Any study of prophecy eventually leads us to Christ. Prophecies about the Messiah are called "Messianic" prophecies. The term "messiah" comes from the Hebrew Massiah, which means "anointed one." The same word in Greek is Christos, from which comes the English word "Christ."
In the Old Testament, it was not only the Messiah who was the anointed one; kings (1 Samuel 16:13), priests (Exodus 30:30), and prophets (1 Kings 19:16) were anointed. And isn't this exactly who Jesus is? He is our Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18, Acts 3:22), Priest (Hebrews 3:1; see every chapter from Hebrews 2 to 10), and King (Matthew 2:2, Revelation 17:14). Jesus was fully aware that he was the anointed of God:
"He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:16-21).
Jesus affirmed that he was the Messiah, the anointed one. He was keenly aware of the fulfillment of prophecy in his own person, as was the post-resurrection community of disciples.
Near the end of his earthly ministry, days before his ascension from the Mount of Olives into heaven, Jesus said to the disciples,
"This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:44).
This passage will serve as our outline for further study, as we examine the Messianic prophecies fulfilled from these three categories: Law, Prophets, and Writings (the three divisions of Hebrew scripture).
There is a good deal of Messianic prophecy and Messianic foreshadowing in the books of the Law (Genesis-Deuteronomy), but we will consider just a few cogent prophecies, in Genesis 3, 12 and 49, to begin with. This is not to say that other passages in the Law are not worth studying, or are somehow less than convincing. Hardly! - see, for example, Genesis 22 and the sacrifice of Isaac. But we are concerned with true prophecy, as opposed to foreshadowing, parallelism, typology, etc. We will consider three passages from the Torah: Genesis 3:15, 12:2, and 49:10.
Messianic Prophecies in the Law
The first, and earliest, prophecy is found in the curse on snake, man, and ground on the occasion of the Fall.
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (Genesis 3:15).
God says that the descendant (seed) of Eve will ultimately triumph over the snake. The ultimate triumph of the Messiah over evil is alluded to in Romans 16:20, 1 Corinthians 15:22-28, and Hebrews 2:14, and colorfully described in Revelation 12:1-13:1. This refers not only to the Messiah's victory over the Tempter in the desert (Matthew 4); we are dealing with something utterly cosmic, something eschatological. At any rate, the Genesis 3 passage is the start of the theme of Messianic redemption in the Bible - just verses after the Fall of man, God is prepared to offer a way out, a solution. God is good.
Though it is a technical work, the best book to date I have found on messianic prophecy is The Lord's Anointed: Interpretation of Old Testament Messianic Texts, by Philip E. Satterthwaite, Richard S. Hess, and Gordon J. Wenham (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995).
The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:1-3).
Only two of the three promises to Abra(ha)m were fulfilled in O.T. times - the land promise (Joshua 21:43) and the nation promise (Exodus). All nations (represented by the pentecostal pilgrims in Acts 2) were only to be blessed later, not in O.T. times. From Abraham of course, through Isaac, Jacob, and Judah, the lineage of the Messiah flows. As I have pointed out in my The God Who Dared, an exposition of Genesis 1-11, "seed" is a major theme in Genesis. The entire book of Genesis is built around the seed line - which will ultimately culminate in a royal dynasty.
The blessing was to come through Abraham's offspring - hence the important of the (otherwise rather dry) genealogy of Matthew 1. Though Christ is not mentioned by name, the messianic thread in Genesis is unmistakable.
"Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons will bow down to you. You are a lion's cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness - who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his" (Genesis 49:8-10).
In the view of the Rabbis, this was one of many messianic prophecies. It is similar to, among other passages, Isaiah 9:5-6, pointing to a royal figure whose power and wisdom are unlimited. The unusual thing about this passage is that Joseph is the seemingly dominant son of Jacob in the book of Genesis, not Judah! Great attention is paid in Genesis to the seed of Judah (see chapter 38), early on in the stretch (37-50) overshadowed by Joseph, who himself is a messianic figure in many ways. In the prophecy of Genesis 49 there are also echoes of Genesis 3:15 and 22:17. A picture of the messiah/king is being built up.
