THE MESSIAH OF THE JEWS
The word of God says in Deuteronomy 18:18,19, “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” The subject of this Bible passage is “The Messiah Of The Jews.” God spoke these words to Moses 3500 years ago and Moses delivered the message to the Jewish people near the end of his life. From that day on, the Jews lived in expectation that God would send them a great leader whom they called the Messiah. The word Messiah literally means “anointed”. This term combines the ideas of prophet, priest, and king. Moses declares that he was to be a prophet like himself, and that meant he was to be a lawgiver. The kings of Israel were called anointed because of the mode of their consecration. Hence the Jews understood the term Messiah to refer to a great person to arise among them who would be consecrated as king and prophet by God's appointment. Has God sent the Messiah to the Jews as He promised to do? Should we look to the past or the future for the fulfillment of the Divine promise of a Jewish Messiah? The answer to these questions is to be found in a careful study of prophecy and history. 3500 years have come and gone since God promised to send the human race another great leader like unto Moses. If a person can be found in history who corresponds to the Messiah whom God promised, it would be vain to look for another. On the other hand if no person can be found from 1500 B.C. to 2006 A.D. who fits the Bible description of the Messiah, then we must look to the future for a coming Messiah, for God is faithful who promised. History is full of men who have claimed that they came from God with a divine message. Among those who claim to have been sent by God are Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, and many others less prominent. Each of them has a right to be heard. If one claims that God sent him, he deserves consideration because if God did send him we must obey him. Inasmuch as numbers of persons have claimed that God sent them, there must be a way to test their claims. As a yardstick is needed to measure things and objects, so there must be some permanent test available to all men, all civilizations, and all ages by which they can decide whether any of these persons are justified in their claims.
The one conclusive and infallible test for the identification of the Messiah is prophecy. God pre-announced the coming of the Messiah and told us that he was coming centuries before he was born. In order that this person could be clearly recognized, God told us something about him. Over 200 prophecies or predictions were made about him in the Old Testament centuries before he was born. God foretold how he was to be born, when he was to be born, and where he was to be born. In addition prophecies are made regarding his nationality, personal characteristics, the doctrine he would teach, and the manner of his death. If God had not given an accurate description of the Messiah before he appeared, there would have been nothing to prevent an imposter to appear in history and possibly deceive us. Moreover, the human race could not be held accountable for following a false Messiah if there were not a proof-positive * positive way of identifying the true one. If a visitor came to America and claimed to be a diplomat, the government would ask him for his passport and other documents testifying that he represented a certain government. Furthermore, his papers would have to predate his coming. If such proofs of identity are asked from delegates of other countries, even greater proof should be required of messengers who claim to have come from God. We must test any person claiming to come from God with this rule: “What record was there before you were born that you were coming? We can believe no one and receive no one who cannot answer that question. We shall now give attention to a few of the numerous Messianic prophecies in the Bible which set the Messiah apart from every other person who would ever exist on the earth.
First, certain pre-announcements were made about tbe lineage and birth of the Messiah. The true Messiah had to be of the royal blood and lineage of King David. This fact was stated 600 B.C. in the book of Jeremiah 23:5,6, “Behold the days come, says the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” This inspired statement teaches that the Messiah did not appear between 1500 B.C. and 600 B.C. because he was still future in the day of Jeremiah.The important fact is also learned that the promise that the Messiah would be heir to David's throne would have to be fulfilled before the royal blood of David was lost by amalgamation with other families and before the genealogies were lost forever. Those genealogies were destroyed forever in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Hence the Messiah would have to appear before that time in order to prove his lineage from David. In the year 70 A,D. a world shaking event took place. The Roman armies of Titus besieged Jerusalem with the loss of great numbers of Jewish lives. The Temple was destroyed, all records went up in smoke, and they were lost beyond recall.
