Jesus Fulfills Prophecies in Isaiah 53 (Day Five)

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This is the last of five daily posts where I have focused on how Isa. 53:4-12 is used in the NT.  (I invite you to read Day Four here.)

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 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, and 1 John 3:5.)

There is not much more that I can say to unpack this portion of the OT verse.  Jesus took the punishment 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 this 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 seeing that it has been indented.  It does that consistently in the NIV.  Many 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”.

Next, Heb. 9:28 is also an allusion of Isa. 53:12, not a quote.  Beale and Carson confirm this.  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.  This sacrifice 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.”

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 Peter states “He Himself bore our sins in his body”, echoing Isa. 53:12, which says “he bore the sin of many”.  Notice the deliberate change that Peter made to the OT grammar here.

He substituted the first-person plural “our sins” for the original 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”.  When Peter altered the grammar, he did not change the original meaning of the OT text.  He just brought his readers a more personal application, which lined up with the original intent of Isaiah.  Jesus did bear the sins of many, and many includes your sins and my sins; our sins.

Surprisingly, 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, which is less obvious allusion.  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, however, John 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 (and is) well-grounded in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Gough remarks that if these OT 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.

I say Amen to that!  Come, Lord Jesus!

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Jesus Fulfills Prophecies in Isaiah 53 (Day Four)

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“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.” (Isa. 53:12)

This is the fourth of five daily posts leading up to Good Friday where I will focus on how Isa. 53:4-12 is used in the NT.  (I invite you to read Day Three here.)

Portions of Isa. 53:12 are quoted or alluded to seven times, which is more than the last three passages we discussed.  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.”  They remind us that it is God who has taken the initiative (53:6 and 10).

There is a note of vindication in the first part of v. 12.  This is a word that many of my seminary professors and commentators have used in this context.  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 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.”

Isaiah says 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.”

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 Luke 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 Luke 4:18-19 (Isa. 61:1-2).  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.”  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.  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.”  They continue, stating that Jesus “understood his approaching death in the light of the fate of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant.”

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, which began before the world was created, was first hinted at in Gen. 3:15, and clearly portrayed in Isa. 53, was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

I invite you to read Day Five of this series, where I will finish my discussion of  Isa. 53:12.

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Jesus Fulfills Prophecies in Isaiah 53 (Day Three)

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“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 its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.” (Isa. 53:7)

This is the third of five daily posts leading up to Good Friday where I will focus on how Isa. 53:4-12 is used in the NT.  (I invite you to read Day One here and Day Two here.)

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.”  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.

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A simple chiasm from Matt. 6:24

Verse 7 is a typical Hebrew “chiasm”, a common literary device that uses repetition to emphasize meaning.  (See example above.)  We can label these verses here as A, B, B’, A’.  Isaiah started with “he did not open his mouth” (A).  He adds, “like a lamb to the slaughter” (B).  He then mentions “as a sheep before her shearers” (B’).  He ends where he starts, “he did not open his mouth” (A’). Do you see the repeated thought pattern?

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.”  (Note: They also point out that there are several references in the OT to Ethiopia, which is 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.”  Isa. 18:1 and 45:14 also refer to this region, which may explain the eunuch’s interest in reading from Isaiah.)  Fascinating!

Philip, who was one of the seven deacons selected in Acts 6:5, 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 8:26, Philip is moved to go south, where he met the Ethiopian eunuch.

The focus of this scene is this trusted government staff worker (with whom 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 Acts 8:31, 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.”

It is not difficult to understand why.  In Matt. 26:62-63, Jesus is silent before the Sanhedrin.  At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, 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.

I invite you to read Day Four of this series, where I will discuss Isa. 53:12.

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Jesus Fulfills Prophecies in Isaiah 53 (Day Two)

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“We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.” (Isa. 53:6)

This is the second of five daily posts leading up to Good Friday where I will focus on how Isa. 53:4-12 is used in the NT.  (I invite you to read my Intro here and Day One here.)  My primary reference is the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, by Beale and Carson.  It is a great resource.

Let us look at Isaiah 53:5-6.  This key passage is not directly quoted in the NT, but it 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 v. 5 that this man was “pierced for our transgressions”.  Note the parallelism in the phrase that follows, which was a common Hebrew literary device.  It is said that he was “crushed for our iniquities”.  Pierced corresponds with crushed; transgression corresponds with iniquities.  John McArthur preached on this passage last week.  He said there are five places where a substitutionary atonement can be seen.  This is the first one.

Isaiah provides another couplet in the second part of v. 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 v. 6 about our common, sinful, fallen condition.  All of us, “like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.”  Everyone needs a Savior.  This 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 called 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 1 Peter 2:13-18.  Here, 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 v. 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 others also.  In v. 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.

