Some Messianic Prophecies, Part 5

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Just how important is the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Paul thought it really important:

For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ must still be dead. And if he is still dead, then all our preaching is useless and your trust in God is empty, worthless, hopeless… (1 Corinthians 15:13, 14 TLB)

Why would Paul say his preaching was useless if the Resurrection hadn’t happened? The goal of preaching is to convert a lost soul so that sinner may stand justified before God. Our justification is linked to our justification.

He died for our sins and rose again to make us right with God, filling us with God’s goodness. (Romans 4:35 TLB)
Acts 2:22 – 38

“People of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” (Acts 2:22 TNIV)

This is really the beginning of Peter’s great sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Verses 14 – 21 would be the introduction to the sermon, but verse 21 is its first major point. The Spirit fell and the believers spoke in tongues and, negatively, Peter made sure his listeners understood that those believers were not drunk and that, positively, tongues symbolized the fact that the Holy Spirit had been given to the group of believers and that empowered by the Spirit, they were to preach the gospel to an unbelieving world.

The big theme of Peter’s sermon was a simple one: Jesus is the Messiah. To modern Christians, that theme is a given. We always link “Jesus” and “Christ” as though they were the first and second name of the Man. But to the Jews Peter was preaching to, the notion that this Man who had been crucified, Jesus, was in fact their Messiah, was absolutely stunning and hard to swallow. They had a very well-defined concept of what the Messiah would be like based on their Scriptures and to most of them, this Jesus who had been crucified couldn’t have been the Messiah. At best He was a clever, somewhat influential rabbi; at worst He was just another upstart know-it-all, wannabe religious teacher. To say that Jesus was the Christ was blasphemy.

To support his thesis, Peter tells the people that the miracles which Jesus performed were His divine credentials; proof that God had appointed Him as Messiah. We should pay attention to the words Peter used in verse 22: miracles (Greek dynameis = “powers”); wonders (terata = “wonder”); and signs (semeia = “sign”). The first word, miracles, emphasizes their nature. The second word, wonders, describes the effect these miracles had on people. The last word, sign, points to their purpose: these wondrous miracles were a “sign” of Jesus divinity.

While Jesus was alive and engaging in His earthly ministry, curious onlookers should have been convinced of Jesus’ identity based on His healings and deliverances. Some were, many were not.

This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (Acts 2:23, 24 TNIV)

One of most contentious points of doctrine is the dual fact of God’s sovereign will and man’s freedom. In verse 23, we see them working together. Jesus was “handed over” to be crucified according to “God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge.” Even though the death of Jesus was in God’s redemptive plan, this doesn’t erase the responsibility and guilt of those who crucified Him. In the end, they did what they wanted to do; they acted with free wills.

Sinclair Ferguson notes:

When you look at the Cross, what do you see? You see God’s awesome faithfulness. Nothing – not even the instinct to spare His own Son – will turn Him back from keeping His Word.

What “word” was God keeping? Peter covers that in his next sermon point.

Acts 2:29 – 31; Psalm 16:8 – 11

The death of Jesus was not an afterthought. It was part of God’s plan for man’s redemption from the very beginning. Peter quotes from Psalm 16, a psalm attributed to David, who was thrilled that the Lord would not abandon his soul in Hades (Sheol), the place where the dead are. Psalm 16 is regarded to be Messianic in part, and even though David wrote about his experiences in poetic form, at the same time the Holy Spirit was taking his thoughts and words to a higher level. These verses from Psalm 16 are really a prediction of the resurrection of our Lord. Here are the relevant verses which are applied to Jesus Christ:

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:8 – 11 TNIV)

Let’s talk a little about this psalm. It’s one of six psalms called michtam. Nobody is quite sure what that word means, but in this case, the psalm is an intensely personal testimony to the faithfulness of the Lord.

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. (Psalm 16:1 TNIV)

The opening petition sets the tone for the whole psalm. And you have to give David points for being bold. He asks God to keep him safe then goes on to explain that God owes him this because of his trust.

