An Incomplete Worldview and Advent

Evangelicals have grown fond of using the term “worldview,” which we typically define as something like, “the lens through which we view God, creation, religion, culture, tribe, family, ourselves, and others.”

Worldview is definitely a real factor in every facet of life, but it is by definition subjective. Our lenses are shaped by many uncontrollable factors like time, space, and experience, which means identifying a singular “Christian worldview” or “biblical worldview” is not altogether possible. 

The status quo that existed and the shifts that occurred around the time of the First Advent provide a great example of this. 

One could say that, around the time of Jesus’ birth, most Hebrew people embraced an “Isaiah worldview.” This should not be surprising, since we use several verses from Isaiah as part of our Advent and Christmas readings (see Isaiah 7, 9 below). The pre-Advent “Isaiah worldview” came from different texts, however. The Hebrew lens at the time of Gabriel’s annunciations, especially among the people of Judea, focused not on those texts describing humble servants, an appointed infant, or a suffering Savior. Instead, the ancient Hebrews leaned on the Isaiah texts which seem to promise political victory, military might, and the fruits of wealth and comfort.

Most people were waiting for a Messiah who would come and accomplish their purposes, rather than God’s purposes. Or better yet, they lived by the assumption that their preferences and God’s purposes were the same. 

And who could blame them? Their faith, lifestyles, and land were locked in a chokehold by the powerfully oppressive Romans. They were longing for a Messiah who would restore their nation to power and prominence, while also giving them total victory over their enemies.

If we are honest, our lenses are often clouded by the same desires. We prefer a Savior who will bless what we want to be blessed, and curse those who we believe to be against us. We easily buy into the hollow promises made by power, wealth, and comfort, which contribute heavily to our own incomplete worldview. 

Most people were waiting for a Messiah who would come and accomplish their purposes, rather than God’s purposes. Or better yet, they lived by the assumption that their preferences and God’s purposes were the same. 

To be fair, the Hebrew worldview at the time of Jesus’ birth was obstructed in many ways by their own uncontrollable factors. Whereas we have the benefit of retrospection, they had not received a complete revelation. We can now apply the filters of the New Testament and more than two millennia of Christian history and teaching to help us interpret what we like to call the “Messianic” texts of Isaiah. Like every culture that has ever existed, including our own, the ancient Hebrews had a difficult time seeing beyond the immediate.

The ancient “Isaiah worldview” was further limited by selectivity. The ancient rabbis before the time of Jesus paid almost no attention to several of the verses in Isaiah which Christians now hold to be foundational Messianic texts. This includes not only the prophetic passages regarding the Messiah’s birth and lineage, but also those regarding His suffering and death. As a result, most of them missed the Messiah. They not only missed the meaning of Jesus’ birth, but also the example of His life, the depth of His ministry, and the true victory of His resurrection.

Despite having the fuller revelation, we too struggle with a limited vision. It is hard for us to see beyond that which is prominent or pressing in our moment, and we often choose the wrong filters through which we will allow ourselves to see. We are all plagued by incomplete worldviews, especially when it comes to the Messiah. We are often tempted to portray Jesus in ways that fit our own desires and our own will, rather than His. We, too, like to assume that our preferences and His purposes are one and the same. 

Our own incomplete worldviews could use some reshaping, much like that which was experienced by a select few during and around the First Advent. My hope is that the three Messianic Promises from Isaiah below will help guide us to a more complete view of who the Christ truly is, and how He continues to work in and through us. 

3 MESSIANIC PROMISES FROM ISAIAH

PROMISE #1: CHRIST’S PRESENCE

Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The young unmarried maiden will conceive, and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

For Christians, this singular verse has been cited countless times to refer to the birth of Jesus Christ by the young virgin named Mary, and the arrival and fulfillments of God’s promised Messiah. For the ancient Hebrews, however, this verse seen mostly as either a description of the birth of Isaiah’s own children (which is a frequent topic in this part of Isaiah), or a promise of God’s continued faithfulness to the line of David.

What they missed was that to bring about the restoration of Israel and to give her victory over her enemies, the Messiah would first become “Immanuel,” the God who is with His people. “The Word who became flesh, and made His dwelling among us.” (John 1:14)The promise of Immanuel was the promise of God’s presence, which is the greatest gift He could ever have given.

“Immanuel shall come into the midst of His people’s degradation and share it.”

As G. Campbell Morgan wrote: “Immanuel shall come into the midst of His people’s degradation and share it.” Jesus entered into our skin, poverty, hardship, and suffering. Rather than removing it all immediately, He endured it all with us. And He continues to do so. 

