CHAPTER VIIMESSIAH'S COMING TO EARTH
THE nations of antiquity looked backward to a golden era which they claimed was in the past. In violent contrast to them, the Hebrew nation has through the ages looked forward to its golden age which is commonly and Scripturally called "the Messianic Age," or the era during which Israel's Messiah shall reign.I. MESSIAH IN THE TORAH
The first clear and definite prediction of the Messiah appears in Gen. 49:10: לֹא־יָסוּר שֵׁבֶט מִיהוּדָה וּמְחֹקֵק מִבֵּין רַגְלָיו עַד כִּי־יָבֹא שִׁילֹה וְלוֹ יִקְּהַת עַמִּים׃ "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh come; And unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be." The official interpretation of the ancient synagogue on this passage is that it looks forward to the coming of the Messiah Who is called "Shiloh" here. That this position is correct is seen from the fact that "Unto him shall the obedience of the nations be." This last statement viewed in the light of others which enter more into detail is seen to be a definite prediction of the Messiah Who shall rule all nations.
In the prophecies of Balaam recorded in Num. 23:19-24; 24:4-9, 16-24 appear some wonderful predictions concerning the Hebrew Messiah. At the solicitation of Balak, king of Moab, Balaam insisted upon the Lord's permitting him to respond to the call of Balak. Though God permitted him to go, He limited him in the predictions he made. His first oracle (chapter 23:7-10) pronounced a blessing upon Israel.
At the instance of Balak a second altar was built at another place on which sacrifices were offered. From this position Balaam issued his second prediction. In verse 19 of this chapter the prophet declared that God would neither lie nor change His plan and purpose but on the other hand would perform what He had said. Therefore declared the prophet, "Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and He hath blessed, and I cannot reverse it." Continuing this prediction he said, "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob; Neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, And the shout of a king is among them." It is clear from the historical record and from the context of this verse that the prophet was not speaking of a condition which then existed but had his face toward the future and spoke of a time when the children of Israel shall be free from iniquity and perverseness, at which time the Lord God will be with him, i.e., with Israel. Since the lines, "The Lord his God is with him, And the shout of a king is among them," constitute a "Hebrew parallelism," it is quite clear that God is in the midst of Israel, according to this prediction, in the capacity of its king. Furthermore, it is clear from this passage that the presence of God as king in Israel is the efficient cause which has removed iniquity and perverseness from the nation. A glance at Jewish history shows that there has always been and is at the present time the presence of iniquity and sin within the nation; but when this prophecy is fulfilled she will have been purged from every taint of unrighteousness. These facts prove conclusively that in these lines the prophet is not speaking of God's dwelling either in the tabernacle or the temple in the form of the Shekinah glory but is there in person as Israel's king.
When Balak saw that Balaam pronounced a blessing instead of a curse upon Israel he changed his position again and requested that Balaam from this third position should pronounce a curse upon the chosen people. In this oracle instead of cursing he blessed the nation and spoke of the glory of its king and the extent of his kingdom. "Water shall flow from his buckets, And his seed shall be in many waters, And his king shall be higher than Agag, And his kingdom shall be exalted" (24:7). Agag was king of the Amorites, one of the most powerful tribes inhabiting Canaan at that time. Men think by comparisons; hence God in order to convey to Balak's mind the power and greatness of Israel's future king stated that he would be higher than Agag and that his kingdom should be exalted. History states with no uncertain sound that this prediction has never as yet been fulfilled. [David and Solomon did not fulfill it.] This verse viewed in the light of verse 21 of the twenty-third chapter, is seen to refer to God when He shall appear in Zion as Israel's king.
