Hi there!! It’s a pleasure to have you here as always. Like we announced at the end of our last post, today we are going to examine what we have dubbed the HOPE OF THE PROPHETS. But I think before we proceed some definitions and clarifications are in order.
When most of us in the 21st century hear the word prophet, in our mind we picture people with supernatural ability to tell us about ourselves and the future. But in the Old Testament, this is not the entire picture. The prophets were God’s spokesmen. They communicated God’s agenda in the now. They voiced out his pleasure and displeasure. They were also covenant enforcers (think spiritual policemen). Their main preoccupation was calling the nation of Israel back to order whenever they broke the terms of the covenant they had with God. For instance the prophet Micah had this to say about himself, “But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.” (Micah 3:8). In this line of duty, the prophets were not limited to Israel alone. For instance a cursory glance through the prophecies of Isaiah shows him prophesying to some of the surrounding nations, calling them out for their sinful acts. Even the prophet Jonah was sent to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, a nation the Israelites considered enemies, to call them to order. Interestingly this heathen city of Nineveh responded better to God than Israel ever did. They repented immediately and got right with God.
But this was not all, in calling the nations to order they would predict future blessings for obedience and faithfulness to God and doom and gloom for disobedience. In their predictions of future blessings, God through them foretold of a time when he would deal with the root of the rebellion problem in humanity once and for all. This ‘salvation’ was going to be carried out by a particular individual who would appear in the future (the future of Israel). Prophecies concerning this coming savior were quite enigmatic. In Isaiah chapter 7 , we are told that he would be born of a virgin and his name would be Emmanuel. Meaning that in his time on earth God would be with us. The prophet Micah states that this savior who would appear in time has always actually existed (amazing right?) and will be born in the lowly town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). The prophet Isaiah once again declares that he will appear in the family line of David and will expand the reach of the kingdom beyond the nation of Israel to the rest of humanity (Isaiah 11:10). The prophet Malachi pictured him rising out of obscurity like the sun, shining forth the light of God’s glory and bringing healing to all men. Malachi also refers to him as both Lord and messenger. As lord he would come and reign over all but as messenger he would come and deliver to us a new covenant (Malachi 4:2, 3:1-3).
The prophet Zechariah envisioned him as the true King of Israel, who would bring salvation to all humanity. He would not clothe himself in pageantry and pomp like the kings of the earth, but would be a humble King who instead of riding in chariots would come riding in on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9) .
These prophecies and many more gave rise to what became known in Israel as the messianic hope. An anointed all conquering King who would bring back the reign of God on the earth. His reign would be a time of unparalleled peace and he would undo the effects of humanity’s rebellion. There’s a poem in one of Isaiah’s recorded prophecies concerning this coming king that best typifies the hope of Israel.
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice;
together they sing for joy;
for eye to eye they see
the return of the LORD to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem,
for the LORD has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The LORD has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
Beautiful and breathtaking right? God himself was coming back to restore the kingdom.
Centuries later, Jesus appears on the scene. He was born of the Virgin Mary in the lowly town of Bethlehem and subsequently raised in the village of Nazareth. At age thirty he slowly rose out of obscurity, going around preaching the return of God’s kingdom, healing the sick and casting out demons from people. He was the embodiment of what the prophets foretold. He spoke and taught his followers with power and authority that even the religious authorities were astonished at his in-depth knowledge of their scriptures. But in the most shocking turn of events, instead of recognizing him as the true King of Israel who was ushering in the long awaited reign of God, the religious leaders rebelled. They connived and put him to death on the cross. This is what the apostle John meant when he said; “He came to his own but his own received him not”.
Unknown to them in putting Jesus to death on the cross they were fulfilling God’s plan of bringing salvation to all. God took the evil in the hearts of all humanity and worked with it in Jesus Christ to bring about humanity’s greatest good; eternal salvation. There’s a section of a poem in Isaiah’s prophecies that spell it out beautifully.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
In his death he bore the sins of humanity and by his knowledge many are brought back into proper relationship with God and the kingdom.
Today Jesus still stands before you as the culmination and fulfillment of the prophetic hope. He has ushered in God’s kingdom in his coming, death and resurrection. Today he extends an invitation to you. His arms are stretched out to you. What is your response to this great invitation?
P.S: Isn’t it quite amazing that the nation of Israel missed out on the one thing they had been looking out for centuries? In our next post we’re going to explore why the family of David was important in the story of Jesus and also explore why most of the Jews missed out on Jesus. Until then God bless and keep telling your friends about the Good news.