April 2, 2015

Theological adventures?

Deuteronomy 2:1–3:29; 2 Corinthians 1:12–16; Psalm 31:10–24
Many of the people, events, and institutions in the Old Testament are models or pre-representations of people, events, and institutions in the New Testament. The study of this is called typology, but it gained a bad reputation from people whose imagination exceeded good scholarship.

For instance, some say that Abraham taking Isaac up on a mountain foreshadows Christ in some way. That may be true, but the wood that they carried does not represent the Cross Jesus carried, nor is Isaac a type of Christ (Isaac lived, Christ died). If there is a type in the story, it is the ram that did die as a sacrifice in Isaac’s place.

I can understand the wild and crazy ideas that have come out of typology though. Look at it this way; if you are thinking about buying a red car, you will soon start seeing red cars everywhere. If a Bible student is thinking about Jesus and the NT stories, pretty soon everything that student reads in the OT will remind him of something in the NT. Being reminded of Jesus is a good thing, but that does not make the red car parked in Abraham’s tent the same as the red car that carried Herod into Jerusalem. They just happened to be both the same color.

That said, I had one of those non-typology thoughts today. Take this with a grain of salt . . . Moses has the people at the edge of the promised land. God tells him about the enemies before them. He says, “ . . . Rise up, set out on your journey and go over the Valley of the Arnon. Behold, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to take possession, and contend with him in battle. This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.” (Deuteronomy 2:23–25)

God then said this to Moses, “And I commanded Joshua at that time, ‘Your eyes have seen all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings. So will the Lord do to all the kingdoms into which you are crossing. You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you’ . . . (now Moses), Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes westward and northward and southward and eastward, and look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.’” (Deuteronomy 3: 21–22, 27–28)

Moses could not go in. Instead, Joshua would take over. Now these are my thoughts. Moses represents to my mind the Law of God. He led the people out of bondage in Egypt, and then was allowed to lead them through the wilderness and to the edge of new life. But he was not allowed to bring them into their new life. Joshua would do that.

When God led me out of my old life and brought me to new life in the kingdom of God, I was to live by grace, not by law. Law could not take me in or keep me there. Like the people in the OT were led by Joshua, I also had a new leader. His name? Joshua — which in Greek means “Jesus.”

This is not proper typology, but it still makes me smile. Some might say, “Good sermon, wrong text.”

It delights me that these lovely thoughts also connect in a small way with the other two readings. The NT one says, “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.” (2 Corinthians 1:12)

If I lived by Law and actually kept it, I could boast. But I do not and cannot. Instead, I live by grace. I can still boast like Paul did in that verse, but not in me. Joshua led me to freedom and Joshua keeps me there. My boast is in the grace of God.

Because of Jesus, I also can say with the psalmist, “Love God, all you saints; God takes care of all who stay close to him, But he pays back in full those arrogant enough to go it alone. Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. Expect God to get here soon.” (Psalm 31:23–24)

My seminary professors might slap my wrist over this, but I could claim a new category, not typology, but something like symbol + reminder = Praise for Jesus. I’m sure there are many acceptable words for that!

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