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Romans 9:3-5 by Robert Dean
If you want people to trust you, then you have to do what you say you'll do. We can have absolute trust in God because He always keeps His promises and covenants. Listen to this lesson to learn about eight covenants of God and how they impact mankind today. Discover two streams of prophecy in the Old Testament that foretell the Messiah will be both fully God and fully human and how God has not forgotten any of His promises to the house of David.
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 2 secs

Romans 9
The Messiah: God Incarnate


We're in Romans 9 and we're going to look tonight at a major doctrine in verses 4 and 5 related to the deity of Christ. This is one of about five key verses that clearly and profoundly state the deity of Christ in the New Testament. We've gone through a series of background studies in the last few weeks to this chapter because often it's important to understand issues before you get into a section. It helps you to understand and think about what you're reading in relation to those particular issues.


If you're reading an article in an editorial in a journal or you're going to watch, let's say, a documentary and you don't know it's controversial, you don't know the background on the different sides, it's very easy to miss a lot of what's said. If you take time to become educated on the issues before you watch the film or read the book, then what you're watching has a lot more significance for you. You can watch it with discernment. The same thing is true when you're reading Scripture. A lot of people pick up the Bible to read it but they really have no framework. There's no instruction, no comprehension of what the issues are.


Unfortunately they start with the first book. If it's a New Testament they'll start with Matthew and there's this long genealogy in chapter one. They'll start in Genesis and there are long genealogies in Genesis 5 and Genesis 10 and 11 and they don't really understand what this all about. They decide it means nothing so they set the Bible down.


There needs to be guidance and direction and that is why pastors and Bible teachers are provided for church. But not all Bible teachers and pastors are cut from the same cloth. Not too many really know and understand the Bible. Even training and formal seminary training does not guarantee they'll know very much. I've certainly seen men who haven't had much Bible training fall by the wayside and get diverted into strange paths but I've also seen that with men with formal training. I've seen it more with those who don't have training because they don't know much about the issues. Some are somewhat slavishly dependent on someone else and they never learn to develop any level of critical thinking skills on their own. That's important for all of us.


Everyone starts off in life becoming somewhat dependent on the people who guide them. They take every opinion that mentor has as if it's handed down from Mount Sinai. Then as we grow and mature in understanding any time we read articles or books written by other people and learn other things, it helps us to be able to self-critique. That's how we grow in our knowledge and understanding of anything.


Romans 9-11 are critical chapters today. Whether you realize it or not you are living and are players in one of the great conflicts of the angelic conflict. That is the battle over Israel and the role of ethnic Jews in history. That plays a part as I pointed out in the whole trajectory of anti-Semitism because part of the role and part of the objective and strategy of Satan since he lost at the cross is to try to prevent God from able to fulfill his promises to the Jewish people. So in much of Christian history, sadly, church historians got off track in the early part of the church age and bought into an allegorical form of interpretation and later they used, in the early Reformation, a historicist form of interpretation.


That means they thought they could see from the things going on in history the fulfillment of history in their lifetime. They misidentified a lot of things and caused a lot of problems just as allegory did. It wasn't until the post-post Reformation period, so to speak, the late 1500's to the 1600's, that this whole issue of literal hermeneutics or literal interpretation began to be consistently developed and applied to every Scripture. It has taken many centuries for that to work itself out in a lot of areas and it's very important.


Last week I mentioned I was reading a book by a man named Robert O. Smith. His book is More Desired than Our Owne Salvation: The Roots of Christian Zionism. He's a co-moderator of a forum on the Palestinian issue in the World Council of Churches and he definitely and specifically states that he is out to defend the view that Christian Zionism is the polar opposite of Jewish Zionism and is very dangerous. He's brilliant and that always makes him more dangerous. He's done an incredible amount of research which means it's a wealth of good information. You have to watch for all those little points where he slides his post-modern interpretive framework in. He uses words like "well that's the construction of that view or history" or "we need to recognize how they constructed the narrative". The term "construction" and "narrative" are buzzwords for modernism.


