Here and Now: Behold!

Moving from the Old Testament into the New Testament, the linkage word is, ‘Behold’–or more simply, ‘Look.’  It is what the angel told Joseph to do relative to the unexpected announcement that Mary was going to have a baby (Matthew 1:23).  It was a link between the Testaments because the angel quoted Isaiah 7:14 in the message to Joseph.

What was foretold in the Old Testament was coming to pass in the New Testament–at least from the vantage point Matthew was using to write his gospel.  Mary and Joseph were the bridge between prediction and fulfillment.  The word ‘behold’ was the way for them to recognize it.

The word essentially means ‘paying attention’–that is, to stop, look, and listen to what is happening here-and-now until the moment yields its meaning.  As we have already noted, every moment is a God-moment.  This was certainly true with respect to Mary and Joseph’s experience.  What else could the angel say but, “Listen up.”

Years ago, I read an interview done with Henri Nouwen.  He was asked to define the spiritual life.  He rightly noted that defining it in a single sentence was impossible, but the interviewer persisted with the request.  Nouwen replied, If I had to define the spiritual life in one sentence, I would say it is ‘paying attention’.”  Behold!

Beyond Joseph’s original moment two thousand years ago, the exhortation is the same one we receive moment-by-moment: “Listen up!” until our   chronos time intersects with kairos time– until we “get it” ( or it gets us), and we move into responsiveness rather than reaction.  Joseph’s willingness to ‘behold’ altered his initial plan, and enabled him to be part of God’s plan.  That’s still how it works today.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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