February 19, 2008

Handwriting on the Wall 2

Category: Bible - OT - Daniel :: Permalink

Back in January, I wrote about the introduction to James B. Jordan’s new commentary on Daniel, The Handwriting on the Wall.  Now here are some thoughts on the first two chapters of the book.

In chapter 1, Jordan sets Daniel in its covenant-historical context.  He shows, following Isaiah 48:3, how Israel’s history is divided into “former days” (basically from Moses to the prophets) and “latter days” (from the prophets to Christ). Then he traces how each of these broad periods goes through an opening prophetic period, an “Egypt” period, a priestly period, an interim period, and then a kingly period, which leads in turn to a new prophetic period.

I’m still mulling over some of what he said, but I appreciated his emphasis on a typological reading of Scripture and how what God does with Israel is a miniature portrait of what He is going to do now in the world in and through Christ.

Chapter 2 is a continuation of the material in chapter 1, setting the book of Daniel in its context in the history of God’s revelation. Most of the material in this chapter was already familiar to me from other things I’ve read, but I thought the presentation here was particularly helpful.

While we often speak of “prophet, priest, and king” in that order (and there’s some biblical support for that, as chapter 1 indicates), the progress in man‘s history is from priest to king to prophet.  Adam started out in God’s Garden sanctuary as a priest, serving and keeping the Garden (“serving and keeping” are terms later associated with priests in the tabernacle and temple).  Eventually, Adam would have gone out into the world to serve as a king.

Likewise, Israel starts out with priests but no king for several hundred years. Then there’s a kingly period, starting with Saul. And then the focus shifts to prophets like Elijah, Elisha, and so forth, and eventually there are no kings in Israel, but there are prophets.

Here’s a crucial paragraph:

God is revealing Himself to humanity in history. Also, since human beings are images of God Himself, it follows that as God reveals Himself to us, He is also revealing us to ourselves. Thus, human history can be seen as a course of instruction in who God is and in who we are. Since God is One and Three, history is unified, but history also spirals through three phases over and over again, as God progressively reveals more and more about His Tri-Personhood. There is an Age of the Father, followed by an Age of the Son, followed by an Age of the Spirit. Roughly speaking, these are priestly, kingly, and then prophetic ages (p. 31).

The rest of the chapter spells out this theme and this progression in Scripture in a way that helps us understand where Daniel fits in the history of God’s revelation of Himself and of us.

Jordan doesn’t work out the implications of all that he’s saying here.  For more of that, see his little booklet Crisis, Opportunity, and the Christian Future, as well as his monograph entitled From Bread to Wine.

I’ve found that this material also preaches well. In Advent 2006, I took my congregation through the themes of priest, king, and prophet in Scripture, showing what each office entailed, how Christ fulfilled those offices, and how we share in those offices.

In particular, in dealing with ourselves, I talked about God’s process of maturation, how we start out as “priests” (servants to hear and obey), mature into “kings” (who rule), and then mature further into “prophets” (who shape worlds with our words).

Yes, they were topical sermons in some sense (but no more than, say, a catechism sermon), but I thought it was important to show the congregation what God was doing with these offices in history and how they shed light on what God is doing in our lives.

This chapter was very helpful for understanding the flow of Scripture and how redemptive and revelational history “works.”  It’s also an aid to our understanding of the Trinity.  All too often, we treat the Trinity as if it were grounded on a verse here and a verse there, whereas it is actually grounded, not on scattered verses, but on the whole flow of Scripture and the way God reveals Himself in history.  Furthermore, this chapter lays a good foundation for understanding what God is doing, not just in the Bible, but in history in general and in our own lives.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:04 pm | Discuss (0)

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