Saturday, December 30, 2017

Need a Role Model? Consider Boaz

Most know of the wonton sexual predation occurring on multiple levels by those in power against the weak—generally, though not exclusively, men against women—coming to light in the exposure of public figures and the #MeToo of social media. While many have rightly decried the actions perpetrated on victims, Amy Mantravadi has given a response that does not examine the severity of the act so much as offered a biblical solution in Boaz is a Hero for our Time. Consider just this portion:
Boaz went out of his way to help Ruth. He spent the rest of the day coming up with ways to give her more food, inviting her to join them at lunch and commanding his men to purposefully drop extra grain for her to reap. Even the way that he gave her food was designed to uphold her dignity, and he forbid his men from rebuking her. (2:14-16) Moreover, he spoke encouraging words to Ruth and honored her faith rather than judging her based on appearance or background. (Again, whether or not he personally appreciated her appearance is a matter for debate, but he didn’t say anything about it.)
The piece is well worth the read. While most want heroes with capes, lightsabers, and superhuman abilities, real heroes are known by their divinely-enabled character. Men, be that hero.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the First Sunday after Christmas

Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel. (Lu 2:29–32)

Rembrandt, Simeon in the Temple
    The Son came to the servant not to be presented by the servant, but so that, through the Son, the servant might present to his Lord the priesthood and prophecy that had been entrusted to his keeping. Prophecy and priesthood, which had been given through Moses, were both passed down and came to rest on Simeon. He was a pure vessel who consecrated himself, so that, like Moses, he too could contain them both. These were feeble vessels that accommodated great gifts—gifts that one might contain because of their goodness but that many cannot accept, because of their greatness. Simeon presented our Lord, and in him he presented the two gifts he had so that what had been given Moses in the desert was passed on by Simeon in the temple. Because our Lord is the vessel in which all fullness dwells, when Simeon presented him to God, he poured out both of these upon him: the priesthood from his hands and prophecy from his lips. The priesthood had always been on Simeon’s hands, because of ritual purifications. Prophecy, in fact, dwelt on his lips because of revelations. When both of these saw the Lord of both of these, they were combined and were poured into the vessel that could accommodate them both, in order to contain priesthood, kingship, and prophecy.
    That infant who was wrapped in swaddling clothes by virtue of his goodness was also dressed in priesthood and prophecy by virtue of his majesty. Simeon dressed him in these and presented him to the one who had dressed him in swaddling clothes. Then, as the old man returned him to his mother, he returned the priesthood with him. And when he prophesied to her about him: “This child is destined for the downfall and rising,” he gave her prophecy with him as well.
    So Mary took her firstborn and left. Although he was visibly wrapped in swaddling clothes, he was invisibly clothed with prophecy and priesthood. Thus, what Moses had been given was received from Simeon, and it remained and continued with the Lord of these two gifts. The former steward and the final treasurer handed over the keys of priesthood and prophecy to the one in authority over the treasury of both of these. This is why his Father gave him the Spirit without measure because all measures of the Spirit are under his hand. And to indicate that he received the keys from the former stewards, our Lord said to Simon, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Now how could he give them to someone unless he had received them from someone else? So the keys he had received from Simeon the priest, he gave to another Simeon, the apostle. So even though the Jewish nation did not listen to the first Simeon, the Gentile nations would listen to the other Simeon.

Ephrem the Syrian, Homily on Our Lord

Monday, December 25, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: The Nativity of Our Lord

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. (Lk 2:15–20)

As men who were truly watching, they said not, Let us see the child; but the word which has come to pass, i.e. the Word which was from the beginning, let us see how it has been made flesh for us, since this very Word is the Lord. For it follows, Which the Lord has made, and has shown to us; i.e. Let us see how the Lord has made Himself, and has shown His flesh to us.

It seems to succeed in due order, that after having rightly celebrated the incarnation of the Word, we should at length come to behold the actual glory of that Word. Hence it follows: But when they saw it, they made known the word which had been spoken to them. That is to say, from the Angels, and had seen, i.e. in Bethlehem, as it was told them, i.e. they glory in this, that when they came they found it even as it was told them, or as it was told them they give praise and glory to God. For this they were told by the Angels to do, not in very word commanding them, but setting before them the form of devotion when they sung glory to God in the highest.

