Over the last couple of years I have developed a great interest in the figural reading of Scripture. There have been a number of influences for me here. Individual scholars/priests such as Ephraim Radner and John Behr. (I once heard Radner describe figural reading thus: “The temporal explication through the juxtaposition of her multiple texts, of scriptures’ divine “allness”.) A growing familiarity with the way in which the Church Fathers read and exegete the Scriptures. The Biblical emphasis in the NT on Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension being “in accordance with” the Scriptures (by which the NT writers mean the OT). Also, this last year we’ve begun a Bible study at church whereby we’re reading through the Bible in one year. We started with the gospels, and then jumped from there right into the OT beginning with Genesis 1:1. It’s been really fascinating to observe people in the group making connections, and seeing Jesus in the OT in light of the gospels which we began our study with.
At the moment we’re reading through Jeremiah. In my study this morning I read through a portion that included Jeremiah 25 that contains this fascinating image of the cup of God’s wrath being poured out, not only on Israel but, “upon all who live on the earth.” It can all appear rather confrontational and fierce, and indeed it is. However, right there in the middle of this section the reader stumbles upon this:
“The LORD will roar from on high; he will thunder from his holy dwelling and roar mightily against his land. He will shout like those who tread the grapes,* shout against all who live on the earth. The tumult will resound to the ends of the earth, for the LORD will bring charges against the nations; he will bring judgement on all mankind and put the wicked to the sword,” (25:30-31).
Pretty terrifying stuff, yeah? When I read this portion, I thought of another place in the Scriptures where the Lord roared from on high and it resounded to the ends of the earth:
“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split,” (Matthew 27:45-46, 50-51).
The cup of God’s wrath has indeed been poured out upon Israel and upon all who live on the earth. It was done so as it was poured out on Christ Jesus, the true Israel, who takes all nations and all humanity up into his own human flesh and bears out the consequences of human sin on behalf of all humanity. As the prophet Isaiah proclaims, “it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand…my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities,” (53: 10, 11).
*evidently those who tread upon grapes shout. Who knew? Which makes me think of this, actually.