Jesus Fulfills Prophecies in Isaiah 53 (Day Five)

In Isa. 53:12, we read that the Suffering Servant “bore the sin of many”. This part is quoted four times in the NT.  It is a rare to find such a connection between the OT, the Gospel of John (1:29), and three epistles (Heb. 9:28; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 3:5.)

There is not much more that I can say about this portion of the OT verse. He took the punishment that all of us deserved.  Jew and Gentile; male and female; black and white.  As was mentioned earlier, the idea that the servant voluntarily suffered and gave his life as an atonement for the sins of the people was already mentioned four other times in Isa. 53 (verses 5, 6, 10, and 11).

I do not have the time or space to go into nearly as much depth as I have in my previous articles on each of the four NT verses that contain the OT quote. I will provide a few highlights of each one.

Like 1 Peter 2:24-25, which we discussed a few days ago, John 1:29 alludes to, but does not directly quote Isa. 53:12. (You can know a passage in the NT is considered to be an OT quote by how they are indented.  It does that consistently in the NIV; other versions use the same technique.)  In this verse, John the Gospel writer reports that John the Baptist made this bold assertion about Jesus being “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” when He came to John to be baptized.  Identifying Jesus as the Lamb of God also seems to allude to Isa. 53:7, “he was led like a lamb to the slaughter”.  As we read the rest of the narrative in verses 30-34, John makes other bold statements about Jesus, his cousin.  He reports that “the one who sent me”, God the Father, revealed to him “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit” (verse 33).  John also testified that Jesus was “the Son of God” (verse 34). This conclusion lines up well with how John began chapter 1, with Jesus being named as the Word of God, who was with God and was God.

Next, Heb. 9:28 is an allusion of Isa. 53:12, not a quote. Beale and Carson confirm this (p. 975).  The writer of this epistle, who quotes the OT extensively throughout, matter-of-factly states that when Jesus comes again, He will not come to “bear sin”, but to bring salvation to His true followers who are ready and expecting Him.  The implication is that it was well-known among the first-century followers of Jesus that He bore our sin.  The entire book contrasts the OT worship under the Old Covenant with the New Covenant that came through Jesus Christ.  He is greater than Moses (chapter 3).  He is a better high priest (chapter 8).  His blood is a better sacrifice (chapters 9 and 10).  The writer clearly emphasizes in the first part of verse 28 that Jesus was sacrificed one time, and that it took away the sins of many people.  It took their sins away because He bore their punishment Himself, and God’s wrath was satisfied.  Beale and Carson suggest that the writer of Hebrews is tying together his detailed imagery of the OT “Day of Atonement” with the key passage from the prophets, Isa. 53, regarding a sacrifice for the sins of all.  The commentators also mention that by using this phrase concerning the Savior bearing our sin here, it takes the reader back to the broader context of Isa 53:4-5, and 10-11, which speak of one who “carried our sins”, was “wounded for our transgressions”, who was “a guilt offering, and bore our “iniquities” (p. 975).

We discussed 1 Peter 2:24 at some length on Day Two, which along with 2:25 provided a clear allusion to portions of Isa. 53:5-6. Here, in the first part of 2:24, the Apostle states “He Himself bore our sins in his body”, echoing Isa. 53:12, which says “he bore the sin of many”.  Notice the change that Peter made to the grammar here, substituting the first-person plural “our sins” for the original OT text, which is third-person plural “the sin of many”.  This is in contrast to the changes he made in the latter part of verses 24 and 25, where he uses the second-person plural, “you”.

1 John 3:5 is not discussed in Beale and Carson, even though it was listed in Gough’s The New Testament Quotations.  I can only speculate that scholars may consider this an “echo” of the OT; it is definitely not a direct quote.  To be fair, though, John, as we will see shortly, uses this idea in a very different way than Isaiah.  John, the same one we discussed earlier in his Gospel, focuses on Jesus, who “appeared so that he might take away our sins.”  John understands well that Jesus, in His role as the sacrificial Lamb of God, removed our sins from us by taking our punishment, so that we might be reconciled to God.  Here, in this epistle, he seems to casually drop in the fact that Jesus took away our sins as an explanation as to why we as children of God should strive for sinlessness.  His whole letter to the church is on the life changes that need to accompany a true follower of Jesus in order to demonstrate the validity of their faith.  In the first two chapters, John teaches that we are to walk in the light as He is in the light.  When we don’t, we are to confess our sins.  We are to love our Christian brothers and sisters.  We are not supposed to love the world.  His use of the phrase “take away our sins” seems to imply something about sanctification, not merely justification.

