Thursday, December 24, 2009

Stringing Pearls 4c4p4

I would like to add a cool example of “remez” by highlighting a passage from a wonderful new book that came out a few months ago, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. It was written by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg. Lois lives about 20 miles south of where I live; I first met her 4 years ago when she was part of an organization called En-gedi that she and a friend Bruce Okkema had cofounded.  To quote from their website: “In January 2001, the En-Gedi Resource Center began as a local ministry in western Michigan, teaching in churches, holding seminars for local audiences and sending out articles online. Over time the ministry became a publisher of books and audio/video materials, and its wider audience grew.” ; the En-Gedi website is ( and Lois’ website is ( Here is a portion from pages 43-44 of Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus:
“Stringing Pearls
It is difficult to overestimate the love that the rabbis had for their Bible. On a good day they would link text after text after text...this was called “stringing pearls”... Jesus did the same thing. Listen to the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12. These passages are thick with references to Isaiah and the Psalms. “Blessed are the poor in spirit... Blessed are those who mourn...Blessed are the meek... Each of these passages would have reminded the crowd of passages in the Bible in which God had promised to rescue his faithful followers. Jesus was pulling together various Scriptures to make one major point: that God is faithful.
Believe it or not, God himself seems to enjoy “stringing pearls.” Do you remember the scene in which Jesus is being baptized by his cousin John? Listen to how the Father spoke from heaven at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:11). “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At face value this seems like a simple, though wonderful affirmation. But it’s so much more than that. Did you catch all the references? If not, here they are:
“You are my Son” is from Psalm 2:7: “He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’”
“whom I love” is from Genesis 22:2: “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
“with you I am well pleased” is from Isaiah 42:1: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen one in whom I delight: I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.”
What was God saying by making use of these quotations? To answer this question, you need to know two things: the context from which each passage is drawn and the way in which the people of that time understood the passage. Both Psalm 2 and Isaiah 42 were understood as powerful messianic prophecies. In Psalm 2, God makes a royal proclamation announcing his Son, the kings who would rule over the whole earth.
But in Isaiah 42, God speaks about his “servant” (also understood to be Messiah). Paradoxically, God’s Messiah is both a king and a servant. This passage from Isaiah also proclaims that God’s Spirit is upon his servant. How fitting since the Father utters these words as the Spirit descends on Jesus in the Jordan River.
The reference “whom I love” is likely drawn from Genesis 22, one of the most poignant scenes in the Old Testament. Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac out of obedience to God. Genesis heightens the drama by emphasizing how precious Isaac is to Abraham, foreshadowing the Father’s own feelings for his only Son. When Jesus is baptized in the Jordan, the Father is saying, “Here is my precious Son, my Isaac, “ hinting at the sacrifice he will soon ask of Jesus.
In just three brief quotes from the Scriptures, God speaks of Jesus as a king, a servant, and his Son who will become a sacrifice. When God speaks, he packs a lot into his words! And be sure to notice where these three passages come from: the Torah (Genesis 22), the Prophets (Isaiah 42), and the Psalms (Psalm 2)... By quoting all three, he is proclaiming that the entire Scriptures point to Jesus as their fulfillment.”
Isn’t that awesome! I recommend that you add this book to your library. 

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