24. The Messiah and the Scriptures: Some Reflections

Christopher Barder

The subject of the Messiah is the most important in the entire Bible. The unity of the Scriptures is nowhere more apparent than in the Messianic themes which appear continuously. There should be no title “Old Testament” and maybe even no title “New Testament”. Rather, both of these belong together. Both of them bear witness to the Messiah and both are “God breathed” and contain together the fulness of His revelation whereby salvation may be gained.

In a famous phrase “the new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed”. There is perhaps some truth in this. But the closer one looks, the more it seems not so much a matter of hiding but of a wonderful interdependence and interweaving. The two were designed by Almighty God to rest together, a revelation of His provision for man. And: the prophetic Scriptures and the Feasts, the offerings and all that was “made according to pattern” were in each case supposed to point not obscurely but directly to the Messiah Yeshua. This superb clarity may fill us with assurance and hope for we see the unmistakable pointers over and over again that He Who came to reconcile man to God, representing His good will and mercy, might have history point with absolute certainty to our Emmanuel.

All of this should serve to inform our study of the Scriptures. It gives a crucial perspective. For we learn not only to look for the Messiah and to realise how central He is, but we also realize how His names, His appearances (preincarnation if you like) and the great doctrinal themes inform about His nature and His great work on Calvary. The doctrines of sacrifice, atonement, propitiation, substitution; the wonder of cleansing blood, setting free from sin’s stain and resultant guilt, the place of freeing of the mercy seat: all these speak with such graphic power, such precise detail. They become part of our spiritual mind and understanding and they help us to identify the availability and power of God’s provided remedy; to see how far reaching it is and effective.

The truth is that all of history is pointing to the Messiah, in the Bible. That means that the Holy Spirit revealing Jesus is the Word, wants also that word to point to the temper of our lives: that our history as individuals might point to Him. The prophets spoke and revealed. In Jewish tradition, among many rabbis, especially the less early, much may be regarded as exegetically deliberately opposed to Yeshua being Messiah. But even so those who accepted certain Scriptures as actually being Messianic (famously, for example, Isaiah 53) were making it quite apparent that the fulfilment was to be looked for. And along with the specific references lay, of course, the way of recognising the Anointed One. Daniel 9 gave definite indication of the timing.

Put together the Scriptures make it quite impossible simply even in terms of mathematical probability that any person except the Messiah could possibly fulfil so many. And Jesus does not fail to fulfil any! In the Koine Greek with letters, as in Hebrew, having numerical value, Iasous has the value 888. Now eight is the number of resurrection (and there are eight resurrections recorded in Scripture) and three eights speaks of the perfection of tri-unity – of the very Godhead itself!

To have some understanding of the thought world in which Jesus, Yeshua, moved is to grasp afresh how directly He spoke to His audience and how He, and Paul the apostle after Him, allowed the cultural milieu to be spoken through without them in any sense becoming culturally trapped, and the Bible becoming thus obscure to the point where centuries to come would be unable to penetrate great truths. Yet to miss the cultural background is to allow another thought world and framework, a gentile pagan one, to steal and encroach (see my article in Tishrei number one). So the way of thinking, the anticipation of contemporaries, and their views matter for our understanding of what Jesus meant by what He said.

That the rabbis once thought differently to what they do today in their exegesis of certain passages really matters because they cannot legitimately claim now a single view has always been taught and is alone permissible. That is real hypocrisy in the sense that it is an untrue claim. Insofar as tradition and the hardening into orthodoxy cannot justly and truthfully be made retroactive, Christians need to know that once Jewish belief was much more fluid than now; and that message will allow for freer, more informed and more understanding sharing of the whole Gospel of Yeshua ha Mashiach. In so doing centuries of barriers, and disowning by the Jewish people of Yeshua as their Messiah, may be thrown back. For the glorious light of the Scriptures may then be allowed to shine in all its glory once again highlighting He Who was always to be the focus of the lost sheep of Israel, to whom He went first. For He who wept over Jerusalem will one day return there and they shall look on Him who they pierced. If the passages rabbis once taught to be Messianic are shown thereby to be so, then only one Person fulfils them.

Such a revelation of who Jesus is can only occur by the working of the Holy Spirit. Nothing is more wonderful or quickening, as all who have truly experienced it will testify, than that of revelation. The thrill of certainty that God has revealed Himself through Jesus and that He is the Messiah is apparent in the unfolding of the Scriptures. That unfolding for the Jewish people is one of the ways the Gentile Church can bless them most: for the truth is in the Bible, undeniable and clear Let us pray for eyes to see and ears to hear and for an anointing of the Holy Spirit on the Scriptures in these days of ever growing darkness, that those whom God is calling may hear, and be plucked out of the fire: knowing the truth, they might be set free. For the Messiah is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the One who was and is and is to come – the Author and Finisher of our faith. Could there be a more important theme?

Some books to help you reflect:

What the Rabbis Know About the Messiah, A Study in Genealogy and Prophecy, 2nd Ed by Rachmiel Frydland, Messianic Publishing Company, 1993

The Messiah in the Old Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings, by Risto Santala, Keren Ahva Meshihit, Jerusalem, 1992

(Reprinted from Tishrei, Vol 1, No 4, Summer 1993, The Messiah)



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