Believing

Believing is more than an acknowledgement that something is true. When we believe something, we act on it. Our behavior makes what we believe evident to others. Originally, the kings of Israel were meant to be role models. Their personal relationship with God was a living testimony to the truth of God’s promises. The prophets of Israel were mouthpieces of God, designed to keep Israel’s kings in check, but false prophets undermined the people’s trust and caused Israel to veer off course. By the time Isaiah came on the scene, the role of a prophet was merely to communicate God’s will and pronounce judgment.

Israel’s Messiah was a prophet as well as their king. It was important for these two roles to be combined so that the people could see the alignment between words and actions. In essence, what Jesus did was speak the word of God and simultaneously act it out. His words and behavior were completely consistent. Although we don’t think of Jesus as a believer, he was a true believer in every sense of the word. What Jesus demonstrated was perfect obedience to the will of God at the cost of his own life.

Isaiah described Israel’s Messiah as a servant, one who was called by God, subject to the will and command of his master (5650). In his description of the Messiah’s calling, Isaiah proclaimed, “The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name, and he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; and said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (Isaiah 49:1-3). As an instrument of death, the Messiah was destined to convict the world of its sin. Not only would he cause Israel to repent, but the Messiah would also make it possible for the Gentiles to be saved (Isaiah 49:6).

As God’s chosen people, the Israelites had an advantage over the rest of the world. Through their birthright, they were guaranteed salvation. The main purpose of God’s work was to bring the Israelites to the point of believing. Isaiah provided a clear picture of the Messiah’s obedience in order to convince God’s people that their Savior had come. Approximately 700 years before Jesus was born, Isaiah proclaimed, “The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed” (Isaiah 50:5-7).

At the core of Israel’s believing was the issue of death and eternal life. Jesus willingly went to the cross because he believed God would raise him from the dead (Matthew 17:23). Repeatedly, God delivered Israel from her enemies in the Promised Land, but salvation was ultimately about defeating death itself. Isaiah exclaimed, “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished” (Isaiah 51:6).

Isaiah likened death to being a prisoner and living in darkness (Isaiah 42:7, 49:9). In contrast, Isaiah portrayed life after death as waking up from sleep. He stated, “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city…shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem” (Isaiah 52:1-2). The Messiah’s resurrection from the dead was more than just a restoration of life. The transformation that occurred during Jesus’ resurrection was a supernatural changing from one life form to another. He was no longer a mortal being, but the immortal Son of God.

God’s message of salvation was in many ways news that was too good to be true. Regarding the Messiah, Isaiah asked, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1). The Hebrew word translated believed, aman is the same word used in Genesis 15:6 where it says of Abraham, “he believed in the LORD.” “The meaning here is that Abram was full of trust and confidence in God…It was not primarily in God’s words that he believed, but in God himself…In other words, Abram came to experience a personal relationship to God rather than in impersonal relationship with his promises” (539). Isaiah referred to believing as having a personal relationship to the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Isaiah predicted the rejection of Israel’s Messiah and made it clear that Jesus would suffer because of Israel’s unbelief. Isaiah declared:

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid  on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:3-7)

In exchange for giving up his life, the Messiah would be rewarded by God with the spoils of his victory. Isaiah foretold of Jesus, “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). Although the nation of Israel as a whole rejected its Messiah, there were some who believed in Jesus. Isaiah described those who would believe and receive salvation as a wife of youth, and said, “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy redeemer” (Isaiah 54:6-7).

Similarities between the Messiah and his followers were noted by Isaiah in his use of the same Hebrew word to designate the servant and servants of the LORD. True believers would be expected to submit themselves to the will of God as the Messiah did. To those who responded in faith, God promised, “No weapon formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn” (Isaiah 54:17). Essentially, the believer was guaranteed entrance into heaven where he would be united with other believers and receive eternal blessings from God (Isaiah 54:11-17).

