A New Journey in Knoxville

The name New Journey Church in Knoxville, Iowa, carries multiple layers of significance.

For Dave J. Woodcock and his wife, Sara, the church’s opening nearly two years ago began a new journey working as lead pastors. It also marked a return to the area where, just over 12 years ago, Woodcock started his personal journey out of alcohol addiction and into a relationship with Christ.

Now, Woodcock’s goal is that each week the church can be a place for men and women walking through its doors to receive their own fresh start, no matter their background.

“We want to attract people who are coming to the Lord for the first time, and we’re really reaching out to those who are addicted,” says Woodcock, 52. “We feel like God wants to do a lot of restoration in this town.”

New Journey opened in September 2016 and now draws around 100 attendees each Sunday.

Knoxville’s previous Assemblies of God church closed in 2015 under difficult circumstances. About a year later, Indianola First Assembly of God lead pastor Barry P. Hill noticed that several attendees drove to services from Knoxville. Like Indianola, Knoxville is a county seat, but with less than half as many residents: 7,200. Hill approached the Iowa Ministry Network and learned the district still owned the building and parsonage.

“We went over and looked at the property,” says Hill, 46. “The moment I pulled into town I started to get a heart for Knoxville.”

Indianola First decided to plant a new congregation on the premises as a parent-affiliated church. Indianola First remodeled the Knoxville church’s sanctuary, repainted the building, and fixed up the parsonage.

To lead the church plant, Hill sought out Woodcock, who in 2005 had been saved at the church in Indianola — where he grew up. The conversion came on Christmas morning, following Woodcock’s return to Indianola after living 20 years in Chicago. Over the years, Woodcock developed an alcohol addiction, and ultimately realized he needed a life change.

“I just got to the end of myself,” he says. “I was overwhelmed, got on my knees and cried out to God for help.”

Woodcock walked into Indianola First, where he dedicated his life to Christ. He soon entered Adult and Teen Challenge of the Midlands in Colfax, Iowa. He completed the residency program and went on to attend the Teen Challenge International Ministry Institute in Jacksonville, Florida. Woodcock then worked with Adult and Teen Challenge of Texas, leading the men’s program at its Azle campus for eight years. He also began serving part-time as an associate pastor of a local church.

Woodcock’s return to Iowa sparked rejoicing at the Indianola church.

“When I announced that Dave and Sara were going to be pastors, our church erupted in praise because they’ve seen what God has done,” Hill says. “There’s nothing more exciting than to see someone go from a drunk who walked into our church to a pastor on our staff doing great work.”

Source: AG News

Transformed and Equipped: Global University's 16th Commencement

A traumatic brain injury. A long-term prison sentence. A library ministry on hermeneutics. What do these vastly different descriptions have in common? They are just a few of the experiences represented in the 1,014 new Global University graduates who come from 49 countries.

On Friday, June 15, Global University celebrated its 16th annual commencement. While this may seem routine for a residential university, a university based entirely on distance learning sees different logistics. Despite any hardships, students from 13 U.S. states and seven countries converged on Springfield, Missouri, to officially walk the line and receive their Global University diplomas. These 42 graduates included one doctoral (Global University’s first Doctor of Ministry degree awarded), five masters, six undergraduate, and 30 Berean students.

Three reflection speakers — one from each group — addressed the graduates at the ceremony. Each of them represented different life experiences and God-filled interventions. They also represented the incredible work God is doing in the lives of Global University graduates worldwide.

Lisa Marshall, Berean School of the Bible speaker, takes her servant’s heart beyond the four walls of a church. Her ministry reaches into her community library, where she teaches regularly on hermeneutics to a group of attendees.

The Undergraduate School of Bible and Theology speaker, Richard Shreves, engages in Kingdom work with a ministry reach that many can’t achieve. He is changing the heart of a Montana prison — from the inside out. Richard isn’t a guard, or a chaplain. He is a prisoner whose heart has been freed from the chains of sin and is unlocking the hearts of those around him — other prisoners and staff. Shreves used video to communicate his message to graduates.

