They Have Seen His Star

I know I’m indebted to Peter Leithart and Jim Jordan on this one, but I cannot tell you how much of this is from them or where I read it. It seems to have just leached into my brain.

In the beginning, God set the lights in the sky in order to serve as signs, among other things. He also set them in the sky to rule. Throughout the Old Testament, stars seem to be associated with kingship and ruling. In Numbers 24:17, for example, “star” and “scepter” are parallels, and in Judges 5:19-20 “kings” and “stars” are parallel. In Isaiah the king of Babylon is called the Day Star (14:12).

At the beginning of the New Testament, we see the same thing. Three wise men see a star and surmise that a king was born. This isn’t just eastern paganism, either; when the magi tell Herod about the star, he and all Jerusalem are concerned (Matthew 2:3). And again at the end of the New Testament: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16).  The root and descendant of David– meaning the king of Israel– the bright morning star.

Abraham was promised descendants like the stars, and physically speaking, that was fulfilled (Deuteronomy 1:10). But Abraham is the father of the faithful also. Jesus’s star is first of a mighty innumerable host who rule with a rod of iron and receive the morning star (Revelation 2:26-28). At the end of Revelation we’re told that the sun and moon are replaced by the Lamb, but what of the stars? Perhaps they are replaced by the church, shining like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:15)

And if stars are kings, then perhaps when God told him he would have descendants as numerous as the stars he was also hinting at the future reality of the church- “And you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign with him on the earth” (Revelation 5:10).


I wish Webster’s was open-source, like Wikipedia. I make up words left and right.

Athanasius believed that typology was inherently hortatory. This was because Christian typology is somewhat hourglass-shaped. Old Testament figures and types get narrower and narrower in scope until they get to Christ, their fulfillment;  after that the same images rebound to the church in Christ. I’ve written on this before. Typology is story; if you know your place in the story, you know how to act. And What Would Jesus Do? is only useful if run through the filter of redemptive history, because oftentimes when that question is asked the answer should be “die for the life of the world,” and that isn’t any help to us at all.

For an example, let’s pick… Exodus 17. A few days ago I tried to suggest that Paul wasn’t the first one to think Yahweh was the rock that was split, and yesterday I tried to draw out some implications of that. But is there a command contained within this extended metaphor? I think there is.

Christ is the stricken rock, and from the rent in his side flowed water and blood– life for the world. This confession is the rock upon which the church is built. But Jesus isn’t the only living Stone here; we also, like living stones, are being built into a temple for the Lord. So, like our Foundation, we are split; and though our cleaving isn’t salvific I think Tertullian had it right when he said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.

A comfort in pain, a directive in uncertainty, and an explanation in difficulty.


I Found Something

Boy, is my face red.

My father berated me the other day for not posting- I think he wants another installment of things he always says. I do need to finish up some things and put them here, but life has got me by the throat. In the meantime, here is a little quatrain I found which I had written sometime last year. I hope you will enjoy it.

Before the first Adam ate, the second died,
Ere worlds were made, Christ crucified
So that the first might be forgiven,
Adam calling Adam up into heaven.


Shepherd Group 8/26

Hello! My Shepherd Group started meeting again last night. I told them I’d post what we talked about here the day after. We read Matthew 3:13-4:2, and then I tried to address what I thought would be the inevitable consequence in a study on prayer. Here’s what I said.

I think there are three things to be gleaned from this passage. First, the Father’s pleasure in the Son (v. 17). Jesus is the Son of God’s love. This statement gives us a window into the Trinity before time, when there was nothing but Father, Son, and Spirit eternal existing in mutual and infinite joy, knowledge, and love. This reminds us that our God is inherently a happy God, not a miser. And it reminds us that as goes the Son, so go we ourselves. If God is pleased with Christ, then he is pleased with us, being in Christ. Second, the Son’s obedience in suffering (v. 1). Jesus obeyed the Spirit in difficult circumstances. He knew the Spirit was leading him into trial, and he went willingly. The Apostle’s Creed says that Jesus “descended into hell,” and this is partly what that meant. He was hungry. He was alone. He was tempted. Our great High Priest can sympathize with our weaknesses because he felt them himself. I think the third insight can only be observed in reading 3:17 and 4:1 together, without the chapter break. “And behold, a voice from heaven said ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’ Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” The big observation here is that verse 1 follows verse 17. How often do I question the love and delight of God in me as his adopted son because of fierce trials? “God, why are you doing this? I thought you loved me!” I cry, and all the while God is saying “yes, I do love you, and this is how I prove my love” (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11). This is my point. For the next 16 or 17 weeks, we’ll be talking about prayer, and it is my earnest hope and prayer that we will be praying. And with the little life experience I have, I know that when Christians get serious about prayer, Satan attacks. We’ll be talking about the willingness of God to answer prayer, and daily experience may testify otherwise. It will be hard. And Jesus knows. He knows the gravity of wanting to hear from God and only hearing Satan instead. He knows our hardship, and he provided an example so we might know that the temptations of Satan cannot cancel out a Father’s love.


Memorial Stump

Good morning!

I hope you like leftovers, because here’s some more Isaiah 6 that didn’t get et up Sunday during my sermon.

After Isaiah is charged by God to preach a message of condemnation, he asks “How long, O Lord?” (cf. Psalm 79:5, 89:46), which is a very understandable question. I think I’d ask this question if I were told to preach a message of condemnation so my people wouldn’t hear, turn, and be saved. And God’s answer to his question seems to exclude the possibility of hope for Israel:

“Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump. (Isaiah 6:11-13)

Though God pronounces a terrible judgment for Israel, he is still the God of hope, and he does not leave Isaiah (or Israel) without hope even in the midst of this fiery judgment, for the very same fire which destroys also purges. “‘And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.’ The holy seed is its stump.” The remnant will be purged, but a stump will remain, and in the stump is a holy seed. Isaiah 11 tells us that a shoot will spring forth from that stump (Isaiah 11:1), and we know that the shoot is Christ, who grew up like a young plant, like a shoot out of dry ground (Isaiah 53:2).

What’s interesting is the word used for stump in Isaiah 6. This is not the same word used in Isaiah 11, but is instead a word translated as “pillar” the only other time it is used in the Old Testament, when Absalom sets up a memorial stone to keep his name in remembrance, since he has no children (2 Samuel 18:18). Now, in Isaiah 6:13 it’s evident that this is a stump being talked about and not a pillar, since the text says it is like a terebinth or an oak when it is felled.

Perhaps Isaiah just felt like using one word for stump instead of another, but perhaps the usage is deliberate. The stump of the old Israel has been burned down to the holy seed, a remnant which becomes a standing stone to God’s holiness and mercy and out of which an eschatological shoot will grow to form a new Israel, a tree of life bearing fruit in its season, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.

I’m no Hebrew scholar, so be a good Berean on this one.



He is risen!

Did you know that the word Easter comes from the name of a pagan goddess of fertility, spring, and the sun? I think that’s great. Though Jesus didn’t name the holiday, he did occasion it, and it’s just like him to take something old and dead and make it new, give it new meaning and life. How fitting that the old gods should be pressed into the service of our High and True God. Easter is an allegory, a paradigm, an archetype. Every time you say the name, you should be reminded that Jesus takes old idolatries and redeems them, transforms them, takes the sin out of them and makes them fit for his service. He takes old enemies and makes them servants; more, he makes them friends, heirs, children. History is an anecdote in the great proclamation of the glory of his love. The water of this baptism turns lead into gold, pagan temples into sanctuaries, sinners into saints. The sun whose rising in former times was the mark of a god now marks the rising of God. Happy Easter.

He is risen indeed!