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The Progressive Nature of Prophecy and the Birth of Jesus (Part Two)

Posted on December 10, 2012 at 9:31 PM Comments comments (0)
Texts:  Genesis 22:18; Isaiah 52:13-53:12

In my last week’s Journal, I began with the premise that the message of Christmas started in the Garden of Eden. It was embedded in the curse on the serpent and on Eve for their rebellion against God. The Journal traced the family line from Seth, the third son of Adam to Shem, one of the sons of Noah.  Moreover, Noah descended from Seth. I quoted Saint Matthew’s record of the genealogy of the Messiah, from Abraham to Joseph, Who hailed from the line of King David.  For the sake of clarity, the mentioning of Joseph does not imply that he was the natural father of the Messiah. Scripture indicates that what happened to the Virgin Mary was of the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18; Lk 1:35).  But Joseph played an important fatherly role in bringing up the child Jesus (Mt 2:13, 19-23).

This Journal focuses on (1) the fact that though the Messiah would be born through a woman (Gn 3:15) from the line of Shem (Gn 11: 10-32), however, Moses records that the Messiah would specifically come through Abraham (Gn. 22:18), and (2) Isaiah presents the Messiah as a suffering Anointed One (Is. 53:1f). 

Moses records that the Messiah would come specifically through Abraham (Gn 22:18).  Most scholars agreed that the “Seed” referred to in this text is the very Seed promised in Genesis 3:15 whose heel was to be bruised by the serpent.  But the Seed would finally crush the head of the serpent. The battle launched in the Garden of Eden can only be won by God Himself, Who became the Seed – Jesus Christ.  Let’s follow the progressiveness of the Promised Seed:

  • The deliverer will be one of the woman’s seeds.
  • The family line of this seed is through the third son of Adam, Seth.
  • The line is traced through Shem, one of the sons of Noah.  Noah descended from Seth. 
  • Specifically, Moses writes that the Seed would come through Abraham who was a descendant of Shem.

Isaiah prophesied that the Promised Messiah or the Anointed One would suffer (Is 53:1ff). The Jews believe that the Servant is a metaphor for the Jewish people.  Some think it was an unknown individual, and the songs’ author was a disciple.  On the other hand, traditional Christians see the Servant as Jesus Christ.  Other Christians combine aspects of the traditional Christian and the Jewish interpretation.  This position sees the servant as an example of “corporate personality’, where an individual can represent a group and vice-versa.  This view sees the Servant as Israel and also as the Messiah Who represents Israel. The following are highlights of the Servant Songs: 

  • The first song (Isaiah 42: 1-9).  In this song, the Servant is described as God's agent of justice, a king that brings justice in both royal and prophetic roles, yet justice is established neither by proclamation nor by force.  The King does not ecstatically announce salvation in the market place as prophets were bound to do but instead moves quietly and confidently to establish right religion.
  • The second song (Is 49:1-7) is written from the Servant's point of view, and is an account of His pre-natal calling by God to lead both Israel and the nations. The Servant is now portrayed as the prophet of the Lord equipped and called to restore the nation to God. Yet, anticipating the fourth song, He is without success. Taken with the picture of the Servant in the first song, His success will come not by political or military action, but by becoming a light to the Gentiles. Ultimately His victory is in God's hands.
  • The third song (Is 50:4-9) has a darker yet more confident tone than the others. Although the song gives a first-person description of how the Servant was beaten and abused, here the Servant is described both as teacher and learner Who follows the path God places Him on without pulling back. He sustains the weary with a word. His vindication is left in God's hands.
  •  The fourth song (Is 53:1-12) of the "servant songs" begins at Isaiah 52:13, continuing through 53:12 where it continues the discussion of the suffering servant. There are various interpretations of the Servant’s songs as discussed above. However the text declares that at the Servant's death the attitude of the "we" changes after verse 4 where the servant bears "our" iniquities, "our" sickness, by the servant's wounds "we" are healed.  Because of its references to the vicarious sufferings of the servant, many orthodox Christians believe this song to be among the Messianic prophecies of Jesus. 

Regarding the Suffering Messiah, The Teachers’ Commentary observed, “The contrast between Isaiah’s image of the Sovereign Lord, acting in power, and his image of the Servant, suffering for others, was puzzling to Old Testament saints. But now, in Jesus, we at last understand the unity of God’s plan. Jesus suffered, but will return in glory. And, in Isaiah’s vision of a Suffering Servant, we see our Lord more clearly—and we better understand our calling to be servants too.”1  Prior to the birth of Jesus, God revealed to His people through His Word about all that would happen to the Promised Seed: Moses records that the Messiah would come specifically through Abraham (Gn 22:18), and the Servant Songs described the suffering of the Promised Seed for the restoration of all believers in Christ – both Jews and Gentiles. The Prophet Isaiah prophesied that a virgin will have a child and this child should be named Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Is 7:14; Mt 1:22-23) many hundred years before the conception of the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus.  I also understand the ongoing debate for and against it, but every orthodox Christian believes that this prophecy referred to Jesus. It is clear from the reading of the Gospels that Jesus considered Himself the fulfillment of the Isaiah's texts.

To be continued

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1 L. Richards & L.O. Richards.  The Teacher’s Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1987), 389.