Evidence from Matthew

The 9th chapter in The Coming Millennial Kingdom is Evidence from Matthew by David K. Lowery.  Overall, this chapter has some good point, but I was not impressed.  Perhaps if I were up to speed on modern day scholarship and their portrayal of Matthew’s gospel, I may have appreciated the first half of the chapter more.

Let me try to summarize this whole debate that he addresses in the first half.  Matthew the publican portrays the nation of Israel as being in a state of unbelief.  This leads many to use this as evidence that Matthew taught that the nation of Israel (as he wrote the gospel) was a thing of the past, note Matthew 21:43.  There are also some allegations that Matthew did not understand the Jewish law and made some critical misstatements in his gospel, something that an expert in Jewish law would not do.  The author defends Matthew’s background as being Jewish, and also an expert in the law citing Matthew 12:1-8 which is more detailed than Mark’s or Luke’s account in describing the law.

Matthew’s relationship with Judaism in his day is tugged at in both directions by both sides of the argument.  On the one hand, you have some who want the church to be completely disconnected to any Jewish elements.  Therefore, they want to view Matthew’s gospel as evidence that the church had broken all ties with Judaism as Matthew wrote the gospel.  Then on the other side of the debate, you have some who believe that there is a future for the nation of Israel, so they stress the continuity between Matthew’s assembly with the temple, the law, and Judaism as it existed alongside the church in Matthew’s day.  The author sums up both sides adequately by stating “For most interpreters there is no question about whether or not Matthew and his church saw themselves as dissociated from Judaism.  The question is rather to what degree this was so.”  Well said.

The second half of the chapter tries to get to the heart of the matter.  While Israel has rejected Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah, is this state of rejection final?  The first portion of this is titled “Matthew’s Use of the Old Testament”.  This heading made me excited.  However, upon reading what the author had written, I was disappointed.  Instead of examining what Matthew had quoted from the old testament, there are simply overarching principles which suggest that Matthew is doing the same thing that Paul did in his letters by “making liberal use of the OT in the process.”  The author basically asserts that because Paul wrote of the nation of Israel in terms of them being temporarily set aside as a nation, but still will fulfill God’s covenant plan; that Matthew could be doing the same.

The final portion is titled “Matthew Commission to Israel”.  Here is where the author attempts to take a stand.  There are a couple of good points.  One is that in Matthew 10 as Jesus sends out the disciples to proclaim the gospel message, that the disciples are not reported to have returned to Christ.  The mission to Israel is not brought to a close or rescinded, but expanded upon at the end of Matthew’s gospel, Matthew 28:19.  Then the author stakes his claim upon Matthew 19:28.  While this is a profound promise, this entails the author’s entire argument that there is a future for the nation of Israel.  This one verse in itself does tell us much concerning Matthew’s view of the future of Israel.  However, I can’t help but feel that there is so much more in Matthew’s gospel that is being overlooked.

For instance, why not take the marked quotations from the OT and examine them in context?  Here is an example of what I mean.

In Matthew 4:14-16 there is a quote from Isaiah 9:1-2.  The historical significance of “the land of the shadow of death” should be viewed against the backdrop of II Kings 15:29.  This northern territory of Galilee had just been devastated in Isaiah’s day.  Yet here is a prophecy promising that the light of the Messiah will shine in this very place.  The context of Isaiah 9 is that Isaiah has just been addressing the nation’s rejection of of the LORD, Isaiah 8:14-15.  In spite of the fact that both Judah (Judea) and Israel (Samaria) will reject the LORD, there will be a faithful remnant of disciples that will bind up the testimony, Isaiah 8:16.  These faithful disciples will perform signs and wonders in Jerusalem, Isaiah 8:18, Hebrews 2:13.  Matthew’s point in quoting Isaiah 9:1-2 was not simply that the Messiah would minister around the Sea of Galilee, but that the entire prophecy of Isaiah could be trusted to point to Christ.  That is why no one questions Isaiah 9:6-7 as being applicable to Jesus of Nazareth.  But can’t we do the same thing with the passage previous to Isaiah 9:1-2?  Matthew’s portrayal of Israel’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah should be viewed as a continuation of Israel’s rejection of the LORD as her God in Isaiah 8:14-15.  The fact that Israel rejected Jesus as Messiah is further proof that He is the Messiah prophesied by Isaiah.  Further, He must rule from the throne of David sometime in the future based on Isaiah 9:6-7.

In describing the healings of Jesus, Matthew quotes Isaiah 53:4 as being fulfilled in Matthew 8:17.  In Matthew 4:23-24 there is a general description of Christ’s healing of the multitudes.  But here in chapter 8 there are three specific instances where Jesus heals  individuals, and then many more.  In summarizing the reason for this, Matthew points to Isaiah 53:4 for the answer.  This passage in Isaiah is not one with which Matthew’s audience was unfamiliar.  This pericope only sets the stage for the many inferences which will be used by Matthew later as Jesus is led like a Lamb to the slaughter.  Does Matthew have to quote each phrase from Isaiah 53 to show that Israelite rejection of Jesus as Messiah was fulfilling prophecy?  No, because he has already set the stage for his readers in Matthew 8:17.  The details of “He opened not His mouth”, “they made His grave with a rich man in His death”, and “He was numbered with the transgressors” are all demonstrated in Matthew’s account of the crucifixion.

Matthew draws a sharp conclusion after he describes the decision of Jesus to withdraw from open conflict with the Pharisees in Matthew 12:14-21.  Because the Pharisees composed the religious majority within the nation of Israel, a rejection by them meant a rejection by the establishment.  Here Jesus takes His healing to the believing remnant, but commands them to not make Him known.  Is Jesus afraid?  Is He giving up?  Matthew points to prophecies from Isaiah that are being fulfilled by the meek and mild manner of the Messiah.  The quote from Isaiah 42 would point the readers toward a Messiah that would be trusted by the Gentiles.  If you remember that Matthew was writing to the church, not the unbelieving nation of Israel, this citation of prophecy becomes ever so significant.  It is not the idea that the nation of Israel will never embrace Jesus as Messiah, it is that God’s plan includes the salvation of the Gentiles.  In withdrawing, Jesus proves during Israelite ministry that He is the One in which the Gentiles will trust.  Isaiah 49 is a direct parallel passage to this one.  It also speaks of the servant of the LORD.  Here is the Servant-Messiah who will raise up, restore, and regather the nation of Israel.  Yet this is too small of a task.  The Gentiles also will trust in Him to allow that salvation to reach unto the ends of the earth.  The passages are being fulfilled in the exact terms that the prophets envisioned them.  Gentile salvation doesn’t mean the end of the nation of Israel, but ensures the salvation of the nation of Israel according to Isaiah 49.

I guess that’s not an example, it’s three examples.  I hope you can see why I am disappointed with modern scholarship.  Next up in this book is Darrell Bock.  I’ve enjoyed some of his stuff before, so we will see what he has to offer.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

This entry was posted in Books, Eschatology, PreMillennialism, Prophecy. Bookmark the permalink.

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