Comfort My People: Isaiah 40 and the Exaltation of the Valleys, part 3
by Ward Fenley
This is a completely wonderful article; I would just like to interact a bit with a few specific things that especially intrigued and stirred me. One thing you do often when discussing redemption in light of these Old Testament passages, is to identify the “problem” that redemption was ordained and accomplished by God to solve. While we “evangelicals” may think we have a handle on that (who can’t quote Romans 3:23 from memory?); I think there has been somewhat of a disconnect between how the Gospel is traditionally presented and the full extent of the hopelessness of our condition apart from Christ. Studying these Old Testament prophets brings that into focus. Because they got it. They understood the impact of their guilt, they felt the fear and shame and fully recognized their complete helplessness and hopelessness and total dependence upon God’s mercy--the mercy Christ performed. It is only to the extent that we appreciate the impact of what it means to be lost, that we will begin to see and experience the impact of being saved….and truly appreciate and celebrate the miracle of our redemption. The prophets help us see these things; they help us see as you have said, how “eternal life is contrasted with that which every Old Testament believer feared under the Mosaic Covenant: death,” and the “magnitude” of that contrast.
You wrote: “…it is when we connect righteousness with the abrogation of shame and the fear of death that we become amazed at what Christ has actually fulfilled in reference to Old Testament prophecies.” Truly. Amazed and in awe.
I also appreciate the way you have shown that it is the righteousness of Christ (and nothing short of that, and most certainly not any ‘righteousness’ that we could perform) that is the complete and permanent remedy for shame. And since righteousness is all the work of God, there is nothing we could do by outwardly performing to add to it, or take away from it. Our righteousness will never be our own and will always and only be in Christ, Whom Jeremiah calls “The Lord Our Righteousness.” This will remain true of course, even after we physically die. Which I think is very important because it seems that sometimes even “Preterists” present the idea that after we shed the physical body, something will change with regard to our human nature. I even heard one say recently that after we physically die, we will “finally be free from sin,” as if that has not already been accomplished in Christ. And to me, to attach such significance to our physical death and in so doing claim we are now lacking, is to take away from what HE HAS DONE. And it is to fail to give Him the glory that all and only belongs to Him.
I was intrigued by what you said about ‘idols’ and how the idolatry of the Pharisees was to worship the law over the One the law pointed to, or the “creature” over the Creator (awesome connection between Jeremiah 2 and Romans 1); and more specifically to look for salvation in their own ‘righteousness’ under the law, thereby rejecting the salvation of Christ, and rejecting Him. They exalted the shadow over the substance, the copy over the true…they sought to make themselves righteous in that which “could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.” And in so doing they rejected Christ, who came “an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us”(cf. Hebrews 9). I guess if there was ever a definition of ‘idolatry’ that would be it.
Thank you again for this article Ward, as it has truly caused my spirit to rejoice in God my Savior.
I have been married to my loving husband Keith for 26 years. We have three beautiful and brilliant children, ages 24, 22 and 20. Nothing cheers my heart more than having them all at home, yet nothing is more satisfying to my mind than watching them grow from afar. My personal passion is theology: the knowledge and experience of the Truth and Mercy found only in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and displayed in the lives and communion of His people. My husband and I love to travel, and because our children are often out and about in the world, we get lots of opportunities to see it! And we also love to fill our home with friends who love us, and love our wine collection.