Posts Tagged 'Messianic Prophecies'

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.

 

Some Messianic Prophecies, Part 4

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How would you describe the death of the Savior? We’re fortunate in that we have this seminal event recorded for us as viewed through three different lenses. Each lense gives us a different perspective, but taken together we are left with a pretty complete historical and spiritual record of what happened as Jesus Christ was crucified and died. Though these three perspectives differ on some things, they all agree on one: The Savior died to make atonement for our sins so that we may live at peace with God.

So let’s take a quick look at the three views of the Savior’s death.

Psalm 22:1 – 24

The first perspective is that of the psalmist; a poet.

Psalm 22 is really the first psalm of a trilogy made up of Psalms 22, 23 and 24. G. Campbell Morgan has titled each individual psalm like this: “The Savior,” “The Shepherd,” and “The Sovereign.” Another way to caption these psalms could be: “The Cross,” “The Crook,” and “The Crown.” You get the idea. This trilogy is all about Jesus Christ.

Even though the word Messiah (“Christ”) isn’t seen anywhere in Psalm 22, the Christological significance of it cannot be denied or escaped. Psalm 22 is quoted no less than seven times in the New Testament in relation to Jesus Christ. Psalm 22 is also linked to Isaiah 53 in noting the suffering Messiah. Jesus, shouting from the Cross, quotes part of the most famous first verse of Psalm 22, as though He Himself were saying it:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? (Psalm 22:1 NIV)

What Jesus famously said was the Aramaic of the Hebrew: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. This expression is what we refer to as “the fourth word from the Cross,” and when Jesus said it, the greatest transaction in history took place: the righteous died for the guilty. Jesus was the guiltless One who bore the sin of many. We who believe live because He died.

Though this psalm is all about Jesus, it also expresses an experience common to all believers, including the psalmist.  In the midst of some trial or problem, who hasn’t felt as though God had skipped out on them? Our faith is very often beset by despair, at least temporarily. But, as Jesus demonstrated, doubt may be there but faith presses on; you never give into your feelings, so that when you feel as Jesus felt, you cry out that much louder to God.

Beginning with verse three, the psalmist does something we should take note of. In the midst of a pressing trial, it’s a good idea to remember God’s past faithfulness and, as the he did, remind God of them!

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. (Psalm 22:3 – 5 NIV)

Verse three makes it clear: God is far above the fray, yet He has never been far from His people. No matter what was going on, He was praised. This technique is for our benefit. Naturally God doesn’t need to be reminded of how wonderful He is! But we need it. We often fall into the trap of thinking God isn’t perfect and altogether good. We need to remind ourselves that He does only what is good and beneficial for us.

But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. (Psalm 22:6 NIV)

The psalmist gets back to his complaint, from the goodness of God to his own nastiness. Here is how our Lord was treated. Who but a poet could have put words to the sadness and humiliation experienced by Jesus Christ? Yet they are also prophetic. This is what happened to Him. Both Matthew and Mark note how onlookers stared at the spectacle of the Crucifixion (see Matthew 27:39 and Mark 15:29).  And yet, feeling as low as he felt, the psalmist recalls the good days of God’s mercy.

Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. (Psalm 22:9, 10 NIV)

These are not unimportant verses. God had been with the psalmist from the very beginning. He was no crisis convert. He knew God and had experienced God’s presence for his whole life. But now, this poor fellow has nothing but trouble; trouble, trouble everywhere and God is apparently nowhere to be found. But that doesn’t stop him from doing this:

Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. (Psalm 22:11 NIV)

No matter how you may feel, God is there. To paraphrase Clarence Larkin, feeling is the fruit of a relationship, not the root of it. Nowhere in the Bible are we encouraged to put faith in our feelings but in the promises and the Person of God.  Jesus did, and we should too.