I hope this weeklong discussion gave you a glimpse of how important this OT passage was to the NT writers, the early church, and is for us as well. It gave them (and gives us) confidence amidst persecution that their (and our) belief in Jesus as the Messiah was (is) well-grounded in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Gough remarks that if these prophesies about the Messiah’s birth, life, death, and resurrection were all fulfilled in Jesus, it should give us hope that He will also fulfill the prophesies concerning His future reign as King (page iv).  I say Amen to that!

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Jesus Fulfills Prophecies in Isaiah 53 (Day Four)

This short article is the fourth of five posts this week leading up to Good Friday. Like the previous articles, I will focus on how Isa. 53:4-12 is used in the NT.  Unlike the last three passages, portions of Isa. 53:12 are quoted seven times.  I will reflect on just one portion today, and discuss another section on Good Friday.  I hope that you will stay with me until the end.

As we have done before, we will start by examining Isa. 53:12.  Then we will move to the NT where a small portion of this verse is quoted in Mark 15:28 and Luke 22:37.  This verse is a fitting end to this final Servant Song (Isa. 52:13 – 53:12), which my NIV Bible entitles, The Suffering and Glory of the Servant.  Beale and Carson state, “The fourth Servant Song shows, first, that the consequences of the sins of the people, which the people would not and could not carry, are placed upon the Suffering Servant” (p. 385).  They remind us that it is God who has taken the initiative (53:6 and 10).  There is a note of vindication in verse 12.  This is a word that many of my seminary professors and commentators seem to use in this context.  However, I have a hard time grasping the meaning of this word; it is not one I have ever used in conversation.  I believe it describes the victory this Servant receives at the end when all is made right.  Despite the unjust suffering this man experiences, not for his own sins, but for the sins of all Israel (and the world), he is rewarded for his faithfulness to God and his selfless sacrifice for others.  The man and his loving labor have not gone unnoticed.  Isaiah summarizes why God has decided to “give him a portion among the great”.  It is because he “poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.”  He seems to say the same thing in a slightly different way in the very last section of the verse, as is common in the Hebrew Scriptures, to accentuate its theological significance. Beale and Carson help us understand what Isaiah is trying to say – “to be ‘reckoned with transgressors’ means to experience rejection, distress, ill-treatment (Isa. 53:3, 4), to be regarded by people as someone whom God has smitten (53:4), since God brings judgment upon evildoers. . . As the larger context of the Servant Song indicates that the servant was innocent, the prophet asserts that he was smitten for the sins of the people” (p. 386).

Now, let us look briefly where Isa. 53:12 is quoted by Mark and Luke. Even though the Gospel writers quote the same part of the verse (“he was numbered with the transgressors”), how they do it differs.  Mark’s insertion comes as he is describing the crucifixion.  He makes mention of the fact that Jesus was placed between two criminals in Mark 15:27.  He comments that this signifies a fulfillment of Isa. 53:12, “He was counted with the lawless ones.”  However, Mark’s quote in 15:28 is actually not found in the more reliable earlier manuscripts (similar to Mark 16:9-10).  Verse 28 appears only as a footnote in my Bible; it skips from verse 27 to verse 29.  Let us focus on Luke’s use of the OT quote in 22:37.  This is an interesting case, as we really need to look at how Luke used it, and also how Jesus used it, as He is one who has actually quoted the prophet, not Luke as editor.  Beale and Carson mention that Luke has already quoted from Isaiah earlier in his Gospel; see Luke 3:4-6 (Isa. 40:3-5) and 4:18-19 (Isa. 61:1-2) (p. 385).  In the context of Luke 22, Jesus is giving His farewell speech to His disciples at the Last Supper (verses 7-38).  Beale and Carson tell us that Jesus speaks of “his imminent death”, among other things such as “servant leadership” and “the kingly reign that God has given him” (p. 385).   Luke places this OT quote at the end of this conversation in the Upper Room, and then takes us to the Mount of Olives in the garden where Jesus will be betrayed and begin His suffering for humankind.  The commentators highlight that both Jesus and Luke wanted to leave no doubt that Jesus’ suffering and death fulfilled not only Isa. 53:12, but the entire fourth Servant Song (p. 385).  Notice the formulaic preface to the quote, “It is written”.  After the short quote, Jesus emphasizes that “this must be fulfilled in me”.  He repeats it, “Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”  Beale and Carson explain that Jesus’ quotation of Isa. 53:12 underlines his claim to fulfill the role of the Servant of Yahweh.” (p. 387).  They continue, stating that Jesus “understood his approaching death in the light of the fate of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant” (p. 388).