Having been disappointed in the three oracles uttered by the prophet, which God required him to speak contrary to his desires, Balak erected a fourth altar, hoping in vain that as a last attempt he would obtain his desire. By the Spirit of God Balaam spoke again, in which oracle he declared: אֶרְאֶנּוּ וְלֹא עַתָּה אֲשׁוּרֶנּוּ וְלֹא קָרוֹב דָּרַךְ כּוֹכָב מִיַּעֲקֹב וְקָם שֵׁבֶט מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל וּמָחַץ פַּאֲתֵי מוֹאָב וְקַרְקַר כָּל־בְּנֵי־שֵׁת׃ וְהָיָה אֱדוֹם יְרֵשָׁה וְהָיָה יְרֵשָׁה שֵׂעִיר אֹיְבָיו וְיִשְׂרָאֵל עֹשֶׂה חָיִל׃ וְיֵרְדְּ מִיַּעֲקֹב וְהֶאֱבִיד שָׂרִיד מֵעִיר׃ "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: There shall come forth a star out of Jacob, And a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, And shall smite through the corners of Moab, And break down all the sons of tumult. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession, who were his enemies; While Israel doeth valiantly. And out of Jacob shall one have dominion, And shall destroy the remnant from the city" (Num. 24:17-19). A careful examination of these verses shows that the one whom the prophet saw in the distance (in point of time) is the one who comes out of Jacob to have dominion, and who conquers the surrounding nations as is stated in the prophecy. This prediction in the light of Psa. 46 is seen to teach that this king who conquers these nations and who reigns in Jacob is none other than the one of whom the Psalmist spoke in the following words: אֱלֹהִים בְּקִרְבָּהּ בַּל־תִּמּוֹט יַעְזְרֶהָ אֱלֹהִים לִפְנוֹת בֹּקֶר׃ הָמוּ גוֹיִם מָטוּ מַמְלָכוֹת נָתַן בְּקוֹלוֹ תָּמוּג אָרֶץ׃ יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת עִמָּנוּ מִשְׂגָּב לָנוּ אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב סֶלָה׃ "God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God will help her, and that right early. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge" (Psa. 46:5-7, 6-8).
A third passage in the Torah which undoubtedly is a reference to King Messiah is Deut. 18:15-19:
נָבִיא מִקִּרְבְּךָ מֵאַחֶיךָ כָּמֹנִי יָקִים לְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֵלָיו תִּשְׁמָעוּן׃ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר־שָׁאַלְתָּ מֵעִם יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּחֹרֵב בְּיוֹם הַקָּהָל לֵאמֹר לֹא אֹסֵף לִשְׁמֹעַ אֶת־קוֹל יְהוָה אֱלֹהָי וְאֶת־הָאֵשׁ הַגְּדֹלָה הַזֹּאת לֹא־אֶרְאֶה עוֹד וְלֹא אָמוּת׃ וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֵלָי הֵיטִיבוּ אֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּרוּ׃ נָבִיא אָקִים לָהֶם מִקֶּרֶב אֲחֵיהֶם כָּמוֹךָ וְנָתַתִּי דְבָרַי בְּפִיו וְדִבֶּר אֲלֵיהֶם אֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוֶּנּוּ׃ וְהָיָה הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יִשְׁמַע אֶל־דְּבָרַי אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר בִּשְׁמִי אָנֹכִי אֶדְרֹשׁ מֵעִמּוֹ׃ "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the Lord said unto me, They have well said that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I 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." In this prediction Moses promises Israel a prophet who is to be like himself and who is to be a Hebrew. A study of the life of Moses will give the picture, though limited and more or less indistinct, of this future prophet.
A. Moses was born during the time when Israel was severely oppressed by Gentile power.
B. Notwithstanding the miserable bondage into which he was born, by the providence of God he was given every advantage and opportunity which wealth and power could afford, being reared and educated at the court of the Pharaoh of Egypt. Having been adopted as the son of Pharaoh's daughter he possibly was an heir to the throne.
C. Though highly educated he was very meek and humble. His heart was overflowing with love for his brethren who were suffering such abject poverty and cruel bondage.
D. Upon visiting them in their sufferings be attempted to adjust a difference between one of his kinsmen and an Egyptian. Thus he attempted to be a peacemaker. On the following day he attempted to reconcile two of his brethren who were quarreling. The one who was in the wrong reprimanded Moses, calling his attention to the fact that the latter had killed an Egyptian on the previous day. Whereupon Moses left the country and did not reappear until God sent him back.
E. During this time there seems to have been no communication between Moses and his brethren for then he was in obscurity.
F. Upon his return he presented himself to his brethren, proving his call and commission from God by performing miracles.
G. After bringing ten plagues upon Egypt he delivered the downtrodden race from the cruel bondage.
H. When they were delivered from the servitude, he gave a law to them, which gives every evidence that it is the law of God.