The Graduate School of Theology speaker, Kathi Gregoire, was in many ways also a prisoner, although not in the same sense as Shreves. As the result of an accident, Gregoire was a victim of a traumatic brain injury. Trapped in her own thoughts, unable to read or write, God still called Gregoire to pursue her master’s degree. Through grit, perseverance, and truly divine healing, she not only finished but — with a voice that a few years ago she was unable to use — delivered a heartfelt challenge to her fellow graduates.

These three reflection speakers represent just a sample of what God is doing worldwide. It is Global University’s continuing mission to train and equip men and women from around the world, no matter their circumstances, to be ministers in their own setting. They are continuing to impact eternity where they are.
Source: AG News

Church as an Adventure

As a child, Karie A. Griffin suffered physical and sexual abuse. As an adult, she became a single mother in and out of dead-end relationships.

“I struggled with being a single mom,” says Griffin, 40, of Powell, Ohio. “Things never seemed to work out for me.”

In 2013, Griffin, who had no church background, accepted an invitation to an information session for a new church. At the time, Adventure Church, founded by Kyle T. Hammond and his wife, Jessica, still met in a living room.

“I had a lot of questions as we were going through different sermons and I was reading devotionals and the Bible,” Griffin says. “I could ask even silly questions and not feel judged. They would explain things to me.”

Griffin and her 13-year-old daughter, Isabele, have attended Adventure Church in Lewis Center, Ohio, ever since, and both were baptized in water. Griffin’s life has improved so much that she recently responded to God’s leading to take in a 4-year-old foster son as well.

“Now everything in my life is based on how God wants me to do it,” Griffin says. “I love that I’m making a change for generations to come in my family. God has done so many amazing things, and Adventure Church is the main reason.”

Hammond, a Columbus native and a product of Southwestern Assemblies of God University, served in churches in Texas, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Oklahoma before coming back to Ohio. The biggest impact on his ministry came while interning for three years during college at Oaks Church, an AG megachurch in Red Oak, Texas, pastored by W. Scott Wilson.

“Learning what it meant to reach people and develop leaders was transformational in my life,” says Hammond, 37. “My involvement there was the catalyst for what I’m doing today.”

The Hammonds didn’t expect to return to Columbus, but while Hammond preached at a youth event in Ohio’s capital city, he sensed God tugging him back to the Buckeye State. That led to a journey of church-planting and stepping out in faith.

“We’ve been able to reach a lot of people because of relationships and friendships even going back to high school,” Hammond says.

Griffin was one of those friends.

“Kyle and Jess have built this amazing community of new believers and old believers,” Griffin says. “We’re a close-knit community of people you can turn to for guidance in hard times or when you have questions.”

Lewis Center is a growing northern suburb full of young families. A third of Adventure Church’s attendance is elementary age and under. Hammond and the church received support from the Church Multiplication Network (CMN) and Matching Fund from AGTrust.

The church draws more than 600 a week now.

“We’ve been reaching people who had a belief in Jesus, but no relationship with Him,” says Hammond, who serves as a CMN representative for the Ohio Ministry Network. “Living surrendered to Jesus is one of the most adventurous things you can do.”

IMAGE – Karie Griffin and her daughter, Isabele.

Source: AG News

Eight Hours Down the Amazon

Early in June, a vibrant blue and red boat cruised eight hours down the Amazon River. Aboard was a 20-member Builders International team, headed for a Brazilian destination so remote that it cannot be found on a map — it does not even have a name.

“This isolated river settlement would be overlooked by most people,” says team leader and Builders International missionary Tom Moore. “But God has an interest there.”

The venture was a first for some of the team members; for others, the construction missions trip was one of many. Moore reports that the work was difficult, hot, and at times slowed by tropical rains. But that did not deter the team and the Brazilians who worked alongside them.