Matthew 27:39 – 56

We move from the emotional side of the Savior’s death to the historical records of the Synoptic Gospels. In Matthew’s account, we are given some interesting details. Jesus was crucified and died between two thieves. It’s entirely possible that they were associated with the political insurrectionist Barabbas. If this was the case, then it’s probable that Barabbas, not Jesus, was the one scheduled to die on that middle cross. Yet, in the most ironic twist of fate, Jesus took Barabbas’ place – a perfect illustration of His taking every sinner’s place on the Cross.

It’s hard not to think of Psalm 22 when we read these verses in Matthew 27 –

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:39, 40 NIV)

It’s interesting that one of the taunts from the crowd was, “…if you are the Son of God.” This was exactly, word-for-word, what Satan said to Jesus in Matthew 4:3, during His temptation in the desert wilderness.

All three Synoptics mention what happened at noon on the day Jesus died:

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. (Matthew 27:45 NIV)

Three strange events took place when Jesus died: an unnatural darkness, the ripping of the Temple veil, and the resurrection of the saints. For three hours, from noon till 3 pm, the land was plunged into utter darkness. It was a literal darkness, yet it also symbolized of God’s judgment upon His people for the rejection of his Son. It shouldn’t surprise us that nature reacted the way it did as the Creator breathed His final breaths.

Before the veil of the Temple ripped from top to bottom, symbolizing the free access to God gained by Christ’s work on the Cross, our Lord cried out the words of Psalm 22:1. As I noted earlier, God never left Jesus for a moment; He was present throughout the entire agonizing event, reconciling the world to Himself.

The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. (Matthew 27:51 – 53 NIV)

The ripping of the veil is in all three Synoptics, but the earthquake and the resurrection of the saints is only recorded here in Matthew. An earthquake in this area is not unusual, but obviously the resurrection of the hagioi is not.  Why did it happen? Did they die again? How many people saw them? The text tells us that these holy people were raised when Jesus died, but they didn’t appear in Jerusalem until after His resurrection! What were these people doing for those three days? There are many questions about this event that will go unanswered until we see Jesus in Person. For now, it is enough to know that the death of Jesus benefitted far more people than just the living. His death reaches forward to touch the lives of generations yet unborn, but it also reached back in time to the faithful followers of Yahweh; people like the Patriarchs and the countless believers looking forward to the coming of the Messiah.

Hebrews 2:9 – 18

Finally, we have the writer to the Hebrews and his estimation of the death of the Messiah. To him, it all boiled down to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Just as the Jewish priests represented the people before God, so Jesus Christ tasted death for every man.

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9 NIV)

That phrase “taste death” is more than just a clever turn-of-phrase. Jesus didn’t just die; death is what touches all men. The death of our Lord was very different. He was without sin; He didn’t need to die for any reason. He was not under the curse of mortality – the “wages of sin” did not apply to Him in any way. He “tasted death” for others, so that they would never have to. Now, this means more than first meets the eyes. Because of what Jesus did, death holds no terror for the Christian. That’s why we read this of Stephen’s death –

Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60 NIV)

Dr Luke wasn’t an infant, nor was he superstitious. He used the phrase “he fell asleep” for a reason! Stephen had no fear of death. He faced his own mortality with no more apprehension than does a man when he is drifting off to sleep!

Think about what Jesus’ death did for man. Man was created to be a noble creature – the noblest of all God’s creation because he was given the ability to willingly glorify God and live a life full of peace, prosperity, and honor. He was given dominion over God’s material creation – he was created to be the master of his world. But because of sin, man fell from this state of perfection to become a rebel from birth to death. But because of what Jesus did, at the very least man has a way to deal with the fear of death.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14, 15 NIV)

Verse 14 is a stunning declaration: Jesus became a man that He might die. That’s a statement that is truly counterintuitive. Life is seen as a gift from God! But this time, true life came through death. Because man listened to Satan, the prince of death, sin entered man and man’s world and ruined everything. Yet in Christ, death became the very means for the destruction of the power of Satan. The Devil is a defeated foe.

