Context (Part 1)
By Steven Davis
A couple of weeks back I said my word for 2018 was consistent. But as I was out walking today, I realized my word for 2018 is really context. What does that mean? There are two aspects of context that will help to define it for you and make it something you can live in.
For Advent I taught through a series at my church called Prophecies for Christmas. And the first two I tackled were Isaiah 7 and 9. Here they are. You probably know them.
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 NAS)
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 NAS)
Most of us know these verses from Christmas Eve services, but did you know that’s not all of either prophecy? So what’s the context?
The rest of the prophecy from chapter 7 is a good news, bad news situation. And the bad news is the kings of Egypt and Assyria were going to swarm in and wipe out Ahaz’s kingdom. So part of the prophecy happened within a few years and had national repercussions. The other part happened 700 years later and was fulfilled with the birth of Christ, which had global repercussions.
For the prophecy from chapter 9, it’s all good news. First, 700 hundred years after Isaiah’s time, a child was born, a son was given—Jesus. The earlier verses of the prophecy speak to the nature and role of Christ:
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them” (Isaiah 9:2 NAS). This perfectly describes Jesus. Why?
“He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!’” (Luke 2:28-32 NLT)
“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.’” (John 8:12 NAS)
There’s a third part of the prophecy from chapter 9: “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7 NAS).
Those are 700-year-old and 3000-year-old prophecies. Why 3000 years? Because that kingdom will increase and will be “upheld in justice and righteousness” forevermore. That’s yet to be, which means, we’re in the middle of this prophecy! We’re in the middle of its context.
So when we look at these three parts of the prophecy, we have to ask these huge questions: How do you fit, and how are you fitting within the truth and scope of God’s Word? Are you knowledgeable or ignorant? Obedient or rebellious? Consistent or erratic? Intentional or haphazard? Another way to put it: How are you doing?
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15 ESV)
“Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NLT)
And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:3-6 NLT)
There’s a second question we need to ask, and join me next time for that.