Every group has their own "narrative". They say there's no meta-narrative that's absolute. We would say that the Bible gives us an absolute meta-narrative from God and that is what we use to inform us of everything. In post-modernism there's no absolute objective narrative. You can't know truth. There are no absolutes. Of course, that's the core problem. When you make a statement like that you're uttering an absolute. You're saying, "There are no absolutes." Is that an absolute? Yes. So, okay. We have one absolute so that negates that basic assumption. Nevertheless this is what governs a lot of history and his agenda, like the agenda of many others, is to discredit Bible-believing evangelicals who support Israel.


Ground zero for understanding God's whole issue of God's plan for Israel and the distinction between Israel and the Church is this passage, Romans 9-11. Now we started off with Paul's very peronal statement here, "I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit…" He's saying these things to reinforce that this is his personal conviction and his personal view and that he has great sorrow in verse 2 and "continual sorrow in my heart." He is definitely hurt and harmed by the Jewish rejection of the gospel message that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah prophesied and promised from the Old Testament.


Paul has been at the heart of this particular battle and he is one of a long list among Christian leaders who have been libeled and maligned, and his positions have been distorted by those even in the Jewish community, and in most cases in the Gentile community who have rejected Christianity. There is a passage in Acts 21 which describes part of the attack upon him. This is when he is on the way to Jerusalem and he receives a warning that there are many there who are going to be opposed to him. In verse 19 of Acts 21 we read, "And when he had greeted them [leaders of the church in Jerusalem] he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it they glorified the Lord and they said to him, 'You see, brother, how many thousands there are who have believed and they are all zealous for the Law.' "


Now that last phrase is very important because in the Jerusalem they are zealous for the Law but not as a way of salvation or of sanctification. This is their tradition. It's their history. This is who they are as ethnic Jews. This is why they still worship in the Temple. It's not because they were adding that to what Christ did but what Christ had done on the Cross made the sacrifices so much more meaningful for them. The Temple still stood and they were still under the Abrahamic covenant so this was important to them and they're in this transition period.


That's one of the things that hasn't always been emphasized in church history. It's usually that when we read, "they were zealous for the Law" there's this knee-jerk wrong reaction saying, "Oh, they were legalists." No. This is a positive statement by James and the leaders of the Jerusalem church affirming how many Jews had become regenerate Christians believing in Jesus as the Messiah. They had believed and they were zealous for the Law because they believe it's still good.


Paul said in Romans 7 that the Law is still good and righteous and holy. He didn't say the Law is evil and nasty and you should ignore it. He just says it's not there for your justification or for your sanctification. Then they go on to say in verse 21, "And they have been told about you…" This is the propaganda machine, the big lie against Christianity that's generating the slander against Paul. "And they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses." Did Paul teach that? Not at all. Saying they ought not to circumcise their children." No, he did not tell them that. They were still under the Abrahamic covenant.


Circumcision was a sign of the Abrahamic covenant and it's still in effect today for the Jews. Just because they are in Christ doesn't negate who they are as descendants of Abraham and if that covenant is still in effect, and we believe it is, then that's why we believe it's important for Christians to support Israel. Circumcision is still in effect in relation to that but it doesn't do anything for you to make you more savable, a better Christian, or it doesn't make you spiritual. It's just a sign of the Abrahamic covenant.


So the big lie said that what Paul did was to tell them to forsake Moses, that they should not circumcise their children, nor "should they walk according to their customs." Notice that's an important word there. In understanding cultural differences, there are definite cultural differences. There are ways in which different cultures worship. There are ways in which different cultures do things and it is neither right nor wrong. That's how groups in Africa conduct their worship services. It has nothing to do with a Biblical absolute. If you're in a Chinese church, if you're in a Hispanic church, often they do things differently. Some things may be right. Some things may be wrong, but generally speaking they are just cultural distinctives.


This is one of the things that was going on in the early church. Sometimes it takes place today in Messianic Christian congregations where their whole structure is much more like the synagogue than the church, but only because that's their background. It doesn't have anything to do with a Biblical absolute. So there's nothing in Scripture that says you start church at a certain time, you sing two hymns, you pray, take up the offering, have the sermon, and then close in prayer. That's not handed down from Mount Sinai, the Mount of Olives, or the Throne of God. That is just the cultural way in which English background American churches have developed their order of service. Paul was not going after their culture. He was not attacking their customs. This became a major issue and Paul has been much maligned.