 

Some Messianic Prophecies, Part 3

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Isaiah 53 is famous because in it we read of the Suffering Servant, the Messiah. This verse in particular is among the most famous Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5 NIV)

However, the prophecy of the Suffering Servant really begins back at 52:13 –

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. (NIV)

This whole section has been referred to as the “holy of holies” of Isaiah. And Polycarp wrote of it as the “golden passional of the Old Testament.” However you like to refer these verses, they are profound in their meaning and life-changing when they are understood. The previous so-called “servant songs” in Isaiah all described the prophetic ministry of the Servant of the Lord, but in this one, He is portrayed as Priest, who suffers vicariously for the sins of others. This Servant is the sin-bearing martyr and while the other “servants songs” could refer to the nation of Israel, a faithful remnant, or the Messiah Himself, this one is clearly the Messiah, an individual sufferer.

The Suffering Servant passage is really only five paragraphs long, with each paragraph containing three verses.

The Servant Exalted, 52:13 – 15

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness—so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. (NIV)

This is God speaking, introducing His Servant, using terms ascribed to divinity – raised, lifted up, highly exalted – coupled with terms that can only be used in describing a man – his appearance marred by suffering. At the very beginning of this song, then, we have a Servant who is both divine and human.

The task of this divine-human Servant is to fulfill the purposes of God. He will do this “wisely” or “prudently” or with “understanding,” depending on which translation of the Bible you are reading. This great Suffering Servant will have an exalted nature with the destiny of a Martyr, but with great insight that will enable Him to deal wisely and effectively with the greatest problem of man: human hatred and sin.

And even though the Servant will suffer beyond normal human endurance, His shed blood will cause “kings” to marvel in silent awe as they see what they were never told or taught. The idea is that the Servant’s task will be to give the people an entirely new life, something kings can’t conceive of.

The Servant Despised, Isaiah 53:1 – 3

But, oh, how few believe it! Who will listen? To whom will God reveal his saving power? In God’s eyes he was like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground. But in our eyes there was no attractiveness at all, nothing to make us want him. We despised him and rejected him—a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we didn’t care.  (TLB)

Jews consider this prophecy to be all about Israel – and they’re not necessarily wrong, but they’ve cast their nation on the wrong side. To them, Israel is the suffering servant, but what we’re reading about here is future Israel (“in our eyes”) when the people finally recognize and acknowledge the Lord Jesus as their long awaited Messiah. These verses are the thoughts they will have at that time. So profound will be their realization of the truth that, they say, “who would have believed it?”

It’s heartening to know that in the future, at long last national Israel will understand the truth. But, at the same time, there is an application of these verses for today. It’s not just Israel to whom God reveals the truth of Jesus; He reveals it also to repentant and penitent sinners. These verses could well constitute the awakened conscience of a saved man, for when he sees the truth, he just can’t believe why it took so long for him to believe.
Some day, the godly remnant of Israel will regret their rejection of Jesus, and that day they will turn to Him as their Messiah and Savior.

The Servant Wounded, Isaiah 53:4 – 6

Yet it was our grief he bore, our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, for his own sins! But he was wounded and bruised for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace; he was lashed—and we were healed! We—every one of us—have strayed away like sheep! We, who left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of every one of us! (TLB)

This paragraph is so powerful and moving, Handel based one of his more significant songs on it in his famous oratorio, “The Messiah.” During His earthly ministry, Jesus entered into our sorrows and afflictions; He experienced what we experience and He healed those who came to Him in faith. There are some who teach that healing is part of the atonement. Whether it is or isn’t is a debate for another day. It must be noted, though, that while Jesus healed all kinds of sickness and diseases, He died for our sins, not for our illnesses.

That evening several demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus; and when he spoke a single word, all the demons fled; and all the sick were healed. This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, “He took our sicknesses and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16, 17 TLB)

This lone paragraph in Isaiah teaches the great doctrine of substitution. Israel of Christ’s day believed He deserved to die. He was accused of and condemned for blasphemy. He was considered punished by God because He deserved it. And yet, Jesus died, not for Himself, but for others and this wonderful prophecy is an absolute promise that one day Israel will see the truth.

