The Trinity as Old Testament Book Club

The Trinity as Old Testament Book Club June 14, 2013

(For the sermon that this is an excerpt from, go here)

We can learn to read the Bible so well that we overhear in it what the Father and Son say to each other.

Does that sound too mystical? Learning to overhear the Trinity’s conversation? Don’t worry: It’s very high, but it’s not mystical. Mystical means, among other things, secret. And there’s nothing secret about this trinitarian conversation, because the whole thing is published, and has been for a long time.

When you listen to the Father and the Son in the way Hebrews teaches you to do, you know what you’re hearing? Not a single new word, but a host of old words, from the Old Testament. What Hebrews has been training us for since the first sentence is to hear God speak in the living oracles of the Old Testament.

When God says the biggest thing he ever said, he speaks entirely in quotations from the Old Testament.  And Jesus speaks to the Father in OT QUOTES; We are pointed to some of the Psalms as transcripts of what the Son says to the Father: Psalm 40, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you prepared for me. Behold, I come to do thy will, O God.” Once you’ve learned to hear Psalm 40 as a statement of the incarnate Son to the Father who sent him, good luck ever hearing it again as anything less than messianic and trinitarian. Jesus owns that Psalm!

Why do the Father and Son communicate in OT QUOTES? One way to think of this phenomenon is this: It’s like a book club where everybody totally agrees about what the most important thing to read is, and the members constantly communicate with each other by alluding to events and characters from that key text. If you’re into Harry Potter, then you’re on the inside when they start in with their “boy, what a Dumbledore” kind of talk; but if you haven’t read it, you just don’t get it. And “not getting it” is a serious problem, because even when these people talk about other topics, the constant flow of Harry Potter references is the very language that community speaks. Now imagine that kind of like-minded book club, a community of literary engagement that intense and interpersonal, but not annoying at all. In fact, imagine it at a much higher level, with a much greater text, and with salvation as its goal. 

Apparently the Trinity is like a really tight book club and the book is the Old Testament.

To see how this works, remember how Hebrews proved the greatness of the Son of God in chapter 1: “To which of the angels did he ever say, ‘You are my Son?” See that? Proof by OT QUOTE. And then “let the angels worship HIM.”  OT QUOTE. And “God has anointed you with the oil of gladness,” OT QUOTE. And “you are the same, your years will have no end,” OT QUOTE.

And now, to prove that Jesus is a greater priest than the Levitical priests, he does the same exact thing here, chapter 7 verse 17: to which of the Levitical priests did he ever say “you are a priest forever?” “Forever” is not a word that goes with Levitical priesthood, it’s a Melchizedek word, and so the Father says it to the one who, in Psalm 110, is seated at his right hand and is a priest forever.

When we overhear the Father and the Son talking to each other, what do we hear them saying? OT QUOTES. They talk Old Testament-ese to each other; that is, the words they speak to each other are the God-inspired words previously spoken by prophets: the Father and the Son speak in the words of the Spirit. 

And what’s all this trinitarian talking in OT QUOTES  all about?  It’s about the gospel. Salvation.

Hebrews 1:1 says, “God spoke in many ways times and many in the past to the fathers through the prophets, but in these last days he spoke to us in his Son…”  Hebrews 2:1 goes on, “therefore we must pay much closer attention… this salvation was declared to us by the Lord, and attested to us… God bearing witness by signs and wonders and gifts of the Holy Spirit.” The big, main message of Hebrews is that God said Jesus and Jesus said salvation.

Jesus says, “I’m not ashamed to call these people my brothers and sisters.” He says “I will put my trust in God.” He says “I come to do your will, O God.”

Jesus is the one who brings us salvation, and look what it says in our chapter, in Hebrews 7:25 – “He holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

He Is Able To Save. God has already assured us of what else the Son is able to do: Back in ch. 4 v. 15, because he has been tempted like us, he is able to sympathize. And in 2:18, able to help, able to comfort the tempted, because he suffered.

Able to help, able to sympathize, able to save to the uttermost. This is the priest we hear about as we overhear the Father and the Son talking to each other in the very language of the Old Testament in Hebrews.


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