“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6. “They that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint," Isaiah 40:31. “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness,” Isaiah 41:10. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall defend your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:6-7. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee,” Isaiah 26:3. “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever,” Hebrews 4:12.
Before we get started this evening we will have a few moments of silent prayer. Scripture teaches that as believers we never fear a loss of salvation due to sin, but we do lose fellowship, our ongoing walk by the Spirit, abiding in Christ is broken, and that is recovered when we confess our sins. When we simply acknowledge or admit our sin to God He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So we’ll begin with a few moments of silent prayer, so you can make sure you are spiritually prepared to study the Word this evening, and then I will open in prayer. Let’s pray.
Our Father, we are so very grateful that we can come together as a body of believers to focus upon Your Word, to be reminded of Your grace and Your goodness, and the wonderful plan of salvation that You have that has provided for us such a salvation. That this is not something that just happened in the course of time, but was planned before You ever created the universe, before the foundations of the earth. You laid out this plan and it involved creating the human race, giving them freewill, responsibility, and of course, the opportunity to disobey You and to sin, which is what happened. And as a result of that sin Your plan based on Your grace, Your love for mankind, and You loved us simply because You wanted to love us. You provided this perfect plan of salvation, which we celebrate specifically at this time of year although we know that this is probably not when our Lord was born, it does give us an opportunity to focus and put our attention upon Your plan as He entered into human history for the purpose of going to the Cross to die for our sins. And so Father, tonight as we continue to study and reflect upon Your plan of salvation in Jesus Christ that we might come to understand this more fully and more completely, and we pray this in Christ’s Name, amen.
On the surface when we come to a study of the Christmas story it seems pretty simple. In fact that is one of the great things about the gospel. It is so simple that a three- or four-year-old child can understand that Jesus died on the Cross for their sins; that Christmas is all about the baby Jesus. Christmas is about God’s plan of salvation. Christmas is very simple in that way. But once we start thinking about the Scripture, and once we start digging into the details of God’s plan of salvation, and once we start digging into the details about who Jesus Christ is, it’s not long before there are questions that come to most people’s mind, especially if they are thinking about what the text says, and there are some things that we find in the Scripture that confuse us. Some things take us a fairly short amount of time to work our way through. Other things take years for us to learn enough about the Scripture and God’s plan as it unfolds in Scripture to really put things together. Some things we just have to put off until maybe we are face to face with the Lord.
It is not a surprise that some of us get confused a little bit. There are certainly conundrums when we get to the plan of God. We have things we need to work through, come to understand as we go through Scripture, and that is not a problem. Some times when we are witnessing to people; some times when you are talking to folks about the gospel and about why you come to church more than just once a week. They just don’t get it. They just don’t understand it. Sometimes, if we are honest, we get a little impatient with folks that don’t get it right away. We get a little impatient with folks who don’t understand the gospel, and we get impatient some times with other believers who just seem confused about some points and they’ve been taught about those points again and again and again, and they just don’t seem to get it. But that shouldn’t surprise us.
There are even people in the Bible who had special revelation about Jesus and they became confused. John the Baptist was one of those. Here’s John the Baptist who had a miraculously announced birth; he had a miraculous conception and birth because his mother Elizabeth was a barren woman. She had not had a child and an angel appeared to her husband, Zechariah, to tell him that she was about to conceive and that this child that she would bring into the world would be a very special child. It turns out that John the Baptist was a cousin of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so this is a family affair. So as John grew up he was about six months older than the Lord Jesus Christ, so he would have heard stories, and he would have learned about what happened with cousin Mary and what happened with her virgin conception and birth. He would have heard about Joseph and the trip to Bethlehem and everything that we know about the birth of Jesus and more.
When John grew up he recognized that he had a special calling from God, a special and distinct role in God’s plan for salvation; that he was the one to be the forerunner or the announcer of Jesus Christ. He was the one who would call the people to repent, to change, to prepare themselves for the advent of the King and His kingdom. He was the one who saw Jesus come down to be baptized and he said he wasn’t worthy to even loosen the thongs on His sandal. Nevertheless, he was the one who would baptize Jesus in the Jordan as an inauguration for His public ministry. He identified at that time that Jesus was the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. John has all of this information and yet we read that he became confused about just who Jesus was; that as he was arrested and put in prison, as he heard the stories about Jesus he wasn’t sure that Jesus was actually the Messiah. So the fact that some people, even believers who have a tremendous amount of knowledge, at times become confused over this issue, or that issue, or that facet of the life of Christ or the Person of Christ should not surprise us.
