I pray all is well. I know that everything seems so out of control right now. Let me encourage you. You are not alone. If you believe in God, you are never alone. Our message today proves this point.
Today we will continue on our journey to Christmas. I call this a journey, though it really is a study of God’s Word. Today we will be looking at some Old Testament scriptures that prophesy the coming of the Messiah.
The difficulty for us, as we read scripture believed to have been recorded 700 years or so before the birth of Christ is this: What did it mean to the original hearers? Then, what can we glean from this scripture for those of us today? Another study note: It’s always important to try to remain true to the original message for the original hearers. We do not want to manipulate the scripture.
The immediate context is this: There is judgment coming to Israel from the Lord. However, God will still rescue his people by sending his Messiah. We’ll see what this means for us today after we have looked at the Word of God.
Today’s passage comes from the book of Isaiah and includes some of my favorite scriptures from Isaiah that deal with the Messiah. Whenever we speak of Jesus at Christmas it is difficult to separate the birth of Jesus from the cross of Jesus. This is rightly so, since Christ’s whole purpose was revealed not in the manger, but by what he did on the cross. These scriptures from Isaiah 53 deal directly with Jesus’ life leading up to and while on the cross.
It is always interesting to note that these words of Isaiah, so precise and accurate in describing Jesus, come approximately 700 years before his birth, and 2700 years before us, give or take a few decades. Isaiah 53:1,
“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
This first verse sets us directly in the usual Old Testament message of the prophets. The prophets’ message is the good news of salvation from the Lord. Also, throughout the history of the Jewish people, they have been saved time and again, by the strong arm of the Lord. Both of these are messages that are consistent with many prophets other than Isaiah.
But now Isaiah’s message takes on a specifically detailed yet different message about the coming Messiah. Isaiah 53:2-3, “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” I am always blown away by how God does things. God never does things the way humans think they should be done. Maybe a better way of saying this is that God does things outside of the box that humanity is always placing him in. The Messiah did not necessarily meet the expectations of the Jews. Jesus was of a humble family with a humble upbringing. He didn’t look like some famous actor, no, he looked like a scraggly dry root without enough water. He was not handsome or powerful looking, in fact, he was worse than that. A person that we would despise and reject, like a drunk on the street or a sick person that we would avoid for fear of catching whatever disease or sickness he has. Jesus knew the pain of everyone around him. He knew their stories, the families, the sin and grief of everyone he came in contact with. Think about this a moment. This scripture tells us that Jesus was so familiar with people’s suffering and sin that it changed his appearance, his countenance. Jesus looked so troubled that we could not look upon him as he carried that cross. Just imagine the agony and the total grief of mankind’s sin on your shoulder. Isaiah 53:4-5, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus would carry the sins of mankind on his shoulders. Every sin, every sorrowful consequence of sin, every bit of grief from the total of humanity would be upon his shoulders. The blood he would shed should have been our blood. But it wasn’t, it was his. He would take our punishment for our sin.
Through this punishment we have peace with God. We can fellowship with a holy God because of Jesus. Do you hear Isaiah? It is by his wounds that we are healed. We are healed by the forgiveness brought to us by Jesus’ work as the Messiah. Isaiah 53:6-7, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to their own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Jesus had the power and glory to resist, but he didn’t, he suffered and died for you and me. Jesus allowed himself to become a victim. Isaiah 53:9, “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death though he had done no violence.” Verse 12 then speaks to us as if God is rewarding his servant Son for his work on the cross. “Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Now I mentioned the cross, but please realize that nowhere does Isaiah mention the cross in this chapter. We just know that now to be the case. Isaiah in verse 12 speaks of Christ dividing the spoils, I am assuming after the victory. The victory is not of just the cross, but of Christ’s return. Revelation 5:4-8, "I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed (How the scraggly root has grown). He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb.”
Oh my, what a sight that will be. That is what we can take away for us today. What is taking place here in Revelation will happen. It’s the rest of the story. In the same way that Isaiah was prophesying to the Israelites, so Revelation is prophesying to us living today. Just as Isaiah’s prophecy came true in regards to Jesus, so too will John’s prophecy regarding Jesus in Revelation come true for all of us. Just as God was with the Jews in Isaiah’s time and in Jesus’ time while on the earth, so too will God be with all of us today and tomorrow. No matter how crazy the world gets, how bad things may seem, God will be with us, now, and far in the future. I love saying this, you cannot make this stuff up. It’s all true and it all will be true. Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee. Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. Blessings, Thad Brown Opportunity House and Harmony UMC