“The building we worked on will be a place where people can belong for years to come,” Moore says. “Where hurting people can find hope. Men who are facing problems they cannot solve will find hope. Women who are struggling to deal with the hardships of daily life will find hope. Children trying to find their place in the world and deal with personal fears will find hope. We did not build an ordinary structure. Yes, it is made of ordinary cement, block, steel, and roofing, but it is so much more than that. We built a place where people can find hope, no matter what kind of problem they are facing.”

The team was a result of Builders International’s recent partnership with AGWM missionaries Mark and Helba Lemos, who spearhead an initiative to plant 100 churches along the Amazon River Basin.

As is standard for all Builders International projects, the team worked hand in hand with the national church, who complete certain tasks before the team arrives. The team then propels the project forward by erecting walls, a roof, and laying as much block as time and weather allow. The local church adds finishing touches after the team departs.

The church constructed by Moore’s team was number 90, and already another team has begun work on church number 91.

In addition to building, the team was also invited to visit a government school in the area and to pray with each class that meets there. The team, though very surprised by the request, was happy to oblige and was received warmly and even asked to return.

“When we said our goodbyes, boarded the boat for the last time, and headed up the river that we called home for a week, we all knew we were leaving behind a lasting legacy of life,” Moore concludes. “But there are more churches to build.”

To find out how to be part of a Builders International team, visit buildersintl.org.
Source: AG News

Connecting with Stakeholders

Numerous churches in the Florida panhandle have been blessed since connecting with Rural Compassion.

A ministry of Convoy of Hope, Rural Compassion conducts seminars to teach pastors and church members to serve and impact their communities. Rural Compassion also provides supplies, including food, to participating congregations.

West Florida District Council Superintendent Tommy L. Moore says 80 congregations —half of those in the district — have benefited from a relationship with Rural Compassion.

“Rural Compassion is one of the greatest tools we have ever used,” Moore says. “It fulfills our vision statement to encourage, resource, and equip the ministers and churches in our district.”

Moore appreciates the spirit of Rural Compassion’s Kim and Laurel Harvey, who are appointed U.S. missionaries with Missionary Church Planters & Developers.

“They connected with our pastors and loved on them in very tangible ways,” Moore says. “The pastors returned home with not only a huge load of supplies, but also so many ideas to help them reach out to their community. The valuable training is based around the need for churches to connect with the stakeholders in their communities.”

Danny Carnley, pastor of Live Oak Assembly of God in Bonifay, Florida, says the congregation is learning creative ways to reach residents.

“We have been able to establish great relationships with our law enforcement and first responders in our community,” says Carnley. “It has been refreshing to see our congregation become so excited to serve their community.”

Live Oak distributes several cases of water and an energy sports drink every other month to law enforcement personnel and first responders, as well as holds an annual appreciation lunch for the groups. The church also recently distributed more than 750 pairs of shoes to all students of a local elementary school thanks to Rural Compassion.

Buddy Pennington, pastor of Westville Assembly of God, says the congregation has built relationships with local educational groups and ministered to struggling individuals. Rural Compassion also has helped create a positive reputation for the church in the eyes of employees of the town of 280. No other group had ever sponsored an appreciation luncheon for the overworked and underpaid public servants.

God also opened the door for Westville Assembly to be able to bless several families who have children at the local Head Start program through food backpack donations from Rural Compassion.

Like Live Oak, Westville Assembly has distributed shoes to area children thanks to Rural Compassion.
Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — July 4, 1942

It was July of 1941, months before the Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor and the entrance of the United States into the Second World War. Conflict was raging across Europe and Asia, and competing messages of nationalism flooded the airwaves and the consciousness of Americans.

How should Assemblies of God young people in the United States view their nation in relation to both their faith and other countries?

National Youth Director Wesley Steelberg, speaking at the National Young People’s Conference on July 4, 1941, addressed this pressing issue. In a message titled “The Stars and Stripes of Calvary,” Steelberg encouraged young people to place their primary allegiance in Christ. He said, “First of all we belong to the Lord. We are citizens of heaven.”