In Matthew 11:2–3 (slide 3) we read, “And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ,” he heard about the miracles; he heard about His teaching. When he heard about them “he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Now John the Baptist was stated by our Lord to be the greatest of the Old Testament (OT) prophets because he lived to see the coming of the Messiah. That is what the greatest probably indicates because he had the opportunity to be the forerunner, the one who announced the Messiah and he was there to know the Messiah, yet he became somewhat confused. Jesus’ response to that question was, Matthew 11:4–5 (slide 4) “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see. The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” This is a quote from Isaiah emphasizing that this is how you would know when the Messiah had come. In Matthew 11:6 He says, “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
So what I want to look at tonight is a few of the conundrums related to Christmas and the Person of Jesus Christ. One point that we ought to understand is that one of the typical attacks on Christianity is that the Bible really isn’t what Christians think it is. Christians who are really biblical Christians believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God. What that means is that God worked in and through the human authors of Scripture in order to reveal what He wanted revealed to the human race. It wasn’t dictation. There were parts of the Scripture like the Torah, the Ten Commandments, and the rest of the Law that were given directly by God in that manner, but that is not how God normally inspired the Word. The word “inspired” translates the Greek word, which means God breathed it out. God is the originator of Scripture. God is the Creator of mankind and created the human soul in such a way that there would be rapport between God and man. He created man in His image and likeness so that God would be able to communicate to this creature in a way that that creature could thoroughly and completely understand.
And that God created that creature in such a way that God could communicate through that creature and oversee what that creature wrote so that God Himself could guarantee that it would be free from error. Yet not in a way that overrode the individual personality or style or background or education of the individual writer of Scripture.
If you read through the Scripture, whether you are reading Moses in the OT, or Daniel, or Isaiah, or whether you’re in the New Testament (NT) and you are reading Peter, or James, or John, the individual personalities of each author stands out; and yet what they wrote is free from error. They are not just human writers talking about their experience with God. They are human authors who are writing what God has revealed to them and one of the evidences shows the distinctiveness of biblical Christianity; and by that I mean both the Jewish OT and the Greek NT are these kinds of conundrums. Because you look at some of the other religions, Mormonism for one, Islam for another, where you have a holy book that is written completely by one person. Joseph Smith wrote the whole book of Mormon. Mohammed originated the whole book of the Koran. When you have one writer writing what they do is they try to clean up any mistakes they have to make sure everything fits together. That is if they have brain cells that reasonably recognize each other and connect on more than one occasion. They try to avoid making mistakes. They make it look really good.
But in Scripture what you have is human authors who were writing and they didn’t fully understand everything that they were writing, and so some of the things that they wrote were exactly what God wanted them to write, but they didn’t understand what it meant or what its significance was and if they were writing from just as a human being, then they would have changed things up a little bit if they wanted things to fit together in terms of their frame of reference. It is evidence that the Bible, the Jewish or Hebrew OT and the Greek NT are distinctive. They weren’t written by one person at one time. They were written by over forty different authors over 2,000 years. Probably the first book of the OT was Job written sometime probably about the same time Abraham lived around 2000 or 2100 B.C. The OT, therefore, was written from 2100 B.C. up until about 440–430 B.C.; and then the NT is written between roughly A.D. 45 and A.D. 95 over a fifty-year period of time by people who lived in different countries.
Moses was reared and educated in Egypt. Paul was reared and educated in Tarsus. He was given a rabbinical education. After his bar mitzvah he moved to Jerusalem for his rabbinical training. You have Daniel, who grew up as a young man in Judea and then spends his adult life, after being trained as a bureaucrat and a government administrator in the Babylonian and in the Persian Empire. You have others that though they were prophets they were also farmers, like Amos, who was a herdsman and he raised figs. So he was a fig picker. You have all these different people with all these different roles and different levels of education. And yet they agree on some of the most controversial topics that have ever been discussed or debated in human history and yet they do not contradict each other. You can’t take forty people in this congregation who have been studying the Bible for most of their life and get them to agree on everything the way that the writers of Scripture agree on everything. That is distinctive. It’s not one person or even forty people in the same generation that know each other writing Scripture. They have written over this period of over 2,000 years. Many of them did not know each other, had no contact with each other. They’re just writing as they are as Peter says, “moved by the Holy Spirit,” (2 Peter 1:21.) They are energized to write and God oversaw the process.