Let's go back to Romans 9. So Paul has great sorrow because he has borne the brunt of this rejection and this hostility. We've traced this in our study in Acts on Tuesday nights where he's gone to places like Pisidia, Antioch, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra where crowds develop and where he is basically run out of town, in some places arrested, and other places like Philippi he's beaten with rods. He's thrown in jail. He's run out of town. They chase him to the next town like they do in Thessalonica. These crowds persecute him.


In 2nd Corinthians he lists many of the things that went on. Many times he's in prison, he's jailed, he's shipwrecked three times [we only know of one of these from Acts], all of these things happened. A lot of it is directed from the Jewish community to Paul and it breaks his heart because he understands that above all things God sent His son Christ Jesus to His people and His people rejected Him. That's John 1:11. John 1:12 contrasts it. It's a well-known verse that says, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."


So we see this emphasis of God first to the Jew. That was Paul's first methodology, to take the gospel first to the Jewish community and then to the Gentiles. So it has broken his heart to watch the rejection of the Promise of God, the Messiah, and all the blessing that would come with it by his Jewish brethren. So he then states in a somewhat hyperbolic manner how seriously he takes this. He says, "For I could wish that I, myself, were accursed from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh…" This word translated accursed is the word anathema, the same word that he uses over in Galatians 1:7 when he talks about if anyone preaches another gospel, that is, a gospel of a different kind, let them be accursed. Let them come under the judgment and condemnation of God.


So he says "I wish I, myself, were accursed…" This is not just an idiomatic statement. He is making a statement that is on the border of saying, "I would give up my personal salvation if my countrymen would only turn to the gospel and accept Jesus as their Messiah." He says, "I wish I could be accursed from Christ—apo tou christou in the Greek. apo is the preposition of separation, similar to its synonym ek and it has to do with severing or separating someone from something so he says, "I wish I were anathema separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren."


Here he's talking about ethnic Israel. The point I made a couple of weeks ago is that in this chapter we're talking about God's plan for ethnic Israel. That includes national Israel but it's a broader term because not all of the Jews returned to the land and make up the nation, even in the first century. Much more than two-thirds of the Jews were not living in the historic Jewish homeland. They were already into deep diaspora, which began first in 722 B.C. with the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians and then in 586 B.C. when the Southern Kingdom was destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. Here's he's stating very strongly that he wished he could be accursed in place of his brethren.


This is the same preposition we use when we talk about "Christ died for the ungodly." He died in their place. Paul is using that same preposition for substitution. Then he says again, "my countrymen". The brethren are defined as "my countrymen according to the flesh." Now this type of expression of grief in relation to Jewish apostasy toward God is very similar to that we find among the prophets in the Old Testament. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel mention that two-thirds of the Jews living at the time of the destruction of the temple in 586 were killed. He says one-third and then later, one-third again and that's a combined two-thirds. This is important because in Zechariah it talks about two-thirds of the Jews are going to be killed in the great tribulation, clearly a different context after the return of the exile. So here we're going to have the same kind of thing expressed by Paul.


The reason I make this point is that in communicating with and reading issues related to Jews and Christians, one of the things that gets brought up is, "You Christians are really anti-Semitic because you just want Jesus to come back because so many Jews are going to be killed during the tribulation." We need to be able to answer that by saying that, "That's not a uniquely Christian belief. That actually comes out of an Old Testament prophecy. In fact the Old Testament prophets are usually not read by Jews at all so they're very ignorant of the prophetic portion of the Old Testament. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Daniel, Zachariah are all passages that make very harsh statements of condemnation against their fellow Jews because of their apostasy toward God.


Apostasy means to fall away from the truth of the Scripture and their idolatry. Because of that they come under condemnation and this is expressly stated as to why the Northern Kingdom was defeated by the Assyrians and the Southern Kingdom was defeated by the Babylonians.


Jeremiah 4:19 says, "My soul, my soul! I am in anguish! Oh, my heart!" He just cries out in pain. The whole book of Lamentations is like this but I just picked a couple of examples out of Jeremiah who wrote Lamentations as well. "My heart is pounding in me. I cannot be silent because you have heard O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war." So he is expressing his deep distress of grief because the Jewish people in his generation had rejected God. Jeremiah 14:17, "You will say this word to them, let my eyes flow down with tears night and day, and let them not cease, for the virgin daughter of my people has been crushed with a mighty blow, with a sorely infected wound."