Isaiah’s great invitation of salvation had two characteristics that made it difficult to resist. First, salvation was free of cost. Isaiah stated, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). Second, salvation was obtained by merely paying attention to what God said. Isaiah declared, “Hear, and your soul shall live” (Isaiah 55:3). The type of hearing Isaiah referred to involved not only the ears, but also the heart (8085). God wanted his people to listen to him using spiritual discernment.

According to Isaiah, the key to believing was an understanding of the ways of God. As much as God had done to develop a relationship with the people of Israel, his effort was fruitless because they couldn’t comprehend his loving nature. Isaiah declared, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). In order to close the gap, God would himself become the messenger and for the first time since the garden of Eden, he would speak face to face with his children. John the apostle stated it this way. “And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

The anointing

One of the characteristics of the first kings of Israel was they were anointed by a prophet before their reign began. The anointing served a dual purpose. First, it was a visible sign the man was God’s chosen representative on earth. Second, the anointing activated the spirit of God to work in and through the king to accomplish God’s will for the nation of Israel. After God promised king David that his descendants would reign over Israel for ever (2 Samuel 7:13), the anointing was passed from generation to generation through the king’s selection of a successor to the throne. Eventually, the anointing was overlooked as an important aspect of successful leadership and was disregarded as a requirement for being king.

When king Saul and king David were anointed to be king it was noted that the spirit of the LORD came upon these two men (1 Samuel 10:6; 16:13). There is no mention of this type of confirmation with any of the other kings of Israel or Judah even though the king was the earthly representative of God and was considered to be an important religious figure (4427). Speaking about Israel’s ultimate deliverance, Isaiah foretold, “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness” (Isaiah 32:1). Isaiah was referring to the Messianic age when God’s kingdom would be fully established on earth.

The anointing of king Saul and king David was meant to produce the righteousness characteristic of the Messiah’s reign. The term righteousness is derived from several Hebrew words that deal with justification. The primary root word, tsadaq (tsaw – dak´) “is used of man as regarded as having obtained deliverance from condemnation, and as being thus entitled to a certain inheritance” (6663). The word Isaiah used to describe the Messiah’s reign was tsedeq (tseh´ – dek). “It is a relational word” referring to the “relationship among people and of a man to his God” (6664).

By the time Isaiah’s ministry came into effect, it was clear that the kings of Israel and Judah had failed to bring the people closer to God. In fact, within a few hundred years of king David’s reign, the people were in total rebellion against God and practiced idolatry in his temple (2 Kings 16:15). The outcome God had been working toward was completely missed. Isaiah declared regarding the Messiah’s reign, “The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever” (Isaiah 32:17-18).

A sure foundation

One of the reasons God sent the nation of Israel into captivity was to get rid of all the people that didn’t believe in him. Captivity was a type of refining process that enabled God to work with only those who wanted to be a part of his kingdom. Particularly in the northern kingdom of Israel, there were many people that wanted nothing to do with God. Event the priests and prophets were willing to lie in order to lead the people away from God rather than to him.

Focusing on the time period when the Messiah’s kingdom would be established, Isaiah stated, “In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty unto the residue of his people” (Isaiah 28:5). We know this time period has not yet taken place because Jesus was rejected and killed by the people of Israel and his followers were scattered throughout the world after his death. The reason being, the Jews didn’t understand God’s plan of salvation included everyone.

God had revealed his plan, but his people misunderstood and rejected his messages. Isaiah explained the situation as though his people perceived God’s word to be childish nonsense. “But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little, that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken” (Isaiah 28:13).

A clue that Christ’s arrival on earth would not immediately clarify God’s intentions and initiate his reign was the declaration that a foundation must first be laid before God’s kingdom could be erected. Isaiah declared, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation. He that believeth shall not make haste” (Isaiah 28:16).

