Category: Books of the Old Testament (H through P)


“Was the Book of Isaiah written by multiple Isaiah’s?”

Most Bible scholars are in agreement that Isaiah was the sole author of the book that bears his name. However, there are those “liberal” scholars who are skeptical about anything that points to supernatural inspiration of the Bible. In fact, they go so far as to explain the fulfilled prophecies in these books by re-dating them to after the events occurred! The theory of multiple Isaiahs is just another example of skepticism from those who want to call into question the Bible as God’s inspired Word.

This theory of “Deutero-Isaiah” (or second Isaiah) came about near the end of the eighteenth century. Supposedly, Isaiah himself wrote only the first 39 chapters, leaving one of his students to write the second part (chapters 40—66). This was done allegedly sometime after the Babylonian captivity started (after 586 BC). As such, this later date would explain explicit predictions of “Cyrus, King of Persia” in Isaiah 44:28—45:1.

The “Deutero-Isaiah” theory claims Isaiah chapters 40—55 contain no personal details of the prophet Isaiah as compared to Isaiah 1—39. The first section tells of numerous stories of Isaiah, especially his dealings with kings and others in Jerusalem. The theory goes on to say that the style and language of Isaiah 40—55 seem to be quite different from the earlier chapters. What is so interesting about this argument is that it is also promulgated by the authors who support one author for the book! One contention is that specific references to Cyrus began with the experiences of the exiles in Babylon. This last argument is supposedly the strongest. It claims the second part of the second part of Isaiah was written later because only a later date can explain the accuracy of the prophecy.

Again, most reputable Bible scholars reject the “Deutero-Isaiah” theory. Their conclusions include the similarity of writing styles in both sections, the consistent use of the same words throughout, and the familiarity of the author with Palestine, but not Babylon. Furthermore, Jewish tradition uniformly ascribes the entire book to Isaiah.

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain a complete scroll of Isaiah dated from the second century BC. The book is one unit with the end of chapter 39 and the beginning of chapter 40 in one continuous column of text. This demonstrates that the scribes who copied this scroll never doubted the singular unity of the book. Neither did the New Testament authors, nor the early church, as quotations from both sections are attributed only to Isaiah.

The book of Isaiah contains extensive and precise prophecies about the coming of the Messiah as well as the life and crucifixion of Christ. Briefly these include:

• The reign of Christ in the kingdom (Isaiah 2:3–5)
• The virgin birth of Christ (Isaiah 7:14)
• The reign of Christ (Isaiah 9:2, 7)
• Jesus’ rule over the world (Isaiah 9:4)
• Christ as a descendant of David (Isaiah 11:1, 10)
• Christ to be filled with the Spirit (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1)
• Christ to judge with righteousness (Isaiah 11:3–5; 42:1, 4)
• Christ to rule over the nations (Isaiah 11:10)
• Christ to be gentle to the weak (Isaiah 42:3)
• Christ to make possible the New Covenant (Isaiah 42:6; 49:8)
• Christ to be a light to the Gentiles and to be worshiped by them (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6–7; 52:15)
• Christ to be rejected by Israel (Isaiah 49:7; 53:1–3)
• Christ to be obedient to God and subject to suffering (Isaiah 50:6; 53:7–8)
• Christ to be exalted (Isaiah 52:13; 53:12)
• Christ to restore Israel and judge the wicked (61:1-3).

Messianic prophecy is strong and important evidence for Jesus’ claims to be God. Isaiah’s writings were completed many centuries before Jesus Christ was born and yet are completely accurate. Remember, the Dead Sea Scrolls contained more than one complete scroll of this book composed well before the birth of Christ. And the book of Isaiah was included in the Septuagint (LXX), the earliest version of the Old Testament Scriptures, translated at least 300 years earlier.

But by far the strongest evidence that proves the unity of the book of Isaiah is that Jesus Himself quoted from both the beginning and the end of the book, attributing all of it to Isaiah.