Then Daniel, after he's counted up the time and realizes the seventy years of exile are near the end, says in Daniel 9:3, "I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes." This is no different from the kind of sorrow and grief that Paul is expressing. Paul puts himself in the same place as the Old Testament prophets. Isaiah 35:10 as well as 51:11 mirror each other. "And the ransomed of the Lord will return…" This is the future plan of God, after they have been taken out of the land under discipline, they shall return and "come to Zion with singing and with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy and sorrow and sighing will flee away." It's the promise that though there is a temporary discipline on Israel there is a future restoration of the nation, which has not occurred yet. It's not this restoration that's going on now. This is just a prelude to the one that is spoken of by the prophets because that's a worldwide restoration where they have returned in acceptance of the Messiah.


Now we turn to Romans 9:4 where Paul identifies his people. Verse 4 continues the sentence that he's speaking about his brethren, his countrymen according to the flesh and then Israelites, which makes it very clear they are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. "To whom belong adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises." These are all presents to the Jewish people. In verse 5 he says, "Whose are the fathers, [the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] and from whom is the Christ [Messiah] according to the flesh, who is over all. God blessed forever. Amen."


Jesus is the name of His humanity. It is from the Hebrew word Yeshua. Joshua is from the same verb. It means to save or to deliver. Jesus, as Gabriel announced to Mary, came to save his people from their sins so he was to be called Jesus. His title is the Messiah. In the Hebrew that's Mashiach and in the Greek it's christos. That refers to his title as his role in history. The affirmation of his deity is expressed through the addition of the word Lord which is simply to identify that He is considered to be God. So here we have this statement that in verses 4 and 5, that the Israelites still possess the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the service of God.


Now in terms of the adoption this goes back to God's rescue and deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt. In Exodus 4:22 God says, "Israel is My son, My firstborn." In Exodus 19:6 this is an expansion on 4:22 talking about the role of Israel, He says, "You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you shall speak to the children of Israel." Jeremiah 31:9 uses that same verbiage from Exodus 4:22 that "I am a father to Israel and Ephraim is my firstborn." Hosea 11:1 says, "When Israel was a child I loved him and out of Egypt I called My son." This emphasizes the adoption.

Israel, as a nation, was adopted by God and had a unique role to play among all of the nations. They are to be a kingdom of priests, not just to have a tribe of priests but the nation of Israel is to the rest of the world what the Levites were to the other eleven tribes of Israel. The nation is to be a kingdom of priests. Then we look at the phrase "the glory" in Romans 9:4. This is often the way in which you had a circumlocution, which just means another way of saying it, a reference to God's personal presence in the tabernacle and later in the temple.


In Exodus 16:10 we read, "Now it came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud." We often refer to this as the shekinah glory. The word shekinah does not appear in the Old Testament. The verb form shakan does, which means to dwell. The shekinah actually refers to the dwelling presence of God. Shakan is also the word that is used for the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God, and it comes across in Greek as skene and it actually has cognates in a number of other languages including Russian. All of these other languages that use this word have the same meaning that is a dwelling place. Exodus 24:17 says, "And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top." So the glory here is always a reference to the dwelling presence of God, and it relates to the service of God which took place in the tabernacle and later in the temple.


The next word we have in Romans 9 verse 4 is diatheke or the covenants. That's plural, more than one covenants. So let's have a little review here for everyone on the covenants. There are eight Biblical covenants. There are also two theological covenants that have been developed by what is covenant theology but they don't really have anything to do with the Bible because they are never mentioned in the Bible. They are theological extrapolations that are not based on the text. They're called the covenant of works and the covenants of grace. The other day as I was leaving from church on Sunday I turned on KHCB. Usually at noon I hear one of the Baptist preachers but some covenant theologian was on last Sunday and he was giving an explanation of the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. I listened to him to find out what he was saying, but those aren't Biblical covenants. Those are theological constructs that were developed in Reform Theology.