Another Messianic prophecy related to the place of his birth. The city of the Messiah's birth was named seven centuries before it took place. This remarkable fact is recorded in Micah 5:2, “But you Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the
thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he come forth unto me the on to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old from everlasting.” This statement is very specific. He was to be born in Bethlehem Ephratah. There were two Bethlehems, one in Judah and one in Galilee. Bethlehem Ephratah was the city in Judah. The true Messiah could not be born in any city except Bethlehem and could not rise out of any tribe but the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10).
Furthermore, God revealed that the Messiah was to be more than a human being. Isaiah 9:6,7 says, “For unto us a child is born, and unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever.” Two mind-shaking facts are revealed about the Messiah. He was to be born and this means he was to be a human being. However, his name was to be called “The mighty God” and “The everlasting Father”. This simply means that the Messiah was to be both human and divine. His exalted nature would be such that such titles as mighty God and everlasting Father would be applicable to him. Any person who claims to be the Messiah must claim the right to divine titles or be rejected. After stating the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, Micah 5:2 says of him, “Whose goings forth were from of old, from everlasting”. These words could not intelligently apply to a mere human being. The scriptures cannot be broken which says the Messiah was to be a human being but more than a human being.
Another very special pre-announcement pertained to the sufferings of the Messiah. The53rd chapter of the book of Isaiah was written 700 B.C. and contains a short biography of the Messiah of the Jews. It contains at least 25 Prophetical statements about the Messiah, and it is the most comprehensive Messianic prophecy in the Bible. Isaiah 53 says, “Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hash borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions: he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the. rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief: when you shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by this knowledge shall my righteous servant justify mamy; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.” We learn from this passage that the Messiah was to be a man of sorrow and grief and die as a sin offering for the people after which God would raise him from the dead. The person who claims to be the Messiah must fulfill all the details of this chapter.
Still another outstanding prediction about the Messiah is that he was to be a peaceful sovereign. God pre—announced the fact 500 B.C. that the Messiah was not to be a military conqueror but a benevolent and peaceful king. This statement is made in Zechariah 9:9,10, “Rejoice greatly, 0 daughter of Zion; shout, 0 daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your King comes to you. Heis just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding on a donkey, a colt the foal of a donkey. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the. heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.” For 1500 years the kingdom of God on earth had been a civil monarchy, similar to other earthly kingdoms and was limited to the Jewish nation. For ages admission into the family of God had been founded upon natural descent from Abraham through the line of Isaac and Jacob. But Zechariah informs us that the Messiah is to make great changes in the kingdom of God as it existed under the law of Moses. In the Messiah's kingdom men of all nations were to be admitted on the condition of their obedience to God, and his kingdom was to extend from sea to sea and from the river even to the ends of the earth. This means it was no longer to be. limited to the Jewish nation. Moreover, the Messiah was to be no Alexander the Great or a Napoleon Bonaparte. God distinctly informs us that he was not to be a military savior and warlord. He would not win his victories by bloodshed and fighting. We are explicitly told in Zechariah 9:10 that in the days of the Messiah God would cut off horse and battle bow. The horse and bow were implements of warfare, and God said they will not be used by the Messiah. On the contrary God foretold that the Messiah of the Jews will ride into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey. To ride a donkey would be an act of lowliness and would signify that he was not a military conqueror. The predicted king of Zechariah 9:9 was to be a peaceful sovereign and would not enter Jerusalem like an earthly conquerer with a horse and chariot. The donkey was not a symbol of war, and that is why the Messiah was to ride a donkey instead of a horse. No person can be accepted as the Jewish Messiah who does not ride into Jerusalem on a donkey with a message of peace not war. The Messianic kingdom was to be religious and spiritual in nature rather than military and revolutionary.