"The lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5) will rise to leadership through David and in his "son," Jesus Christ. In short, Genesis loaded with messianic expectation, and many of its messianic themes are sustained throughout the Old and New Testament books.
To quote the oft-cited adage: "The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed." (Wish I had made that up!)
We saw in the last unit that there is something highly messianic about Genesis 3:15 and 49:10 - which in fact allows us better to appreciate Paul's argument in Galatians 3:16 about Abraham's "seed." Today we will spend a moment on Numbers 24 and Deuteronomy 18.
The Star out of Jacob
"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel... (Numbers 24:17).
This is yet another passage consider by the Jews to be messianic. Balaam, the pagan prophet who, according to the writer of Numbers, in this oracle spoke by the Spirit of God, sees something far off in the future. He prophesies a figure who will deliver Israel from her enemies. In the incisive words of Satterthwaite, Hess, and Wenham (288-289):
The classic Jewish and Christian messianic traditions have both recognized the importance of certain premonarchic texts before Israel had a king where the idea occurs, even though from an Old Testament point of view the texts concerned are not properly messianic. The main passages are found in poetic portions of the Pentateuch and are prophetic in character. In Genesis 3:15 an unidentified human being will achieve the ultimate defeat of the snake and all that he represents, Genesis 49:10 refers to a ruler from the tribe of Judah to whom the nations will submit, and Numbers 24:17-19 predicts a future ruler who will rise like a star in the night sky to defeat Israel's enemies: The reference to "the obedience of the nations" in Genesis 49:10 has in mind more than just an ordinary victory, and the defeat of the snake is certainly viewed as a permanent reversal of the damage inflicted on the created world. Even in Numbers 24, the anticipated champion seems to belong to a distant future: "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near." In all three cases a human being achieves a victory with consequences that are more long-term than immediate.
A similar passage, laden with messianic overtones though not at first examination clearly messianic, is found in Deuteronomy. This passage is also familiar to Christian readers from Acts 3. (Oddly enough, it is also claimed by the Muslims to prophesy Mohammed.)
What does it mean that the prophet will be "like" Moses? Moses was a priest (see Psalm 99:6), a political leader, a representative of his people before God, a military commander, and a prophet, among other offices. Hebrews 3 claims that Jesus, despite his similarities with Moses, is even greater. Since the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18 is unfulfilled in the O.T., we are right to search the N.T. for its legitimate fulfillment. And no figure fits the bill like as Jesus! The people of God were to listen to everything that the man of the Deuteronomic prophecy said. But would they have "ears to hear"?
Two Observations Emerge:
1. Often the messianic prophecies are better understood in relation to other passages and themes than in isolation. Too often our approach to Bible study is atomistic - we break passages into small pieces and lose sight of the whole. That is why it is important, if one is to grasp the "big picture" of the Old Testament, to read the books over and over again, not just once through.
2. It becomes clear how the apostles and the early church were able to use the Jewish Bible convincingly to share the good news. They entered the world of prophecy with open eyes, and were able to bring it to life for their listeners, thereby convincingly bringing them to faith in the Christ.
Although we have given short shrift to the messianic passages in the Law - and have left untouched all the abundant messianic foreshadowing (as in Isaac, Joseph, and Moses), these last two units have hopefully served as an eye-opening introduction to the witness to Jesus Christ in the Torah.
The Old Testament is replete with prophecies of the Messiah to come. We continue our study -- following Jesus -- outline in Luke 24:44 - in the second division of the Hebrew scriptures, the Prophets.
Messianic Prophecies in the Prophets
Although we will cover only two books -- Micah (today) and Isaiah (next time), this should not be taken to mean that they are the only prophets who speak of Christ. Far from it! Micah was written in the 8th century BC. It warned of the destruction to fall on the Northern Kingdom of Israel through the agency of the Assyrian army; it also speaks of the dawning of a happier time, a complete reversal of the dark conditions prevailing at the time this prophet spoke. The following passage does not explicitly refer to the Messiah, though the stage is being set.