There are eight Biblical covenants and they are divided between the Gentile covenants and the Jewish covenants. The Gentile covenants all relate to one another. They grow out of the original creation covenant, which has often been called the Edenic Covenant because this is the agreement that God made with Adam in the Garden of Eden before there was ever any sin. This is embedded in Genesis 1:27-28 and says that God was creating man in His image and likeness to rule over the face of the earth, to rule over the beasts of the field, and the birds of the sky, and the fish of the sea. This covenant was broken at the fall. Now it's never called a covenant in Scripture but later on in Hosea there's a passage that talks about how all mankind broke the covenant with God.


Israel has broken the covenant with God just like Adam broke the covenant with God. That's a clear indication that {whether it's mankind or Adam there's a lot of debate over how to translate that but doesn't really matter in this debate} because mankind in Adam broke a covenant which means that even though Genesis 1 never mentions the word covenant Hosea tells us that Adam's sin was a breach of a covenant. So that breaks the covenant. We've studied this is in the past.


After Adam and Eve sinned God announces various consequences of their disobedience. That redefines the issues of the covenant because each of the things God says in relation to the serpent, to the woman, and to the man has something to do with modifying the commandments that God had originally issued to Adam, the woman, and to the animals as being subservient to man in Genesis 1.


The flood comes and again because it's a different environment and different circumstances, there's another modification of the covenant. The Noahic covenant is very similar and has similar verbiage, similar mandates, "man is to go forth, multiply, and fill the earth". It is clearly spoken of as a covenant and we're still under the Noahic covenant. The sign of the covenant with Noah is the rainbow. As long as we see a rainbow we're to remember that God has promised that He will not ever again destroy the earth by flood. He will destroy it by fire but He won't destroy it by flood. It also includes within the Noahic covenant, the mandate that whenever a human being sheds the blood of another human being, which means murder, that it is the responsibility of man to take the life of the murderer. So God Himself handed down the mandate to believers and unbelievers.


It is a creation ordinance for all human beings to execute certain forms of criminals. When the Supreme Court of the land comes in and says we shouldn't execute murderers or do it in ways that delay it for fifteen, twenty, or thirty years, this is a violation of God's covenant. It's the covenant we should be reminded of whenever we see the rainbow. This is God's mandate. The same thing is true when it comes to eating meat. In the Noahic covenant, God says that we should now eat meat. Before that, man was vegetarian, but after the flood man was to eat meat.


Many people have different reasons for limiting their intake of red meat but if you come up with any sort of philosophical or theological rationale for it, it violates the covenant. You may have health issues, digestive issues, whatever it might be to cause you not to eat very much meat, but if you come up with any kind of universal principle that vegetarianism is in and of itself superior to any other form of dietary philosophy, then you're just dead wrong. You're in violation of God. All of these are in the Noahic covenant so when you see a rainbow, you should go out and eat a steak and rejoice in the fact that murderers should be executed and God is not going to flood us out again. There may be local floods but no universal flood.


Then there are the Jewish covenants. The Jewish covenants are all grounded in the first one, which is the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis which emphasizes God's promises of a certain piece of real estate in the Middle East known as Israel as the possession of the Jewish people for eternity. It's an eternal covenant. It says that there would be a seed or descendants that would be more numerous than the stars of heaven or the sands of the seashore and that they would be a blessing to all people. The land promise is expanded on in the real estate covenant in Deuteronomy 30 and the seed promise in the Davidic covenant in 2 Samuel 7 and the blessing promise expanded in the New covenant in Jeremiah 31 to 33.


Now there's one temporary Jewish covenant in Exodus 20–40 known as the Law. It was designed to be temporary. It was not permanent but the other covenants are all eternal. We've studied that the three elements of the Abrahamic covenant are land, seed, and blessing. The land promise is developed in Deuteronomy 30 and it's very clear when God says, "This is a covenant other than the one I gave at Horeb/Sinai" which was the Mosaic Law. In this covenant God binds Himself, makes this unilateral agreement to give the land to Israel in perpetuity. It is theirs forever. Now they don't get to enjoy it unless they're obedient but it's still there. Even when they're out of the land in the Old Testament they can come back to it because it's still theirs. Whether they're gone seventy years, seven hundred years or fourteen or eighteen hundred years, that land is still theirs.


