Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Book of Isaiah and the prophecies of the Messiah

Throughout the Old Testament, there are prophecies related to the Messiah. The Book of Isaiah contains many of those prophecies. Messiah is the promised delivered of the Jewish nation. In Hebrew, Messiah is from the word masiah, meaning to anoint. Therefore, the Messiah is the anointed one, the chosen one. While I believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah described in these prophecies, I will refrain from identifying Christ as the Messiah. I want to present these prophecies as the people of Israel would have heard them and the image they were presented with. In Isaiah, specific prophecies were made about the Messiah’s life, his tasks and the image as the Suffering Servant.

The Messiah’s life would being born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:4). He would be from the House of David. Isaiah 11:1 states “a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” Jesse was David’s father (1 Samuel 16:19). Therefore, the Messiah would come from David’s line. The Messiah is described as a great light (Isaiah 9:2), not just to the Jewish nation but to all nations. Isaiah 42:6 says “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles.” The Messiah would also have a forerunner, a person to prepare the way. Isaiah 40:3 says “a voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.’” Preparing a straight highway refers to removing obstacles that are in the way. The forerunner would go before the Messiah and prepare the people’s hearts to receive the Messiah’s message.

There are four names to describe the Messiah. Isaiah 9:6-7 lists them as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. As Wonderful Counselor, the Messiah will be exception, distinguished and the one who gives the right advice. As Mighty God, he will be God himself. As Everlasting Father, he will be timeless. As the Prince of Peace, he will reign with justice and peace. The Messiah will also be known as a healer. Isaiah 35:5-6 states “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.” Messiah will be tasked with redemptive deeds to perform during his lifetime. Having been sent by the Lord to preach the good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1), he will heal the broken hearted and free the captives, freeing them from their darkness (Isaiah 61:1). Isaiah 61:2 is in two parts. First, the Messiah is “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Second, the Messiah is to bring “the day of vengeance of our God.” The day of vengeance is God’s wrath upon the earth.

The greatest image of the Messiah is as the Suffering Servant. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 describes the suffering the Messiah will endure during his mission on earth. He will act wisely (Isaiah 52:13). He will be marred beyond human likeness and he will sprinkle the nations (Isaiah 52:14-15). Sprinkling is a reference to the sprinkling of the lamb’s blood in the ritual of atonement of sin in Leviticus 16:15. The Messiah will grow up normally and there will be nothing special or extraordinary about his appearance (Isaiah 53:2). He could have been anyone in the crowd. The Messiah would be despised and hated. He would be a man of sorrows who knew suffering (Isaiah 53:3). He would take on our illnesses and would carry our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4) and he would be pierced by our sins and crushed for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:5). By his suffering, he would be peace and healing (Isaiah 53:5). He would take this suffering in silence. He will be led away in silence (Isaiah 53:7). The Messiah will be brought to earth for this mission, to suffer because it is the God’s will that he be a guilt offering (Isaiah 53:10). After his suffering, he will see life again (Isaiah 53:11) and he will justify many and bear their sins and make intercessions on their behalves (Isaiah 53:11-12).

After studying these prophecies, I realized that no one truly understood what the Messiah would be or do. God works in mysterious ways and his understanding is beyond our understanding. Can you imagine the people of Israel listening to these prophecies and trying to understand what it all meant? Can you imagine their hopefulness at the promise of this man, this Messiah who would rescue them? Would you be looking for the Messiah in every new leader? Would you be skeptical of any man who proclaimed to be Messiah? As with many prophecies, different people had different interpretations of who this man was and what he would accomplish. Many thought he would be an avenging king coming to take back the Promised Land for the nation of Israel. When you read these prophecies, what image of the Messiah comes to you?