In the previous post, we talked about the Gospel of the Son of God. That Jesus, the new World Emperor, was on His way to take His throne and claim victory. The primary focus of Mark: Jesus, the victorious King.
Was this just a minor theme in the Old Covenant? A king coming to save His people from their enemy? Mark doesn’t leave the reader with this question unanswered for very long.
“Written in Isaiah”
Some people will say this is an error in the Bible because one part of the quote is from Malachi and the other from Isaiah. This was not a mistake on the part of Mark. Many books of the Old Testament would be on one scroll, and that scroll would be named after the first book in the scroll. Another point is that more time is spent with a focus on Isaiah’s section, so primacy is given to Isaiah in Mark 1:2.
The most convincing argument against this critique of the Bible is that the majority of Greek manuscripts read, “As it is written in the Prophets.” For textual, theological, and presuppositional reasons, I believe the majority-text manuscript tradition is the superior one. Now is not the time for that discussion, but the point is that there is no reason to let unbelieving critics of Scripture shake your faith.
A lesson to be learned
The phrase, “written in Isaiah” should teach us something about the Old Covenant and New Covenant, history, and Jesus.
First, we are introduced to the idea of typology. A few definitions of typology;
“Typology is based on the fact that God works in recurring patterns throughout history and says that a past event or person can prefigure or serve as a type of a future person or event. In the antitype, a future person or event more fully expresses the truth of what came before.”
“The past to the present in terms of a historical correspondence and escalation in which the divinely ordered prefigurement finds a complement in the subsequent and greater event.”
Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, gen. ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, p. 823
All throughout the Scriptures, there are various people, places, and things that are a “type” of Christ. In theological works, they have also been called “shadows of Christ.” These “types” highlight different aspects of Jesus’ justice, mercy, peace, righteousness, wrath, etc. through both similarities and differences.
The second, and most important lesson from “Written in Isaiah” is,
…Salvation is set into the context of history. It is Israel and Judah, called to be God’s Kingdom, who have fallen and who must be purged and restored. Jerusalem, the temple city of God, the seat and center of His visible reign, must be purged and purified. To limit the work of Christ to the salvation of souls, to man’s redemption, is to distort its meaning and make it man-centered. The Lord seeks to restore His Kingdom; He promises to lead and protect them always, as in the Exodus; His goal is that His Kingdom prosper and abound as in Eden. Man is not saved for man’s sake, but for the sake of God’s Kingdom and purpose. Christ and the Kingdom of God are thus set in a God-centered perspective.Systematic Theology in Two Volumes, RJ Rushdoony, p. 245
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face”
This is a prophecy from the OT book of Malachi. The text being quoted reads: “Behold, I will send.” But Mark reiterates it as: “Behold, I send.” Also, the NT rendering of this prophecy adds, “before your face.” The change in wording is because it was going to happen in the past, but now the fulfillment is happening.
“Who will prepare your way”
Exodus 23:20 — Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way, and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.
Malachi 3:1 — Behold, I am going to send my angel, and he will clear the way before my face.
Mark 1:2 — Behold, I send my angel before your face, who will prepare Your way.
Where did the way come from, and where did it go?
When we realize the connection that Mark has to Malachi and that Malachi has to Exodus, we learn quite a few things.
First, the people are being taught that God needs to deliver them, to bring about an Exodus. In the book of Exodus, they were actually in Egypt and needed to be brought out from imprisonment. The people were under political and religious oppression. In Malachi’s day, the people were spiritually in Egypt. The government and church leaders were corrupt and oppressed the poor. That corruption was also found in both the civil and church spheres in Jesus’ time.
- The church leaders made new laws, which means they made themselves equal to God.
- The church leaders would sell an ox or lamb to someone at the temple to sacrifice, they would take it in, but later bring it out to sell again. (a la Josephus)
- The church leaders bribed people to accuse others in court falsely.
- They hired assassins to kill others (as recorded by Josephus).
- Synagogues and private schools that were paid for by the Israelites’ levitical tithes, were filled with demons.
Jerusalem was spiritually Egypt in Jesus’ time, just as it was Malachi’s. The people of God needed God’s Angel to bring them out, a new Exodus.
Second, an exodus is a movement from somewhere to another place. It wasn’t just a time of removal from the dominion of darkness, but also a shift to a dominion of righteousness under God’s authority according to His Law. The reference to Exodus 23:20 finds itself in the immediate context:
Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him.
But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you.
God promised that faithfulness to Him would be blessed with victory over the wicked inhabitants of Canaan. The lesson is the same for those who follow Christ. Faithfulness to Him will be blessed with victory over God’s enemies. However, the degree to which this victory will extend goes beyond Canaan. This time the goal is the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).
Who is the preparer?
The “angel” in the Malachi/Exodus reference is not John the Baptist but is the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, God Himself. In Exodus, we are told that the Angel of the Lord was God but also served God (Exodus 13:21; 14:19). The book of Joshua teaches that the angel of the Lord is God (Joshua 5:14-15; 6:2). Zechariah 1:14-15 shows Angel of the Lord and the Lord communicating with each other, but in Zechariah 3, they are equivocated. The Angel of the Lord is acknowledged as God in Judges 13:19-22. The Angel of the Lord is not a creature, is both a servant of God and recognized as God. Who is this Angel of the Lord? Who is the messenger in Mark 1:2?
Jesus, the Messenger
“We have in these theophanies, or appearances of God, the pre-incarnation manifestations of God the Son, human in form but not incarnate.”
Commentary on Exodus, RJ Rushdoony, p. 403
The Angel of the Lord was the pre-incarnate Son of God in the Old Testament before He came as the man, Jesus. The Angel of the Lord showed up as a pillar of fire that stayed over and guided the Hebrews as they went through the wilderness from Egypt. Just like Jesus guided and protected Israel in the Old Covenant during the Exodus, we see this promise at the beginning of Mark. We must expect Jesus to protect and free His people from their enemies, and grant them victory.
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”
This next section of this quote is from Isaiah 40. This was a promise that after God judged Israel for their sin by exiling them to Babylon, God would come and release them from exile and bring them back to the promised land.
This reminds us even more of how evil Jerusalem and its leaders were. They were God’s enemy, and he considered them as far from His people as pagan-enemy nations in the Old Testament. Jerusalem was both Egypt and Babylon. God will bring down nations that oppose the freedom of his people, even as He uses those same nations to punish His people for sin and train them in righteousness.
So What? (Application)
- to walk in confidence that God will destroy His and our enemies.
- that even the places which are supposed to worship and obey God can practice and spread evil.
- that Jesus is not only the Savior of individuals, but He is also the Savior of every nation. You may think that the UN, modern law or economic stimulus to third-world countries will raise up people into maturity and set them free, but as long as a generation of people does not have Christ in their hearts, there will only be slaves.
What do we learn from the bad guy in this prophecy?
- Even when there is a chance for a good outcome by disobeying God’s Word, pursue righteousness.
- Do not practice bribery, even if it means the protection of your nation or God’s people.
- Making more rules than God will result in breaking God’s rules.
Now that the promised King has arrived, what will be His assessment of current affairs? In the next blog in the series, we will find what Jesus’ terms for war and peace are?