That applies today. That's a Biblical argument that every Bible-believing Christian should affirm. No Bible-believing Christian should ever take the side of the Palestinians in terms of the major argument. They don't have a right to the land biblically. Now there are other arguments that need to be developed because there are a lot of people who really don't care about history or the Bible. The historical argument is that Jews have always lived in the land throughout all of the last three thousand years. Most were removed but there have been steady, stable Jewish populations within the Promised Land since the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. They were never totally, completely removed from the land. The land is theirs.


They started to return in numbers by the end of the 19th century so that now it's almost reached a point where it's just below half of the Jews in the world live in Israel. It hasn't quite reached the half-way point yet but it's very, very close. So this land is theirs, historically and Biblically. Legally, it was granted to the Jewish people as a national homeland by the League of Nations when they affirmed the San Remo Resolutions which were an addendum to the Treaty of Paris at the end of World War I. This was agreed to by 55 member nations of the League of Nations and when the U.N. came into power to replace the League of Nations, part of the U.N. charter was that they were to uphold and enforce all treaties that were signed under the auspices of the League of Nations. They rapidly ignored and forgot San Remo. So the U.N. is in violation of international law and the PLO and the Hamas are all in violation of international law.


Most people in the world are willingly ignorant of international law and just ignore it. We claim to be people who are law-abiding and law-affirming and a people who live by the law and yet we ignore the law when it's convenient. That is a major travesty. The Davidic covenant is stated in 2 Samuel 7 when God promises that the Messiah will come through the line of David, a royal line. He will become the King of Israel. Then the New covenant is a promise related to spiritual blessing for the Jewish people when they accept the Messiah, Jesus, as theirs and this goes into effect when the Messiah comes to establish His future Kingdom. So those are the basic covenants.


The Davidic covenant promises an eternal house, an eternal kingdom, and an eternal throne to the line of David. That culminated in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. So then in Romans 9:5 we have another statement related to the covenants and the giving of the Law, which took place in Mount Sinai and then the service of the temple, which relates back to the statement that we read earlier in verse 4. That took place in the temple and in the service of the priesthood in the tabernacle and in the temple.


Lastly, the phrase, the promises relates to these promises that were given in the covenants, the covenants that God made to Abraham, that the land would belong to his descendants forever. The Jewish people are then further defined in verse 5 as "Of whom are the fathers [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] and from whom the Yeshua [Jesus, in the Greek]. That reflects the Hebrew term, the Messiah, Mashiach. "From whom according to the flesh." I've retranslated this verse. The New King James reads, "Of whom are the fathers, according to the flesh, Christ came…" "Came" is in italics because there's no verb for "come" here. A literal translation following the word order and the verbiage of the Greek would be "Of whom are the fathers and from whom the Messiah according to the flesh…" It's emphasizing that the Messiah came according to His humanity, which came from Jewish ethnic stock.


And then we have this statement that, "The Messiah is over all and the eternally blessed God." Actually the way this reads in the Greek is "the one who is over all, the blessed God, eternal." The adjectives come after the noun so that would be accurately translated, "the eternally blessed God." This is a very clear statement that the Messiah, Christ, is God. A lot of people don't realize how many so-called Bible scholars today are really antagonistic to the Bible. A lot of times you'll watch these shows on television about the Bible on the history channel, the Discovery channel, and some of the other channels and they quote a lot of so-called Bible scholars but they don't believe in anything the Bible said. They're always reconstructing the Biblical narrative. They often have people on there who aren't even really sure if anyone named Jesus actually lived in spite of the evidence.


There's a lot of evidence that Jesus of Nazareth lived and walked upon the earth but if you listen to these extreme liberal theologians what they claim is that these things called the gospels were really written one, two, or even three hundred years after the time of Christ. Now that was a view that was floated back in the 19th century and it gained ground and people still repeat it but modern scholarship doesn't agree with that. In fact, there are a number of liberals and non-Christians, who just on the basis of historical evidence and archeology recognize that the gospels are what they claim to be. They were written within thirty or forty years of Christ's death, and the events described in the New Testament took place historically.


There was a man by the name of A. T. Robinson who published a book called Honest to God back in the early 1960s. He was one of the first to promote the so-called death of God theology. In another book he wrote on the New Testament he stated that all of the books in the New Testament were written before 60 A.D. That's earlier than most traditional Bible scholars would put them. But he says they're from an earlier time.


