Part 3: Journey Through Salvation History to Understand the Pre-Lenten Seasons
So far we have been exploring the Genesis 3:15 prophecy where Yahweh explained to Eve that a woman’s seed (not a man’s) would be responsible for crushing the power of the serpent who caused the Fall. With the story of Sarah’s annunciation, Sarah was pretty close to such a miracle.
After all she had a miraculous pregnancy, but ultimately the Holy Trinity or three angels under the shade of the oak of Mamre, implied that greater miracles were yet to come for nothing is “too wonderful” for the Lord. Genesis 18 emphasizes that the divine encounter between Abraham and God takes place in “overshadowing” or “shade,” ‘code’ for Yahweh’s most intensive presence.
Sarah did not go into the sacred shade but laughed at the prophecy, anticipating the Angel Gabriel’s phrase to Mary 2000 years later. The angelic Trinity asked: “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:13–4). “Shall bear a child” are the very words of
Luke’s Gospel at the Annunciation.
Using the Greek and Hebrew Old Testaments as supplementary to one another, we saw that “wonderful” is a key name that will come up time and again before the Nativity. Sarah is an important type of Mary for other reasons. Returning to the Greek Old Testament, which St. Paul cites in reference to Mary, we notice a rare vocabulary to talk about Sarah’s womb before the miracle child, Isaac. Sarah’s womb is said to be “closed up.” This situation is also the result of a curse on the house of Abimelech in Genesis 20:18.
When Abimelech tried to marry Sarah, Abraham’s wife, his first wife and female servants suffered from “closed up wombs.” St. Paul will emphasize the fact that Mosaic Israel was likewise barren or “closed up” with the curse like laughing Sarah and Abimelech’s women. The Law of Moses was instituted due to sin and disobedience in the desert. This temporary Law did not annul the original promise that the seed of Abraham would be a blessing “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him.”
However, since the Law was a reminder of unfaithfulness, only in the fullness of God’s time did a woman come so that “a Son, born of woman, born under the Law,” (Galatians 4:4) would reopen the miraculous womb of Sarah. For St. Paul, the “closed up wombs” of Israel did not have the child of promise, only Mary and her seed, Jesus, who was both of feminine seed and Davidic lineage. He alone was able to restore the faithfulness and obedience of Abraham,
so as to bring about a child in whom “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him.”
Employing the scriptural selections of the Emmanuel Moleben of the Christmas Fast, the most important revelation of a “wonderful” miracle next occurs in the book of Judges chapter 13. We see here the basic elements for God’s fulfilling his promise to Abraham. Here, we begin the chapter by noticing that “the Philistines” did evil to Israel for 40 years; a propitious prefiguring of Jesus, who afterward will inaugurate a fast of forty days.
Lest it just be thought that this is one of many cases of the sacred number 40, we should realize that the divine-like child, Sampson, will be born in this chapter: “He who shall begin to deliver Israel from (…) the Philistines”
(Judges 13:5). Eventually this phraseology is changed to “save the people from the Philistines” in subsequent Scripture (e.g. 1 Samuel 7:8).
Compare this to Matthew 1:21: “She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” The fact is that Sampson is styled to be something like “superman,” and with good reason. While Jesus is the invisible and immaterial Word of God united to flesh, Sampson is still human –if barely so–so that Sampson does Herculean exploits of the flesh (military marvels).
However, Jesus’s more wonderful marvels will realize the prophetic shift of focus in the upcoming prophecy of Isaiah 9:6. Jesus’s coming will save us from spiritual, not political, maladies. In this, he can be a blessing for all nations, since the one thing shared between many cultures, languages, and peoples is the divinely wrought soul, which needs deliverance.