To speak in a mystery, let the shepherds of spiritual flocks, (nay, all the faithful,) after the example of, these shepherds, go in thought even to Bethlehem, and celebrate the incarnation of Christ with due honors. Let us go indeed casting aside all fleshly lusts, with the whole desire of the mind even to the heavenly Bethlehem, (i.e. the house of the living bread,) that He whom they saw crying in the manger we may deserve to see reigning on the throne of His Father. And such bliss as this is not to be sought for with sloth and idleness, but with eagerness must we follow the footsteps of Christ. When they saw Him they knew Him; and let us haste to embrace in the fullness of our love those things which were spoken of our Savior, that when the time shall come that we shall see with perfect knowledge we may be able to comprehend them.

Venerable Bede, Homilies on the Gospels

Friday, December 22, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Fourth Sunday in Advent

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31–33)

We should carefully note the order of the words here, and the more firmly they are engrafted in our heart, the more evident it will be that the sum total of our redemption consists in them. For they proclaim with perfect clarity that the Lord Jesus, that is, our Savior, was both the true Son of God the Father and the true Son of a mother who was a human being. “Behold,” he says, “you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son”—acknowledge that this true human being assumed the true substance of flesh from the flesh of the Virgin! “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High”—confess too that this same Son is true God of true God, co-eternal Son forever of the eternal Father!

Venerable Bede, Homilies on the Gospels

And hear again how Isaiah in express words foretold that He should be born of a virgin; for he spoke thus: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a son, and they shall say for His name, ‘God with us.’” For things which were incredible and seemed impossible with men, these God predicted by the Spirit of prophecy as about to come to pass, in order that, when they came to pass, there might be no unbelief, but faith, because of their prediction. But lest some, not understanding the prophecy now cited, should charge us with the very things we have been laying to the charge of the poets who say that Jupiter went in to women through lust, let us try to explain the words. This, then, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive,” signifies that a virgin should conceive without intercourse. For if she had had intercourse with any one whatever, she was no longer a virgin; but the power of God having come upon the virgin, overshadowed her, and caused her while yet a virgin to conceive. And the angel of God who was sent to the same virgin at that time brought her good news, saying, “Behold, you shall conceive of the Holy Ghost, and shall bear a Son, and He shall be called the Son of the Highest, and you shall call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins,”—as they who have recorded all that concerns our Savior Jesus Christ have taught, whom we believed, since by Isaiah also, whom we have now adduced, the Spirit of prophecy declared that He should be born as we intimated before. It is wrong, therefore, to understand the Spirit and the power of God as anything else than the Word, who is also the firstborn of God, as the prophet Moses declared; and it was this which, when it came upon the virgin and overshadowed her, caused her to conceive, not by intercourse, but by power. And the name Jesus in the Hebrew language means Σωτήρ (Savior) in the Greek tongue. Therefore, too, the angel said to the virgin, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.”

Justin Martyr, First Apology XXXIII

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Music Deserves the Highest Praise

And Elisha said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, surely were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you, nor see you. But now bring me a musician.” Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. (2 Ki 3:14–15)

Here it must suffice to discuss the benefit of this great art. But even that transcends the greatest eloquence of the most eloquent, because of the infinite variety of its forms and benefits. We can mention only one point (which experience confirms), namely, that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. She is a mistress and governess of those human emotions—to pass over the animals—which as masters govern men or more often overwhelm them. No greater commendation than this can be found—at least not by us. For whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate—and who could number all these masters of the human heart, namely, the emotions, inclinations, and affections that impel men to evil or good?—what more effective means than music could you find? The Holy Ghost himself honors her as an instrument for his proper work when in his Holy Scriptures he asserts that through her his gifts were instilled in the prophets, namely, the inclination to all virtues, as can be seen in Elisha [2 Ki 3:15]. On the other hand, she serves to cast out Satan, the instigator of all sins, as is shown in Saul, the king of Israel [1 Sa 16:23].