Let’s look at some of theses conundrums and try to gain some insight from them as to what God is telling us. If they were simply collaborating as human authors, these kinds of things would have been straightened out, which is what the liberal tries to say. By liberal I mean the person who rejects the divine authorship of Scripture and says, well this is just another piece of human fiction like many other pieces of human fiction. Well the first conundrum I want to focus on is one you probably never heard of before. It is not a major one, but it is an important one, and that is:
1. How can the Messiah come from the tribe of Judah?
The background for this is understanding God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 to Adam and Even that the Messiah would come through the seed of the woman. Now that is an odd phrase and we will talk about that a little bit later on, but it would be through the seed of the woman that a Deliverer would come and the seed of the woman would defeat the seed of the serpent. The serpent was the animal that Satan indwelt in order to tempt them to sin in the Garden of Eden. Later on, as you read through Genesis, God expanded on this seed promise. In fact, if you remember when we went through Genesis, one of the key words to trace through Genesis is that word “seed” because God is tracing that promise from Genesis 3:15 all the way through to the end of the book with the death of Jacob and Joseph in Egypt. He is tracing the seed of the woman. He is tracing that promise. That is why you have all those genealogies in the Bible is to trace the seed promise that God gave.
We see that that seed promise is traced from Adam to Noah and then from Noah to Abraham, Abraham to his son Isaac, his son Jacob, and Jacob had twelve sons, and Judah was one of them. Judah is the progenitor of the tribe of Judah. In Genesis 49:10 (slide 5) just before Jacob died he made a series of prophetic statements, utterances over each of his sons about the future of the tribes that would descend from them. They were not necessarily complimentary, but one of the most significant was in Genesis 49:10 where he said, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah.” Scepter is a sign of royal authority. He is indicating from this that here you have just a small tribal group of Jews numbering approximately seventy, and he says that Judah will be the progenitor of the tribe from which the rulers, from which the kings will come. He says, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet” and this is a messianic promise that the Messiah would come from Judah.
But there is just a little bit of a problem. You see when Judah was younger, like his brothers, he wasn’t too concerned about God’s Word or obedience to God. He had no relationship with God and he got involved in an immoral relationship with his daughter-in-law, who is described as a prostitute. Her name was Tamar, and he committed adultery with his daughter-in-law. Tamar is one of four women mentioned in the line of the Messiah in the genealogy in Matthew 1.
Now what is interesting about this is that in Deuteronomy 23:2, part of the Mosaic Law, we read that one of illegitimate birth or a person who is born illegitimately as the son of Judah and Tamar would have been. “One who is born illegitimately shall not enter the assembly of the LORD.” Not because of anything done by them, but because their birth is like the birth of every human being, it’s tainted by sin. This is an object lesson. That every human being is born in sin, but this indicates ritual impurity. So they weren’t allowed to go into the tabernacle. They weren’t allowed to go into the temple. They weren’t allowed to worship with the nation. They should not enter the assembly of the LORD “even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD,” but the tenth generation the line is cleansed.
This apparent contradiction is that that from the line of Judah you have a line that goes down through Ruth and Boaz and the book of Ruth in the OT is about their meeting and their marriage. And down through David’s father Jesse to David (the David of David and Goliath), the David who became the second king of the united kingdom of Israel, and that David is according to the Matthew 1 genealogy, although there were probably some others, because I pointed it out and we studied it, there are gaps in that genealogy. But Matthew traces the genealogy to show that David comes as the tenth in his list. Now there may have been one or two left out, but the point is that David would have been cleansed. That line would have been cleansed by the time that David was elevated to the throne of Israel. So we see that God in His grace provided a solution to the problem of ritual impurity, which would have excluded that line but by the tenth generation David is clean.
Now we know that Israel kept meticulous records. Those records were kept in the temple and they kept all these genealogical records for generations. Many of those were destroyed of course when the temple was destroyed, but many were preserved and in Jewish history they have done what they can, different groups, to preserve that line. The curse was lifted so that David had every right to enter into the congregation of the LORD and the line of Messiah was purified. So that is a first conundrum. It illustrates how God’s the One who purifies the human race from sin. Nobody else can do that.