I. He led the nation serving in the capacity of judge and prince. A disregard for his commandments and laws was punished by the Lord himself.
The points noted above are some of the outstanding characteristics and events in the life of Moses. It is quite certain that they are typical and foreshadow that One concerning whose coming he spoke, though Moses and his life typified him only in a most imperfect and limited manner.
Whenever God raises up the prophet who is the subject of this prediction everyone who does not accept his sovereignty and obey the words of God which he speaks, God requires it of him, i.e., God metes out to each disobedient one the punishment which his sin merits. In view of this solemn warning it behooves each Hebrew, firstly, to be honest with himself, and, secondly, to be honest with his God, and to search the history of the Hebrew nation from the times of Moses until the present day to find out whether God has raised up this prophet. If God has already raised him up, the only reasonable thing for every Hebrew to do is to render absolute loyalty of heart to him and strict obedience regardless of circumstances or consequences. If He has not raised him up yet, he should keep his eyes, ears, and heart open watching and waiting for him. Such an attitude of heart and soul God honors by granting to one the true knowledge. Prov. 2:1-5: בְּנִי אִם־תִּקַּח אֲמָרָי וּמִצְוֹתַי תִּצְפֹּן אִתָּךְ׃ לְהַקְשִׁיב לַחָכְמָה אָזְנֶךָ תַּטֶּה לִבְּךָ לַתְּבוּנָה׃ כִּי אִם לַבִּינָה תִקְרָא לַתְּבוּנָה תִּתֵּן קוֹלֶךָ׃ אִם־תְּבַקְשֶׁנָּה כַכָּסֶף וְכַמַּטְמוֹנִים תַּחְפְּשֶׂנָּה׃ אָז תָּבִין יִרְאַת יְהוָה וְדַעַת אֱלֹהִים תִּמְצָא׃ "My son, if thou wilt receive my words, And lay up my commandments with thee; So as to incline thine ear unto wisdom, And apply thy heart to understanding; Yea, if thou cry after discernment, And lift up thy voice for understanding; If thou seek her as silver, And search for her as for hid treasures: Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God."
From the quotations studied above it is quite clear that God's first and holiest plan for Israel was that He should be her King, and that some time in the future He would come in person, assuming the form of a man, a prophet like unto Moses (humanly speaking) and reign over the nation. But when men will not accept God's first and best gifts and plans, He gives them a secondary or subordinate one. Such was the case with reference to Israel in her clamoring for a king in order that she might be like other nations. Anticipating such a rebellion against God, Moses (Deut. 17:14-20) gave instruction as to their selection of a king.
II. MESSIAH IN THE FORMER PROPHETS
The occasion soon arose in the closing days of Samuel's life. Israel, being disgusted with the maladministration of affairs by Samuel's sons, insisted that a king be given her. Samuel protested, pointing out the sinfulness of the course which she was pursuing. Notwithstanding his warnings, the people demanded a king. Saul was selected and anointed and became "the anointed of the Lord" (I Sam. 26:9, 23). His personal appearance inspired great confidence and hopes in the minds of the people. It seems that they associated the great Messianic expectation with him and his kingship; but these expectations were soon blasted by Saul's disobedience.
