Icebergs Introduction

Icebergs in the New Testament


Icebergs are dangerous. It is well-recorded that the observable part of an iceberg, the pointy bit sticking out of the water, is usually but one seventh of the size of the whole thing. The rest is under the water. This makes them difficult to spot and dangerous to shipping. In the absence of the iceberg the Titanic would be a visitor attraction today, not a watery grave.

Why are we claiming that there are icebergs in the New Testament? There are bits of the New Testament that can only be understood once we know what’s beneath the surface. To do that we need to dive into the Old Testament.

So in order to grasp the significance of the coming of Jesus announced by John the Baptist we need to understand Isaiah 40. Now that’s an easy one because Mark 1:2 warns us about it. It is like an iceberg with a beacon on top. Some of the references are harder to spot and more deadly if we misunderstand them, which is where this book comes in.

You see some dangerous things are worth getting to know. Dog owners have a wolf in their living room; central heating users are playing with fire. Icebergs are a source of fresh water. Take a piece of ice home with you and it soon melts.

So put on your metaphorical scuba gear and lets go deep.

Sometimes when you're reading or hearing the Bible a phrase or a verse seems to leap out at you - an immediate wow! It might be a word of encouragement that lifts your spirits or a rebuke that makes you realise that you've done something wrong. It's great when this happens but if this becomes the main mode of expecting God's word to speak to us it's almost certain to become arid at some point.

When we put some effort into trying to understand what the stories, poems, commands and whatever else meant to their original hearers we find that we have a lot in common with them. We hear God's word in a more powerful and accurate way. The more we understand the background the more emotional depth the text has.

In this book we’ve tried to do some digging. We haven’t done ‘big picture’ digging to place passages in their context. We’ve done detailed digging – a bit like archaeologists brushing at a find. We worried at the meaning of some key words in the Old Testament. If we can find out what they meant to them then we will make progress in understanding what they mean to us now.

We will only occasionally insult your intelligence by telling you what to do or think each day. The purpose of Lent is self-examination. Each day we provide notes and ideas on a key word. Some words take two or three days. Please pray with us that as we look at these readings God will feed you.

Isaiah needs to be read in large chunks to get the drift. If you do not get on with this material a determination to read the whole of Isaiah from beginning to end throughout Lent will do you more good than harm.

Throughout our preparation for this work we have been consistently helped by Alec Motyer’s commentary ‘The prophecy of Isaiah’ – IVP 1993. Our gratitude is immense.

All quotes are from the New International Version of the Bible unless otherwise stated.