Should Christians pledge allegiance to their nation and its symbols? According to Steelberg, adoption of national symbols is “a custom probably almost as old as humanity.” He acknowledged that Americans are proud of their flag: “We salute it, and we pledge allegiance to it. We raise it as an ensign of liberty, and we rejoice in what it represents.” In the face of the march of totalitarianism, Steelberg stated, “we hold more precious and valuable our liberty and freedom.”

However, he warned, “we have a responsibility to be more than Americans. We are called to be Christian Americans.” As Christian Americans, Steelberg encouraged every Assemblies of God young person to metaphorically wave his or her own flag, reflecting allegiance to the heavenly king. According to Steelberg, every Christian should declare, “Christ is my standard, my banner of love!”

Read Wesley Steelberg’s sermon, “The Stars and Stripes of Calvary,” which was published on pages 1, 4 and 5 in the July 4, 1942, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Shelter in Tribulation Days,” by Stanley H. Frodsham

• “Revival in Norway,” by Mrs. A. R. Gesswein

• “How to Help Your Pastor,” by Theodore Cuyler

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
Source: AG News

Community Culture

When Brandy N. Chiles and her husband, Alfonzo, visited a Community Culture Church small group, the Eufaula, Oklahoma, couple was on the verge of divorce. Brandy already had found another residence and packed her bags.

Indeed, Alfonzo’s suggestions that they visit the small group, part of a nontraditional church that appeals especially to young adults, didn’t resonate with her.

“I was angry that he would use that to try to save our marriage,” says the 32-year-old nurse, noting Alfonzo never had shown any interest in church before during their 16 years together. The couple’s oldest son, Kylar, had asked them to give the small group a try. The Bible study during the fall of 2016 reviewed brokenness and the Lord’s ability to rekindle faith.

Brandy sensed God telling her she had given up on the marriage too soon, and that He would restore it if she put her faith in Him.

“This church teaches how to have a relationship with God and love people,” Brandy says. “It’s opened our eyes to how to love each other.” Alfonso and Kylar were baptized on Easter 2017. Alfonzo and Brandy now lead a home group.

Such stories are common at Community Culture, which will mark its fourth anniversary in October. Pastor Chad D. Randleman says everything from Buddhists accepting Christ as Savior to drug and alcohol users turning their lives around have happened at the church.

“With just about any issue, there’s someone who has been freed from it,” says Randleman, 37, a graduate of Evangel University. “It’s life change.”

The church recently added a second Sunday service and averages 170 in attendance in a rural town of 2,900. However, Community Culture went through considerable growing pains. Although 120 came to its launch service, soon half the leadership team departed. At its low point, turnout dwindled to 25.

Buoyed by church planting funds from the Oklahoma District, Randleman pressed on. Finally, Community Culture found a permanent home in a vacant building that once housed a car dealership. Randleman envisioned the spot as a great location for a church and a coffee shop the first time he saw it.

“We wanted people to walk into a loving environment and then realize they are in a church,” Randleman says. “The shop has brought visitors.”

Several weekends a year, the church hosts “Love the Community” events that offer free clothing, health screenings, and various other services. The church is in the process of purchasing an old gas station next door that will become a combination boutique and youth center.

Jeff A. Wright, 37, found this kind of innovative stance attractive when he attended the launch service. But first he had to make a decision to follow Christ. Wright doesn’t even remember walking to the altar that morning after being urged by the Holy Spirit. “I’m here,” Wright said when the pastor asked what he wanted. “I guess you need to pray for me.”

Since then, Wright’s wife, two children, parents, and two siblings have become involved in church. In May 2016, Wright became family pastor, overseeing children and youth education.

All staff members remain bivocational. Randleman estimates that 80 percent of the attendees volunteer in some way, reflecting a servant culture. Randleman serves as a table coach at Church Multiplication Network Launch events, helping to train church planters.
Source: AG News

Guatemala AG, AGWM, and Convoy of Hope Respond to Volcano Disaster

The following article is a report by David Amsler, AGWM missionary to Guatemala, concerning relief efforts following the deadly volcanic eruptions in June.

