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And Gently Lead Those That Are With Young

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“. . . And Gently Lead Those That Are With Young”

-Isaiah 40:11

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by David C. Brand

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“Thus says Hezekiah, ‘This is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth.  It may be that the LORD your God will hear the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the LORD your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.’”

                                                -Isaiah 37:3-4

Judah was under siege.  Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, after capturing Judah’s fortified cities with a great army, had sent a high-ranking military officer to Jerusalem to mock King Hezekiah– offering him unconditional surrender.  In such a “day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace” what was King Hezekiah’s express focus?  In Hezekiah’s own words, “. . . children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth.”  How did King Hezekiah come by such a pro-mother perspective?  In sending his household manager, his secretary, and senior priests to request the prayers of his spiritual mentor, the prophet Isaiah, King Hezekiah provided a clue.  Isaiah had earlier prophesied:.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. [1]

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. [2]

In the light of these prophecies, a birthing crisis in Judah did, of course, hold paramount significance,  not only for King Hezekiah, but for all Jewish citizens.  From their Jewish perspective, one of these unborn infants, unbeknownst to them, could well have been the Messiah of which Isaiah spoke. From the inception of the post-Fall world, birthing had been a daunting endeavor.  After Eve accepted the serpent’s lie, violating God’s express command, God informed her of the consequences:

I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;

in pain you shall bring forth children.

Your desire shall be for your husband,

and he shall rule over you. [3]

Her husband Adam shared Eve’s guilt by failing to intervene in her conversation with the serpent.   First, he failed passively by watching while she was seduced by the serpent; second, he failed actively and willfully by partaking of the forbidden fruit from her hands. [4]  Further, it was to Adam that God had given the original command [5] thereby charging him with the primary responsibility for it.  Consistent with this, the LORD God went to Adam first to call for an accounting whereby Adam shrugged off his responsibility, ascribing the blame to his wife and ultimately to the LORD God who had given Adam this woman. [6]

Notwithstanding her role in the historic Fall, Eve’s name signifies “the mother of all living.” [7]  At Cain’s birth she would affirm, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” [8]  Motherhood, accordingly, is a partnership between a woman and her Maker. 

In the virgin Mary, motherhood reached its pinnacle.  By the call of God, Mary was the “woman” [9] to become the mother of our Lord, and her child “holy–the Son of God.” [9]  Mary humbly submitted to this call: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” [11]  Her betrothed husband Joseph, upon learning the facts concerning her pregnancy, sacrificially [12] resolved to keep his marital commitment and to accept this unparalleled paternal responsibility with exemplary consideration for Mary. [13]

Many women of our time, no less than in previous generations, look to the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments for encouragement, guidance, and strength, thereby finding the God of Israel–the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ–to be faithful on their behalf.  As this article is being written, multitudes are gathering in Washington D. C. to proclaim their regard for the lives of the unborn.  These women honor Isaiah’s testimony, as well as Timothy’s New Testament counsel and affirmation that women will be saved “through childbearing–if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” [14]

It is true that woman was taken from man and is accountable to him. [15]  It is equally true that, ever since the Creation, men have been born of women, and have become partners with them in marriage.  Men and women are interdependent. [16]  Husbands are to live sacrificially and considerately as partners in marriage and parenting, recognizing that “children are a heritage from the LORD, and the fruit of the womb a reward.” [17]  Let there be a celebration of mutual respect and mutual submission to one another within marriage [18] serving as a template for the church and the public arena. 

In seeming disdain for Mary’s godly submission, some church women of our time are aligning themselves with the banner of death, “abortion on demand,” as the signature “right” or indispensable centerpiece.  How tragic that women would feel the need for protection from the blessing of child-bearing–and too often on the basis of convenience!  In the face of such a movement, let us note that the nation of Judah was miraculously delivered from the imposing Assyrian threat after consulting the prophet Isaiah who in turn interceded in prayer. [19]  The good news is that God answered Isaiah’s prayer for deliverance by defending Jerusalem for the sake of his servant David:

And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians.  And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.  Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Ninevah.  And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword. [20]

Those Jewish women lacking the strength for childbirth must have taken great courage from God’s miraculous deliverance from the Assyrian assault.  Later Hezekiah disgraced his office as King. [21] Addressing the cities of Judah, Isaiah then prophesied, taking Hezekiah’s pro-motherhood perspective to a new level, as embodied in the Messiah who was to come:

He will tend his flock like a shepherd;

he will gather the lambs in his arms;

he will carry them in his bosom,

and gently lead those that are with young. [22]

In this prophecy the Messiah personifies the attitudes, the manner, and the ways Christians are to  relate to “the lambs” and “those that are with young.”  While “the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ,” the very one who said, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me. . .” [23]

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About the Author:

David C. Brand has served churches in Washington, Ohio, New Jersey, and Virginia, administered Christian schools in New Jersey and Arizona, served a year in mission work in Seoul,  Korea, and directed ADVOCATE Enterprise <www.advocateenterprise.org>, an educational project, in Ohio.  He is the author of Profile of the Last Puritan: Jonathan Edwards, Self-Love, and the Dawn of the Beatific published by Scholars Press as part of the Academy Series of the American Academy of Religion, 1991. He and his wife, Marilyn, have four grown children and eight grandchildren.

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Sources

The Holy Bible. (ESV) 2001. Crossway Bibles: Wheaton, IL

Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary. 2008. Vol. 2, by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. Fourth Printing. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.: Peabody, MA

Keil and Delitzsch, Old Testament Commentaries, Isaiah XV to Ezekiel XXIV Grand Rapids, MI: Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc.

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Endnotes

[1]. Isaiah 7:14

[2]. Isaiah 9:6-7

[3]. Gen. 3:16

[4]. Gen. 3:1-6

[5]. Gen. 2:16-17

[6]. Gen. 3:9-12

[7]. Gen. 3:20

[8]. Gen. 4:1

[9]. Galatians 4:4

[10]. Luke 1:35

[11]. Luke 1:35-38

[12]. Ephes. 5:25

[13]. Matt. 1:24-25

[14]. 1 Tim. 2:15

[15]. Gen. 2:18-23; Isaiah 3:11-12; 1 Cor. 11:3

[16]. 1 Cor. 11:11-12

[17]. Psalm 127:3

[18]. 1 Cor. 7:4-5; Eph. 5:21

[19]. Isaiah 37:33-38

[20]. Isaiah 37:37-38a; See also 37:22, 32-35

[21]. Isaiah 39:1-8

[22]. Isaiah 40:11

[23]. John 1:17; Matt. 18:5

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