Sunday, February 18, 2018

Lent 1: Connecting the Dots

Genesis 9:8-17     Psalm 25:1-9     1 Peter 3:18-22     Mark 1:9-15

As we ponder the Jesus story there are many dots to connect in Scripture. The Jews of Jesus' time called it stringing pearls--connecting the Scriptures through a word or a theme found in different places.

For example, in the Noah story, God sends send rain upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. Jesus will be in the desert forty days. 1 Peter draws a parallel between baptism and the ark.  At Jesus' baptism the Holy Spirit descends like a dove. Noah also releases a dove from the ark. Forty* is a pearl, it is one of the dots found throughout the Bible.

In the Exodus story, Israel will wander for forty years in the desert. Moses spends forty days on Sinai with God. In the book of Kings, Elijah walked for forty days through the wilderness to that same mountain. Moses, Elijah, Jesus—all went without food 40 days.

Jesus is baptized in the river Jordan. Joshua (Hebrew for Jesus) will split the river and lead the Israelites through the same river. Both the prophets Elijah and Elisha will also split the river in two. As Jesus stands in the River Jordan God will split the heavens in two.

The prophet Isaiah said (Is 64:1) "O that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your paniyim/face (presence)." At the Jesus' baptism the heavens are rent and God has come down to save His people. Mark will use the word “schizo= rend” one other time. When Jesus dies the curtain of the Holy of Holies is rent in two by an earthquake (in Matthew). The Jewish temple was on a mountain, Mount Moriah, the same mountain where Abraham went to sacrifice his “beloved son.” Elijah will also be on a mountain with an earthquake when God comes to him. The Hebrew word paniyim occurs frequently in the first creation account, where the Holy Spirit hovers (like a bird) over the face of the waters.

The voice from heaven says "My son, my beloved." The first time these words are written in the Bible was Genesis 22:2 when YHWH told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. In that same story, Abraham told his son that God would provide a lamb. In the Fourth Gospel John the Baptist will call Jesus "the Lamb of God." 

There is more, so much more. It would take hours to connect all the dots. But know this; the Lord Jesus fills up the Scriptures. The Bible is not simply filled with predictions. Jesus, the Word Incarnate, is the source and fullness of the written word. When we say Jesus fulfills the Scripture, it means that He is the one who makes sense of them. Genesis, Exodus and the prophets: every book of the Bible finds new and deeper meaning in the Jesus story. He redeems every story of the Bible. He does the same with our story. Some of us wonder how He can redeem our story, but those who have read the stories in Scripture as adults will find the great figures of Scripture are sometimes worse than we are! The sanitized children stories in "Heroes of the Bible" edit out the more mundane reality of the human beings we find there. 

So how do we connect the dots to our own lives? Lent is our forty day journey with Jesus. Forty days to fast and pray. Forty days to battle the sinful passions and Satan’s test. Forty days to be flooded by God’s judgement and washed clean. Forty days to meditate on God’s declaration, “You are my beloved child.” Forty days to let Jesus connect the dots of our life with the Scripture and make you a new creation.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++additional notes *The number forty, like three, seven and twelve, occurs frequently. There are numerous references to Israel's desert wandering and Moses' sojourn, but there are many other uses of the number forty. Noah opened he window of the ark on day forty. Isaac is forty when he marries Rebekah; Essau marries at the same age. Jacob is embalmed for forty days after his death in Egypt. Four times in Exodus we are told that there are forty bases of silver to hold the frames of the tabernacle. When the spies are sent into the promised land they spend forty days reconnoitering and for forty years Israel is punished for unbelief. Joshua declares he was forty when he led that group of spies. Three times we read in Judges that the land had forty years of rest, while the Philistines oppress them the same number of years for their sins. We are told Saul, David, Solomon and Joash each serve as king forty years and as does the priest Eli. The mobile inner sanctuary is forty cubits and in Ezekiel's vision of the new temple both the nave and the courts include a forty cubit measurement. Ezekiel lays on his side forty days to prophesy a forty year punishment. Ezekiel also prophesies a forty year exile to Egypt. There are several times where Israel has an army of forty thousand.

Other words are also pearls to string: tebah, the Hebrew word translated as ark, only occurs in the Noah and Moses stories. Noah and Moses have many parallels--both are men who pleased God, they receive blueprints from God for construction, they are seen as prophetic and priestly figures by the rabbis. Noah is the mediator of the covenant with the world, Moses the covenant with Israel. Jesus is potrayed as the New Moses, especially in Matthew's Gospel, or in my approach the Fullness of Moses.  
The Word 'face' (paniym) connects creation and exodus stories and I have written about this in the past. 

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