Peter continues to focus on the cross, where Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree” (v. 24).  In the second part of that verse, he deliberately uses the phrase “by his wounds you were healed”, which is immediately followed in v. 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: If it was a direct quote like v. 22 and the series of four OT quotes Peter uses in the first part of chapter 2, it would have been indented.)  Peter uses language that is reminiscent of the tail end of Isa. 53:5 and does the same with the first part of v. 6.

It is 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 v. 24.  (The same thing is done with v. 25.)  Isaiah 53:5 reads, “by his wounds we are healed.”  Peter wrote, “by his wounds you have been 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.”

This is absolutely amazing to me.  Peter personalizes this prophecy to the readers of his epistle.  What is even more amazing to me is to understand with our minds and hearts that Peter’s use of “you” also applies to present day followers of Jesus Christ who were not part of his original readers.  By His wounds, you and I were healed – reconciled with God and brought into His family.  Praise God for His amazing grace to us!

I invite you to read Day Three of this series, where I will discuss Isa. 53:7-8.

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Jesus Fulfills Prophecies in Isaiah 53 (Day One)

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Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.” (Isa. 53:4)

Every day this week, I will share some insights on how Isa. 53:4-12 has been used in the NT.  (I invite you to read the introduction to this series of five articles here.)

The NT verses I will discuss are 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 NT passages that quote or allude to the OT.  It is a remarkable resource.  It functions as a reverse of the usual cross-reference that links a NT verse that quotes the OT back to its origin.  Gough starts in Gen. 1:1 (which is alluded to in John 1:1-2), works his way through to Mal. 3:17 (which is quoted in Matt. 17:11, Mark 9:12, and Luke 1:16-17).

How the NT uses the OT is an important topic for all Christians to understand.  It gives us confidence that these Scriptures were inspired by God, there is essential unity between the OT and NT, and that Jesus completely fulfills OT prophecy.  It all points to Him.

Isaiah 53:4 is quoted only once, in Matt. 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 sorrows.  Yet, those who witnessed the sacrifice thought that he was getting what he deserved, and not what we deserve.

Looking at the NT context, beginning in 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).  In verse 16, 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.

Matthew 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.”

I invite you to read Day Two of this series, where I will discuss Isa. 53:5-6.

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Jesus Fulfills Prophecies in Isaiah 53 (Intro)

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“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

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 could 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 Jesus 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 these passages, 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.  I was excited to find 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 discovered over the next five days leading up to Good Friday.  I invite you to read Day One, where I will discuss Isa. 53:4.

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

God’s Presence and Gideon’s Mission

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One of our pastors has been teaching an overview of 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 biblical illustrations of what I call “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 at all.  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 explains his confusion when he compares God’s deliverance in Egypt in the past and his present dire circumstances in Midian.  God addresses his concern in a bit.

An angelic “bunny trail”

I have to pause here just 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 term “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 many commentators to speculate that they could be more than just an angel.

I hear this idea of Jesus physically appearing  in the OT most often in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  After these young men of faith were tossed into the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar himself remarked that he saw “four men walking around in the fire . . . and the fourth looks like a son of the gods” (Dan. 3:25).

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 physically 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 of any kind.  He did not take on a human form until Mary’s immaculate conception.  The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ humble 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 is a wild stretch of the imagination for me to believe that Jesus would have appeared in physical form on numerous occasions in the OT.

Second, when this same term “angel of the Lord” is used in the NT a few times (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, but that they are merely God’s messengers who speak the words of God on His behalf.  When those who were visited by these angels worshiped 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).

Let us return to the narrative about Gideon and his question to Yahweh.

God’s presence with Gideon was all that mattered

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 quite clear to me.  God did not stutter.   It was said through the angel earlier that the LORD was with Gideon.  It is re-emphasized here that Yahweh 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 mattered.

Here’s a simple math equation that comes straight 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 forty years (Judges 8:28).  God’s divine presence enabled Gideon to accomplish the work he had been called by God to do, not in his limited strength alone, but in God’s infinite power.

In the same manner, God’s divine presence in our own human work will enable us to accomplish those things that He has called us to do for  His glory and for the benefit of our neighbor.

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Our Identity in Christ (Lesson 7)

This is the seventh of eight Sunday School lessons I taught last fall.  In this session, we will explore the radical and irreversible transformation that happens internally and externally to every genuine follower of Jesus Christ.  It is a transformation initiated by God, by grace through faith in Christ, and brought about by the Holy Spirit in the process we call sanctification.  It is a divine partnership, which involves our cooperation, by faith and obedience.