The sure foundation Isaiah referred to was the process of salvation, which is now known as being born again. Whereas God’s people were originally determined by birth, according to the Lord, the Messiah’s kingdom would be determined by a deliverance from death. “And your covenant with death shall be annulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand” (Isaiah 28:18).

In his effort to cleanse the world of sin, God planned to show everyone it was possible to change the course of one’s life. The key to change was believing. Unfortunately, the majority of the Israelites didn’t believe and missed their opportunity to be saved. “Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord God of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth (Isaiah 28:22).

Not just a man

The remarkable thing about Isaiah’s prophecy of the last days was not that he saw what would happen thousands of years after his death, but that Isaiah’s vision came 700 years before the Messiah, Jesus Christ was born. There was still a huge gap in the outcome of the nation of Judah that needed to be filled in.

Beginning with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God had spoken of an eternal kingdom that his people would inherit (Genesis 17:6-7). On his deathbed, Jacob foretold the future of his descendants and made reference to the last days (Genesis 49:1). Speaking of his son Judah’s inheritance, Jacob said, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Genesis 49:10).

The word Shiloh is an epithet of the Messiah (7886). What Jacob was saying was that Judah’s family would be kept in tact until the Messiah was born. The bloodline of Jesus had to be traced back to Abraham in order for God’s promise to be validated and verifiable to those who would question his lineage. At the time when Isaiah spoke to the nation of Judah, it was on the verge of extinction. Although they didn’t know it yet, the northern kingdom of Israel was about to be completely wiped out by Assyria, and Judah was next on Assyria’s list.

God’s judgment of Judah was intended to bring the people back to their senses. Although worship took place in God’s temple, the people’s hearts were far from the LORD, and their behavior reflected the cultures of the nations surrounding them. The most significant problem God intended them to deal with was their desire to be like everyone else. Isaiah posed a question to reveal their fault. “Cease ye from man whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” (Isaiah 2:22).

The point Isaiah was making was that a mere man could not save God’s people. Although it was known that the Messiah would be a man, it was known at that time that he would also be God. Because king David was told that his son would reign for ever (2 Samuel 7:13), David assumed his son would become immortal. I don’t think David, or anyone else, expected the immortal God to become a man.

Isaiah spoke of blessings that indicated God’s judgment of Judah would prepare its people for the supernatural birth of their Messiah. “In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel…When the LORD shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the Spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning” (Isaiah 4:2,4).

 

For my son, the Messiah

David’s last psalm was dedicated to his son Solomon and was probably given to him after his death. David reveals his expectation that his son would be Israel’s savior. In his prayer, David said, “He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.

One of the points that Paul the Apostle made about Jesus was that he was “of the seed of David” (2 Timothy 2:8). Paul connected Jesus with David because it was known at that time that Israel’s Messiah would be a descendant of David. The thing that distinguished Jesus from Solomon was that Jesus was raised from the dead, a qualification for eternal life. God’s promise to David was that his son or seed would rule over God’s kingdom for ever (2 Samuel 7:13). Therefore, Solomon could not be the Messiah.

I can understand why David thought Solomon was the promised eternal king of Israel, but I wonder if David realized the pressure he was putting on his son Solomon. Solomon most likely asked God for wisdom and knowledge because there was no way he could be the Messiah without it, but if Solomon thought he could take God’s place in ruling over the people of Israel, he was mistaken. God never intended for a merely mortal man to be Israel’s eternal king. Only God himself could handle that kind of responsibility.

Paul said, “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8). What was so profound about Paul’s gospel was not that a man was raised from the dead, but an eternal God became a man. This was the point I believe Paul was trying to make. God’s promise to David was not that his son would live forever, but that the God who lives forever would become David’s son.

Many times in the Bible, the gospel is referred to as a mystery. The Greek word translated mystery, musterion does not mean mystery as we think of it, “but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those only who are illumined by His Spirit. In the ordinary sense a ‘mystery’ implies knowledge withheld” (3466). I believe psalm 72 should have been titled for Jesus, not Solomon.