In rejecting Saul the Lord said: "The Lord has sought Him a man after His own heart ... hath appointed him to be prince over his people." Shortly after this Samuel anointed David who became the Lord's anointed or messiah. David began his reign well, which fact inspired the nation with enthusiastic expectation of the realization of the Messianic hope. But his great sin soon extinguished these radiant hopes. In the words of Delitzsch one may say, "We can also explain why it is that the victory gained over Ammon and the image of the Messiah have thus for David detached themselves from his person. In the midst of that war occurred the sin of David, which embittered the whole of his after-life and which laid his typical glory in ashes. Out of these ashes the phoenix of Messianic prophecy here arises. The type, come to the consciousness of himself, here lays down his crown at the feet of the Antitype." David in his swan song (II Sam. 23:1-7) admits his failure and points to another in the future: וְאֵלֶּה דִּבְרֵי דָוִד הָאַחֲרֹנִים נְאֻם דָּוִד בֶּן־יִשַׁי וּנְאֻם הַגֶּבֶר הֻקַם עָל מְשִׁיחַ אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב וּנְעִים זְמִרוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל׃ רוּחַ יְהוָה דִּבֶּר־בִּי וּמִלָּתוֹ עַל־לְשׁוֹנִי׃ אָמַר אֱלֹהֵ ייִשְׂרָאֵל לִי דִבֶּר צוּר ייִשְׂרָאֵל מוֹשֵׁל בָּאָדָם צַדִּיק מוֹשֵׁל יִרְאַת אֱלֹהִים׃ וּכְאוֹר בֹּקֶר יִזְרַח־שָׁמֶשׁ בֹּקֶר לֹא עָבוֹת מִנֹּגַהּ מִמָּטָר דֶּשֶׁא מֵאָרֶץ׃ כִּי־לֹא־כֵן בֵּיתִי עִם־אֵל כִּי בְרִית עוֹלָם שָׂם לִי עֲרוּכָה בַכֹּל וּשְׁמֻרָה כִּי־כָל־יִשְׁעִי וְכָל־חֵפֶץ כִּי־לֹא יַצְמִיחַ׃ וּבְלִיַּעַל כְּקוֹץ מֻנָד כֻּלָּהַם כִּי־לֹא בְיָד יִקָּחוּ׃ וְאִישׁ יִגַּע בָּהֶם יִמָּלֵא בַרְזֶל וְעֵץ חֲנִית וּבָאֵשׁ שָׂרוֹף יִשָּׂרְפוּ בַּשָּׁבֶת׃ "Now these are the last words of David. David the son of Jesse saith, And the man who was raised on high saith, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel: The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, And his word was upon my tongue. The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spake to me: One that ruleth over men righteously, That ruleth in the fear of God, He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, A morning without clouds. When the tender grass springeth out of the earth, Through clear shining after rain. Verily my house is not so with God; Yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, Ordered in all things, and sure: For it is all my salvation, and all my desire, Although he maketh it not to grow. But the ungodly shall be all of them as thorns to be thrust away. Because they cannot be taken with the hand; But the man that toucheth them Must be armed with iron and the staff of a spear: And they shall be utterly burned with fire in their place." He in vision saw Him who will come and who will rule over man righteously and in the fear of God. The beginning of his reign is compared to the dawn of a perfect day, a day without clouds when the tender grass shoots forth after genial showers. Being lashed by an outraged conscience, because of his sins and failures, he frankly confesses that his house "is not so with God," i.e., he has not realized his hopes nor has his reign met the expectations which its beginning inspired in the hearts of the people. Following this confession, with an unswerving faith he predicts the fulfillment of the Messianic hope in the future because "He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure." With a smiting conscience he realizes his dismal failure in bringing to fruition the expectations which his coronation promised, and looks forward for consolation to the perfect day of the Messiah "for it is all my salvation, and all my desire." "Although he maketh it not to grow" then, his strong faith in God and His faithfulness caused him to see its fulfillment in the distant future.
Solomon likewise is called "the Lord's anointed," a messiah (II Chron. 6:42). In many respects his reign surpassed that of David but in no sense can it be said that it, even in a remote way, approximated the Messianic ideal. The brilliancy and outward splendor of the first part of his reign were overshadowed by the dark clouds of discontent, the evils which crept in with the introduction of idolatrous worship, and the poverty with its attendant evils caused by the burdensome taxation. "But the end of his reign was not equal to its beginning and the middle, the fair, the glorious, the pure image of the Messiah which he represented, became pale and with its waning, the development of the history of redemption took a new turn. In the time of David and of Solomon the hope of the faithful, which attached itself to the kingship of David, had not entirely broken with the present. At that time they knew, as a general rule, of no other Messiah save the anointed of God who is either David or Solomon himself."