The Hebrew is difficult beginning with verse three, but the sense is that David delighted in God’s people –

I say of the godly who are in the land, “They are the noble people in whom is all my delight.” (Psalm 16:3 TNIV)

So this man of God delighted in both God and God’s people. That last phrase deserves a moment of our attention: “in whom is all my delight.” The Hebrew is kal-hephsi-bam, and is essentially the same as Hephzihah, the new name God will give to His people –

No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah ; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. (Isaiah 62:4 TNIV)

Unlike those who worship and run after other gods, the psalmist was quite content with the One true God and that God’s will for Him –

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. (Psalm 16:5 TNIV)

What a powerful lesson for believers to make note of. Unlike so many of us, David recognized that the quality of his life was solely because of the goodness of his God. In fact, the psalmist was so convinced of God’s goodness and faithfulness, he did something most of us wouldn’t –

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. (Psalm 16:7 TNIV)

That’s right. He got up in the middle of the night to sing praises to God just because his “heart” told him to! In other words, just because he felt like it. I’d wager if your spouse beside you took a notion to sit up and belt out a chorus or two of “Blessed Assurance” at 2 AM, you throw a pillow over your head to drown them out!

But Peter quotes specifically from verses 8 – 11 in his sermon in Acts 2. He applied them to Jesus, making them Messianic in nature. Paul also quoted verse 10 as he preached a sermon in Acts 10. So we know that even though David wrote these verses about how he felt and describing his emotions of the moment, they have a much farther reaching application; they help us to understand what Jesus went through.

David realized something that Jesus also realized and something we desperately need to realize: with his eyes firmly fixed on the Lord and our lives held in His hand, there is no greater place or position of safety.

The “realm of the dead” is a place called Sheol or Hades. The TNIV is correct in translating it the way it did because God did not and He would not abandon His Son – the Messiah – to Hell, as older translations seem to indicate. Christ certainly did experience “the pit” of death but not the destruction of His body.

The verses of this great psalm that apply to Christ are positive and affirming. Even as Jesus Christ died on the Cross as He did, He knew as David did, that God leads His people to the path of life – everlasting life. It’s a narrow path to be sure, but it leads to only good things and to the presence of God.

Psalm 110:1; Mark 12:35 – 37; Acts 2:32 – 38

But our Lord didn’t stay on the Cross and He didn’t stay in the grave. He rose from the dead in power and glory. This is alluded to in another Psalm –

The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (Psalm 110:1 TNIV)

Here is a psalm that is totally Messianic and a favorite of New Testament writers as they quote from it 21 times. In verse one, God the Father is seen “speaking” to His Son. Yet “says” isn’t nearly strong enough; it’s a “pronouncement” being declared here. This being the case, verse one balances perfectly with verse four –

The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. ” (Psalm 110:4 TNIV)

The declaration made in the first verse is a stunning one as it is applied to Jesus Christ. He is given the place of highest honor in Heaven – at the Father’s right hand. How this must have rocked the world of the Jews that heard it. But even more than that, the Father will subdue all the Son’s enemies. This is an amazing statement given the fact that even now Jesus Christ is Lord of all, though the masses are still in revolt. Christ’s sovereignty is a declared sovereignty and it doesn’t depend on the submission His enemies. That will come in time.

In Mark’s gospel, this psalm is quoted in 12:35 – 37. At this point in the gospel, Jesus’ enemies shut up – they stop asking Him questions – so Jesus jumped in –

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? (Mark 12:35 TNIV)

Then He began His quote of David’s psalm, applying the words to Himself. Jesus was trying to correct any false notions concerning the Messiah. David, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, saw that the Messiah would be more than a mere political leader. Jesus Christ was a descendant of David by birth, but He was more than that; He was more than a mere human descendant of David. He was also David’s Lord by divine nature.

The people that heard this were delighted.

And that brings us back to Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. At the end of it, we read the response of those who heard it –

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 3:37 TNIV)

Like the people that heard Jesus, these people heard the Word properly preached and taught and they were “cut to the heart.” It’s amazing what power the Word has.

 

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