The Scenes of Life — Lesson 5
The Messiah Identified
In our last lesson we took note that the Old Testament prophets speak of Messiah as being from of old from everlasting, and also that in speaking of Him they use names and appellatives indicative of divinity, names such as Elgebor, Adonoi Tzdkenu, and Immanuel.
The Human Aspect
Now strange as it might seem, in these selfsame Scripture passages the prophets speak of Messiah as born into the human race. Turn to these passages in your Bible again, and you will note that the Elgebor of Isaiah 9:6 is born as a child; the Adonoi Tzdkenu of Jeremiah 23:6 is raised up unto David; and the Immanuel of Isaiah 7:14 is born of a virgin.
Of course, we have not the capacity to understand how the antemundane Messiah could become embodied in human form, but inasmuch as we believe that all the words of Moses and the prophets are true, we believe this to be true also. In this we need to have the same faith Abraham exercised when he accepted as true things that were inconceivable to him. For instance, when Abraham was 75 years old, and yet childless, he took God at his word that he would become a great nation (Genesis 12:1-4), and when he was 100 years old, and Sarah 90 — long past the time of child-bearing — he accepted the promise that Sara would bear him a son (Genesis 17:15-19). We know this because the Bible tells us that Abraham believed God, and He counted it to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6).
However, the Bible throws more light on the how of Messiah's birth into the human race than some suppose. Of the Old testament passages cited, Isaiah 7:14 speaks the most clearly, and from it we take our clue. Read this passage again. "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and thou shall call his name Immanuel."
It is worthy of note here that when in due time the heaven sent message respecting the conception of this son was given, it was comparable to that once given Abraham respecting the conception of Isaac. Both concern a matter fathomless to the mind. The message respecting the conception of Isaac involved the impregnation of a woman who had long passed the time of childbearing, while the message respecting the conception of this promised son involved the impregnation of a virgin without coition. In the first instance Abraham said in his heart, "Shall a child be born to him that is a an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old bear?" (Genesis 17:17). In the second instance the mother-to-be asked, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 1:37). An account of the latter is given in the New Testament part of the Bible. Here it is:
"and in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:26-35).
So, how was the conception and birth of Messiah in human form to be effected? Was it not by the working of the Holy Spirit, and the overshadowing power of the Highest — the selfsame Spirit and the selfsame power which wrought creatively at the beginning of days.
Could It Be Otherwise?
Here we must take note that the virgin birth of Messiah was not an incidental matter that could just as well have been otherwise. It was essential to the intrinsic nature of His being as the Immanuel, the God with us, the embodiment of God's presence at His coming. No mere man could ever rise to the status which the Bible ascribes to Messiah.
An Identifying Factor
Significant also is the fact that in the Hebrew text the term "virgin" is preceded by a definite article. This is generally lost sight of in the translations, and with it much else is lost. The Hebrew text reads ha-almah; that is, "the virgin." This is indicative of a particularly designated virgin, one recognizable somewhere in the line of Bible prophecy. And where is this observable except in Genesis 3:15? This reads, "and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."
That Genesis 3:15 relates to Isaiah 7:14 is not immediately apparent, of course. What is immediately obvious, however, is that the serpent of Genesis 3:15 was but a tool in the hands of Satan, the real tempter. But does it then not follow that the judgment this verse speaks of also was not really directed at the serpent, but at Satan and his seed? It is he and his cohorts that meet their doom at the hand of the woman's seed.
But then we ask what or who is indicated by the woman's seed? The children born to Adam and Eve? Their children's offspring? Of course, we are all involved in this enmity against Satan. The New Testament states our case well in these words: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12). But who is he that heads up the fray against Satan, and who is he that gives this archenemy of many a death blow? Is it not the "woman's seed" of Genesis 3:15, the virgin's son of Isaiah 7:14?
The Connotation Of Almah
There are those who hold that "virgin" is a mistranslation of the Hebrew term almah in Isaiah 7:14, and contend that this word means no more than a young woman of age to be a mother, whether she is married or not. One may well ask, "how right is this contention?" Observe that in the etymology of the term almah there lies the idea of remaining covered — and who, in the light of Moses and the prophets, is a virgin but she whose nakedness has not been uncovered in the Scriptural sense of the word? Respecting this the 18th chapter of Leviticus (Vayikra) is enlightening. This chapter deals with the matter very clearly, and one reading it perceives at once of what it speaks respecting virginity. This Hebrew term then reflects the intended status of the virgin of Isaiah 7:14. While it is true that in speaking of virgins and virginity bethulah occurs more often in the Hebrew text than almah, a study of the basic forms of these terms should suffice to show that the term almah expresses virginity the more clearly of the two.