After Solomon's day the kings of Judah are no longer called "the anointed of the Lord," for, doubtless, the blemishes and imperfections of the reigns of David and of Solomon had caused the people to divorce the idea of the Messiah and His glorious reign from the Davidic house. It is probable, however, that the suggestion of Delitzsch is correct, namely, that when such a king as Hezekiah mounted the throne, the Messianic hope settled down temporarily around his personality: but the nation was soon disillusioned by the inroads and aggressions of the mighty Assyrian empire and of the failures of the king. From his day on, it is quite certain that the Messianic hope, like the Shekinah glory which departed from the temple, was thoroughly detached from the fleshly descendants of David. Isaiah, the latter part of whose ministry fell during the reign of Hezekiah, in most glowing terms pictures the glory of the Messiah's person and of his reign. With the failures and shortcomings of the house of David serving as a background, he presented Israel's future Messiah, according to the original representation in the Torah (Num. 23:21), as God manifest, in the flesh, Isa. 9:6,7 (5,6). כִּי־יֶלֶד יֻלַּד־לָנוּ בֵּן נִתַּן־לָנוּ וַתְּהִי הַמִּשְׂרָה עַל־שִׁכְמוֹ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ פֶּלֶא יוֹעֵץ אֵל גִּבּוֹר אֲבִי־עַד שַׂר־שָׁלוֹם׃ לְםַרְבֵּה הַמִּשְׂרָה וּלְשָׁלוֹם אֵין־קֵץ עַל־כִּסֵּא דָוִד וְעַל־מַמְלַכְתּוֹ לְהָכִין אֹתָה וּלְסַעֲדָהּ בְּמִשְׁפָּט וּבִצְדָקָה מֵעַתָּה וְעַד־עוֹלָם קִנְאַת יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת תַּעֲשֶׂה־זֹּאת׃ "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called 'Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."
As words are spelled with letters, thus God using the various kings of Judah, though imperfect and marred their characters, as His typical alphabet wrote upon the pages of the past clear and definite messages concerning the future Messiah and His glorious kingdom.
III. MESSIAH IN THE LATER PROPHETS
שִׁמְעוּ אִיִּים אֵלַי וְהַקְשִׁיבוּ לְאֻמִּים מֵרָחוֹק יְהוָה מִבֶּטֶן קְרָאָנִי מִמְּעֵי אִמִּי הִזְכִּיר שְׁמִי׃ וַיָּשֶׂם פִּי כְּחֶרֶב חַדָּה בְּצֵל יָדוֹ הֶחְבִּיאָנִי וַיְשִׂימֵנִי לְחֵץ בָּרוּר בְּאַשְׁפָּתוֹ הִסְתִּירָנִי׃ וַיֹּאמֶר לִי עַבְדִּי־אָתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר בְּךָ אֶתְפָּאָר׃ וַאֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי לְרִיק יָגַעְתִּי לְתֹהוּ וְהֶבֶל כֹּחִי כִלֵּיתִי אָכֵן מִשְׁפָּטִי אֶת־יְהוָה וּפְעֻלָּתִי אֶת־אֱלֹהָי׃ וְעַתָּה אָמַר יְהוָה יוֹצְרִי מִבֶּטֶן לְעֶבֶד לוֹ לְשׁוֹבֵב יַעֲקֹב אֵלָיו וְיִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא יֵאָסֵף וְאֶכָּבֵד בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה וֵאלֹהַי הָיָה עֻזִּי׃ וַיֹּאמֶר נָקֵל מִהְיוֹתְךָ לִי עֶבֶד לְהָקִים אֶת־שִׁבְטֵי יַעֲקֹב וּנְציּרֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהָשִׁיב וּנְתַתִּיךָ לְאוֹר גּוֹיִם לִהְיוֹת יְשׁוּעָתִי עַד־קְצֵה הָאָרֶץ׃ כֹּה אָמַר־יְהוָה גֹּאֵל יִשְׂרָאֵל קְדוֹשׁוֹ לִבְזֹה־נֶפֶשׁ לִמְתָעֵב גּוֹי לְעֶבֶד מֹשְׁלִים מְלָכִים יִרְאוּ וָקָמוּ שָׂרִים וְיִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לְמַעַן יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר נֶאֱמָן קְדֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיִּבְחָרֶךָּ׃ כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה בְּעֵת רָצוֹן עֲנִיתִיךָ וּבְיוֹם יְשׁוּעָה עֲזַרְתִּיךָ וְאֶצָּרְךָ וְאֶתֶּנְךָ לִבְרִית עָם לְהָקִים אֶרֶץ לְהַנְחִיל נְחָלוֹת שֹׁמֵמוֹת׃ לֵאמֹר לַאֲסוּרִים צֵאוּ לַאֲשֶׁר בַּחֹשֶׁךְ הִגָּלוּ עַל־דְּרָכִים יִרְעוּ וּבְכָל־שְׁפָיִים מַרְעִיתָם׃ לֹא יִרְעָבוּ וְלֹא יִצְמָאוּ וְלֹא־יַכֵּם שָׁרָב וָשָׁמֶשׁ כִּי־מְרַחֲמָם יְנַהֲגֵם וְעַל־מַבּוּעֵי מַיִם יְנַהֲלֵם׃ וְשַׂמְתִּי כָל־הָרַי לַדָּרֶךְ וּמְסִלֹּתַי יְרֻמוּן׃ הִנֵּה אֵלֶּה מֵרָחוֹק יָבֹאוּ וְהִנֵּה־אֵלֶּה מִצָּפוֹן וּמִיָּם וְאֵלֶּה מֵאֶרֶץ סִינִים׃ רָנּוּ שָׁמַיִם וְגִילִי אָרֶץ יּפִצְחוּ הָרִים רִנָּה כִּי־נִחַם יְהוָה עַמּוֹ וַעֲנִיָּיו יְרַחֵם׃ "Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye peoples, from far: the Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name: and he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me: and he hath made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he kept me close: and he said unto me, Thou art my servant; Israel, in whom I will be glorified. But I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and vanity; yet surely the justice due to me is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God. And now saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, and that Israel be gathered unto him (for I am honorable in the eyes of the Lord, and my God is become my strength); yea, he saith, It is too light a thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of he earth. Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers: Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall worship; because of the Lord that is faithful, even the Holy One of Israel, who hath chosen thee. Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I answered thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to raise up the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages; saying to them that are bound, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and on all bare heights shall be their pasture. They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them will lead them, even by springs of water will he guide them. And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. Lo, these shall come from far; and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim. Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have compassion upon his afflicted." He who is called "son of David" in the book of Immanuel (Isa. 7-12) is in the latter part of Isaiah called "the servant of the Lord." A comparison of the "Servant" passages with the "Son of David" passages in the book of Immanuel proves beyond the shadow of a doubt the truthfulness of this position. Therefore it is of the Messiah¹ that the prophet speaks in the passage quoted above.
In verse 1 the personal individualistic note is so very clear that it is evident that the servant is an individual. "When the expression is applied in the fullest extent of its meaning, 'the servant of the Lord' signifies all Israel; when it is confined to its inner and narrower sense it signifies the true people of the Lord who are included in the entire nation, like the kernel within the husk (see the definition of this in Isa. 51:7; 65:10; Psa. 24:6; 73:15); here, however, the idea is restricted to its central thought and the idea becomes the ideal representation of an individual."²
Therefore this verse speaks of Messiah's birth.
In Isa. 49:2, the prophet speaking for Messiah, uses two metaphors: first, he compares Messiah's tongue to a sharp sword which the Lord has hid in the shadow of his hand. The aptness of this figure is seen in the facts that in carnal war men are killed with swords, and that when God speaks the death sentence against anyone he is slain (see Psa. 33:9 which states that when God speaks, the decree is fulfilled). Secondly, he compares Messiah to a polished arrow which He has hid in His quiver and which He at the proper time will place upon the bow string and shoot at His enemies. The predictions stripped of the figurative language and stated in plain words mean that Messiah is absent from the world, but that at the proper time God will send him to execute judgment upon the ungodly. That this interpretation is correct is seen from the fact that God speaks of Himself as a warrior who is armed with sword, bow, and arrow. Since the sword is hid in the warrior's hand in the first figure, and the arrow in His quiver in the second, these figures prove that the servant is present with God; hence is absent from the world.
It is evident that the first verse of Isa. 49 which speaks of the birth of the servant refers to Messiah's advent into the world whereas the second verse which compares him with the weapons of war in the hands of God, the warrior, refers to his being in heaven with God and his coming in vengeance to execute judgment upon a God-defying world. Hence the two verses are speaking of two different comings of the Messiah.³ The first coming is when he enters the world through Virgin Birth; the second, when He returns from Heaven to execute the wrath of God upon the world in such a way that God will be glorified.