Thus it was not without reason that the fathers and prophets wanted nothing else to be associated as closely with the Word of God as music. Therefore, we have so many hymns and Psalms where message and music join to move the listener’s soul, while in other living beings and [sounding] bodies music remains a language without words. After all, the gift of language combined with the gift of song was only given to man to let him know that he should praise God with both word and music, namely, by proclaiming [the Word of God] through music and by providing sweet melodies with words.

Martin Luther, Preface to Georg Rhau’s Symphoniae Iucundae

The Promised One Has Come

Gerard van Honthorst, Adoration of the Shepherds
Then You spoke to Your holy ones in a vision,
And You said, “I established help for a mighty one;
I raised up a chosen one from My people;
I found David My servant;
I anointed him with My holy oil.
For My hand shall support him,
And My arm shall strengthen him.
The enemy shall have no advantage against him,
And the son of lawlessness shall not continue doing evil to him;
I will cut his enemies to pieces before his face,
And I shall put to flight those who hate him.
My truth and My mercy are with him,
And in My name shall his horn be exalted;
I will put his hand in the sea
And his right hand in the rivers.
He shall call upon Me, saying, ‘You are my Father,
My God, and the protector of my salvation’;
I shall make him, my firstborn,
Higher than the kings of the earth.
I shall keep My mercy for him forever,
And My covenant shall be trustworthy with him.
I shall establish his seed unto ages of ages
And his throne as the days of heaven.”    Psalm 89:19–29 LXX

Friday, December 15, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Third Sunday in Advent

Now, this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said: “I am

The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Make straight the way of the Lord,
as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:19–23)

[John] quite naturally, therefore, proceeds in the first place to remove any false impressions they might have taken up about him, and declares publicly the true state of the matter, “I am not the Christ.” Their second question, and also their third, show that they had conceived some such surmise about him. They supposed that he might be that second in honor to whom their hopes pointed, namely, Elijah, who held with them the next position after Christ; and so when John had answered, “I am not the Christ,” they asked, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” They wish to know, in the third place, if he is the prophet, and on his answer, “No,” they have no longer any name to give the personage whose advent they expected, and they say, “Who are you, then, that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What do you say about yourself?” Their meaning is: “You are not, you say, any of those personages whose advent Israel hopes and expects, and who you are, to baptize as you do, we do not know. Tell us, therefore, so that we may report to those who sent us to get light concerning this point.” We add, as it has some bearing on the context, that the people were moved by the thought that the period of Christ’s advent was near. It was in a manner imminent in the years from the birth of Jesus and a little before, down to the publication of the preaching.… Thus the coming of the Messiah was more warmly expected and discussed, and it was natural enough for the Jews to send priests and Levites from Jerusalem to John, to ask him, “Who are you?” and learn if he professed to be the Christ.…

John came for a witness. He was a man sent from God to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe. He was that voice, then, we are to understand, which alone was fitted worthily to announce the Logos. We shall understand this rightly if we call to mind what was adduced in our exposition of the texts: “That all might believe through Him,” and “This is he of whom it is written, Behold I send My messenger before your face, who shall prepare the way before you.” There is fitness, too, in his being said to be the voice, not of one saying in the wilderness, but of one crying in the wilderness. He who cries, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” also says it; but he might say it without crying it. But he cries and shouts it, that even those may hear who are at a distance from the speaker, and that even the deaf may understand the greatness of the tidings, since it is announced in a great voice; and he thus brings help, both to those who have departed from God and to those who have lost the acuteness of their hearing.

Origen, Commentary on John VI

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Girl Empress by Amy Mantravadi – Book Review

Mantravadi, Amy. The Girl Empress: The Chronicle of Maud - Volume I. 442 pp.

Somewhat recently, I stumbled across Amy Mantravadi’s blog, and based on the content would say she is Reformed Baptist. As a writer, she is no slouch: I may disagree with some of her conclusions, but nobody can say she is not careful and thorough, so when she announced earlier this year that her book would be released soon, I was intrigued and ordered a copy. You should do likewise.