Hook

Here is a definition of the new birth, according to Unger’s Bible Dictionary:

The new birth is a creative life-giving operation of the Holy Spirit upon a lost human soul, whereby in response to faith in Christ crucified (John 3:14-15; Gal. 3:24), the believing one, “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), is quickened into spiritual life, and made a partaker of the divine nature and of the life of Christ Himself (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:20; Col. 1:27; 1 Peter 1:23-25; 2 Peter 1:4). The complete necessity of this spiritual transaction is the result of fallen man’s state of spiritual death, his alienation from God and his consequent utter inability to “see” (John 3:3) or “to enter” into “the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). No matter how moral, refined, talented, or religious the natural or unregenerate man may be, he is blind to spiritual truth and unable to save himself (John 3:6; Psa. 51:5; 1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:7-8). It is patent, therefore, that the new birth is not the reformation of the old nature but the reception of a new Nature.

I love this definition.  It emphasizes its absolute necessity, based on John 3:3 and 5.  We are born “blind to spiritual truth”, as is every non-believer.  We must be regenerated, not just reformed.

Last week we looked at the process of our radical transformation.  As Unger emphasized above, this was required because we could not see nor enter in the Kingdom by ourselves.  All true believers in Jesus Christ (i.e., followers/disciples) were born again, regenerated, converted, and transformed at the very moment of salvation.  When the Holy Spirit indwells us, we are changed.

So, what actually changed?  Your DNA?  Probably not.  (Although, with advances in genetic studies, scientists keep finding genes for various tendencies, so it is not outside the realm of the possible that God does change us at the molecular level.)  What about your appearance?  Perhaps; especially to those who knew you before and after your conversion.  Your thoughts and mind?  Definitely!  Your feelings, desires, attitudes, abilities, and relationships as well, were dramatically altered the hour you first believed.  We have new resources we did not have before, and need now.

Book

1) Thoughts/Mind.

a) Read Rom. 12:2. Be transformed. Is this active or passive, or both?  What is involved?

(Teacher notes: I think it is clear from this verse that we are to allow the Holy Spirit to transform our minds.  This in itself is passive.  This ongoing process of sanctification begins when we accept Christ.  God initiates, but we have an active role. This transformation happens “by the renewing of our minds”.  Our minds get renewed first of all when we recognize that the world’s value system is bankrupt, counter to God’s truth in many ways.  We are to actively choose to not be conformed, but to be transformed in our minds by soaking in God’s word whenever we can.  It can be augmented with sermons, Christian music, and other means, but the main thing that each of us have to do is to take time to read, study, and meditate on the Bible.)

b) Read 1 Cor. 2: 6-16. What is one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit?  How is Jesus involved?

(Teacher notes: Paul describes the spiritual wisdom that the Holy Spirit reveals to His followers.  It is not “of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing” (v. 6).  It is described as “God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden” (v. 7).  Verse 12 tells us that each of us who follow Jesus receive God’s Holy Spirit “that we may understand what God has freely given us.”  Paul concludes, “we have the mind of Christ” (v. 16).  This spiritual wisdom increases over time as mature in consistent faith and obedience to God’s Word.

c) Read 2 Peter 1:3-9.  What have we been given to live out the Christian life?  What is our part?

(Teacher notes: Peter states boldly that we have been given “everything we need for a godly life” (v. 3).  It starts with knowledge of “his very great and precious promises” (v. 3).  This leads to faith, which is our acceptance of the basic truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As we pursue that faith with continued trust and obedience resulting in spiritual growth/fruit (i.e., goodness, knowledge, self-control), these things become effective and productive in helping us to know Jesus more.)

2) Feelings/Attitudes/Desires.

a) Read Rom. 7:22; 8:9.  How does Paul describe how he has changed?  Who is in control?

(Teacher notes: I did not fully comprehend Romans 7 until fairly recently.  I knew it described Paul’s struggle between flesh and Spirit, which is obviously ours as well.  But I missed a critical detail.  He states in 7:22 that in his inner being” he delights in God’s law.  This stands in stark contrast to what Paul has taught in the previous seven chapters of Romans, that both Jew and Gentile stand condemned as sinners.  We understand from a previous lesson that Paul has made it quite clear in Eph. 2:1-3 and other places that we were dead, separated from God – His enemies.  There was nothing good in us.  We were sinners by nature.  But now, in Rom. 7:22, we see that he somehow “delights in God’s law.”  This indicates that a supernatural internal transformation has already taken place at the core of Paul’s will, his feelings, attitudes, and desires.  He is not merely flesh; by God’s Holy Spirit he now has a new Master.  The flesh is not in control of his inner being – the Holy Spirit is.  He has moved from one sphere to another, and that changes everything about him.  Those of us who follow Christ have had that same transfer from darkness to light.)

b) Read 2 Cor. 4:16-18. Paul presents another contrast.  What is happening to us inwardly?