In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore (Micah 4:1-3).
The reader will notice the parallels between this passage and Isaiah 2. The Gentiles are coming to Jerusalem in droves. The conversion of the Gentiles is a major theme of Acts. The law is going out from Zion'the truth is on the march, as Jesus ordered at the end of Luke 24. Instead of warfare, peace prevails.
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace" (Micah 5:2-5a).
The divine King, the Messiah, the son of David, was to be born in the same town as the great human king (see also Psalm 110). Bethlehem is just a few hours' walk from Jerusalem, and is also the city of Ruth. The future ruler over Israel is more than just an ordinary king; his origins are from ancient times. He will shepherd the flock with divine strength (see Ezekiel 34). His greatness will extend "to the ends of the earth," and he will be their peace (see Isaiah 9:1-6, Ephesians 2:14).
This passage was considered by the Rabbis to predict the birth of the Messiah. And we know that Jesus fulfilled it.
Although this is just the beginning, at the very least we will agree that the prophecies are impressive. I remember sharing my new-found faith with one of my best friends in high school -- in the '70s, just months after my baptism into Christ. Aric was Jewish, and I was eager to show him such passages as Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and Micah 5:2. After looking at a couple of texts, I asked him who he thought they were referring to.
"That's obvious," he said.
"Well, say it," I replied. "Who do these verses refer to?"
"Jesus," he answered without hesitation.
"When do you think they were written? What year?"
"I have no idea," said Aric.
"Maybe around 200 AD?"
"Aric, we're talking eighth century BC. You thought the prophecies were tampered with by the church, but the prophecies were received as they are from the Jews."
"Wow, that's impressive!"
Impressive it is! (And I cannot help but believe this had a deep impact on my friend.) My challenge to those who are unfamiliar with the Bible is to seriously consider the prophecies; they are a great incentive to faith. And my challenge to those who claim to know the Word of God is this: Are you able to use it to convince others? How is your working knowledge of the Bible?
Let us examine just a few of the messianic passages of Isaiah - from chapters 7, 9, and 11. Later we will take a peek at the amazing chapter 53. Isaiah, the prophetic book most cited in the New Testament, is chock full of prophecy'not just for Isaiah's day, but for the time of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.
In Isaiah 7:13-14 we read,
"Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."
The prophecy refers to specific historical events in the 8th century B.C., and was to be fulfilled shortly after it was spoken. However, commentators rightly recognize a further fulfillment; this constitutes the oracle a dual prophecy. Although most Old Testament prophecies have a simple fulfillment, there are a few, like this one, which reach completion in a second context removed from the original historical setting.
Critics will sometimes point out that the term rendered "virgin" in many translations (from the Hebrew 'almah, or young (unmarried) woman, who ought to be a virgin in any case!) can be translated young woman, and in their opinion should be. Why depend on Matthew's gospel for our understanding? Maybe Matthew (1:18-25) was reading the birth of Christ story back into the Old Testament passage (!). But this objection ignores a very important fact: Matthew, as well as most of the New Testament -- all of which is written in Greek, relies on the Septuagint (3rd-2nd century B.C. Greek translation, usually abbreviated LXX, from the Roman number for seventy). And in the LXX the term is parthenos, which does indeed mean virgin. It was the Jewish people themselves who translated 'almah as parthenos. Thus the Virgin Birth of Christ is squarely based on Old Testament prophecy.
We find another stunning prophecy two chapters later, in Isaiah 9. It has been well popularized musically in Händel's Messiah, which "handles" the grand themes centering around Christ, particularly from the prophetic sections of Isaiah and the Book of Revelation.
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan- The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned... For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:12, 6-7).
The text speaks of the mighty deliverance the messiah would bring the people of God. Notice where the ministry of the Messiah is to take place: Galilee. The Lord chose the northern part of Israel as his base of operations and locus for raising up the twelve'not Jerusalem. Though Jesus did faithfully observe all the Jewish feasts, visiting the Holy City at least three times a year, he knew that to begin his ministry there'at the center of Jewish power'would be to end it there. It was not till near the end of his earthly ministry that he "resolutely set out for Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51).