This novel is the first-person narration of Mathilda (Maud) recounting life to her daughter beginning in early twelfth century England. She is promised by her father, King Henry I, to the German emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Henry V, in an arranged marriage to help unite England with the empire. Such an arrangement was commonplace, and as one might imagine, this period of history is fraught with intrigue as both pope and king vie for power and authority within their overlapping spheres of influence. Added to this is the need to maintain peaceful relations and cooperation between duchies within the empire. Any means possible to solidify the empire were welcome. Medieval royalty and ecclesiastical authority were also noted for maintaining propriety. This is brought out time and again throughout the novel within the royal court (the cover illustration is telling). While this helped maintain civility and order, there are sufficient opportunities for subterfuge and treachery, as well as disease and catastrophe with which the emperor must deal.

Many historical figures and locations are brought out in the book, and I noted one review that disapproved of using so much history. I thought it delightful. The author was able to accurately and interestingly bring together a great number of facts pertinent to the storyline. But then I like history. In addition, the author presents a fascinating tidbit in her introduction:
Empress Mathilda (1102–1167), commonly known by the name Maud, was a real person, the daughter of King Henry I of England and granddaughter of William the Conqueror. She is also my ancestor twenty-eight generations removed, through the Grey and Hungerford families. It is my sincere hope that her story will be told more fully in these novels than it has been before, and that the twelfth century will come alive for a new generation of readers.
Of course, she would want to make this work as accurate as possible with the number of political and geographical interactions. (As a sidebar, I have a feeling all or most these characters will play a part in future volumes.) In addition, because many language groups were governed by the empire, the author interweaved those into the narrative in an appropriate way according to the character whether Latin, German, Italian, or French. The reader need not fear these portions since the dialogue is written in order to allow the reader to understand their meaning; however, if you already have a grasp of them, so much the better.

In all, this was a first-rate read and I cannot wait until the next volume comes out. Besides her blog mentioned earlier, you can find a website dedicated to the novel series – The Chronicle of Maud.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Second Sunday in Advent

Behold, the Lord is coming with strength,
And His arm is with authority.
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His work before Him.
He will feed His flock like a shepherd
And gather the lambs with His arm;
And He will comfort those with young.

(Is 40:10–11 LXX)

These words are a glimpse of the second coming of the Savior. It is then that He will give the laborers their reward. “He will reward each according to his works,” according to the word of the apostle. “For the day,” he says, “will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.” This is the proclamation that the Lord has ordained to the holy apostles to make in their turn. “Go,” He has said, “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” One can, therefore, see that the oracles of the prophet are thus in agreement with the words of the Gospel.

Of this prophecy also let us observe the fulfillment in the exact way and in the truth of the holy Gospels. In the first place, the Lord has said, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My sheep and am known by My own … and I lay down My life for the sheep.” Moreover, He has likewise gathered the lambs with His arms—by the power of His teachings. For soon He said to the fishermen, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Presently, He called the publicans and ate with them. Again, another time, He allowed even a woman who had led an evil life to shed tears at His feet. He has likewise comforted pregnant women with the thought that they would give birth for salvation. As they learned of the destruction of death and the hope of the resurrection, they possessed sufficient solace for their pains in the expectation of the benefits that had been announced. Finally, while the holy Virgin still carried Him in her womb, He filled Elizabeth, who was with child, with joy.

Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on Isaiah

Thursday, December 7, 2017

More on Psalm 107

While doing a bit of study for yesterday’s post from Psalm 107, I stumbled upon some interesting commentary. Apparently, the Eastern Orthodox church holds that 105-107 (104–106 in their numbering) are considered a unit because they each begin with the heading Alleluia or Praise the Lord.* I looked at these psalms but was confused by the comment: 105 and 107 do not begin with this heading. I checked multiple translations and still found nothing.

