The Scenes of Life — Lesson 4
The Messiah Prophesied
In as much as we are at the halfway mark in our Bible course on the vital issues of life, we begin this lesson with a brief recap of our findings so far.
- We have taken note of Adam's dismal failure to keep the trust which God had committed to him, and the dire results for Adam and his posterity. But nine generations removed from Adam the wickedness of man had become great in the earth, and the very imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5).
- A new era was ushered in with Noah. All evildoers were carried away with the flood, all but Noah and his family, but evil doings were not. Sin reared its ugly head again, and very soon.
- With the calling of Abraham there came a new line of promised, spelling blessings for all peoples and envisioning the birth of a great nation, Israel. Upon attaining nationhood status under the leadership of Moses, and upon receiving the Law of God as their charter, this people promised to do all that the Lord God had commanded them, but alas, it very soon became apparent that there was not such a heart in them to keep this promise. Witness the golden calf incident as an example.
- The tabernacle with its ritual ceremonies marked a forward step in giving content to God's gracious provision for the salvation of man. For their current infractions of the law, the daily sin offerings provisionally availed; for the expiation of all their sins, the special sin offering of the Day of Atonement availed. However, notwithstanding all the foregoing, the subsequent course of events in the history of Israel shows that except for the grace of God, there is not a heart in man to overcome his sinfulness.
At this point we turn our attention to the prophets, and their prophecies regarding the further unfolding of God's gracious provision for our salvation.
Isaiah 53 is a thought-provoking chapter. It is sometimes captioned "the suffering servant of Jehovah (or Yahweh)," a title derived from verses 13-15 of the foregoing chapter. Read chapter 53 carefully, together with the foregoing verses, and ask yourself of whom the prophet might have been speaking here, and to whom this chapter was addressed. That in the first place it was addressed to the people of Israel is undebatably clear, but the contention of some that Israel is the suffering servant of Jehovah of this chapter is untenable. In doubt? Let us write out one of the verses, say the fifth, and substitute the name Israel for every pronoun that occurs therein and then see what is said. "Israel was wounded for Israel's transgressions, Israel was bruised for Israel's iniquities: the chastisement of Israel's peace was upon Israel; and with Israel's stripes Israel was healed."
If Israel were the suffering servant of this chapter, should not this rendering make sense? Does it? So again the question. Of whom was the prophet here speaking? Further, read this chapter in the light of what was commanded Moses respecting the sin offering to be made on the Day of Atonement as recorded in the 16th chapter of Leviticus, and note the reciprocal relation of several portions. For example, Isaiah 53:6 compared to Leviticus 16:22. the first reads, "...and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." The second: "And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities." Again, Isaiah 53:10 versus Leviticus 16:15. Here the first reads, "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin..." The second: "Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people..." Does not this give warrant to say that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is an antitype of the two-phase sin offering of the Day of Atonement?
An Enlightening Incident
To further introduce the course of Messianic prophecy, we adduce an incident form the New Testament part of the Bible, given here in story form. Early in the year A.D. 30 or thereabouts, two Jewish men were seen traveling afoot from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a distance of about four miles. They were dejected, and sadness was written on their faces. They had been closely associated with a young Jewish man who seemed to answer to every expectation regarding the long awaited Messiah. Believing that he was indeed the promised One, they had joined the inner circle of his followers. But in a fortnight or two all was changed. His popularity waned quickly. Some of their co-religionists charged Him with blasphemy and by some of their compatriots he was charged with insurgency. Hereupon he was adjudged guilty on both counts, was sentenced by a Roman judge and was put to death by crucifixion. How could such a One be the promised Messiah? So they questioned.
As they neared the village, the were suddenly made aware that someone had joined them and had been listening in on them. Having now been noticed, this supposed stranger asked them what it was that they were so deeply troubled about. Was he a stranger here? Had he not yet heard what had taken place at Jerusalem only three days ago? So they asked, and went on to tell Him all. To their great surprise He upbraided them for their slowness to believe the Scriptures. He said: "O slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Messiah to have suffered all these things, and to enter into his glory?" Hereupon follow these words: "and beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27).
This supposed stranger was none other than Jesus in one of the first of His several appearances after His resurrection. They had not recognized him because their eyes were holden so that they should not know him, so the story has it. Now turn to Luke 24:13-32 and read the story for yourself . However, we are not mentioning this story here for the purpose of discussing its context, but to call attention to the challenge it holds or should hold for all, and especially for sons of Israel, since it is to Moses that God made known His ways and His acts, to the children of Israel (Psalm 103:7). It is the challenge to consider Messiah's coming and ministry in the light of what is written regarding Him in Moses and the prophets. So, pursuing this course, what do we find?
Messiah's Royal Seat
It is recorded in Midrash on Psalm 18:36 that one Rabbi Jehudan once said, "In time to come the Holy One will set Messiah at his right hand, according to the saying Jehovah (Yahweh) said to my Lord, sit at my right hand." Right! Moses and the prophets support this position. The saying which the rabbi cited is a quote from Psalm 110:1, a Psalm penned by David, King of Israel.