And what pity he felt for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn’t know what to do or where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36 TLB)

But they choose to live this way; sinners, believing that they are free – that they are forging their own destiny – yet they aren’t free at all. They are lost. God provided salvation for all the lost sheep through His infinite grace: Christ died for our sins. Paul expressed Isaiah’s thoughts his own way like this –

For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us! (2 Corinthians 5:21 TLB)

And Peter put it this way –

He personally carried the load of our sins in his own body when he died on the cross so that we can be finished with sin and live a good life from now on. For his wounds have healed ours! Like sheep you wandered away from God, but now you have returned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls who keeps you safe from all attacks. (1 Peter 2:24, 25 TLB)

Of this doctrine, Alistair Begg notes,

Jesus did not come to live as an example of how to die as a martyr, but as a substitute, taking the place that we deserve in order that we might enjoy what we don’t deserve.

The Servant Cut Off, Isaiah 53:7 – 9

Twice in verse 7, the prophet tells his readers that Jesus never once protested. He was not an unwilling victim, forced to go to the cross. He was a voluntary sacrifice; He allowed Himself to be hurt, humiliated, and manhandled. He never offered a word in His defense before Pilate. He only spoke up in front of the Sanhedrin when silence would have been a renunciation of His deity. Before Herod, Jesus said nothing.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. (Isaiah 53:7 NIV)

In other words, the “judgment” of the human courts (Roman and Jewish) was the instrument of “oppression,” as far as Jesus was concerned. And nobody cared! This is truly an astonishing thought. “Who of his generation protested?” The answer is nobody! The “close pals” of Jesus – His apostles – were either scared witless, or busy denying that they even knew Him at all.

The odd phrase, “cut off,” deserves a quick look. It suggests something beyond a violent, premature death – is strongly implies the just and certain judgment of God. So in the handling of our Lord, we see the terrible oppression of man and the justice of God. In a single verse, we see both the thoughtlessness of man and the plan of God converging upon one perfect Man. He was condemned by His own people, yet He bore the punishment for their guilt and sin.  Simply astonishing!

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:9 NIV)

This is a curious verse and a little hard to understand. Man assigned the Servant’s grave, not among those of the saints or with due reverence and honor, but they treated Him like the wicked guys He was crucified between. Dishonor and humiliation chased our Lord even to His final resting place. That phrase, “with the rich in his death” refers to one Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy and compassionate man if ever there was one. It’s an enigmatic, powerful verse, and Ross Price’s summary of it is particularly noteworthy:

He was an innocent man. Humanity vented its spleen in vicious treatment of God’s Holy One. But when selfish evil tries to masquerade as justice it prepares its own unmasking.

The Servant Satisfied, Isaiah 53:10 – 12

Decent, right thinking, unredeemed men see the treatment and death of Jesus Christ as a tragedy. In their ignorance, they see the Servant of Isaiah as a visionary, a martyr, a man ahead of His time, an unfortunate victim of circumstances who suffered and died for His ideals. But, none of that is true.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:10 NIV)

The Dead Sea Scroll translates verse 10 like this:

But Yahweh was pleased to crush him and he pierced him.

Clearly, God was in back of every movement against His Son by allowing it to happen as it did. Yet, Moffat’s translation varies slightly and captures the barest hint of a positive outcome:

But the Eternal chose to vindicate his servant, rescuing his life from anguish; he let him propser to the full, in a posterity with life prolonged.

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ taken together constitute the greatest victory in the history of the world.

After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11 NIV)

Jesus didn’t waste His time on the Cross! He, looking back, will be completely satisfied. Are you satisfied with what Jesus did for you? He did all He could for you. Nothing was left undone in His work for you.
And so this wonderful prophecy closes the way it began, on a positive note.

