In the news this Christmas and New Year’s season the stories from 2015 were hard to escape.
Among the targets of ISIS savagery were Christians. Followers of Jesus Christ, from whom the name of their — my — faith takes its name. Headlines, like this one from Christian Today, tell the story:
ISIS executes 12 Christians—including boy and 2 women who were raped in public and beheaded—for refusing to renounce Jesus
Into the midst of these horror stories David Limbaugh has taken a break from writing his best-selling political books to write a more than timely second best-selling book on Christianity (his first was Jesus On Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel). In The Emmaus Code: Finding Jesus in the Old Testament, David explores the foretelling of Christ in the Old Testament, a too frequently ignored truth that somehow always vanishes in discussions of the New Testament, the latter focused on the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus and the later work of his disciples.
“The Bible is Christ and Christ is the Bible,” David writes, pointing out that:
He is in it from first to last, and it is all about Him. Indeed, due to the overwhelming and multi-faceted presence of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, various Bible scholars emphasize different ways the Old Testament points to Christ.
…Each part of the Old Testament — Law, History, Poets, and Prophets — anticipates Christ, and each part of the New Testament actualizes Him.
And so it does. The Bible scholar James E. Smith is quoted as noting that “the Old Testament can be likened to a mighty river flowing toward the ocean. Remove Christ and there is no place for the river to go. It simply is swallowed up by the sands of time like a river that flows into a desert.”
The Emmaus Code uses Luke 24 — the story of Jesus appearing after his crucifixion to two men on the rode to Emmaus. Luke 24 reads this way in the New International Version of the Bible:
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.
15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Note Verses 25, 26 and 27, bold print for emphasis supplied:
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
In short, this is what David Limbaugh calls the Emmaus Code — the realization that the prophets of the Old Testament had indeed spoken and that the Old Testament “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets” foretells the arrival of Christ, that latter story told in the New Testament. The author works through the Old Testament — beginning with Genesis.
“Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” reads the third verse in the Book of Genesis, the very beginning of the Old Testament. Notes Limbaugh:
That is historically true, but it can also be tied, allegorically, to a New Testament truth: Jesus is repeatedly called, or calls Himself, “the light.” He is the light of men (John 1:4), the light of the world (John 8:12, 9:5, 12:46), and in the transfiguration “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matt. 17:2). The Old Testament repeatedly reiterates the theme: “The Lord is my light and salvation” (Psalms 27:1); “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see the light” (Psalms 36:9); “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2).
Detailed specifics illustrating the “Emmaus Code” are provided to illustrate the repeated Old Testament references to the coming of Christ.
“Moses tells his people, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers — it is to him you shall listen’ (Deut. 18:15),” writes Limbaugh, noting the eerie similarity between Moses and Christ, the former “humbly and quietly” suffering for his people’s sins. He points out that “just as the (first) Passover blood spares and redeems the Hebrews, the blood of Christ redeems Christians from their sinful state.”
What is remarkable in this book is David Limbaugh’s level of detail, a thorough-going knowledge of things biblical that is a certain exemplar of much time spent studying his subject in detail. With a conclusion that is a much needed reminder for today.
Go back to that news story from Christian Today about the ISIS killings of Christians outside of Aleppo, Syria. It includes, in part, this:
Islamic State militants have brutally murdered 12 Christians, including the 12-year-old son of a Syrian ministry team leader who had planted nine churches, for refusing to renounce Jesus Christ and embrace Islam instead, the Gospel Herald reported.
The horrific executions took place last Aug. 28 in an unnamed village outside Aleppo, Syria, according to Christian Aid Mission, a humanitarian group that assists indigenous Christian workers in their native countries.
“In front of the team leader and relatives in the crowd, the Islamic extremists cut off the fingertips of the boy and severely beat him, telling his father they would stop the torture only if he, the father, returned to Islam,” Christian Aid Mission said, according to Gospel Herald.
When the team leader refused, relatives said, the ISIS militants also tortured and beat him and the two other ministry workers. The three men and the boy then met their deaths in crucifixion.
It isn’t hard to imagine the sheer terror these 12 Christians — 12, the number of Christ’s disciples — must have surely felt as they realized their fate. Yet as Christians one suspects that they held tightly to the faith discovered by the two men who discovered Christ literally on the road to Emmaus.
“Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him” read the beginning words of Luke 24:31. Indeed.
A new CNN poll, released only yesterday, reveals that just18% of Americans believe the United States is winning the war on terrorism, with a bare 51% of Americans confident the government can even stop another terrorist attack. In other words, as has been noted repeatedly in the course of the looming presidential campaign, many Americans are living in fear.
Understanding that fact, what David Limbaugh has accomplished in The Emmaus Code is no small thing. He has used his considerable standing as a lawyer, author, and political commentator — at a time of considerable unease in America — to illuminate the message at the very center of Christianity. A message that is in desperate need today. That message being “the power, wonder, and everlasting love of our Lord Jesus Christ and His redemptive plan for our lives” as exemplified from start to finish in the entire Bible, Old Testament and New Testament alike.
As the Christmas season slowly fades and the New Year dawns, a year that one suspects will be tumultuous on all fronts from the presidential campaign to race relations to dealing with ISIS and more, the message of David Limbaugh’s book could not be more timely — or more needed.
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