In this Psalm one who is called David's Lord is bidden to sit at God's right hand. So the question, "who was this that is called David's Lord, and where is the seat proffered him?" Of David's contemporaries there was none who could rightfully lay claim to this title, and of David's descendants there was one namely, David's greater Son, Messiah commonly referred to in Jewish writings as Meshiach Ben David, that is, Messiah, son of David. Accordingly, it is Messiah who was bidden to sit at God's right hand. And where is this seat that is proffered him? Is it not at God's throne in heaven?
Moreover, the part of Psalm 110:1 that the rabbi did not quote suggests a time element which cuts across the centuries and the span of a human's life. The full text reads: "the Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." Until when? Where did enmity against the Lord's anointed (the Lord's Messiah) begin? And by whom? Read Psalm 2 and especially note verses 1 and 2. "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, (that is, Messiah)." and where and when will this enmity come to an end? Does not the "until" cover this entire span?
A Coronation Setting
Psalm 24:7-10 gives the setting for Messiah's enthronement. Turning to this Psalm, we read, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors: and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up you heads O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory."
While it is likely that there was some local occasion for composing this Psalm at the time it was written, such as carrying the Ark (Aron Hakodesh) in through the city gates and the temple doors (for the Ark was a symbol of God's presence in the temple), the gates here referred to were not the doors of the temple. Neither the one nor the other was everlasting. The destruction of both Jerusalem and the temple was the subject of several prophecies, and destroyed they were. Were not the everlasting gates and the everlasting doors spoken of here, the gates and the doors of the city and the temple that was not made with hands? Were they not the gates and doors that opened onto the throne of God? As if for emphasis, twice over this Psalm asks who this King of glory might be, and the answer is twofold. Who is this King of glory? "The Lord strong and mighty — The Lord of hosts." While either one or both of these appelatives might be applied to God, the context quite clearly shows that they here have reference to Messiah. Surely there never was a time when it could be said that God would be thus enthroned. God's throne is and was eternally in the heavens.
The Superhuman Aspect
Inasmuch as God made known his ways to Moses and his acts to the children of Israel, one would expect to find good, scripturally-documented information o the nature of Messiah's being in Jewish religious writings. But, strange to say, all one comes upon regarding this is negative - postulations what Messiah is not. No more than a man; no more than an ideal king; no superhuman qualities; no divine attributes. How one on the one hand can profess to believe Moses and the prophets, and, on the other, make such postulations as these is difficult to understand. The fact is that the testimony of Moses and the prophets abounds with reference to Messiah's superhuman nature and his antemundane existence. Also ascribed to him are divine names and divine attributes; names and attributes that mere man could not rightfully appropriate unto himself.
The prophet Micah, for one, has spoken clearly of Messiah's ante-mundane existence. Speaking of Bethlehem, he said, " ... out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2). The Hebrew terms from which the phrases "from of Old" and "from everlasting" are translated, are significant. The first, when used with respect to time, relates to that which has no beginning; the second denotes from before the world. Does this then not tell us that He who was to come forth from Bethlehem to be ruler in Israel had being from before the world? And who might this ruler in Israel be if not the Messiah?
Significant also is the fact that in several Messianic prophecies, names and appelative are used that relate to deity, spelling out Messiah's divine nature and status while clearly speaking of his embodiment in human form.
Consider Isaiah 9:6 for example. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Councellor, the might God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." All these names are significant in that they are indicative of Messiah's divinity and divine works, but especially so the name, "Mighty God." The Hebrew text has El-ge-bor. This combines a divine attribute with the simple form of the name of God, that is, El. The attribute is that of might and power. If this Scripture does not speak of Messiah then of whom does it speak?
Isaiah 7:14 can serve as another example. "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." In the name Immanuel we again have the simple form of God's name, El. The connotation of the first syllables are given correctly in the translations; namely, "with us." This prophecy then speaks of God being present with His people in the person of Messiah; that is Messiah in person was to be the embodiment of God's presence.
Yet another example is Jeremiah 23:5. In translation this reads, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch...and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness." The Hebrew text has Ad-do-noi Tsid-kei-nu. this, we recognize, is also name of God, with the appelative "our righteousness" added. This name is indicative of Messiah's ministry of redemption. By virtue of his redemptive work His people are accounted righteous before God.
In conclusion, we note that in the examples cited above Messiah's embodiment in human form also comes to the fore. "The mighty God" we see born as a child; "Immanuel" as born of a virgin; "The Lord our righteousness" born as of the seed of David. On this, however, we shall follow through in our next lesson.
What Moses and the prophets in effect tell us is that in His sin-bearing ministry, Messiah was to be subject to all human limitations (sin excepted), while in the nature of His being He stood above all, having antemundane existence and a status that carries with it divine names and attributes.
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