There's a deceased professor of New Testament at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem named David Flusser who is Jewish and he has written several books on the life of Christ. Although they are many things I disagree with him about he clearly states the gospels are accurate, historical records of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. You just can't let people get away with saying, "Oh, you know those Gospels weren't written when they claim to have been written. They were just legends that were written down many hundreds of years later." Anyone who says that is just someone who's repeating something they've heard or they have an anti-Bible agenda but they don't know the facts. They may not believe the facts and there are many people who don't believe the facts but there are many, objective anti-Christian scholars who do affirm that the New Testament was written in the 1st century. They just don't want to believe it.


So the gospels were written very early and as a part of the claim of the gospels it's that Jesus claimed to be God and was God. It's not something that later church theologians imposed upon Jesus. In fact, if we go back and we look at the Old Testament that the prediction from the Old Testament was that the Messiah would not only be human would also be God. I think it's important to have at your command from the Old Testament to be able to show that the expectation from the prophets of the Old Testament was that when the Messiah came, He was not just a man; He was the God-man. Now we see that in the Old Testament you have two streams of prophecy. One predicts a divine Messiah and another predicts a human Messiah and these two streams of prophecy come together in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.


The Old Testament clearly articulates a position of a human and a divine Messiah. Let me walk you through two or three of these important passages. Let's look first and foremost at Isaiah 7:14. This is showing that the expectation of the Old Testament was that the Messiah, who is Jesus, would be fully God. There are two issues that go on in this verse. One is whether this is really a Messianic prophecy. There are some evangelical scholars today that say it's not, that it's actually a prophecy that was fulfilled by Isaiah's son, and it was just applied to Jesus later on. Now I don't believe that because they haven't paid enough attention to their Hebrew text or they'd know it wasn't accurate.


The other issue is the meaning of this word that's translated "virgin". Is it really talking about a virgin or is it just talking about a young lady? That got a lot of attention back in the 1950's when the Revised Standard translation was first published. They didn't translate Isaiah 7:14 as "a virgin will be with child." They translated it "a young woman will be with child." All of the evangelicals who got that version threw their RSV in the trash and it caused a great stink. Some of you might remember that. Many evangelicals for decades wouldn't touch an RSV because it reflected this apostasy.


Let's look at this passage. The context here has to be understood. It is at a time when Ahaz, the king of Judah which is the Southern Kingdom, was at war with the Northern Kingdom. The king of the Northern Kingdom was aligning himself with Syria and other traditional enemies with Israel. We read in the first verse, "Now it came about in the days of Ahaz, the son of Jothan, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Aram [Syria] and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel went up to Jerusalem to wage war against it."


Now why is it that the Northern Kingdom is in alliance with the Syrians? Just think about today. This would be like everybody in the northern part of Israel saying they are going to ally themselves with Assad and attack Jerusalem. Why in the world would they do that? Well, they wanted to do that because the king in Jerusalem was a descendant of David and they wanted to destroy the house of David. They wanted to put a puppet king on the throne in Judah to do what they wanted them to do. They were hostile to the house of David.


This is very important to understand, that this is about maintaining a ruler from David on the throne. Remember what the Davidic covenant said? God promised an eternal throne, an eternal dynasty, an eternal house to David. So all of the kings on the throne of Judah were descendants of David. Now the king that's there is Ahaz. The king in the north is Pekah. Verse 2 says, "When it was reported to the house of David…" You ought to underline that in your Bible. That's what we're talking about here. Not Ahaz, per se, but that Ahaz is the living representative of the house of David. "The Arameans [Syria's forces] have camped in Ephraim…" Ephraim was originally one of Joseph's sons but it's one of the tribes and Ephraim is often used as another name for the Northern Kingdom of Israel. So what they're saying is that Syria's forces are deployed in the Northern Kingdom.


How far away was that? The Northern Kingdom, was like downtown would be to us here. See how close we are. The border wasn't that far from Jerusalem. It was only ten or twelve miles away so this is an immediate, hostile threat. Serious forces are deployed that close so "the heart of the people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind." Now you've been here during a hurricane and you've watched the trees as they're blown. That's means they're shaking in their boots, to put it in a modern American idiom. They're scared to death. In the midst of chaos, the only certainty we have is the Word of God.