2. Now the second conundrum is how could a son of Joseph (Joseph is the husband of Mary) become king?
Now the issue with Joseph is, is Joseph the actual human father of Jesus? No, because the Bible says that Jesus is born of a virgin. We’ll talk about that in just a minute. So Joseph could not have been the human father, but the Bible makes this point very clear why Joseph could not have been the human father. This goes back to a situation that happened in the OT. As far as background is concerned, in 2 Samuel 7:12–16 we have God entering into an eternal covenant with David and with his descendants. We refer to this as the Davidic Covenant. It was an unconditional eternal covenant. It was an expansion on the seed promise that God made to Abraham in a similar kind of covenant that was called in the ancient world a royal grant, where a king would give a loyal subject a free contract, a free blessing, free finances, territory, land, whatever, because of their loyal obedience. God had made this kind of covenant with Abraham and He makes the same kind of covenant with David. He freely enters into this promise to David that it is through David that God will fulfill His promise of redemption for Israel and through the line of David would give Israel a king who would reign eternally over an everlasting Jewish kingdom. That is found in 2 Samuel 7:12–17. Now, that is written about 1025 B.C.
So when Moses wrote the Law we are talking about the previous situation in terms of the cleansing and illegitimate birth in Deuteronomy 23:2 (slide 6). Moses wrote that about 1406 B.C. So this is some four hundred years later when David came on the scene. Moses couldn’t have foreseen when he wrote that in the law that the tenth generation would be cleansed – that that would be significant in that David would be the tenth one in that list and that David would be cleansed and could reign at that particular time. What happens is that after David becomes king and he is given this covenant by God, that God promised the Messiah. He promised an eternal house, an eternal dynasty, an eternal future king. But the problem is that that line of descent from David went down through his son Solomon. It went down through all of the kings of Judah; all the way down to the very last king of Judah who was a guy by the name of Jeconiah, although his throne name was probably Jehoiachin. His father was Jehoiakim. Jehoiachin, Coniah, or Jeconiah, shortened to Coniah, only reigned for three months before the Babylonians defeated the southern kingdom of Judah and destroyed Jerusalem and destroyed the temple and wiped it out, at which time the LORD announced a curse, a judgment on the line of Jeconiah that was referred to as the “Coniah curse.”
In Jeremiah 22:30 (slide 7) we read, “Thus says the LORD: “Write this man down as childless (talking about Jeconiah), a man who shall not prosper in his days.” When he was defeated he was hauled off as a prisoner and taken to Babylon where he lived out his days. He never was allowed to return to his home in Jerusalem. “A man who shall not prosper in his days; for none of his descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah.” As far as God was concerned that was the end of the line for that line of descent from David through his son Solomon. It ended with Jeconiah. The trouble is that in Matthew 1 we learn that Joseph is a direct descendent of Jeconiah. If things had been normal, without the issue with Jeconiah, and if Rome had not conquered Judea, Joseph would have been the king. He was in the kingly line and he would have had that role. But because of the Coniah curse he was not to rule. He was not to reign. He would never be king.
The point that you will find in studying Matthew is the purpose for that genealogy is not to show, as many evangelicals believe and you’ll read this, that God is showing that Jesus wasn’t the physical descendent of Joseph. He didn’t have a physical connection to Jeconiah. He wasn’t going to reign because of birthright, but He would have had the legal right to reign because of His descendants through Jeconiah, through Joseph. But Joseph couldn’t have passed on the legal right because he didn’t have it. I do not agree with that position. I think that it is much more significant than that.
When you read Matthew, Matthew is the gospel writer. There are only two gospels that give the account of Jesus’ birth. It is in Matthew that you have this strong emphasis on the significance of the virgin conception and birth. What Matthew is showing in the genealogy in Matthew 1 isn’t where Jesus would have received the legal right to be the king through an adoption by Joseph, because even that would not have worked. What Matthew shows in that genealogy is why Joseph could not have been the legal or biological father of Jesus. It is because of the Coniah curse. This shows one of the aspects that is resolved through the virgin conception and birth is that the line of Mary comes down through another of David’s sons, Nathan. Solomon’s line ends with Coniah. There can’t be any passing on of legal or biological ruling rights and so it comes down biologically through Nathan to His mother Mary. Thus, Matthew’s genealogy focuses on showing that Joseph could not have been the father of Jesus in anyway, legally, through adoption, or biologically. Now that that takes us to the third conundrum:
3. How can God become a man?
What is interesting is when you compare Christianity with other religions; other religions will have human beings elevated to deity. It is granted to them. They start off as a man and then they are given deity. But in Christianity you have Jesus who is set forth as the eternal second person of the Trinity, eternally God, with the same attributes as God, and that He willingly gives up the exercise of His divine attributes, to take on the limitations of creaturehood, to become a human being for the purpose of fulfilling the plan of salvation, going to the cross, and dying on the cross for our sins. That’s Philippians 2:5–12. This begins with understanding the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 (slide 8), “Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign,” Now we’ve spent time studying through Isaiah 7, so I am just going to remind you of some of the salient points. That it was a time in Israel’s history when things were very dark. Ahaz was the king. Ahaz was apostate. Ahaz had introduced horrible idolatrous practices into the southern kingdom of Judah, and the northern kingdom of Israel was aligned with Syria and they were about to attack the southern kingdom for the purpose of destroying Ahaz, destroying the Davidic line, and putting someone else on the throne of David in Jerusalem.
At the beginning of Isaiah 7, Isaiah is told by God to go and provide this sign to Ahaz, that the house of David would not suffer loss. In the middle of a series of verses that are addressed to a plural subject, you all, meaning the house of David. God is confirming the house of David would not be destroyed. He inserts an individual prophecy in Isaiah 7:14. He says, “Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin” and the word here is almah. There are two different words that are used in Hebrew that can mean “virgin.” There is not a Hebrew word that in and of itself just means “virgin.” You have the Greek word PARTHENOS, which means “virgin,” which is like the English word, but you don’t have a word in Hebrew that specifically means “virgin.” You have the word bethulah and sometimes it can refer to an older woman who has never been married, never had relations with a man, but it can also refer to someone who has. Then you have another word, this word almah that always is used in the Bible to describe a young girl who has never married and is also a virgin. It is never used any other way. It doesn’t necessarily in and of itself have that semantic meaning.
But what is significant here is this is going to be a sign. This is going to be a huge billboard with flashing neon lights to alert everybody that something extremely significant and unusual has taken place. Now if the word almah here doesn’t mean a virgin, it just means a young woman, then there’s nothing really surprising, really significant about that because young girls get pregnant without a husband everyday. This is clearly indicating this is something unusual. It is distinctive. It is a sign. Furthermore, in the second and third century B.C. when the Jewish rabbis gathered together in Alexandria in Egypt to translate the Hebrew OT, the Hebrew Bible, into Greek because the Jews that were living in Egypt no longer spoke or read Hebrew. They needed to understand it in their language in Greek. When they did that they understood the context. This was 200 years before Jesus. So they’re not influenced like the rabbis after Jesus were influenced.
The rabbis after Jesus by 300 to 400 years are trying to write Jesus out of the Bible. It is too easy to read in the OT in Isaiah 53 and other passages. Yes, that really seems to be talking about Jesus…. And there were so many Jews during the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th century that were still converting to Christianity through these prophecies that they were working hard to try to come up with alternate interpretations. It wasn’t until you get into the 9th, 10th, 11th century with Roshi and David Kimkee and some others that they finally came up with some rather inventive and creative interpretations to get away from the obviously messianic implications of the text. But what is interesting is we have records of Midrash and the Mishnah and other Targum (writings) that were written at roughly the same time of Christ, some before, some in the 1st and 2nd century that clearly interpret all these passages as messianic, not just something that alluded to a future destiny for Israel as a nation, but they were referring to that specific King.
These rabbis that gathered in Alexandria to translate the Septuagint were not colored by this anti-Christian bias that comes along after Jesus and after Christianity. When they read through the Hebrew text of Isaiah and they understood it as a messianic prophecy and that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. They translated almah with the Greek word PARTHENOS indicating a virgin. They clearly understood it that way. It wasn’t until 400–500 years later that a debate arose that maybe that wasn’t the best translation because look what those Christians did with it. This is the prophecy and in the text it talks about the fact that it is the virgin. There is a definite article there. It is ha almah. It is not just any virgin, but there is something distinctive about this particular virgin. That goes back to a prophecy in the OT in Genesis 3:15, talking about the “seed of the woman” and that “seed of the woman” that article carries all the way through the OT. There was an expectation about this specific woman who would be the mother of the Messiah. We have this particular prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, but how can a virgin give birth? How is a virgin able to conceive without the normal sexual relations? This must be done somehow different from normal biology.