The solution to this puzzle can be found in the layout of the Septuagint. The Hebrew text used by the original translators had moved Praise the Lord from 104:35 to 105:1 and from 106:48 to 107:1, along with removing it from 105:45. The arrangement, therefore, gives a cohesive unit of theology as explained in The Orthodox Study Bible:
Psalm 104, 105, and 106 form a trilogy, each with the heading, Alleluia, which means “praise the Lord.” This heading emphasizes praising the Lord and giving Him thanks for His works of mercy (104:1–3; 105:1, 2; 106:1, 2). These works are traced in great detail from Abraham on, and are fulfilled in the coming of Christ to save mankind: He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their corruptions (106:20). The Father sent His Word, who crushed the gates of bronze and shattered the bars of iron (106:16). He trampled death by His death and Resurrection, bestowing life on those in the tombs (those sitting in the darkness and shadow of death, bound in poverty and fetters, 106:10; He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their chains to pieces, 106:14). The response of those who are wise and shall keep these things, and shall understand the mercies of the Lord (106:43) is “Alleluia.”
If one follows the theme of each psalm, there is a recognizable progression: God’s faithfulness to His people (105) demonstrated in His continual forgiveness of sin (106) resulting in the overflow of thanksgiving for His works (107).

Someone may retort that there is a problem with this unit because the book of Psalms is divided into five sub-books with a division between 106 and 107. I contend that this issue actually adds to the beauty of the progression because of the arc created within the triplet. Book Four ends with a description of His character and willingness to display it over and again, while Book Five begins a cascading chorus of praise to God carried through to the end.

Read and meditate on these three psalms. Follow the progression of His mighty promises, to our sin and desperate need for mercy, and His glorious work for which we respond with abundant thanks.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Thanksgiving, and Then Some

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we heard good teaching from Psalm 107 on God’s deliverance of sinners. The psalmist presents four main characteristics of sinners:
  • Wandering (4-9)
  • Rebellious (10-16)
  • Self-destructive (17-22)
  • Self-confident (23-32)
While each person reflects aspects of all these, we are shown how the Lord applies pressure in the neediest area so that the individual would come to an end of himself, cry out, and relish in divine goodness and mercy. It is the third group to which I draw your attention using the Septuagint.*
He helped them out of their lawless ways,
For they were humbled because of their transgressions.
Their soul abhorred all manner of food,
And they drew near the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their afflictions,
And He saved them from their distresses.
Those described here willingly continued in their sin to their detriment knowing full well that they were hastening their demise. Some embraced their ignorance (Prov 1:22) while others were professing to be wise, yet became fools (Ro 1:22). Like a continual descent into a maelstrom, the sinner continues in a foolhardy, self-destructive life bound by their own passions, not comprehending the consequence of their choices nor seeking escape. Some foolish people will realize their complete inability to rescue themselves, and at this point, they will cry out for rescue.
He sent His Word and healed them,
And delivered them from their corruptions.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for His mercies
And His wonders to the sons of men,
And let them offer a sacrifice of praise;
And let them proclaim His works with exceeding joy.
Notice here that the Lord heals by the sending of His Word. Foolishness and simple-mindedness are met with prudence and wisdom. And it is not as if there is just knowledge being passed from one to another as if receiving a lecture of wise or proverbial sayings, rather, the word shared has an active role.
You, O men, I exhort,
And I utter my voice to the sons of men;
Understand astuteness, O simple ones,
And put it in your hearts, O uninstructed ones.
Obey me, for I speak sacred things,
And from my lips I will bring forth things that are true. (Pr 8:6–8)
Wisdom is personified in this chapter, not just for rhetorical effect, but because the basis of wisdom is a person—one who was a witness to the very beginning of creation and took an active part in all that was made, even rejoicing in what was made (Pr 8:22–31). No individual fits this description save for Christ Himself who has been for all eternity both God and the Word (Jn 1:1–5) as explained by Tertullian:
In Him, at any rate, and with Him, did [Wisdom] construct the universe, He not being ignorant of what she was making. “Except Wisdom,” however, is a phrase of the same sense exactly as “except the Son,” who is Christ, “the Wisdom and Power of God,” according to the apostle, who only knows the mind of the Father.… And if I am not mistaken, there is also another passage in which it is written: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the hosts of them by His Spirit.” Now this Word, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, must be the very Son of God. So that, if [He did] all things by the Son, He must have stretched out the heavens by the Son, and so not have stretched them out alone, except in the sense in which He is “alone” from all other gods.… By thus attaching the Son to Himself, He becomes His own interpreter in what sense He stretched out the heavens alone, meaning alone with His Son, even as He is one with His Son. The utterance, therefore, will be in like manner the Son’s, “I have stretched out the heavens alone,” because by the Word were the heavens established. Inasmuch, then, as the heaven was prepared when Wisdom was present in the Word, and since all things were made by the Word, it is quite correct to say that even the Son stretched out the heaven alone, because He alone ministered to the Father’s work.

