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Dec 4, 2012 David Lang

Is This Taught in Seminaries?

This past Sunday, I taught my Sunday School class about the prophecy of Immanuel in Isaiah 7:14 and how Matthew applied that prophecy to the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:22–23. That's not as easy as it sounds if you're trying to deal responsibly with Isaiah 7:14 in its original context.

All too often, Christians have read Isaiah 7 like this:

"Uh, ok … Isaiah is talking to some guy named Ahaz … umm, something about Aram and Ephraim and Rezin and some son of Remaliah … hmmm, when do we get to the part about Jesus?"

When they finally do get to the verse which speaks of a virgin conceiving, they forget about all those strange names and details and think Isaiah is suddenly shifting his attention to events which would not take place for another 700 years.

I wanted to correct this approach by teaching my class about the original context of Isaiah 7. That of course, means explaining that the Syrian kingdom of Aram and the northern Israelite kingdom of Ephraim had formed an alliance against the southern Israelite kingdom of Judah, whose king Isaiah was telling to trust God for deliverance. A map of these kingdoms is easily worth a thousand words, so I opened a Map in Accordance and chose Divided Kingdoms from the Region Layers pop-up menu.

After I had oriented them, we looked at the nature of the "sign" of the child named Immanuel, and I explained that this was a sign that God would deliver the people of Judah quickly. If they had to wait 700 years just to receive the sign, that would kind of defeat the purpose of Isaiah's prophecy of deliverance! We then looked at the birth of this child and the fulfillment of the prophecy, which happens almost immediately in Isaiah chapter 8!

If all of this sounds confusing or is new to you, you'll find a good explanation of what is going on in this passage in most commentaries or study Bibles. The NET Notes, which almost every Accordance user should have, does an excellent job with this, and Beale and Carson's Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament is specifically designed to focus on these kinds of interpretive issues. My point here is not to get too embroiled in the details, but to show how Accordance makes teaching this kind of thing to an adult Sunday School class much, much easier.

By the time I had finished explaining the original context of Isaiah's prophecy and had discussed the way Matthew applied this prophecy to the birth of Jesus, the folks in my Sunday School class were pretty excited. Most of them had never heard these things before, and far from being bewildered by a more complete reading of these passages, they were actually encouraged by it. One gentleman then asked me, "Is this taught in seminaries?" I think he was trying to figure out why he had never previously heard these things taught.

I answered that I think sometimes preachers and teachers are reluctant to correct our overly simplistic and out-of-context readings of well-known passages because they're afraid they might upset people. Yet my Sunday School class was perfectly capable of accepting these things without any protest. I wonder if we aren't sometimes selling our people short by assuming they're not ready for more than a Christmas card-level interpretation of a passage.

Personally, I find that presenting my lessons using Accordance is always helpful when I'm challenging people to move beyond the shallow end of the interpretive pool. By showing them maps and passages on a projector screen, I give them something they can clearly focus on, which cuts down on the confusion that naturally accompanies having to unlearn long-held assumptions. I'd encourage any pastors and teachers out there not to be afraid to teach a deeper understanding of the Bible. Your people can handle it, and Accordance can help.


 

Dec 14, 2011 David Lang

Looking for Unique Christmas Images?

Do you find yourself producing more visuals than usual during Advent? Is your church producing slide presentations, bulletins, flyers advertising a Christmas program, and the like? Are you sending out Christmas cards and letters? Do you ever find yourself looking for unique Christmas images to include in all these documents and presentations?

You can do a Google image search and find some nice images, but it can be a lot of work separating the wheat from the chaff. When you do manage to find the perfect image, it is often too small and low-resolution to be usable.

For that reason, I have long relied on Accordance resources like Bible Art for high-quality Christmas images. If you were to look back at my family Christmas letters over the past several years, you would see them adorned with quite a few images from that one module. Last year we added the Christmas Classics module with some additional Christmas images. And of course, an image search of your entire Accordance library can turn up additional images in unexpected places.

One relatively new resource which I plan to mine for images in upcoming years is Historic Views of the Holy Land: The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection. This massive collection of photographs from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries offers views of Israel that you just don't see today, and many of those photographs actually reenact biblical scenes. For example, a simple search for Bethlehem turned up the following images reminiscent of the shepherds:

American Colony Shepherd

…and the magi:

American Colony Magi

…and the birth of Jesus:

American Colony Nativity

How cool are those? There are many more images which illustrate the Christmas story, and countless others which illustrate other biblical narratives. It's really an incredible resource.

If you're looking for unique and high-quality images to adorn your various projects this Advent, you'll find Bible Art, Christmas Classics, and especially the Historic Views of the Holy Land collection extremely helpful.


 

Dec 7, 2010 David Lang

A Collection of Christmas Classics

Christmas is a season of story, song, artistry, and devotion. At its heart is the story of Jesus' birth, narrated in the Gospels and linked with a rich web of Old Testament prophecies and later New Testament reflections. Over the centuries, Christian preachers, poets, storytellers, and artists have reflected on the significance of the Christmas story in their own way, so that a rich body of Christmas literature and art now exists. We're excited to bring some of the best of that material together in a new Accordance module of Christmas Classics.

Christmas Classics begins with the Christmas story itself by providing Scripture readings for each day of Advent. These are followed by a selection of Christmas sermons by great preachers like Leo the Great, Martin Luther, George Whitefield, and Charles Spurgeon. Those who own John Piper's Sermon Manuscript Library can also follow links to his various Christmas sermons.

The next two sections include Christmas Carols and Christmas Poetry. The Carols section includes the lyrics to each carol along with a link to the iTunes store. Looking for just the right version of Silent Night to play this Christmas? Just click the link to sample recordings by Faith Hill, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Ray Coniff, even Willie Nelson!

christmas_classics

The next section of Christmas Classics is called "Stories and Legends." It includes richly illustrated versions of Clement Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl, and O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi. You'll also find the famous newspaper column, "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus."

The final section of Christmas Classics contains images of the birth of Jesus by great artists like Rembrandt, Rubens, and Doré, along with an index to the illustrations from 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, A Christmas Carol, and The Gift of the Magi. If you're looking for the right image to include in a Keynote slide show or Christmas letter, Christmas Classics is a rich source to mine.

ChistmasImages

In addition to mining this module for images, you can also use Accordance's search capabilities to find quotations and excerpts with which to illustrate your own sermons and lessons. Search for a word or phrase like "peace on earth" or "Christ is born," and you may find a useful illustration from a lesser known verse of a carol or a bit of dialogue in the middle of a story.

This treasure trove of Christmas literature and art is on sale through December 24 for just ten dollars—a savings of 66% off the list price. Best of all, you can download and install Christmas Classics right away through Easy Install.