Then we have the next prophecy in Isaiah (slide 9). Isaiah 7–9. It is a whole series of messianic prophecies. Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a Child is born,” again emphasizing that this messianic figure comes through human birth. “…A Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” That term “Son” has divine overtones to it. “The government will be upon His shoulder.” He is going to come and reign. “And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity.” I translated that the other night in the first lesson in this little series. That “Mighty God” says that this Child is really God. That’s the conundrum: How can this Child be God and man? We are learning that it had to be that way in order for God to provide a perfect salvation. So this Child is given all of the titles that relate to deity.
Then we go to Gabriel’s announcement to Mary in Luke 1:30–33 (slide 10), “Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Yeshua.' ” IESOUS in the Greek, Yeshua in the Hebrew, which is the same word as “Joshua” that we read in the OT. It is from the verb meaning “to save, to deliver.” The angel says, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest.” Here it is talking about the fact that you are going to have a Child, but that Child is the Son of the Highest. That is a term for God. It is not just your child; it is God’s Son. “And the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” Going back and linking this to the Davidic Covenant. “And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” We see a clear emphasis here. He is tying this together again. He is going to be human. He is going to be born through a human mother in a unique, miraculous way, and then He is also going to be the Son of His Father.
Now another thing that we need to pull together in this way as we look at the OT and we look at the NT, is that in the Gospels, as well as in later writings, but there are some that say well Paul just reinvented or invented Christianity. It’s not in the Gospels. So I wanted to take most of my examples here from the Gospels and not from Paul. I have one example from Paul, but this is a typical thing you will hear, that Jesus really didn’t break with Judaism. It’s Paul who did. Paul’s the bad guy. Paul reinvented or invented Christianity, but that’s not true. We see the same things are taught and said by Jesus.
Let’s give an example. This is in Isaiah (slide 11). Isaiah, a Hebrew prophet, wrote 7th century B.C. and he identifies a vision that he has at the time of the death of the king of Uzziah, king of Judah. He says in Isaiah 6:1–4, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne.” So he has this vision of the heavenly throne room. “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim.” Seraphim are a category of angel. They’re usually associated, like cherubim, with God’s holiness and His righteousness, with His very presence.
You have cherubs. The “im” is a plural ending in Hebrew. You have cherubs and seraphs that surround the throne of God. Each of these seraphs had six wings; “with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” He is covering his face so as not to look upon the divine presence. “One cried out to another and says, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” Who is he talking about here? He is talking about the Person of God, Yahweh. “Holy is the LORD.” In the text that capitalization indicates that this is translating the sacred tetragrammaton, the four letters, YHWH. Sometimes it is pronounced Yahweh. It was transliterated as Jehovah based on the fact that in a Hebrew Bible you have the consonants many years later before they had vowels, and because out of respect for the Name of God Jews do not read that Name. They would usually read either Adonai, which is just a generic term for Lord or Master, or they would read HaShem, The Name.
So the vowel points for Adonai were inserted into the four consonants of Yahweh to remind the reader not to read that Name, but to read Adonai instead. That is where we get the name Jehovah. It’s from JHVH due to the going back and forth between Germanic scholars who would translate in German. If you see a ‘J’ you pronounce it like a ‘Y’. If you see a ‘W’ you pronounce it like a ‘V’. It’s YHWH in Hebrew. The ‘W’ you converted to a ‘V.’ They put in the vowels from Adonai from the Hebrew, not the English, and voila, you’ve created a new name, Jehovah. It is never found in the Bible. But that is what this reflects, the Name Yahweh in the OT. So who is Isaiah looking at here? Isaiah is looking at Yahweh, the LORD of Hosts, the one who led Israel out of Egypt, the God who separated the waters of the Red Sea. This is the God who led them in battle against the Canaanites.
In Isaiah 6:4 (slide 11) we read, “And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.” Isaiah 6:5–7 (slide 12) “So I said (this is Isaiah speaking): 'Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King,' Yahweh, ‘The LORD of hosts,’ ” Yahweh Sabaoth. “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.' Also I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send who will go for us?' I said: 'Here am I. Send me.' ” So this is a great vision that Isaiah has in Isaiah 6.