This child who would one day become king received many epithets: "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" -- familiar words to those acquainted with Händel's magnificent music. It is beyond the scope of this article to develop these terms'esp. the enigmatic way in which the Messiah (God's Son) is referred to as "Father"'I will leave that to you to mull over! An eternal kingdom is envisioned, based on a throne of justice in the lineage of David.
Interestingly, although 9:1-2 are cited in Matthew 4:15, the more famous verses 6-7 are not directly quoted in the New Testament.
The Shoot/Root of Jesse Two more passages from Isaiah deserve comment in this unit: from chapters 11 and 53. Isaiah 11 is yet another text tying the Messiah in with the line of David.
"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD -- and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious" (Isaiah 11:1-10).
Notice the things said to characterize the reign of the Messiah:
* Although the monarchy appears to be bankrupt, there is yet hope: a scion from the lineage of David will grow again.
* The Spirit would rest on this individual in a unique way. (See also 61:1, which Jesus chooses to explain his identity in his Nazareth sermon.)
* He would have a special concern for the outcast, and for justice.
* He would be entrusted with the power of judgment.
* The world would be radically transformed through the influence of this man. (The descriptions are obviously intended to be taken figuratively.)
* The Gentiles would rally to him'hardly a description of traditional Judaism'just as the New Testament describes (John 12:32, 1 Timothy 3:16, etc).
Having considered several passages in Isaiah, the stage is set for the "mother lode" of biblical prophecy, Isaiah 53.
The Mother Lode
The longest and most clear-cut messianic prophecy in the entire Old Testament is Isaiah 52:13-53:12. This passage, technically the Fourth Servant Song of Isaiah, patently speaks of the Messiah. Although you are probably quite familiar with it, I have produced it below in case you want to take another look at it.
(Note: in Isaiah, it must be distinguished carefully whether the Servant is Israel, the Messiah, or both. For more on this, see Jim McGuiggan, The Book of Isaiah, Fort Worth: Star Bible Publications, 1985. Order on (800) 433-7507.)
See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him-his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness-so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 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. 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. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his 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. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 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 sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).
This is undoubtedly the most famous prophecy of Jesus in the Old Testament. Most of the messianic "meat" is clear on the first reading. (We do not have time or space to illuminate the many points of messianic doctrine.)
Imagine the stir when among the Dead Sea manuscripts not one but two complete scrolls of Isaiah were discovered! In the Shrine of the Book, which is part of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, in a perfectly temperature-, humidity- and light-controlled custom-designed facility you can see the famous 1QIsa a .
This is the passage the Ethiopian was reading from when Philip met and converted him. In fact, this passage is quoted or alluded to over 30 times in the New Testament! You may well have heard scores of communion talks centered around the themes of Isaiah 53.
The notion of one man bearing sin for others was unthinkable in mainstream Jewish thought. When Moses suggested that he be sacrificed for the nation (Exodus 32:32), God shot his idea down in a blink. No sinful human can die for other sinners; only a perfect one'God himself'could accomplish such a thing.
And there's more. In Isaiah 52:13 (the first verse in this Messianic passage), language used of God is applied to the Suffering Servant. See Isaiah 6:1 and 57:15.
Explain it Away?
How does an honest person react when confronted by this enormous chunk of prophecy, penned over seven centuries before the One who would fulfill it, Jesus Christ? Let me share an anecdote from my first year of college. I was taking a religion course, and the professor was a Rabbi. One day in class I asked him what he had to say about Isaiah 53. After all, a passage so loaded with Christian evidence demanded a response, particularly from the religion that first spawned Christianity and then spurned it. I was sincerely interested in what the Rabbi would have to say'and he was truly interested in addressing my query.
The next class, and in front of all my fellow students, he addressed me. "Mr. Jacoby, I have in my hand a book which will answer your question about Isaiah 53, the so-called messianic prophecy. I believe you will see that there is no basis for applying the passage to Jesus." I came forward and took the book'a highly technical tome produced by a group of Jewish scholars.
