Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Last week we looked at a number of Old Testament scriptures that Jesus may have used to explain his life and ministry to two unsuspecting travelling companions on the road to Emmaus. ( Luke 24:13-35)
In considering a number of prophecies from Genesis to Isaiah, we began to discern a significantly different characterization of Messiahship than Jesus contemporaries were hoping for; the suffering servant depicted but often ignored throughout the Old Testament. To be fair, much of prophecy is implicit rather than explicit, more fully realized with the passage of time, reflection and further revelation. Much of Messiah prophecy focused on Israel’s return from exile to power and glory. But there were emphatic “hints” of something different in the Messiah’s character that all Jews yearned for, especially in Isaiah.
Speaking graphically, if somewhat cryptically of a suffering servant, Isaiah records God challenging the norm of kingdom role and Messiah privilege by declaring, “See, my servant will act wisely, he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.” So far so good. But then he says, “…there were many who were appalled at him – his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness…” In “sprinkling” many nations (referencing Leviticus 14:7) this servant demonstrates what “they weren’t told”, thereby increasing their understanding of “what they have not heard.” Is. 52:13-15
Isaiah gave further voice to this suffering servant, who declares, “I offered my back to those who beat me, my checks to those who pulled my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting, because the Sovereign Lord helps me…” Is. 50:6,7 “…he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob (and Israel) back to him…” That same Sovereign Lord expanding his servant’s ministry by insisting, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob (and Israel). I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Is. 49:5,6
Contrary to common perceptions of royalty, this Messiah is described as having, “…no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering… Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrow, yet we considered him stricken by God,… he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” For, “We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Is. 53:2-6 Hardly a description of privilege.
Far from clamoring for his “rights” to be met, this Messiah, “…was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; …by oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants?... for the transgression of my people he was stricken… it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days.” Is. 53:7-10 (See the fulfillment of these prophesies in Matthew 8:17 & 27:27-31; Mark 14:61; Luke 23:32; John 19:23,24referencing Psalm 22:14-18; John 19:31-36 referencing Exodus 12:46 and the Passover Lamb & Psalm 34:20)
Jeremiah and Ezekiel, both of whom lived long after David’s rule and subsequent death, prophesized a new David: “…whom (God) will raise up for them.” Jeremiah 30:9 & Ezekiel 24:23,24 Using the familiar motif of sheep/shepherd as well, noting how the sorry condition of God’s “flock” was directly related to the laxity of its “shepherds.” ( Ezekiel 34:1-23 & Jeremiah 23:1-6) Jesus likewise describing the crowds following him about as being, “…, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36 (Peter characterizing those being “found” by Jesus as having, “…returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:23-25
Talk about cryptic! The prophet Daniel was exiled, alongside many other Israeli’s, in Babylon; praying for personal and national forgiveness. Following the pattern of much of Daniel, the answer to his prayer is in some ways hard to discern, the gist of it being that an allotted period of time needed to pass for Israel’s discipline, the intended result being “…to bring in everlasting righteousness… (and the) “…anoint(ing of) the most holy.” Daniel 9:24 Many of Daniel’s visions and prophesies appear to have more than one application – as prophecy often does. The “abomination that causes desolation” first fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 B.C. Christ’s “abomination that causes desolation” ( Matthew 24:15,16) apparently foretelling the sacking of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The final acts of desolation are then depicted in John’s revelation of Satanic activity prior to Christ’s victorious second coming. ( Revelation 19:11-20)
Micah echoed the Psalmist’s reference to God as “my shepherd” (Ps. 23) by pleading with God to, “Shepherd your people with your staff,…” Micah 7:14; yearning for a compassionate overseer who would protect his flock and confirm his covenant with them as he had with their ancestors. ( Micah 7:19,20)
The Old Testaments last book, Malachi, records God saying, “…I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.” Mal. 3;1 (See also Is. 40:3,4) A prophecy fulfilled by John the Baptist ( Mark 1:1-11) and specifically referenced by Jesus in Matthew 11:10; whose message included a word of hope and a warning of judgment. ( Matthew 3:11,12) Echoed by Jesus first-recorded words, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” Mark 1:15 Jesus’ ministry fulfilling Micah’s prophecy that, “…suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,…” Malachi 3:1
That prophecy was fulfilled in the coming, living and dying of Jesus as depicted in the New Testament. Our salvation cost him dear and should not be treated as a cheap acquisition by us; because as much as we are saved from something we are saved to something else. As, “Jesus Christ… gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a (peculiar people KJ) that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:14
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Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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