I appreciate the deep insights and connections between the OT and NT that these commentators provided. I am more amazed how God’s plan of redemption that began before the world began, was first hinted at in Gen. 3:15, and clearly portrayed in Isa. 53, was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Jesus Fulfills Prophecies in Isaiah 53 (Day Three)

This is the third of five daily posts leading up to Good Friday where I reflect on Isa. 53:4-12. I will focus on how these verses are used in the New Testament. My primary reference is the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, by Beale and Carson; a great tool.

Unlike the previous verses, Isa. 53:7-8 is directly quoted in Acts 8:32-35. Before we look at the NT passage, we need to understand the OT meaning.  It is important to understand the immediate context.  This section in Isaiah (52:13 – 53:12) comprises the last of four “Servant Songs”, which describe the Suffering Servant.  In the previous three passages (41:8-10; 49:1-6; 50:4-9), the Servant may be Israel, whom God is promising to restore from exile.  However, in this song, Beale and Carson suggest that “it is more straightforward to detect an individual. . . the Servant himself is declared to be exalted at the beginning and end of the song, though most of the focus is on his appalling suffering” (p. 1034). As we look at verses 7 and 8, we observe that the Servant was afflicted for his people, and yet he suffered silently, as a lamb is led to the sacrifice.  Verse 7 is a typical Hebrew “chiastic” structure, which we can label as A, B, B’, A’.  Isaiah started with “he did not open his mouth” (A), says “like a lamb to the slaughter” (B), mentions “as a sheep before her shearers” (B’), then ends where he starts, “he did not open his mouth” (A’).

In Acts 8:26-40, Luke presents the narrative of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. In the overall context of the book of Acts, Beale and Carson remind us “this is the first extension of the gospel to the nations of Africa” (p. 573). (Note: They also point out that there are several references in the OT to Ethiopia (translated “Cush” in the NIV; footnotes indicate it is the upper Nile region).  Ps. 68:31 and Zeph. 3:10 mention Ethiopians worshipping Yahweh.  Beale and Carson conclude, “what is promised in the OT now finds fulfillment” (p. 573).  Isa. 18:1 and 45:15 also refer to this region, which may explain the eunuch’s interest in reading from Isaiah.)  Philip, who was one of the seven deacons selected in Acts 6, became the first evangelist to have come from Jerusalem to Samaria after a great persecution took place amongst the first-century church (Acts 8:1, 4-5).  Philip had some successes preaching in Samaria (8:6-13), which prompted Peter and John to go down and assist (8:14-25).  By the word of an angel in verse 26, Philip is moved to go south, where he met the Ethiopian eunuch. The focus of this scene is this trusted government staff worker (with which I can easily identify).  He appears to be a Jewish convert, as he had “gone to Jerusalem to worship (8:27).  He was sitting in his chariot, on the way home after the temple service, intently reading the prophet Isaiah from his sacred scroll (8:28).  Philip, led by the Holy Spirit, kept pace with the chariot (8:30).  Motivated by his compelling desire to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, Philip asked the eunuch if he understood what he was reading.  In verse 31, the eunuch asks Phillip to explain it to him. Then, Luke tells us which section the eunuch was reading, quoting Isa. 53:7-8 in Acts 8:32-33. The seeker asks Philip whom the prophet is writing about.  Beale and Carson report, “For Philip, the answer is simply Jesus. This implies that even by this early date the recognition that the job description in Isa. 53 fit Jesus, and only Jesus, was current among Christians” (p. 574).  It is not difficult to understand why.  In Matt. 26:62-63, Jesus is silent before the Sanhedrin.  John the Baptist declared Jesus to be the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John. 1:29).  Isaiah’s prophecy clearly describes Jesus’ suffering for our sins.  The eunuch saw that, and was baptized.