The book, which I borrowed for a week or two, was six hundred pages long, full of footnotes and untranslated text in Hebrew and Greek, and very, very erudite. The title, if my recollection 22 years later is correct, was The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah, Volume I. Volume I! There was another one to follow, also devoted to this most "troublesome" passage! It would be years before I would even be able to follow these scholars' arguments.
As I saw things through a freshman's eyes, here was a group of scholars attempting to explain away something that everyone else could see clearly. That they needed 1200 pages to do so only confirmed me even more deeply in my faith! (Is there a lesson here? When anybody needs that many pages to explain something away, it is highly likely to be true!) A few weeks later I was baptized into Christ. The unbelieving professor had been an unwitting contributor to my conversion!
Yes, Isaiah is chock full of Messianic prophecy. Prophecy hard to explain away, more sensibly accepted than fought against. Indeed, the Messianic thread runs through the entire Old Testament'from Genesis through the Writings to "all the prophets" (Acts 3:24, 10:43).
Messianic Prophecies in the Writings
The 13 books in our Bibles which constitute the Writings (including such works as Daniel, Psalms, and the Chronicles) are loaded with messianic material. In this unit we will consider only Psalms - arguably the richest source.
Psalm 22 is probably the best known messianic psalm. It is found on Jesus' lips even as his death draws near on the Cross. Far from being a complaint about being abandoned by God, it is a Psalm which confidently proclaims faith in God, no matter how bleak present circumstances appear. Consider some of the points of contact between the psalmist and the Christ (this list is not exhaustive):
22:1 Feeling of dereliction
22:18 Gambling for garments
22:22 Confidence in restoration to brothers
It is no wonder Christians have always seen Jesus so clearly reflected in this psalm! See if you can find all the places in the N.T. which quote or allude to Psalm 22!
Another psalm which surfaces again and again in the N.T. is 69. One has to read no further than John 2 to stumble on it, and I would encourage you to scan the psalm and imagine how Jesus would have understood it to apply to himself.
69:4 Hated without reason
69:8 Estrangement from family
69:9 Zeal of Messiah
69:21 Offered vinegar to drink
69:25 Application to Judas
Psalm 110 also makes multiple appearances in the New Testament. It speaks of the accession of the Christ to the divine throne, from which he would reign as king and serve as priest.
110:1 Enthronement of Messiah
110:1 Descent of Messiah from David
110:1 Divinity of Messiah
110:4 Non-levitical priesthood of Messiah
The book of Hebrews probably sheds the most light on this psalm. There are so many psalms that, even if you did not tire of my writing about them, we would need months at our current pace to write out and cover each of them even superficially.
What I have provided below are the tabulated results of a study of the Psalms I did in 1999. Perhaps you will find some more - but be careful! "A prooftext out of context is a pretext." Careful exegesis comes first, not the vague "feeling" that a passage may be speaking about Jesus. Also remember that often when the N.T. quotes the O.T., it is making use of the LXX - which accounts for small differences in wording.
2:1-2, 7, 9....... Action against the Messiah
8:2................... Praise mandated from children
16:8-11............Resurrection of the Messiah
34:20.............. Bones not to be broken
35:19............... Hated without reason
40:7................. Ready for action!
78:2................. Parabolic instruction
91:11-12......... Temptation of the Messiah
118:26............. Triumphal entry
To complete the study, you will need to find where in the N.T. these Psalms are cited. Why not take a morning or two in your personal devotions and do just that? The reward will be well worth it.
