• Psalm 72:1-8
  • Isaiah 11:1-10
  • Romans 15:4-13
  • Matthew 3:1-12

    The common thread is prophecies of kingship. Another common theme is that the messianic era is not just for the Jewish folks. The more subtle common theme is the activity of the Holy Spirit.

    Psalm 72 goes beyond the political kingship celebrated in Psalm 2. "Nephesh" appears for "soul" in the psalm. Exactly what a person's soul or spirit is doesn't get addressed much in the Old Testament. Since "nephesh" (NEFF-esh) refers to people as we are on the inside, perhaps the idea is "the king isn't just interested in governing, he cares about us as people" or "Your feelings are important" or "Your finding fulfillment in life is important". (Isn't this the word that was changed into "nebbish", a Jewish-American personal characterization?)

    I've believed for a long time, though I've forgotten where I heard it, that Psalm 2 was the kingship psalm for Judah, and Psalm 72 for Jeroboam and his successors. Jeroboam gets a tough rap in "Kings" ("walked in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nabat who made Israel to sin".) Jeroboam is first mentioned as a very capable man who made a protest on behalf of the folks Solomon was oppressing. Solomon (for all his purported "wisdom") did not take this well. For protection against Solomon's moronic son Rehoboam, the people of Israel united behind Jeroboam. The rest is history. Jeroboam set up a rival temple, with a golden calf idol representing God. Jeroboam did need his own place of worship. It was the only alternative to having his country's center of worship in a hostile kingdom. Yeah, putting up a golden calf was stupid from our perspective. But of the two kingship psalms, I much prefer the one that's more likely to be Jeroboam's.

    Paul writes "...and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy..." John the Baptist explains that God can make "children of Abraham" out of rocks, and not just out of Gentiles.

    Isaiah mentions "Jesse" rather than "David" as the ancestor of the messiah. The passage talks about the gentiles seeking the messiah. Possibly we are being reminded that Jesse had a gentile (Moabite) grandmother, Ruth. Deuteronomy 23:3 forbids anybody with a Moabite ancestor within 10 generations from "entering the congregation of the Lord". The messiah's coming renders the ban "inoperative" (as we used to say in the Watergate era). This is a nice reminder for Episcopalians to follow the law of love and common sense rather than proof-texting.

    Isaiah lists the gifts of the spirit on the messiah, who is conceived in political terms: -- wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, fear of God Paul, in Galatians 5:22, lists the fruits of the spirit on believers; interestingly, some are paralleled in Romans 15:13... -- love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith

    Notice that the lists are rather different. I'd rather have Paul's.

    Isaiah uses "ruwach" (ROO-watch) both for the spirit of God, and the breath of the mouth by which the messiah will kill the wicked. We know that Jesus's breath didn't kill anybody. In "Revelation", Jesus has a sword in His mouth, as Isaiah's Messiah has a rod in His mouth. It seems much more Christian to think that the Messiah's preaching has killed much of the evil in me, and that the rest will be killed off when He comes again.

    John the Baptist's prophecy of baptism with "the Holy Spirit" and fire relates to how grain and chaff were separated. Everything was tossed up in the air on a windy day. The chaff was blown away by the wind, and then perhaps burned. The good grain fell back down. The original words may have been "wind and fire".

    The baptismal font at Dura-Europus, the oldest Christian- church-building archeological site, features a baptismal font with a nice colorful design of fruit surrounding it. "Bear fruits worthy of repentance".

    John's proclamation "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" is a good translation, but in today's English, the nuance of tense and word order might be "Let's have you-all repent, because it's DRAWING NEAR, the kingdom of heaven is." The tense isn't a real imperative in Greek. The idea is that everybody knows the time of judgement will come, and John's merely saying it's coming really soon. "eggike" (ENG-ick-eh) signifies "it approaches", sometimes "it approaches and joins." "Repent", or "metanoia" of course means turn yourself around.

    I'll leave it to the theologians to relate John's immersing people to Christian baptism. The Greek word means "immerse" of course. The phrase "baptize with the Holy Spirit" is baptisei en Pneumati Hagio(i). The word "en" is "in", not "with". According to the Greek, you'll be immersed in water by John, and in the Spirit of Christ by Jesus. Whatever the theologians want to make of this, the Holy Spirit might "enter into" us, but (at least equally) we enter into the Holy Spirit. (Parallel: Paul writes about being "in" Christ).

    John the Baptist eats locusts. I've heard the claim that this means the pods of the locust tree. The Greek is "akris" (ack- CREASE), which also occurs in "Revelation" 9:3,7 describing the horrid monster locusts. I cannot imagine sinners being terrorized and tormented by locus tree pods.

    Here's a chuckle: "unquenchable" fire is asbesto (ass-BEST-oh), from which asbestos, the unburnable, unheatable (i.e., un-ash- able) mineral. Back to Ed's Propers
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