Against Praxeas 19
and Eusebius of Caesarea:
The divine and perfect essence existing before things begotten, the rational and firstborn image of the unbegotten nature, the true and only-begotten Son of the God of the universe, being one with many names, and one called God by many titles, is honored in this passage under the style and name of wisdom, and we have learned to call him Word of God, light, life, truth, and, to crown all, “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Now, therefore, in the passage before us, he passes through the words of the wise Solomon, speaking of himself as the living wisdom of God and self-existent, saying, “I, wisdom, have dwelt with counsel and knowledge, and I have called upon understanding,” and that which follows. He also adds, as one who has undertaken the government and providence of the universe: “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes become great.” Then saying that he will record the things of ages past, he goes on to say, “The Lord created me as the beginning of his ways for his works, he established me before time was.” By which he teaches both that he himself is begotten, and not the same as the unbegotten, one called into being before all ages, set forth as a kind of foundation for all begotten things. And it is probable that the divine apostle started from this when he said of him: “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature, for all things were created in him, of things in heaven and things in earth.” For he is called “firstborn of every creature,” in accordance with the words “The Lord created me as the beginning of his road to his works.” And he would naturally be considered the image of God, as being that which was begotten of the nature of the unbegotten. And, therefore, the passage before us agrees when it says, “Before the mountains were established, and before all the hills, he begets me.” Hence we call him only-begotten Son, and the firstborn Word of God, who is the same as this wisdom.

Proof of the Gospel 5.1
This same Word and Wisdom comes to the sinner with the promise of succor and rest of sins forgiven. Under the Mosaic covenant, the believer lived by faith under the promise that Messiah would suffer and die for His people; we now look back at Jesus giving His life on the cross. From neither end of the timeline does mortal understand the breadth and depth of God’s wondrous works to the children of men. It is ours but to praise and thank Him for those works and worship so great a God and Savior.

* For comparison, the first two lines in NKJV read: Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, were afflicted. This section, otherwise, is basically the same.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the First Sunday in Advent

But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.

Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. (Mark 13:24-31)

If you examine the whole passage of this Gospel Scripture, from the inquiry of the disciples down to the parable of the fig-tree you will find that it makes sense at every point in connection with the coming of the Son of man, so that it consistently ascribes to Him both the sorrows and the joys, and the catastrophes and the promises; nor can you separate them from Him in either respect. For as much, then, as there is but one Son of man whose advent is placed between the two issues of catastrophe and promise, it must necessarily follow that to that one Son of man belong both the judgments upon the nations and the prayers of the saints. He who thus comes in midway so as to be common to both issues, will terminate one of them by inflicting judgment on the nations at His coming; and will at the same time commence the other by fulfilling the longings of His saints.… Reflect, in short, on the picture presented in the parable: “Behold the fig-tree, and all the trees; when they produce their fruit, men know that summer is at hand. So likewise when you see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is very near.” Now, if the fructification of the common trees is an antecedent sign of the approach of summer, so in like manner do the great conflicts of the world indicate the arrival of that kingdom which they precede. But every sign is His, to whom belong the thing of which it is the sign; and to everything is appointed its sign by Him to whom the thing belongs. If, therefore, these tribulations are the signs of the kingdom, just as the maturity of the trees is of the summer, it follows that the kingdom is the Creator’s to whom are ascribed the tribulations which are the signs of the kingdom. Since the beneficent Deity had premised that these things must necessarily come to pass, although so terrible and dreadful, as they had been predicted by the law and the prophets, therefore He did not destroy the law and the prophets, when He affirmed that what had been foretold must be certainly fulfilled. He further declares, “that heaven and earth shall not pass away till all things be fulfilled.”

Tertullian, Against Marcion IV.39