Some Messianic Prophecies, Part 2

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Reading the Bible, you can’t help but notice all the times God invaded our time and space to reveal Himself. It’s not that people were looking for Him; they weren’t. God, in His grace, chose from time to time to disclose Himself to them. In fact, to carry this thought out even further, we could say that the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is the divinely inspired story of God’s self-revelation to human beings.  Down through the centuries, this self-revelation of God had taken many and various forms. This was something the author of the letter to some Hebrews noticed and appreciated:

Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets, in visions, dreams, and even face to face, telling them little by little about his plans. (Hebrews 1:1 TLB)

God is all-powerful, and therefore He, if He chooses to, can reveal Himself to whomever He wants. But God is also all-loving, and therefore we may expect God to reveal Himself to us. The Bible, as a whole, claims to contain a record of those revelations, but it also claims to be a complete revelation of God in and of itself.

God’s revelation to man historically

The first three words of Hebrews 1:1 are Polumeros kai polutropos, – “at various times and in various ways.” Those are three very important Greek words; they tell us how God operated in terms of His historic self-revelation. He did not reveal all of Himself at any one time to any single person. Indeed, over centuries, our Lord revealed little bits and pieces of Himself through many different means, including prophets, events in nature, individuals, and history itself.

The very first means was the spoken word: God simply spoke. The Greek word, lalesas, suggests a long process of communication that took place over long period of time. This speaking was done, for the most part, through the prophets. That’s an interesting word, “prophet,” which literally means, “to speak in front of or for someone else.” The Old Testament prophet functioned like God’s ambassador. While we think of prophets as strange guys with migraines who foretell the future, that’s not the necessarily the Biblical idea of the prophet. The job of the Biblical prophet was not so much foretelling as forthtelling. They explained to their audience what was going on and why, or why a certain event happened or was going to happen. Through these people, God spoke, telling people about Himself and His ways.  However, all that changed at a fixed point in time –

But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything and through whom he made the world and everything there is. (Hebrews 1:2 TLB)

Now, in “the last days,” God is done with speaking little by little through prophets. It’s not that there was anything wrong with them, but the age of the prophet had ended when God began to speak to us through His Son. The prophets were faithful to the end; they boldly declared what God wanted them to say, many of them died on account of their messages. But with the dawn of “the last days,” the Messianic Age, their job ended. Now God would speak through the Son – God incarnate. He was God’s final prophet, superior in every way to any other prophet because He didn’t interpret God’s Word to man, Jesus Christ IS God’s Word to man!

E.A. Litton, in his book on theology, wrote:

In the person of Christ all previous manifestations of God are summed as in an epitome; the scattered rays are here concentrated in focus; and for this reason we can expect no further, or more complete, revelation of God.

The eternal Word, John 1:1, 2

No other book in the Bible begins so overtly theological as the Gospel of John does. The most important thing John wanted his readers to understand was that “the Word was God.”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 NIV)

As we’ll discover a few verses in, the Word is John’s nickname for Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In this verse, we have no less than three affirmations of Christian doctrine –

“In the beginning was the Word.” This single phrase tells us that the Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, existed before creation. So before there was any material universe in existence; before God spoke anything into being, there was the Son of God.

“The Word was with God.” The Word, the Son of God, has a personal relationship with God. The Word, the Son, is not an idea, but a real, literal divine Person who had and has an ongoing relationship with God, the Father.

“The Word was God.” The Word, the Son, is truly God. He is not another God, or a second God, or a junior God. The Word is God. John brilliantly equates the Word with God, yet makes sure we understand the Word is, at the same time, distinct from God the Father.

You may wonder why John referred to Jesus as “the Word.” You’re not alone. The Greek word used is logos, which means simply “word.” No help there. Later on, the Word became flesh, but in the beginning, He was the Word. It may well be that John chose to use the word logos because a “word” is an expression of what’s on a person’s mind. It’s the way we communicate with each other. In this sense, the Son is the way God chose to reveal His will to man.