In the first half of verse 4 the Servant looking back over His labors when they are completed declares: "I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and vanity." Humanly speaking then, at the time of his giving utterance to these sentiments it appears as if no results follow from his labors. This conclusion is confirmed by the latter half of the verse which is introduced adversatively, and which shows that the complaint is but a human estimate; "Surely (lit. nevertheless) the justice due to me is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God." He expresses the conviction that, notwithstanding the seeming failure of the work, there are results from his labors, vindication of himself from the Lord, and a recompense for him which consists, as is seen from other passages, of satisfaction and joy in the triumph of his redemptive work.
With verse 5 there seems to be a new turn, as it were, in the career of the Messiah. Since his labor among his own people, as is expressed in the first part of verse 4, appears to be a failure, now the Lord lays before him a two-fold plan: (1) to bring Jacob again unto Himself (this statement presupposes that Jacob has departed from God), and to regather Israel back to the homeland; (2) to become "a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth." Upon his first appearance in Israel his labors bring little results; when he reappears as the "sword" of God and the "polished shaft" or "arrow" he restores Israel to God and becomes God's salvation to all nations, which fact will be the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:3).
In verse 7 the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, in speaking to "him whom man despises, to him whom the nation (Israel) abhorreth, to a servant of rulers" who is Israel's Messiah, says: "Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall worship; because of the Lord that is faithful, even the Holy One of Israel, who hath chosen thee." The words "whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth" throw a luminous light upon the prophecy in verse 4 which foretells the seeming failure of the work of the Messiah. When he appears to Israel the first time the nation despises and abhors him. He then withdraws from the scene and God hides him in His quiver; when the time is ripe for judgment upon Israel and the world he appears in his power and glory. Then "Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall worship." The nation will then see its mistake and will accept his sovereignty and Messiahship. So will the kings of the world.
According to verse 8 God makes this same Messiah whom the nation despised and abhorred "a covenant of the people (Israel)", i.e., "the personal bond of connection uniting Israel and their God in a new fellowship." In 42:6 this same prophet emphasizes the same thought and in verse 4 he gives additional information which is: "He (the Servant of the Lord, the Messiah) will not fail nor be discouraged until he have set justice in the earth and the isles shall wait for his law." It is very clear from this statement that this Servant is a prophet who delivers a law to Israel and acts as a mediator between her and God, as did Moses at Sinai, in bringing Israel into the bonds of an everlasting covenant of which different prophets spoke. The fact that this Servant of the Lord delivers a law for which the isles (nations of the world) wait, and mediates an everlasting covenant between God and Israel, unmistakably identifies this Servant Prophet as The Prophet whom Moses promised in the Torah. This conclusion is confirmed by the promise found in Isa. 55:3,4: הַטּוּ אָזְנְכֶם וּלְכוּ אֵלַי שִׁמְעוּ וּתְחִי נַפְשְׁכֶם וְאֶכְרְתָה לָכֶם בְּרִית עוֹלָם חַסְדֵי דָוִד הַנֶּאֱמָנִים׃ הֵן עֵד לְאוּמִּים נְתַתִּיו נָגִיד וּמְצַוֵּה לְאֻמִּים׃ "Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples." The context shows that the prophet invites all of those who are thirsty and hungry, spiritually speaking, to listen to his message, to incline the ear and he will make an everlasting covenant with them. Though he uses the first personal pronoun "I," it is evident that it is God who is speaking and who is delivering a law and inviting all who will listen to enter into an everlasting covenant, "even the sure mercies of David." This statement refers to the oath of God to David concerning the establishment of his throne for ever (II Sam. 7). In verse 4 he speaks of this descendant of David as a witness to the people and a leader and commander of the nations; therefore this king of the Davidic dynasty is not only to be king but also a law-giver. Besides his being both prophet and king he will likewise, according to Psa. 110:4, be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Hence he shall function in three capacities: as prophet, priest, and king. Zechariah in 6:13 speaks of this one, King Messiah, as a priest sitting upon His throne. Therefore, according to the warning of Deut. 18:15-19, everyone who does not heed this prophet shall be held personally responsible.