PROMISE #2: A FUTURE KINGDOM OF PEACE

Isaiah 9:6-7: 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.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

The Messiah did not pillage the palace of Rome bearing a sword of divine judgment to usurp the might of empire. Nor did He overthrow the Herods in Jerusalem to reclaim the Hebrew throne. Instead, the Messiah came by means of an unexpected and poor couple in the relative obscurity of the small town of Bethlehem.

In both Isaiah and the Gospels, the peace and victory promised by the Messiah (Christ) is not immediate, nor all at once.

The good news that Isaiah foretold, and that Gabriel shared about Jesus Christ has traveled all over the world in the hands of countless human messengers. Billions of people have believed in Jesus Christ and experienced new life and the peace of God. At the same time, we continue to live in the midst of significant strife and hatred. Thankfully, the Advent of the Messiah, followed decades later by His death and resurrection, has inaugurated a new era in the advancement of God’s heavenly kingdom. The new thing that Christ is doing is based on and built upon the former things. True peace will continue to grow into being as light continues to overcome darkness. 

The Messiah did not pillage the palace of Rome bearing a sword of divine judgment to usurp the might of empire. Nor did He overthrow the Herods in Jerusalem to reclaim the Hebrew throne. Instead, the Messiah came by means of an unexpected and poor couple in the relative obscurity of the small town of Bethlehem.

Again, Morgan: “The Bible may be rightly divided around the description of Jesus in Isaiah 9. ‘Wonderful Counselor;’ so man first knew Him. ‘Mighty God;’ so was He revealed through all the processes of the history of the Hebrew nation. ‘Everlasting Father;’ is how we know Him now. ‘Prince of Peace;’ so shall He be revealed in the established Kingdom…and all this contained in the birth of a child.” (adapted)

PROMISE #3: GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR AND OPPRESSED

At the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus returned to His hometown in Nazareth and chose one short passage of Scripture to describe who He is and what He has come to do. Wouldn’t you know, the passage comes from Isaiah.

jesus-reads-in-synagogue Luke 4 Tissot
Tissot’s Jesus Unrolls the Book in the Synagogue

Luke 4 tells us that when He returned to Galilee, he went into the synagogue in Nazareth, took hold of a scroll containing Isaiah, unrolled it, and read aloud publicly: 

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Isaiah 61:1-2a) 

The promises of Christ’s personal and public ministry on earth were the same as those regarding His birth. The Messiah did not come to fulfill the wishes of those driven by an insatiable desire for things like power, wealth, and comfort. God’s people were once again crying out for deliverance from those who were driven by those desires, much as it was during the time of the Exodus and the captivity in Babylon.

Instead, the presence and peace brought by the Messiah would be most evident within the suffering — to the poor, brokenhearted, captives, and prisoners. The Advent of the Messiah would be accompanied by God’s favor, which results in true freedom from the debt and weight of humanity. 

Jesus’ life, teaching, ministry, and death were a continuation of the humility of His birth (see Philippians 2:5-11). It is only in the spirit and by the example of His humility that we also can be confident that our desires and purposes are indeed in line with his, and our incomplete worldviews might put on the only lens that truly sees clearly – that of The Kingdom of God. 

A HYMN TO CLOSE

-Hail to the Lord’s Anointed by James Montgomery (1821)

  1. Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,
    great David’s greater Son!
    Hail in the time appointed,
    his reign on earth begun!
    He comes to break oppression,
    to set the captive free;
    to take away transgression,
    and rule in equity.
  2. He comes with succor speedy
    to those who suffer wrong;
    to help the poor and needy,
    and bid the weak be strong;
    to give them songs for sighing,
    their darkness turn to light,
    whose souls, condemned and dying,
    are precious in his sight.
  3. He shall come down like showers
    upon the fruitful earth;
    love, joy, and hope, like flowers,
    spring in his path to birth.
    Before him on the mountains,
    shall peace, the herald, go,
    and righteousness, in fountains,
    from hill to valley flow.
  4. To him shall prayer unceasing
    and daily vows ascend;
    his kingdom still increasing,
    a kingdom without end.
    The tide of time shall never
    his covenant remove;
    his name shall stand forever;
    that name to us is love.

 

4 thoughts on “An Incomplete Worldview and Advent

  1. Mark A Tate says:

    Those that style themselves the people of God still want God to accomplish their purposes instead of His. Great insight here, Eric.

  2. kojava says:

    Brilliantly crafted, Eric. So true about our own lens. Ironically, we are typically blind to the lens through which we view and interpret our world around us. Timely words, delivered humbly but confidently. You are always on point.

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