On June 3, Guatemala’s Volcano Fuego erupted, spewing lahars (water mixed with volcanic deposits to form destructive debris flow), pyroclastic flows (fast-moving mixtures of gas and volcanic substance), lava, and ash that killed at least 114 people and left more than 192 missing. The eruption was one of Fuego’s deadliest in over 100 years.

The Assemblies of God of Guatemala’s National Emergency Committee (NEC) immediately leapt into action, receiving and distributing food, water, clothes, medicines, diapers, and other supplies directly to some of the areas affected. In the weeks since the eruption, they are focusing on areas mostly overlooked by government efforts, and some nearly were caught up in a hot mud flow while bringing food and water to an affected area.

Convoy of Hope sent two representatives who connected with the NEC. They brought water filters, solar powered lights, masks and, to date, have distributed over 52,000 meals to 1,356 families in nine communities.

Guatemala’s government has set up several shelters for survivors, and is looking into building simple, basic housing. Many have lost everything: family, home, property, and jobs. The government has declared the area uninhabitable. People are not permitted to return to their properties, which are likely buried under ash and mud. Search and recovery efforts for missing people have been called off.

CONRED (Guatemala’s emergency agency) continues to issue danger warnings of volcanic activity. Continued explosions sending ash into the air continue posing problems to those living downwind. Many are suffering from conjunctivitis, something like pink eye, an irritation or inflammation of the conjunctiva, which covers the white part of the eyeball. Others have respiratory issues and something like bronchitis.

Individuals, businesses, and churches in Guatemala have responded with an outpouring of support with donations of food, water, clothes, and other needed items for people living in shelters. It is expected that emergency relief donations will quickly be depleted, especially as people’s attention to the disaster dissipates. The Guatemalan Assemblies of God is trying to prepare for when national response dries up.

One Way Guatemala — our ministry focused on outreach and ministry efforts to children 4-14 years of age — is meeting with NEC’s directors to consider longer term compassion ministries to those affected when donations stop. We are also looking to help the NEC with tools and supplies for their workers (transportation, fuel, masks, boots, etc.).

The Guatemalan church needs prayer regarding how best to serve hundreds of displaced and hurting people who have lost family, livelihood, property, and hope. Join me in praying for comfort, protection, wisdom, and provision, and for a mighty testimony of Christ’s love to prevail.
Source: AG News

Samoans Focus on Planting

A dozen Assemblies of God Samoan pastors recently attended a Church Multiplication Network Launch training event in Springfield, Missouri, to ramp up efforts to reach more ethnic minorities in the U.S.

Teiano S. Mua, Northwest Samoan section presbyter in Seattle, felt inspired by CMN Director Chris Railey

“We want to be trained to take something back that will help us navigate planting healthy churches within our Samoan community,” says Mua, 56. “We want to capture the vision of Brother Railey and his group.”

The Samoan contingent consisted of six presbyters and six potential church planters.

“Increasingly, CMN events are growing in ethnic diversity,” says Scott Temple, director of the AG Office of Ethnic Relations. “These Samoan presbyters want to fully understand and support the work of church planters. The Samoan district has made an intentional determination to be more missions-minded than ever before.”

The AG Samoan District, first recognized as an official body by the U.S. Assemblies of God in 2014, is concentrated along the West Coast, as well as in Hawaii and Alaska. The language district has grown to 67 churches in the U.S., up from 46 in 2015.

Until recently, Samoan churches primarily targeted Samoan residents. That’s no longer the case.

“Our culture doesn’t try to just reach our own people,” says Mua, who also pastors Samoan Community Church of Seattle. “Churches that are healthy are reaching all lost souls for Christ.”

Alexander F. Ledoux, a Northern California section presbyter, agrees that a broader outreach is taking place among the broad people group known as Pacific Islanders.

“Our churches are changing,” says Ledoux, who pastors Samoan Christian Fellowship in Fairfield. “It’s no longer just Samoans, but people especially from Fiji and Tonga, and Guam and Palau as well. Children are marrying outside their nationality.”