A Telling Sign
There are also those who hold that the promise concerning the birth of a child at some unknown future, however great a personage this might presage, could not have served Ahaz, king of Judah, as a sign of deliverance from what to him appeared the imminent fall of his kingdom. However, those who hold to this fail to give due consideration to the context in which the statement has its setting.
Pekah, king of the ten tribes of Israel (by this time called the kingdom of Israel), had allied himself with Rezin king of Syria to make war against Ahaz, and set up over Judah a king of their choosing. Upon this the prophet Isaiah was sent to Ahaz to assure him that the evil plottings of these kings would not stand, and to tell him not to be afraid, but believing. To further assure him, Ahaz was told that God would give him a sign for the asking, and upon his refusal to accept this favor the prophet vouchsafed a very meaningful sign, which concerned the event of the coming Messiah and the assurance that Judah's tribal status would abide His day.
Turning now to Genesis chapter 49, we see what the grounds for this assurance were. The first verse of this chapter tells us that Jacob called his sons together that he might tell them what would befall them in the last days. Then in verse 10 we come upon this early Messianic prophecy, "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be." Now there have been those who have sought to reason away the Messianic import of these words, suggesting that Jacob wanted to tell his sons when Messiah would come, but that God deflected his speech because he would not let Jacob do so. But, is this the answer? If not of Messiah, then of whom was Jacob speaking when he said, "and unto him shall the gathering of the people be"? In this early Messianic prophecy then lies the ground for the assurance given Ahaz that the evil plottings against the kingdom of Judah would not stand. Thus Ahaz needed have no fear if he had but believed.
Genesis 49:10 also indicates that there was a set time in God's program of events for the coming of Messiah, and turning now to the prophecy of Daniel, the ninth chapter, we find this time quite clearly indicated. Read the whole chapter carefully, taking special note of verses 20 through 26.
Daniel received this prophecy while he was pondering the duration of the Babylonian captivity and praying that the sins which led to this captivity be forgiven the people. Hereupon Daniel was told that seventy weeks were determined upon his people, and that of these seventy weeks, seven weeks and threescore and two weeks would expire between the giving of the command to rebuild Jerusalem and the event of Messiah.
At a first reading it is not very clear what this may mean. That the weeks are not weeks of seven days is at once apparent. What unit of measure then might be indicated? In the Old Testament there are weeks of seven days, weeks of seven years, and weeks of seven times seven years. (For the latter see Leviticus 25:4,8) Other helpful references are: Nehemiah 2:1-8, Daniel 9:2, Jeremiah 25:11, and 29:10, 2 Chronicles 36:20-21, Leviticus 25:4, and 26:32-35. These passages must be read to get the full setting of Daniel's predictions.
The Nehemiah passage tells us that the command to restore Jerusalem was given by Artaxerxes in the 20th year of his reign. Although there is not full agreement as to what year is indicated, the difference between authorities is only nine years, some giving it as 445 B.C. and others as 454 B.C. Either serves our purpose.
The Jeremiah and Daniel passages give the duration of the Babylonian captivity. God had commanded Israel that the land be given a sabbath (rest) year every seventh year, and the fact that this had not been observed caused the captivity. Then the Chronicles passage tells us that the duration of this captivity was determined by the number of seven year weeks that had passed without giving the land her sabbath years of rest, which number was ten. All of which tells us that Daniel's weeks were not weeks of seven days but weeks of seven years.
Now from the time that Artaxerxes gave the command to rebuild Jerusalem to the time that Messiah would be cut off (put to death) is given as 7 weeks & 60 weeks & 2 weeks: that is 69 seven-year periods or 483 years. Add 483 years to 445 B.C. and we come to A.D. 29. This , we note, corresponds very nearly to the time that He of whom Moses and the prophets did speak was put to death by crucifixion, namely Jesus. According to the generally accepted chronology, Jesus' life was cut off by crucifixion in A.D. 30
The last paragraph, we note, projects the New Testament fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, which will be the subject of the following lesson.
Although the embodiment of Messiah in human form is shrouded in mystery, the Scripture portions which we have discussed in this lesson leave no doubt as to how this was to be effected, why it was to be effected, and the approximate time when it was to come to pass.
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