(Teacher notes: The contrast is clear.  Outwardly, we are falling apart.  This could be seen as physically, due to Paul’s advancing age and after years of suffering for Christ, or externally, due to the trials of life.  Life wears us down as we mature in Christ.  And yet, there is a greater thing happening inwardly.  We are “being renewed day by day” (v. 16).  I cannot help but think about the memorable song “Day by Day” from the musical Godspell, which God used to draw me to Himself in the mid-70’s.  I made the chorus my own prayer, one that I still pray occasionally to this day over 40 years later: “Day by day; day by day.  Lord, dear Lord, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.”  He is renewing us; we do well to assist in that renewal by welcoming it and seeking after it by grace through faith and obedience.)

c) Read Phil. 1:6. Personally, this is one of most powerful promises in the Bible.  What does God do?

(Teacher notes: This profound promise has stuck with me my entire Christian life.  God began a good work in me.  He called; I had to respond.  He transformed.  He continues to transform.  When I veer from the path of spiritual growth, He disciplines me according to Heb. 12:5-11.  This process, which seems to be irreversible, will continue until Jesus comes back or He calls me home.)

3) Abilities/resources.

a) Read 1 Cor. 10:13.  What does God provide with respect to temptation?

(Teacher notes: The answer is simple.  God provides a way out – every single time we are tempted to sin.  We can never say, “The Devil made me do it.”  We always have a choice to make, but more importantly, we have a new supernatural source of strength as Christians that empowers us to flee the flesh, have faith to overcome the world, and fight Satan directly when necessary with the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18).)

b) Read 2 Cor. 10:3-5.  What does God provide with respect to fighting spiritual battles in the mind?

(Teacher notes: In addition to the power of the Spirit to fight temptation, we also have access to new resources to wrestle our thought life before it leads to sinful actions.  Paul says that “the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world” (v. 4).  These offensive weapons that complement the mostly defensive weapons described in Eph. 6, have “divine power”.  They enable us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (v. 5).  I don’t know about you, but I wrestle with my thought life daily.  My imagination is my greatest strength, which can also become my greatest weakness.  I definitely need to use these weapons that are available to me.)

c) Read Col. 3:9-10.  What does God provide with respect to our becoming more Christ-like?

(Teacher notes: Paul uses an illustration with which we can all identify.  Every day, and for those who exercise regularly, sometimes two or three times in a day, we remove old sweaty clothing, and put on new clothing.  When we become Christians, we are given a new nature, which we have explored in-depth over the past few weeks.  Paul says that this new nature is being renewed, which sounds like a contradiction – Why is something that is new need to be renewed?  The process of sanctification, becoming more Christlike in thoughts, attitudes, and actions, does not happen overnight.  It happens a little bit more every day that we intentionally walk with God, abide in Christ, and are filled with the Holy Spirit.)

4) Relationships.

a) Read John 1:12-13.  Who are we in Christ?  What are the implications of this new relationship?

(Teacher notes: John says that all of us who have received Jesus and believed in His name are declared to be “children of God”.  We understand this to mean those who have repented of our sin, submitted to the Lordship of Christ, and accepted Jesus by faith.  It is not true that “all people are God’s children”, which many in the world falsely believe.  What is implied is that we have a relationship with the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we did not have before.  This new relationship carries with it both privilege and responsibility from now until eternity.)

b) Read Eph. 2:19-22. Who are we in Christ?  What are the implications of this new relationship?

(Teacher notes: In this passage, Paul explains that our new relationship with the Godhead is not merely vertical (up and down), but horizontal (left to right) as well.  We are “fellow citizens with God’s people” (v. 19), who come from every race, tongue, and tribe; Jew and Gentile, male and female, black and white.  All who are in Christ are our brothers and sisters by faith.  This relationship supersedes all other divisions and labels.  We are going to spend eternity with this diverse group of Christ-followers, so we had better learn to experience unity here and now.)

c) Read 1 Peter 2:9-10. Who are we in Christ?  What are the implications of this new relationship?

(Teacher notes: This passage is the icing on the cake in describing who we really are in Christ.  We are part of something way bigger than ourselves.  Whether we can fathom it or not, we are called priests, who represent God before the world.  This priesthood of which we are a part is said to be “royal”.  As God’s children, we are princes and princesses.  Peter states that we are part of a holy nation, one that has no geographical borders, but cuts across all boundaries.  We the recipients of God’s blessing to the world, which was promised to Abram in Gen. 12:2-3.)

Look

As you reflect on these different aspects of the supernatural transformation you have experienced in your own life, and the resources you have, what are you most thankful for?  What do you struggle with?

Took

Your transformation into Christlikeness, a true partnership between you and God, is more about resting in what He has done than working for Him.  However, by design, it is a cooperative partnership, one that hinges upon our dependence on God and continuing to pursue Him by grace, through faith and obedience.

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.