Ledoux is encouraging Samoan churches to add English-language songs and sermons to complement those in the native tongue.

“If we don’t incorporate English into our services we’re going to lose our children,” says Ledoux, 57.

Ledoux is accustomed to responding to needs. The church started Mission Samoa, which initially helped the area’s homeless and poverty stricken find shelter and food. Mission Samoa has expanded to include vocational training, a soup kitchen, a food pantry, a suicide prevention program, and help for released prisoners to acclimate back into society.

“We always share the Word of God when we give food away,” says Alfred Ledoux, Alexander’s son and director of youth at Samoan Christian Fellowship. “People are broken, hurt, unemployed.”

The enthusiastic 31-year-old Alfred encourages young adults at the church to get involved in ministry.

“You don’t have to be 80 years old to be a deacon,” says Alfred, who became a credentialed AG minister in 2016.

Currently, over 43 percent of adherents in the U.S. AG are ethnic minorities. Temple expects the representation of nonwhite church planters to increase at future CMN events.

“One of the great strengths of the Assemblies of God is the burgeoning ethnic diversity in our churches,” Temple says.
Source: AG News

Why Would a Carpenter Choose Fishermen?

The Assemblies of God Center for Holy Lands Studies (CHLS) provides a regular column to AG News that offers deep and sometimes surprising insight into the Word of God through close examination of the culture of the day, biblical sites, and archaeological records. In this article, Wave Nunnally, Ph.D., professor of Early Judaism and Christian Origins at Evangel University and a regular instructor in Israel for CHLS, reveals the reasons behind why Jesus specifically chose men who were fishermen or from fishing villages as His disciples.

Near the beginning of His ministry, Jesus moved from inland Nazareth to the fishing village of Capernaum (Matthew 4:13; Luke 4:31). As Jesus walked along the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, He called Peter and Andrew to be His disciples, both fishermen (Matthew 4:18). Next, He called James and John, two more fishermen (Matthew 4:21). Later, Jesus selected Philip and Nathaniel (John 1:43-46), probably more fishermen, since they were from nearby Bethsaida, another fishing village just east of Capernaum. We now know that the home of Mary Magdalene (Migdal/Magdala/Migdal Nunaya) was yet another fishing village.

Why did He not select carpenters like Himself? Moreover, in first-century Israel there were many more farmers from which to choose disciples than there were fishermen — why not prioritize them? Jesus’ choice of a fishing village as His base of operations and purposeful selection of so many disciples who were either fishermen or inhabitants of fishing villages suggest that by doing so, He was sending a message, but what was it?

Like most rabbis of His time, His words and actions usually hearkened backward to a specific passage from His Bible. Recall that when He called His first disciples, He said, to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 = Mark 1:17). Strange words indeed for a carpenter! Yet to avoid dismissing them too quickly as so much wordsmithing, we have to look at Jesus’ Scriptures to see if somewhere within, they might provide the source of His inspiration.

The Hebrew Bible mentions fishing for men only twice. Ezekiel 29:3-4 employs this language to predict judgment on Egypt (and specifically on its leader), but judgment on foreign nations and their leaders is not a major emphasis in Jesus’ ministry. In fact, Jesus’ earthly ministry is described primarily as a mission of mercy, not judgment (John 3:17; see also Matthew 20:28 = Mark 10:45).2 Thus, the inspiration for His choice of fishermen and His language “fishers of men” is likely to be sought elsewhere.

The only passage left is Jeremiah 16:14-18,

“Therefore behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 15 but, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.’ For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers. 16 “Behold, I am going to send for many fishermen,” declares the LORD, “and they will fish for them; and afterwards I shall send for many hunters, and they will hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and from the clefts of the rocks. 17 For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes.” 18 “And I will first doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted My land; they have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable idols and with their abominations.”

