Thursday, March 21, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Exodus 9 and The Epistle of Barnabas 5-7

Exodus 9 – God tells Moses to tell the Pharaoh that he must “Let my people go so they can worship me. If you refuse to hold them and refuse to let them go, the hand of the Lord will strike all you livestock—your horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep, and goats—with a deadly plague” (9:2-3). The livestock of the Hebrews will not be touched.

Pharaoh doesn’t yield, so the Lord sends this fifth plague. Still the Pharaoh is not convinced.

Then the Lord tells Moses to take soot from a brick kiln and scatter it toward the sky so that it turns into a fine dust, a dust that will cause boils on man and beast – the sixth plague.  These boils also afflict the Egyptian magicians. Still Pharaoh is unmoved. “[T]he Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (9:12).

Again the Lord sends Moses to tell Pharaoh this: “I could have lifted my hand and struck you and your people with a plague to wipe you off the face of the earth. But I have spared you for a purpose—to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth. But you still lord it over my people and refuse to let them go” (9:15-17). If they do not listen, the Lord will send a terrible hailstorm. Some of Pharaoh’s officials respond with fear and try to shelter their livestock from the storm before it comes, but “those who paid no attention to the word of the Lord” (9:21) suffered great loss in this seventh plague.

“Never in all the history of Egypt had there been a storm like that . . . it left all of Egypt in ruins . . . The only place without hail was the region of Goshen, where the people of Israel lived” (9:24-26).

This time the Pharaoh calls Moses to come to him and he says, “’This time I have sinned. . . . The Lord is the righteous lone, and my people and I are wrong. Please beg the Lord to end this terrifying thunder and hair. We’ve had enough. Ii will let you go; you don’t need to stay any longer.’” (9:27-28). Moses doubts that they really mean it, and, sure enough, once the hail is stopped, Pharaoh’s heart hardens again and he refuses to let the people go.

The Epistle of Barnabas
5 – “Now, when the Lord resigned Himself to deliver His body to destruction, the aim He had in view was to sanctify us by the remission of our sins; which is effected by the sprinkling of His blood” (163).  

Pretty amazing this passage should come up on the very day I am reading about the last plague brought down by God on Egypt – the death of all their first-born., getting ready to post it later in the week. There it is the blood of the sacrificed lamb or goat that is sprinkled on their doorposts so that the Lord will know which houses He is to “pass over.” Again, we have there one of the multitude of “types” and “figures” set forth in the Old Testament Scripture, that helps us better to understand the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross. 

The writer quotes Isaiah, “he was wounded on account of our transgressions, and bruised because of our sins, and by his scars we were healed” (163).

“How deep should be our gratitude to the Lord, who thus gives us an insight into the past, as well as wisdom for the present and even a measure of understanding of the future!” (163). If we know the “Way of Holiness” and do not follow it, ruin justly awaits us.

He goes on to point out how the prophets foretold of Him. By appearing “in human flesh” and permitting Himself to suffer, “He would be able both to fulfill the promises that had been made to our ancestors, and to establish a new People for Himself” (164). He made it clear “during His presence on earth, that it was His intention to raise mankind from the dead, and afterwards to judge them” (164).

Then he says something a little shocking: “But it was in His choice of the Apostles, who were to preach His Gospel, that He truly showed Himself the Son of God; for those men were ruffians of the deepest dye, which proved that He came not to call saints, but sinners” (164, citing Mark 2:17).

6 – He continues to analyze the prophetic writings to undercover other texts that deepen his appreciation of what Christ did and who Christ was: the stone laid at great price in the foundations of Zion, the stone the builders rejected and other Old Testament images from the psalms and Isaiah.

When he looks to the writings of Moses, the author finds other ancient “types” – some I have never heard used before. The Lord’s promise to the Jews of a “land flowing with milk and honey” is seen as a reference to Christ’s mortal body “since it was out of earth that the shaping of Adam was wrought. What, then, is signified by a land that is ‘good, and flowing with milk and honey’? (Blessings on the Lord, my brothers, for vouchsafing to us wisdom and the discernment of His secrets! The prophet is speaking in a Divine figure here, though only a sagacious and instructed lover of the Lord would understand it.) (165-166).

7 – While the Lord has made much clear to us in these ancient writings, so that we would recognize His hand in the life and death of Christ. He examines other texts that “prefigure” events in Christ’s life. Some of the text is really impossible for me to understand. I get the big picture that he is finding prophecies of Christ in all the nooks and crannies of Old Testament writings, but some of the references are not legitimate – not according to the biblical texts that have come down. And some are so convoluted that they are impenetrable. Basically, though, he is simply conveying his conviction that all of Christ’s sufferings were predestined and foretold. The following is a good example of how detailed he gets on a story I am somewhat familiar with.

He mentions the scapegoat narrative in Leviticus. There are two goats spoken of in the story. The “first goat is for the altar, and the other is accursed” (168). The accursed one “wears [a] wreath. That is because they shall see Him on That Day clad to the ankles in His red woolen robe, and will say, ‘Is not this he whom we once crucified, and mocked and pierced and spat upon? Yes, this is the man who told us that he was the son of God.’ But how will He resemble the goat? The point of there being two similar goats, both of them fair and alike, is that when they see Him coming on the Day, they are going to be struck with terror at the manifest parallel between Him and the goat. In this ordinance, then, you are to see typified the future sufferings of Jesus” (168).

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