Archive for December 14th, 2007
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
As we move toward the end of this series, there are a number of “bit players” – people and places – which have a part to play in the Christmas story. In this article, we will look at a couple of places which figure into the story.
What’s in a Name?
As many biblical scholars and teachers have noted, throughout the Bible, names mean things. To Hebrew readers and listeners, the names of people and places often say as much about a person or a place as any prose that follows the name. For our purposes in this article, I am just looking at a couple of places.
Two cities, in particular, come to play in the story of Jesus’ birth: Bethlehem and Nazareth
Bethlehem, Beit Lehem in Hebrew, means “House of Bread”. In terms of prophecy, this was to be the place where the Messiah was born, per the prophecy in Micah 5:2
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. “
Additionally, as we discussed previously, only lambs raised in the flocks of Bethlehem were acceptable as sacrifices in the Temple during the first century – primarily because the Sadducees owned these flocks and they were a source of wealth for them. And so it is that we have Jesus, the Bread of Life, born in the “House of Bread” – the Lamb of God, born in the flocks of Bethlehem, the only sheep allowed for sacrifice. Do you see the picture that is painted here?
In the book of Isaiah 11, we read
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on himâ€” the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD -
In the Hebrew, a “shoot” from an olive stump (see picture above) is called a netzer. The religious Jews of the first century saw this passage in Isaiah as a prediction of the coming Messiah – a “shoot” from the stump of Jesse. Because of this, it was believed that he would be called netzer in some fashion, as a symbol of this. This led to debate as to whether he would be from netzeret (Nazareth – “shoot-ville”), whether he would be nazir (a Nazarite), or – possibly – both.
As a result of this, the people from Nazareth, known to be fanatically religious, were convinced that the former possibility was true, and that their town would be the home of the future Messiah. The name by which these people called themselves would be translated into English as “Branch Davidians” (yes, you read that correctly), because the branch/shoot from the stump of Jesse (David) would come from their town. Because of this, the people in Nazareth were thought of as being “cultish” and suspect. We even read from one of Jesus’ disciples:
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wroteâ€”Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.
And so it was that the coming of the Messiah was announced by John the Baptizer, a nazir, and this Messiah, Yeshua, was a netzer – a shoot – from netzeret. From the Matthew 2:
And he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures do we find this prophecy “He will be called a Nazarene”. However, it appears from several sources that this prophecy originated from Isaiah 11, and that Matthew chose the correct interpretation (Nazarene instead of Nazarite) that described Jesus.
And what happened years later in the synagogue at Nazareth?
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
The people were ecstatic! All of those years of being ridiculed for their Messianic beliefs, and finally the Messiah came and proved that they were right all along!
Unfortunately, though, for the people of Nazareth, their faith was in who they were and where they were from and in their ‘rightness’, and it was not in the Lord. And so, when Jesus took them to task for this, he was rejected and took his message elsewhere.
If only this was applicable to us today… or could we, too, be from Nazareth? Could we be so proud of being from the right church, with the right theology, with the right teachers that our own faith is in who we are and not in who He is?*
I would be completely remiss if I did not note that much of the information from this article and this series was provided in essays and lectures by Rev. Ray VanderLaan.
Theyâ€™re still trying to get Warren in a trap. I must admit, that when I read this short clip from Slice, I thought â€œoh man, Rick. What have you done now?â€ Joseph Farah was saying that Rick was making comments that gave comfort to the enemy of Christians and criticizing the U.S. However, Farah opens his hit piece up with this explanation of Warrenâ€™s inappropriate comments
Rick Warren loves to apologize for things he didn’t do, for things other people did that weren’t wrong, even for things that occurred hundreds of years before he was born.
For instance, he recently apologized to Muslims worldwide for atrocities committed against their ancestors during the Crusades.
He also recently apologized for American “excesses in the war on terrorism.”
And he has apologized for the church because it hasn’t done enough about the spread of AIDS and problems like global warming.
After I read that, my first response was, â€œAre you serious?â€ You are actually saying that killing innocent Muslims, being incredibly racist and using racial profiling when it comes to the war on terror and not caring about the AIDS crisis is not wrong? We must be reading two different gospels. I missed the part where the scriptures say to kill your enemies and ignore those who are suffering. We wouldn’t want to do anything that messed up the whole “perfect Christianity” vibe we have going for us. I loved how Farah feels it necessary to hold Syria accountable for killing Christians, but doesnâ€™t find it necessary to hold ourselves accountable for killing Muslims.
There is a lot of bantering back and forth in this article about a video that was filmed, and if it did or did not hold strong political statements made by Warren. That situation does seem a bit suspicious. However, once again it is important to note how much these guys meddle into the life and ministry of Warren. Is it really their responsibility to relegate Warrenâ€™s political statements, confirm if he knew about a tape, find out if Arab statements in newspapers are valid, make sure Warren wasn’t lying when he says he wasn’t, and check if his political statements are kosher? Farah has no idea about the agreements Warren made, the conditions he was under for filming, or even the contents of the tapes. It is absolutely rediculous how far these guys will go to get some inkling of a story. In my opinion, Warren is innocent until proven guilty, rather than having guilt assumed.
In conclusion, it seems like many of the ODMs would disagree with â€œTherefore go and make disciples of all nations.â€ Their version would read â€œTherefore go and make disciples of those nations who America currently agrees with, and make sure not to make any political statements that would damage our country or the history of Christianity.â€ Itâ€™s sad that we begin to pick and chose which people group we are willing to connect and share the gospel with based on the latest news out of Washington.
We all get wound up at times. No question. There are a number of things in this world to be outraged about, and a number of things to stand for. In the heat of passion, things are said, names are called, and uncharitable feelings spill out of our mouths and pens.
My comment about “rabid watchdogs” being “put down” was exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. Over-the-top hyperbole. Unwise. About two notches too high.
While the topic of the article was, I still believe, spot on, my anger got the best of me and I have sinned against a good number of brothers and sisters in Christ. Please forgive me.
Recently, Jim Bublitz put together a hit piece on my comments about those who use Calvinism as a club. Whether he really believes what he wrote or not, his commentary on what I believe about my brothers and sisters in Christ who follow the system put together by Calvin is nowhere near the truth. I certainly believe that there are those who hold the solas as tightly as scripture, whether they would admit to it or not, and that when they do so it would fit the definition of “another gospel”. I pray for them, that they would repent, and hope that none will follow in those footsteps.
However, it is very likely that I have been cavalier with those comments and that Christian brothers and sisters may have felt that I was including them amidst the non-specific roll of Calvinists in my comments. I became aware of this when Rick I commented about this several months back. For this I am sorry, and I repent. I will do my best to be more specific and less hyperbolic with such comments in the future, and I am sure that if I am not, someone will be there to quote this article back at me…
Dial it back a notch or two…
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Dial it back a notch or two, Chris L, dial it back a notch or two…
It’s good advice for me, and – if you’ve commented here today – it might just be good advice for you, as well…
The point at which Ingrid posts this and receives Chris L’s email and/or reads his public posting explaining that his comment was not a physical threat and does nothing to update the post she becomes a liar.
Come correct Ingrid.
Per this post and an exchange of emails, this matter is completely closed, and I would hope that regular commenters here would be generous with the same grace they wish to receive…