Jesus Fulfills Prophecies in Isaiah 53 (Day Two)

This is the second of five posts on Isaiah 53:4-12, where I will focus on how these verses are used in the New Testament. My primary reference is the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, by Beale and Carson.

Isa. 53:5-6 is not directly quoted, but is clearly alluded to in 1 Peter 2:24-25. Starting with the OT passage, Isaiah continues to describe the Suffering Servant, pointing to a Messiah who would bring salvation to all.  When you read this description, there is no doubt that Jesus fits the bill.  Isaiah indicates in verse 5 that this man was “pierced for our transgressions”.  Note the parallelism in the phrase that follows.  It is said that he was “crushed for our iniquities”.  Pierced corresponds with crushed; transgression corresponds with iniquities. I believe that John McArthur was preaching on this passage just last week, and he mentioned that there are five places where a substitutionary atonement can be seen. This is the first of five. Isaiah provides another couplet in the second part of verse 5.  He states that the punishment he took upon himself brought us peace, and the wounds he suffered brought us healing.  Isaiah speaks truth in verse 6 about our common, sinful, fallen condition.  All of us, “like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.  We need a Savior.  Here is the second place where a substitutionary atonement is shown: “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  Jesus took our place.

As we flip to 1 Peter 2:24-25, we are in the middle of a section that is referred to as a “household code”, where rules and responsibilities are laid out.  (We also see this in Eph. 5:22-6:9 and Col. 3:18-4:2.) Here, Peter has been addressing slaves and masters in 2:13-18; he will address husbands and wives in the first part of chapter 3.  He emphasized that slaves should submit to their employer, even if they have to suffer for doing what is right.  He holds up the example of Jesus in verse 21.  Peter points out that Jesus suffered for them (and for us), so they (and we) should “follow in his steps” and be willing to suffer for other also.  In verse 22, Peter quotes Isa. 53:9, which I will not have time to discuss here.  He then proceeds to describe in the next verse how Jesus demonstrated selfless, sacrificial love when He suffered insults and beatings leading up to His crucifixion.  In verse 24, Peter focuses on the cross, where Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree”.  In the second part of that verse, he deliberately uses the phrase “by his wounds you were healed”, which is immediately followed in verse 25 by this familiar statement, “For you were like sheep going astray”.  Based on how this appears in my NIV Bible, this is not a direct quote of Isa. 53:5-6, but is obviously an allusion.  (Note: It if was a direct quote like verse 22 and the extensive series of four OT quotes Peter uses in the first part of chapter 2, it would have been indented.)   He uses language that is reminiscent of the tail end of Isa. 53:5 and does the same with the first part of verse 6.  It is also very interesting to note that Beale and Carson point out that Peter changes the first-person plural “we” that is found in the original Hebrew and Greek versions of the OT to a second-person plural “you” in verse 24.  (The same thing is done with verse 25.)  Peter wrote, “by his wounds you have been healed”; in Isa. 53:5 it reads, “by his wounds we are healed.”  The commentators indicate, “the wounds of the Suffering Servant were for the healing not only of the Jews but also of ‘you’ – Gentile Christian readers” (p. 1035).

Without a doubt, the “you” applies to us Gentiles who were not part of Peter’s original readers.  By His wounds, we were healed – reconciled with God, brought into His family.

