Sunday, July 10, 2016

Taught to Die

Isaiah the prophet speaks the thoughts of the promised Messiah:

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.”

Taught, but not exactly.

Long-time readers of scripture will recognize the student metaphor employed here is neither sufficiently elastic nor sufficiently robust to adequately describe the Incarnate Word, the One who was in the beginning with God, who himself WAS God, and without whom nothing was made that has been made. How does one “teach” the Creator? Words fail.

So it is “AS those who are taught” and the “tongue OF THOSE who are taught”. The Christ is entering by personal, human experience into the things we live daily. He knows each of the various physiological actions and reactions — all the different -mines and -phrines and -tonins released in the brain, synaptic transmission; all of it — far more intimately and comprehensively than the engineer knows the bridge built from his designs. After all, he is not merely Designer but Builder (not to mention he is also the Dynamic Force that continues to hold the bridge together long after it is built). But now eternal wisdom and knowledge become sensation: he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities.

He is awakened morning by morning to hear as those who are taught. (How does the One who never sleeps “awaken”, by the way? That’s a mystery I can’t solve.) But it is precisely for the purpose of fully and perfectly identifying with his creation that the Creator awakes and is experientially schooled. The instructed tongue is for “him who is weary”.

This is not some personal development exercise. This is for us.

When I’m stumped, I look for someone who has expressed it better:
“From the first, Jesus knew that He must die. The Lord God poured the full story into His opened ear. With all other men, death is the close of their life; with Christ it was the object. We die because we were born; Christ was born that He might die.

On one occasion, towards the close of His earthly career, when the fingers on the dial-plate were pointing to the near fulfilment of the time, we are told He set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem. What heroism was here! Men sometimes speak of Christ as if He were effeminate and weak, remarkable only for passive virtues. But such conceptions are refuted by the indomitable resolution which set its face like a flint, and knew that it would not be ashamed.

Note the voluntariness of Christ’s surrender. The martyr dies because he cannot help it; Christ dies because He chose. He laid down his life of Himself; no one took it from Him.

It has been thought that the opened ear refers to something more than the pushing back of the flowing Oriental locks in order to utter the secret of coming sorrow. It is supposed to have some reference to the ancient Jewish custom of boring the ear of the slave to the doorpost of the master’s house. Under this metaphor it is held that our Lord chose with keen sympathy the service of the Father, and elected all that it might involve, because He loved Him and would not go out free. The images may be combined. Be it only remembered that He knew and chose all that would come upon Him, and that the fetters which bound Him to the Cross were those of undying love to us and of burning passion for the Father’s glory.”

— F.B. Meyer, Christ in Isaiah
That, right there.

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