mastery.
- 2) The issue in the text is both God's and Babylon's "mastery" over Judah and Judah's deep-seated resentment and frustration over being "mastered".
- 3) The "end" of the struggle has to do with God's accomplishment of His "struggle" with Judah and the consequent end of Babylon's dominion (which has slipped, historically, into Media's dominion under Darius and into Persia's dominion under Cyrus and, ultimately, Artaxerxes).
- a) God's "struggle" with Judah has to do with Judah's refusal to honor the terms of his covenant with Yahweh in particular reference to the requirement that "Sabbath" be kept for the "land" every seventh year (see 2 Chronicles 36:20-21). The 490 years of refusal to allow the land to rest added up to 70 years of captivity in Babylon to address the failure.
- b) The text claims that Yahweh has responded to the failure of Judah by imposing a "double" penalty (i.e., 140 years) which has brought Judah's experience down to sometime after 465 B.C.
- b. The second "comforting" thought is that the "payment for the iniquity" has been "accepted" (the word translated "pardon" is used 57 times in the Old Testament and is translated "pardoned" only once, so my conclusion is that the translators missed seeing "iniquity" as a figure of speech -- metonomy -- in which the "cause" is used to represent the "result" -- i.e., the "iniquity" is "accepted" in the sense that the penalty paid for the iniquity has been accepted).
- c. The major conceptual issue here is that "Justice" has been addressed and fulfilled.
- d. But, in technical terms, true "Justice" has not really been "met" by human suffering of a penalty because it cannot be met that way: thus, the need for the Redeemer whom John is preceding and announcing.
- B. At the Dawning of Grace, the Shadows of "Fulfilled Justice" are Replaced by the Actual Fulfillment Accomplished by the Payment of the Redemption Price.
- 1. The "cry" of the voice has to do with getting people ready to understand and embrace the Redeemer.
- 2. The Redeemer will pay the Redemption Price and He will be believed in by those prepared by the voice.