Now we shift forward about 650 years or more to the time of Jesus in the Gospel of John. In John 12:37–41 (slide 13) we have a statement that is made about Jesus. John writes in John 12:37, “But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him.” It is talking about the Pharisees and some of the people in Israel. They rejected Him. “That the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: 'Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?' ” Isaiah prophesied this; that the Messiah, the Servant of Yahweh, would be rejected. Then we skip down to John 12:40 and we read another quote from Isaiah in John 12:41, “These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory,” the glory of the LORD. “He saw the glory and spoke of Him.”
When did Isaiah see Jesus? He didn’t. He lived 600–700 years before Jesus. He never saw Jesus, but John is saying he saw Jesus’ glory when he saw the throne of God. He’s identifying Jesus with Yahweh of hosts. Some people, when they read the OT and they see a vision of Yahweh, they say, well is that the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit? It is the triune God sitting upon the throne. This is indicated by a term in theology called perichoresis. Perichorisis means that there are times when God appears and it’s all three Persons of the Trinity. It is not the Father; it is not the Father alone or the Son alone or the Holy Spirit, but you are seeing the triune God. And so the glory on the throne, Yahweh of hosts, that Isaiah saw in Isaiah 6, is the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and John ascribes that to Him.
Now this is not at all unusual in the NT for many places in the NT you have OT passages, Hebrew passages from the prophets that are applied to Jesus. Where passages in the Hebrew Bible are talking about Yahweh, God, and the writers of the NT say this is talking about Jesus. So it is very clear that the writers of the NT clearly understood that Jesus is God and it was for that that Jesus was accused of blasphemy and that He was crucified because He, as the Pharisees said, made “Himself out to be God” (John 10:30–33) and that is because He was.
In Isaiah 40:3 (slide 14) we read this prophecy related to the coming of the Messiah; that He would be preceded by “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.' ” In Isaiah 40 it is talking about this Servant of Yahweh. He is going to be preceded by one who announces His coming. He announces the way of whom? The way of Yahweh. In Matthew 3:3 Matthew writes about John the Baptist and says, “For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah.” John the Baptist is this forerunner; this one who’s crying in the wilderness. Then he quotes the passage specifically in Matthew 3:3 saying that John the Baptist is the one who is crying out: “Prepare the way of the LORD.” Who is the LORD in this context? Well in Matthew 3 it goes on to describe Jesus coming down to the Jordan to be baptized by John and John identifying Him as the Messiah.
In Leviticus 19:3 (slide 15) we read, “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths.” Who is speaking? Yahweh is; God is, in the Law given to Moses. They are His Sabbaths and He identifies Himself. “I am Yahweh, your God. I am Yahweh, your Elohim.” Then in Matthew 12:8 Jesus says of Himself, “For the Son of Man” taking that title from Daniel 7, as the one to whom the Ancient of Days will give the Kingdom in the future. He says, “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” See He is saying that it is His Sabbaths. But in Leviticus Yahweh is saying it is His Sabbaths. Either Jesus has a really bad case of arrogance or He is Who He claims to be. Again and again and again His life does not bear the marks of someone who is insane or a fraud or deceptive.
Joel 2:32 (slide 16), speaking of the End of Days, “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the Name of Yahweh shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as Yahweh has said, among the remnant whom Yahweh calls.” Now Paul, this is that one verse that I mentioned that I’m using of Paul’s. The others have been from the Gospels. Paul applies this to Jesus in Romans 10:13, “For whoever calls on the Name of Yahweh.” Earlier, just a few verses earlier, in Romans 10:9–10, he talks about “if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is LORD.” That confession with the mouth is identified in context two verses later as calling on the Name of the LORD. The LORD from Joel 2:32 is equated to Jesus by the apostle Paul. So we go back to understanding this significance in the OT and the OT stream that there is going to be a human being born the seed of the woman.
Genesis 3:15 (slide 17) God said, speaking to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your seed (that is your descendants) and her Seed (her Descendant).” This is the earliest indication of God’s plan of redemption. It was called the proto-, which means early, evangelium. The indication is that “He shall bruise your head (which is a fatal wound, but it is destructive), and you shall bruise His heel (that can also be a fatal wound.)” Remember, Jesus died on the Cross, but it didn’t destroy Him. So the heel wound is not as terminal as the head wound. The head wound is the complete destruction of Satan’s plan and Satan’s policy.