"Then the Lord says to Isaiah, "Go out now to meet Ahaz." Have a little meeting with the king. "And take Shear-jashub, your son with you. Meet at the end of the conduit [aqua-duct] from the upper pool on the highway to the fuller's field." All this detail tells us this isn't just some nice little story. It's talking about a specific incident, at a specific location. It's like saying that you're to meet someone at the intersection of Bunker Hill and I-10. It's a specific, well-known location. Verse 4 says, "And say to him, Take care and be calm [be quiet]…" I've always loved that. God says to shut up and be quiet. "Do not fear or be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering [smoking] firebrands…"


Now what's a firebrand? A firebrand is like a torch. A torch has to flame up but when the torch is going out all that's left is glowing embers. It's on its way to being dead, useless, and irrelevant. So he calls them just smoking firebrands. They've already exerted all their power. They're nothing to be afraid of. They're just about out of gas, just about burned out. "On account of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah, has planned evil against you." See, because they've plotted evil against the house of David, then God's going to take care of them.


In verse 6, the Syrians and the Northern Kingdom say, "Let us go up against Judah and terrorize it, and make for ourselves a breach in its walls and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it." See they want to set their own king up. They want to destroy the house of David. This is all about the house of David and the ability of God to fulfill the promise of God to David to always have a son of David on the throne.


So this is how God responds in verse 7, "Thus says the Lord God, 'It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass. For the head of Aram is Damascus and the head of Damascus is Rezin." In other words the capital of Syria is Damascus and the chief power is Damascus, [which by the way still is the capital]. Within 65 years Ephraim will be shattered, so that it is no longer a people [722 A.D. they were destroyed by the invasion from Assyria] anymore.'" God's going to wipe that nation off the face of the earth.


Then He says, "And the head of Samaria is Remaliah. If you will not believe you surely shall not last [be established]." That's his point to Ahaz. You need to believe this. Then we come to the prophecy itself, verse 10, "Then the Lord spoke again to Ahaz saying, Ask a sign for yourself." Ahaz is not asking for a sign like the Pharisees did later on out of their arrogance. God tells him to ask for a sign. He says it's okay. But Ahaz gets a little self-righteous. He says he won't ask or test the Lord. Well God just told him to ask for a sign so that's real arrogance to refuse. God's going to get a little irritated with him. The word "sign" here does not necessarily mean something miraculous. It means something that will signify the truth and demonstrate the truth of the prophecy that is about to be made.


Isaiah then in verse 13 says, "Here now, O house of David! [He's speaking for the Lord] Is it too slight a thing for you [plural] to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you [plural] a sign." You won't ask for one but God's going to give you one anyway. Now pay attention to this. In verse 13 the house of David refers to a group of people and the word "you" is plural. This is important. Then in verse 14, he says, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you [the house of David] a sign." The sign's important because what God's going to show is that the house of David isn't going to be snuffed out like the Northern Kingdom of Israel/Ephraim or Syria. He says, "Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and call His name Immanuel."


This verse is always cited at Christmas in relation to the virgin conception and the virgin birth but what I'm pointing here that's important is the name Immanuel. It means God with Us. El is the Hebrew word for God. Im at the beginning is the preposition "with". Anu is the first person plural "us". It means "God with us." This is a clear indication that the One who is going to descend from the house of David [his humanity] is going to be fully God. God with us.


We're about out of time. I want to review this briefly next time and I want to talk about this issue of the virgin. We'll talk about that and then we'll move through the other four or five verses related to the deity of Christ. This is so important! Why do we believe that Jesus is God? Because the Bible says so. It said so many times in the Old Testament and it reaffirms it many times in the New Testament. But the deity of the Messiah—notice I didn't say the deity of Jesus—is an Old Testament prophecy. We believe that Jesus is the Messiah because He fulfilled many other prophecies. Therefore, based on the Old Testament prophecies, we believe Jesus is fully God. Now we believe he's fully God because of many other reasons given in the New Testament as well as the way He lived and the things He did but the foundation isn't a New Testament invention. It came out of the prophecies of the Old Testament. The Jewish prophets predicted a divine-human Messiah.