Jesus Fulfills Prophecies in Isaiah 53 (Day One)

Every day this week, I will share some insights on how Isa. 53:4-12 has been quoted in the NT. The verses I will use were listed in The New Testament Quotations, by Henry Gough, written in 1855.  According to the Preface, it was the first arrangement of nearly all of the passages in the NT where it quotes the OT.  It is a unique resource.  It functions as a reverse of the usual cross-reference that links an OT quote found in an NT verse back to its OT source.  This book starts in Genesis, and lists everywhere in the NT these OT verses have been quoted.  I believe this is an important topic for Christians to understand.  It gives us confidence that these Scriptures were inspired by God and that there is essential unity between the OT and NT.

Isa. 53:4 is quoted only once, in Matthew 8:17.  Whenever we find the OT quoted in the NT, we need to go back to the original OT context, understand what it said there, and then see how it was used in the NT.  In Isaiah, we see that this passage is the last part of a large section of the prophet’s message that presents the “Servant Songs”.  In chapter 49, Isaiah describes this individual as “my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob”, and even a “light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (v. 6).  This is in direct fulfillment of Gen. 12:3, where God promised to Abram, “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”  As this section continues, we see God’s plan to restore Israel, despite her sin.  We see hints of Christ’s sufferings in Isa. 50:6, which depicts the public mocking of Jesus before His crucifixion.  As we get closer to Isa. 53, once again we see God’s plan to bring salvation, not only to the Israelites, but also to “the ends of the earth” (Isa. 50:10).  In Isa. 53:4, we read that this future redeemer would voluntarily take up our suffering and carry our sorrow. Yet, those who witnessed the sacrifice thought that he was getting what he deserved, and not what we deserve.

Looking at Matt. 8:1-4, we see Jesus healing a man with leprosy. In verses 5-13, Jesus heals the servant of a centurion. Next, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law (vv. 14-15). Matthew summarizes what happens at the end of this long day, as many people brought the demon-possessed and others who were sick to Jesus for deliverance and healing.  Matthew, as he has often done throughout his Gospel, indicates carefully that what Jesus was doing was in direct fulfillment of OT prophesy. He then quotes only the first part of Isa 53:4 in verse 17: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.”  It is interesting to note that the verse in Isaiah seems to take a more broad interpretation to what Jesus took on, speaking of “infirmities” and “sorrows”, whereas Matthew seems to apply this verse a little more literally in his version of the OT verse that he quotes to support his narrative. In this verse, Matthew identifies Isaiah’s prophecy concerning a coming Messiah as being fulfilled in Jesus.  Beale and Carson, in their Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, would agree: “At the very least, Matthew is showing that Jesus’ ministry of healing was prophesied as part of his messianic role” (p. 33).

Jesus Fulfills Prophecies in Isaiah 53 (Intro)

This past week, I began preparing to lead our Thursday lunch Bible study at work in a couple of weeks. The subject is Jesus’ resurrection.  I can use whatever Bible passage I felt led to use.  I decided to focus on Luke 24:13-32.

This narrative tells the story of two of Jesus’ disciples, not part of the eleven, who unknowingly walked with Jesus for a couple of hours on the road to Emmaus after He rose from the dead. After he made Himself known, He explained to them what the OT Scriptures said about Him.  Later, in Luke 24:36-45, Jesus appeared to His disciples. He showed them His scars and ate with them.  He also took them to the OT to show how He fulfilled what was written about him in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms.

As I read this passage, two thoughts came to me. Wouldn’t it have been amazing to have walked on the road to Emmaus with Jesus?  Wouldn’t it be awesome to know exactly which Old Testament scriptures Jesus referenced?

I went to the extensive notes in the back of my NIV study Bible that my wife gave me several years ago, and found a long list of OT prophesies that Jesus fulfilled. I made a list of ten of them that I wanted to discuss in our Bible study.

When I came to Isaiah 53:4-12, I was overwhelmed. The Suffering Servant would be despised and rejected by men, bear our sins, be pierced for our transgressions, and by his wounds we would be healed.  I consulted a book written by Henry Gough entitled The New Testament Quotations, and was amazed to see how frequently this passage is quoted or alluded to in the NT.  This shows how important this passage was to the NT writers, and to the early church.

Let me share some of what I have discovered over the next five days leading up to Good Friday.