According to this same verse Messiah when he returns will "make them (the Hebrew race) inherit the desolate heritages." No movement nor organization, regardless of finances, influence, power, etc. can restore the people to the land, and vice versa. Only this Servant, King Messiah, can do this thing.
Another glorious picture of Messiah and His work is given in Isa. 61:1-3: רוּחַ אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה עָלָי יַעַן מָשַׁח יְהוָה אֹתִי לְבַשֵּׂר עֲנָוִים שְׁלָחַנִי לַחֲבֹשׁ לְנִשְׁבְּרֵי־לֵב לִקְרֹא לִשְׁבוּיִם דְּרוֹר וְלַאֲסוּרִים פְּקַח־קוֹחַ׃ לִקְרֹא שְׁנַת־רָצוֹן לַיהוָה וְיוֹם נָקָם לֵאלֹהֵינוּ לְנַחֵם כָּל־אֲבֵלִים׃ לָשׂוּם לַאֲבֵלֵי צִיּוֹן לָתֵת לָהֶם פְּאֵר תַּחַת אֵפֶר שֶׁמֶן שָׂשׂוֹן תַּחַת אֵבֶל מַעֲטֵה תְהִלָּה תַּחַת רוּחַ כֵּהָה וְקֹרָא לָהֶם אֵילֵי הַצֶּדֶק מַטַּע יְהוָה לְהִתְפָּאֵר׃ "The Spirit of the Lord יְהוָה is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified." In verse 1 the statement is made that Messiah shall be anointed, not with oil as were the ancient kings of Israel, but with the רוּחַ אֲדֹנָי, "Spirit of the Lord." The anointing with oil was simply symbolical and typical of the real spiritual anointing by the Spirit of God which the Messiah shall receive and which thus constitutes Him Israel's Messiah. In the succeeding verses appear the glorious results which follow the work of the Messiah. For glowing descriptions of the earth during the reign of the Messiah see Psa. 72; 132; Isa. 11 and 12.*
¹ In Isa. 45:1 Cyrus, the Persian king, is called "his anointed" by the Lord. The context shows clearly that Cyrus was not "The Messiah." The Messiah, according to the testimony of the prophets, knows God and is in fellowship with Him whereas Cyrus did not know Him (vs. 5,6); therefore "anointed" in this context is used with a secondary meaning. He was a messiah in that God used him to permit the Jews who were willing to return to the fatherland to do so. This partial and limited restoration was but a miniature, imperfect representation of the great, full, and final restoration of the nation to the fatherland under King Messiah (Jer. 23:5-8).
² The prophets with one accord speak of the mother of Israel's Messiah and Redeemer but say nothing concerning an earthly father (See Gen 3:15; Psa. 22:9,10: Isa. 7:14; 49:1).
³ These two comings are of the one Messiah are found in a number of predictions.
* In some quarters the Messianic prophecies are interpreted not as predictions of a personal Messiah but of an age or period of the world during which certain ideals and standards will prevail. During that age, according to this theory, the world will have evolved a civilization intellectually, ethically, culturally, and materially far superior to the present order: in other words, a golden age. In order to teach this lesson the most effectually to their contemporaries, the prophets personified the age, since, according to the current idea, a noble king was the very embodiment and personification of life's highest ideals and principles.
In reply to this position let the reader note the fact that the one fundamental principle for interpreting any language, oral or written, is that each word is to be taken in its ordinary, primary, literal meaning unless the context indicates otherwise. Whenever this rule is not observed, it is impossible for one to understand correctly what is said. Another important rule that is absolutely essential to proper understanding of language is that whenever the context points to a figurative or metaphorical meaning, that secondary or figurative meaning of the words or of the passage is to be chosen which accords with its symbolic or figurative meaning in passages about which there is no discussion. An examination of all of The Messianic passages in the Tenach points clearly to the conclusion that the literal meaning is to be chosen. Therefore the figurative interpretation of Messianic prophecies is purely arbitrary and gratuitous.
A second objection to this theory is that in the Messianic passages the Messiah is represented as coming and ushering in this golden age. Therefore the Messiah is distinguished in these prophecies from the age itself (For examples see Isa. 11; 32; 33:17-23; Jer. 23:5-8; Psa. 72; 132).