The Word, John 1:3 – 5

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:3 – 5 NIV)

In the Incarnation, Jesus Christ as the living Word of God, brings life into the world. His life serves as a “light” for all people. It leads people. His life shows man everything he needs to know live a better life in this world and in the next. But Christ not only lived a life as a Man, He offers life to man. The life Christ offers man is not temporal; it’s eternal. In every way you can think of, the life Christ wants to give every human being is superior in every way to the life they are living now.  If we take a closer look at these three verses, we notice that in all, John makes four stunning declarations about the living Word.

The Word and the world, verse 3

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

We are told by John in no uncertain terms that the Word was responsible for the creation of the material universe. That last clause, “without him nothing was made that has been made” seems a little redundant, but at the time the Gospel was written, there were false doctrines floating around that taught some things were created by other creative agents. Not so, says our letter writer. Nothing – nothing – you can see, feel, experience, was created by any power other than the Word.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. (Psalm 33:6 NIV)

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15 – 17 NIV)

The Word, life, and light, verse 4a

In him was life, and that life was the light…

In this verse, the Word – the Son of God – is pictured as the Source of all life. We can understand that in terms of biological life, but there is more to human beings than just that. John liked to use the Greek word zoe for “life.” The more common Greek word, bios, he never uses. This is by design. Zoe refers to “life from above,” “eternal life,” and “abundant life,” not just physical life. It has more to do with the quality of life than merely being alive. Jesus Christ is the Source of this higher quality of life. Without Jesus, a person is just living – he’s existing. But with Christ in your life comes His life – a higher quality life, a better life, a life full of blessings and possibilities. That’s why John likens Christ’s life to the idea of light. Light is better than darkness for all kinds of reasons. Christ’s life is better than anybody’s life for all kinds of reasons.

The Word and men, verse 4b

…of all mankind.

The Word, Jesus Christ, is God’s final, most personal revelation to men – all men. He is God’s most personal revelation to us because He comes directly from God without any middle man. And His revelation is for all people, not just the Jews or a certain group of people. Now, not all people will benefit from this revelation, but anybody who cares to look will see it.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. (John 1:9 NIV)

The Word and the darkness, verse 5

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Man without Christ is sitting around in the darkness of sin. The living Word came into our dark word as a light that is seen dispelling that darkness. This idea of light and dark figures prominently in John’s Gospel. There is a struggle between light and dark, but the light is always victorious. For example, Jesus gave sight – light – to a blind man. Jesus brought His friend Lazarus out of the darkness of death. The light of Christ’s life is always victorious, except in once tragic case: Judas Iscariot. But even then, it was Judas who willingly chose to leave the light and go back into the dark.

As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. (John 13:30 NIV)

Sadly, many people prefer the darkness. Yet even today, the light of the Word of God is still shining brightly for all would take the time to notice. But the darkness is always trying to “overcome” it. This phrase is fraught with translation difficulties. Is that what John was trying to say? Even the translators of the NIV aren’t sure. Look –

NIV84: …the darkness has not understood it.
NIV2011: …the darkness has not overcome it.

The underlying Greek verb is katelaben, and in all fairness, it can go both ways. The darkness – the unredeemed mind – cannot understand the Gospel. Sinners just can’t grasp the truth of God’s eternal Word. Yet by God’s grace, they can understand just enough to make a decision to accept the Word or not. But the word can also mean “overcome,” in the sense that sin cannot overcome the Word or stop the Word for accomplishing its purposes in the world.

William Hendriksen in his excellent commentary on John suggests a third possibility that seems to make the most sense:

…the darkness has not appropriated it.

That goes along with the NIV84’s “not understood” translation, but puts it in a stronger sense. It’s not that the darkness couldn’t grasp the Word, it’s that the darkness chose not to accept what the Word was saying. In other words, in an act of the will, sinners sitting in the darkness prefer to stay there by not choosing to move into the light.  It’s all on us to heed the call of the light or not to.

 


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