The Book of Psalms really needs to be studied in its totality. Strive to get the panoramic view; what you discover will likely be eye-opening. Only by hooking together the repeated themes will you take the high ground, from which vantage point you will be able to see the Savior as God intends us to see him. To illustrate,
"The royal Psalms, for example, envisage a king who by the power of God (2:6, 8; 18:46-50; 21:1-13; 110:1-2) overcomes ungodly opponents (2:1-3; 45:3-5; 89:22-23; 110:1) in order to establish his authority over the entire earth (2:8-12; 18:43-45; 45:17; 72:8-11; 89:25; 110:5-6) for all time (21:4; 45:6; 72:5) thereby bringing peace (72:7), prosperity (72:16) and justice to the poor and oppressed (72:2-4, 12-14; cf. 45:4, 6-7; 72:7; 101:1-8). Similarly, it is striking that descriptions of the messianic age in Am. 9:13; Is. 4:2; 11:6-9; 32:1-8, 15, 20; 55:13; Ps. 72:7, 16 are reminiscent of the prosperity and peace which existed prior to the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden" (Satterthwaite, Philip E., Richard S. Hess, and Gordon J. Wenham, The Lord's Anointed: Interpretation of Old Testament Messianic Texts, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995, 21n.5).
To be sure, the psalms, described as the "hymnal" of Judaism and the early church, are dripping with the oil of the Anointed One.
Conclusion: What are the odds?
In our study of biblical prophecy, we have seen that Jesus Christ richly fulfilled the words of the Prophets, and in fact the words of the Law and the Writings too! His statement in Luke 24 was true, and one can see that he could easily have spoken for hours about how he fulfilled the O.T. Scriptures. But what are the chances that this remarkable pattern of prediction, foreshadowing, and fulfillment would have taken place?
In probability, you multiply the chances of successive events to determine the overall likelihood of their taking place in combination. For example, the odds of flipping a coin which lands "heads" is 1/2; the odds of two "heads" in a row is 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4. (The odds of a match with two flips is only 1/2 , since the first flip will yield either a head or a tail with probability 1.0, which means total certainty, and 1 x 1/2 = 1/2.)
Let's say that I "prophesy" to you that:
1. Tomorrow you will lose something which belongs to you. Next,
2. Someone will speak to you, initiating the conversation.
3. It will be a man
4. from North Dakota.
5. He will be wearing a dark colored business suit.
6. His mother is from Virginia and
7. Her name is Mary.
8. It is he will tell you how to regain what you lost.
9. After you walk away from this conversation, this man will be killed, yet
10. Three days later his body will mysteriously "disappear" from the morgue.
Notice the clarity and specificity of the "prophecy." Use your imagination to reconstruct the scenario. Allowing generous odds for each event, we might come up with this array of probabilities:
1. Tomorrow you'll lose something ............. 1/4
2. Conversation ......................................... 9/10
3. It will be a man ...................................... 1/2
4. From North Dakota ............................... 1/50
5. Wearing a certain suit ............................. 1/5
6. Mother is from Virginia ........................... 1/10
7. Named Mary .......................................... 1/5
8. He'll tell you how to regain what you lost.. 1/20
9. Death of man after conversation ................1/1000
10. 3 days later body "disappears" ............... 1/100
Ignoring the thinly veiled allusions to Jesus Christ in the above scenario, we multiply the factors together to yield 1/4 x 9/10 x 1/2 x 1/50 x 1/5 x 1/10 x 1/5 x 1/20 x 1/1000 x 1/100 = 4.5 x 10-12. That's one chance in four trillion!
According to an American parachuting organization, yours odds of surviving a freefall from an airplane are poorer than one in one million. Yet the odds of the "prophecies" above linking up as they do -- which only roughly mirror the events of Jesus' life -- is a million times worse! No one would be so crazy as to leap from an airplane without his chute, and yet the world is filled with men and women who face eternity with a millionfold less assurance that they are right with God. Probability at some point influences our behavior and the decisions we make. Since the chances against a being (Jesus Christ) coming to earth and fulfilling the biblical prophecies are astronomically high, it is incumbent upon us to soberly weigh the evidence, the implications, and the consequences of our response to that evidence.
Hopefully you are benefiting from your study of biblical prophecy. You will become a more attentive reader of the Bible, and grow to appreciate the character of Jesus Christ more than ever. The evidence is compelling. God expects us to act on it!
This article is copyrighted and is for private use and study only. © 2003. Reprints or public distribution is prohibited without the express consent of Douglas Jacoby.