God’s Presence and Gideon’s Mission

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One of our ministers has been going through the book of Judges in Sunday School. As I read the story of Gideon in Judges 6, I came across a passage on God’s presence with Gideon that got my attention when I read it the last time.  It clearly ties God’s presence with Gideon’s mission, one of many illustrations of Immanuel labor.

There are a multitude of stories of ordinary men and women of faith where we see God’s presence enabling them to perform a difficult task that God called them to do. I have written about this in previous articles (see one from September 2015 and another posted in March 2017.)

In Judges 6:12, an angel of the Lord appears to Gideon, and declares, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”  Upon hearing this grand pronouncement, Gideon does not acknowledge its truth.  He asks an honest question that most of us have probably asked, regarding why God allows suffering: “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (v. 13).  Gideon refers to God’s deliverance out of Egypt, which I am always glad to see, as it brings us back to the Exodus and God’s covenant faithfulness.

I have to pause here a bit before moving on the point of this story. In verses 11 and 12, we read that the person speaking with Gideon is referred to as “the angel of the LORD”.  Then, in verse 14, to answer Gideon’s hard question, it states, “The LORD turned to him and said”, and in verse 16, we read, “The LORD answered”.  So, who is speaking to Gideon, an angel, or the LORD Himself?

Some commentators have concluded that this angel of the LORD must have been Jesus. There are other uses of the angel of the LORD in the OT: Gen. 16:7, 22:15; Ex. 14:19; Num. 22:23; Judges 2:1; Isa. 63:9.  In each of these angelic appearances, the reactions of those who are spoken to and the way this individual is described have caused some to speculate that they could be more than just an angel.

Although this interpretation has some merit, there are several reasons why I do not wholeheartedly accept the view that it is Jesus. First, there is nothing in the NT to support the idea that Jesus appeared in the OT.  The doctrine of the incarnation prevents me from believing that the Son of God in His pre-incarnate state would have a body.  The gospel accounts of Jesus’ immaculate conception and birth in Matthew, Luke, and John paint a vivid picture of the divine Son of God becoming fully man at that moment in time.  It would be a stretch of the imagination to believe that Jesus would have been able to appear in physical form on numerous occasions in the OT.  Second, when this same term is used in the NT (Matt. 28:2; Acts 8:26, 27:23), it obviously does not refer to Jesus.  Third, our understanding of angels teaches us that they are beings whose super-human physical appearance causes fear and trembling and that they are God’s messengers who speak the words of God on His behalf.  When those who were visited by these angels worshipped them or addressed them as LORD, they are merely acknowledging God’s presence with them.  There is no good reason for me to believe that in Judges 6 and elsewhere that they are anything more than angels who have been sent by God (of the LORD).

The LORD, through His angel, responds to Gideon’s question about the presence of God in Judges 6:14. He said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.  Am I not sending you?”  The implication is clear.  God did not stutter.   It was said through the angel earlier that the LORD was with Gideon.  It is re-emphasized here that He was sending Gideon to fight the Midianites.  Gideon is reluctant, pointing out to an all-knowing God that he alone does not have the strength to save Israel.  His clan is the weakest and he is the least.  How can he possibly be a mighty warrior, as he was greeted back in v. 12?

The answer is simple. “The LORD answered, ‘I will be with you’” (v. 16).  That is all that matters.

Here’s a simple math equation that comes out of this passage: Zero plus God equals more than enough.  Through God’s presence, the work would be done through Gideon in spite of his weakness.

This passage about Gideon is far from an isolated instance. If you turn to Ex. 3:10-14, you will read a similar situation.  At the burning bush, God tells Moses that He was sending him to Pharaoh.  Moses basically says, “I am not enough.”  God replies, “I AM!”  It did not matter that God’s chosen vessel was a cracked pot.  In fact, it brings God more glory this way.  His presence alone would empower Moses to get the job done.  Moses just needed to trust and obey, as did Gideon.

In the end, God used Gideon to defeat the Midianites (see Judges 7). As a result, the land had peace for 40 years (Judges 8:28).  God’s divine presence enabled Gideon to accomplish the mission.