Monday, June 26, 2017

[BTT024] Cut Passages 001

1. Specific Old Testament Prophecy, Ambiguous Fulfillment

Matt 2:1 -6 / Micah 5:1-4


Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 
So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 
‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Now gather yourself in troops,
O daughter of troops;
He has laid siege against us;
They will strike the judge of Israel with a rod on the cheek. 
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.” 
Therefore He shall give them up,
Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth;
Then the remnant of His brethren
Shall return to the children of Israel.
And He shall stand and feed His flock
In the strength of the Lord,
In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God;
And they shall abide,
For now He shall be great
To the ends of the earth;
Why was it cut?

The short version is that this verse does not contain the word "plēroō." The long version is that while Matthew does seem to indicate that the chief priests and scribes were correct when they applied the passage in Micah to the birthplace of the Messiah, he does not state it explicitly.

There are many verses that use phrases such as "thus it is written" or "he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah" (see Matthew 3:1-3). In most cases, it is fairly clear that Old Testament prophecy is being fulfilled. However, we must avoid all ambiguity. Unless the author explicitly states that a fulfillment has occurred, there remains a possibility that the author is simply referencing the Old Testament.

That said, I do want to discuss this passage in particular. It is telling that the chief priests and scribes were able to intellectually deduce that the Messiah's birthplace would be Bethlehem, which was indeed the birthplace of Jesus. Apparently these chief priests and scribes were able to get this one correct.

Even if the chief priests and scribes got pretty much everything else about the Christ wrong - He came to die for sinners, not to wipe out the Romans - they got this one thing right. This should give us both hope and humility. Hope, because if even the chief priests and scribes were capable of understanding prophecy by studying Scripture, then it stands to reason that we can as well. Humility, because even if they got one detail right, they misunderstood the most essential things about the Christ. Worst of all, most of them did not recognize Him when He came.

Let us "surpass the Pharisees" in this as well. It is good to study prophecy; it is better to recognize Jesus as who He says He is. No man can claim to understand prophecy while denying the widow and orphan justice, while oppressing the poor, while living in open defiance of the will of God. Those who understand prophecy understand that Jesus will return as "a thief in the night" - and woe to the ones not ready.

[BTT025] Cut Passages 002

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