Daniel 7:13 (slide 18), I mentioned this a minute ago in reference to the title Son of Man. Daniel says, “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man,” indicating again that He is truly human, “coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days.” So He is in heaven. It shows that He has a heavenly origin but He is also human. Psalm 2:7 (slide 19), which is a great messianic Psalm where God and His Messiah, His Anointed, are arrayed against the kings of the earth; and at the end of that Psalm the Messiah says, “I will declare the decree: The LORD (that is Yahweh) has said to Me, (that is Yahweh’s Anointed, the Messiah) ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’ ” This happened in eternity past. This indicates that the Messiah is of divine origin, whereas these other passages have spoken of His human origin.
Genesis 22:18 (slide 20) after Abraham had obeyed God to take Isaac to Mount Moriah to sacrifice him and God provided a perfect substitute. He stayed his hand and said instead there is a substitute. There was a ram caught in the bushes and that ram was killed as an animal sacrifice, a substitute for Isaac; and afterword God praised Abraham for his obedience and said, “In your seed (there’s that word again) all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” Indicating that the Messiah would come again through the “seed” of Abraham and also through David, Psalm 132:11 (slide 21), “The LORD has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: ‘I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body.’ ” All of these passages, understood through centuries as referring to the Messiah, indicate both His human origin as well as His divine origin.
All those were OT passages, then in the NT (slide 22), Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” Indicating again that she is human. So this is the significance, this conundrum of: how can God become a man? And then finally, this is how Jesus stumped the Pharisees. As they are trying to get Him twisted up to commit some error, Matthew 22:41–46 (slide 23), when the Pharisees confronted Jesus. Jesus asked them a question and they couldn’t answer. He said, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose Son is He?” So they thought, put their heads together, and they said, well He’s “The Son of David,” indicating that human royal line. “He said to them, ‘How then does David in the Spirit call Him “Lord” ’ ”? If He is David’s son, how can David call his son “Lord,” which indicates a title that this person is higher than David. He quotes from Psalm 110 (in Matthew 22:44), “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool’?” This is Jesus’ question to the Pharisees, “If David then calls Him ‘Lord’ how can he be his Son?” What He is saying is how can He just be his son if he calls Him Lord? The response was, “And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.”
4. Now the last conundrum is the conundrum of Jesus’ rejection. He’s called a “stumbling stone,” Isaiah 8:14 (slide 24). How can one who is a stumbling stone, somebody who causes people to be tripped up, be the Savior of the world? In Isaiah 8:14 we have the promise: “He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” Not every one is going to come to Him. Many will reject Him. They will stumble over Him. They won’t come to the truth. So He’s going to be “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel” to Judah and to Israel, “as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” They’re just going to trip all over Him. They’re not going to accept Him when He shows up. That’s the prophecy from Isaiah 8:14. Then in Isaiah 28:16 (slide 25) God says regarding this stone, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.” What he is saying is that this is the stone that is the solid cornerstone upon which salvation is built.
Psalm 118:22 (slide 26), “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” Then in the NT Peter pulls this together and says in 1 Peter 2:6 (slide 27), “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture” quoting from the Psalms, 'Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.' ” That’s the bottom line when it comes to Christmas. As Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26). That’s the issue at Christmas; it is faith in Jesus Christ alone brings eternal salvation. It’s the promise that was first indicated in Genesis 3:15 6,000 years ago and it’s developed and built and expanded upon consistently and without contradiction through the dispensations of the Gentiles, then through the age of Israel under the law, through the prophets, all the way through the NT without contradiction and it is clear throughout the Scripture. God will send a Messiah. That Messiah has certain characteristics. Those were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Messiah who died for the sins of the world.
Let’s bow our heads and close in prayer. Father, thank You for this opportunity to focus upon these things and be reminded of Your great and magnificent plan of salvation. It was not just an after thought, but was thought out, developed, planned, and put into effect from the moment of creation. And that You provided a perfect Redeemer and a perfect plan of redemption that we might be delivered from our sin. Father, we pray that You might help us to understand the implications of that. Not just in terms of our eternal destiny, but also in terms of Who we serve in this life. That we are called to follow Him, to serve Him, and to have His character developed in us as we grow and pursue spiritual maturity; and we pray this in Christ’s Name, amen.