This passage contains all the requisite components: it is eschatological (a prophecy about the future), it predicts a coming age of restoration (Jesus’ choice of 12 was “reconstituting” the faithful remnant [Isaiah 10:21; 11:16; Jeremiah 23:3; 31:7-8; 50:20], with which He would establish Jeremiah’s “new covenant” [Jeremiah 31:31, see Luke 22:20]), it has fishermen, and they are fishing for people.

But what of the second half of the passage, which mentions hunters who “afterwards” (i.e., after the work of the fishermen has been done) will bring judgment because of the iniquity of the people? It appears that Jesus treated this text the same way He treated Isaiah 61:1-2. In Nazareth, He read from the scroll of Isaiah,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are downtrodden, 19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” 20 And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-21).

Surprisingly, Jesus stopped His reading in mid-sentence, for Isaiah continued his thought, “To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD” (Isaiah 61:2a) with the words “…and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:2b). The only explanation for this is that Jesus was the first Hebrew prophet to see clearly in the words of earlier prophets a two-stage ministry of the Messiah. Thus, He understood the first half of verse 2 to refer to His first coming and the second half of verse 2 to refer to His Second Coming. In His incarnate ministry, He appeared to deal with the problem of sin (Hebrews 9:26), whereas at His Return, He will deal with the problem of sinners who persist in their mutiny against the Great King (Hebrews 9:28).

This “historical stratification” of biblical passages is not at all unique to Jesus. The rabbis regularly applied one part of a verse to one time period and another part of the same verse to another time period.3 The Dead Sea Scrolls provide evidence of how widespread this kind of interpretation was and that it existed even before the time of Jesus.4

This study demonstrates how contextualized Jesus’ message was to His original audience. It reveals to us how well He knew the Scriptures and how accomplished He was at their interpretation. What an awe-inspiring Master we worship and serve! This study is also instructive about the dense texture and depth of instruction He left behind, and our need to immerse ourselves in the context of His world in order to receive the richness it has to offer. This richness regularly presents itself when we study together in His homeland, where on a regular basis, “faith becomes sight”!

 

1This article is dedicated to the memory of the greatest fisherman, hunter, and friend, I ever knew, Dr. Gerard John Flokstra, Jan. 24, 1931, to April 17, 2018, zichrono l’vrachah (“May his memory be forever blessed”).

2The Dead Sea community, which saw itself as the agent of God’s end-time judgment, evidently took its inspiration from this passage in Ezekiel (and perhaps Jeremiah 16:16) when it sang, “You made my lodging with many fishermen, those who spread the net upon the surface of the sea, those who go hunting the sons of iniquity. And there you established me for the judgment” (1QHodayot 13:8). Qumran thus saw the fishermen and hunters as synonymous metaphors for judgment.

3Babylonian Talmud Berachot 10a; 13a; Pesachim 68a; BeReshit Rabbah 42:4; 56:1-2; 97; 98:8; VaYikra Rabbah 15:1; 30:16, etc.

4“‘[How] beautiful 16 upon the mountains are the feet [of] the messen[ger who] announces peace, of the mess[enger of good who announces salvati]on, [sa]ying to Zion: your God [reigns’ Isaiah 52:7]. 17 Its interpretation: The ‘mountains’ [are] the [Old Testament] prophet[s …] … 18 And the ‘messenger’ i[s] the Anointed of the Spir[it] about whom Dan[iel] said [about him: ‘Until an Anointed One, a prince, it is seven weeks’ [Daniel 9:25]. And the messenger of] 19 good who announ[ces salvation] is the one about whom it is written that […] … 23 …as it is written about him: ‘[Saying to Zi]on: your God rules’ [Isaiah 52:7]. ‘[Zi]on’ i[s] 24 [the congregation of all the sons of justice, those] who establish the covenant, those who avoid walking [on the pa]th of the people. And ‘your God’ is 25 […Melchizedek, who will fr]e[e them from the ha]nd of Belial” (11QMelchizedek 2:15-25; the translation offered here largely follows that of Florentino Garcia Martinez in his DSSSE 2:1207, 1209).

Source: AG News