The final Messianic prophecy to be considered is perhaps the most remarkable of all. God pinpointed in history the very time that the Messiah was to make his appearance. This disclosure was made by God 550 B.C. through Daniel the prophet. It is written in the Book of Daniel 9:24—27, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon your holy city, to finish the transgression , and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” Daniel predicted that the city of Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed (Daniel 9:26). It is a historical fact that this happened in 70 A.D. The people of the prince in Daniel 9:26, who would destroy Jerusalem, was the Roman army under Titus. The same verse states the Messiah will come before that happens. It is an inescapable conclusion that the Messiah would have to appear on earth between 550 B.C. when Daniel spoke this prophecy and 70 A.D. when the city of Jerusalem was destroyed. The prophecy of Daniel covers 70 weeks and begins “from the going forth of the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:25). In this prophecy of Daniel I agree with those Bible scholars who teach a day stands for a year. The 70 weeks therefore refer to 490 years. The count starts in 453 B.C. when Artaxerxes, King of Persia gave the command to rebuild and restore Jerusalem (Ezra 7:13). The 70 weeks are divided into 7 weeks, 62 weeks and 1 week. The seven weeks or 9 years extended from 453 B.C. to 404 B.C. and meant that within 49 years Jerusalem was to be restored, the street rebuilt, and the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt. You can read of the fulfillment of the first seven weeks of Daniel's prophecy in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The 62 weeks added to the seven weeks equal 69 weeks of years. The 69 weeks or 483 years extended from about 453 B.C. to 30 A,D. The prophecy was that within 69 weeks or 483 years the Messiah of the Jews would appear on the earth. The 1 week which was the 70th week, was a seven year period extending from about 30 A.D. to 37 A,D. During this time Daniel 9:27 states that the Messiah would “confirm the covenant with many for one week,” but in the middle of that week the Messiah would cause the Jewish system of sacrifices to cease. The meaning is that the Messiah would come and for three to four years confirm or establish the law of Moses while he lived on the earth. But in the middle of the 70th week or between 30 A.D. and 37 A.D., the Messiah was to die and be cut off (Daniel 9:26). In some way his death was to cause the Jewish system of animal sacrifices to cease (Daniel 9:27). In the same way the Messiah was to make an end of sins and make reconciliation for iniquity (Daniel 9:24).
Now for a closing thought. In view of the numerous Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, has any person appeared in history since the time of Daniel who answers to the description of the Messiah? The answer is yes. One and only one man has appeared who has fulfilled all of the prophecies in the Old Testament. Jesus of Nazareth made the claim, and Bible prophecy is in full agreement with his claim. His name Jesus Christ literally means anointed Saviour. The word Christ comes from the Greek and means Messiah. I affirm that Jesus of Nazerath is the Messiah because he came of the right lineage. His royal lineage through David to Abraham is recorded in the New Testament in the gospel of Luke 3. The first four books of the New Testament constitute a biography of the life of Jesus of Nazareth and contain indisputable evidence that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah of the Jews. Moreover, Jesus came from the kingly tribe of Judah and was born in the city of Bethlehem. Jesus is the true Messiah because he was the suffering servant depicted in the book of Isaiah, chapter 53. No other person has yet appeared on this earth who fits the picture painted by the pen of Isaiah in that marvelous prophecy more than seven centuries before His humble birth. He was the meek and lowly Nazarene, yet at the same time the high and exalted Son of the living God. We also affirm that Jesus is the true Messiah because he came at the right time. He appeared between 453 B.C. and 70 A.D. when Jerusalem was destroyed. This is in accord with Daniel's prophecy as to the time of his coming. Jesus also fulfilled Zechariah's prophecy by teaching peace, brotherhood, and love instead of using the sword to conquer the world. It is reported that Napoleon Bonaparte made this statement about Jesus Christ:
“Everything in him astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and his will confounds me. Between him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. His birth and the history of his life; the profundity of his doctrine, which grapples the mightiest difficulties, and is of those difficulties the most admirable solution; his gospel, his empire, his march across the ages and the realms, everything is to me a prodigy, a mystery unsolvable which plunges me into a reverie from which I cannot escape. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires. But upon what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him. Now that I am at St. Helena; now that I am alone chained upon this rock, who fights and wins empires for me? Who are the courtiers of my misfortune? Who thinks of me? Who makes efforts for me in Europe? Yes, two or three whom your fidelity immortalizes, you share, you console my exile. I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ was not a man.”