1. Jesus quoting from Isaiah 29:13: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men’” (Mark 7:6–7).

2. Jesus also referenced Isaiah 42:1–4 in Matthew 12:17: “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah.”

3. Isaiah is also referenced in Matthew 8:16–17 by quoting Isaiah 53:4: “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.’”

Aside from the passages quoted by Jesus above, several other New Testament verses refer to the prophet Isaiah as been the sole author: Matthew 3:3 and Luke 3:4 (Isaiah 40:3); Romans 10:16, 20 (Isaiah 53:1; 65:1); John 12:38-41 (Isaiah 53:1; 6:10). But the fact that our Lord Jesus affirmed Isaiah’s authorship by quoting from both sections of the book and attributing them to Isaiah is proof enough of the entire book’s authorship. Those who reject the words of the Lord Himself will never be convinced by any other means.

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Undying Love— The Story of Hosea and Gomer

The calendar on the wall indicated that it was about 760 years before Jesus was born. Jeroboam II was on the throne of the northern kingdom of Israel, and his military exploits had extended Israel’s borders farther than they had been since the days of Solomon’s glorious kingdom. Tribute money from subject nations was pouring into the treasury at the capital city of Samaria, and the people of Israel were enjoying a period of unprecedented prosperity.
As is often the case, with prosperity came moral and spiritual degeneration. Secularism and materialism captured the hearts of the people and sin ran rampant. The list reads like twentieth-century America: swearing, lying, killing, stealing, adultery, drunkenness, perversion, perjury, deceit, and oppression, to name but a few. But the thing that grieved the heart of God more than anything else was the sin of idolatry (Hos. 4:12, 13; 13:2). The golden calves set up by Jeroboam I about 150 years earlier had opened the floodgates to every evil expression of Canaanite idolatry, including drunkenness, religious prostitution and human sacrifice.Since the Lord viewed Israel as His wife, He viewed her worship of other gods as spiritual adultery.
The Old Testament speaks frequently of Israel whoring after or playing the harlot with other gods (e.g., Deut. 31:16; Judg. 2:17). Jehovah had told Israel from the beginning that he would not share her with others. “You shall have no other gods before Me” was the first of his ten great commandments (Ex. 20:3). But she had persistently ignored His command, and by the days of Jeroboam II the situation was intolerable. God was about to speak decisively and He chose first a prophet named Amos. The former herdsman of Tekoa thundered God’s warning of imminent judgment, but the nation paid little attention. So God spoke again, this time through the prophet Hosea whose name meant “Jehovah is salvation.”
The very first thing God ever said to Hosea tells us about his unlikely marriage: “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry, and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord” (Hos. 1:2). These instructions have been variously understood by different students of Scripture through the years. Some believe that God was commanding Hosea to marry a woman who had formerly been a prostitute. Others contend that taking a wife of harlotry would merely refer to marrying a woman from the northern kingdom of Israel, a land which was guilty of spiritual adultery. In either case, it is obvious that she was a woman who had been deeply affected by the moral laxity of her society, and God intended to use the prophet’s personal relationship with her as a penetrating object lesson of His own relationship with His unfaithful people, Israel.
Whatever her past, there may have been some evidence of genuine repentance and faith in Jehovah. Maybe she had responded to the Spirit-filled ministry of Hosea himself, and he found his heart drawn to her in deep and unselfish love. God directed him to take her as his wife, and so it was that Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, became the unlikely wife of the budding young preacher.The early days of their marriage were beautiful as their love began to blossom. And God blessed their union with a son. How Hosea’s heart must have swelled with joy. He was convinced that his marriage would be better than ever with this little one to brighten their home. God named the baby, for his name was to have prophetic significance to the nation. He called him Jezreel, because it was at Jezreel that King Jeroboam’s great grandfather Jehu had first come to the throne by ambitious crimes of bloodshed and violence.
While his dynasty was prospering at the moment, its destruction was on the horizon and it would happen in the valley of Jezreel (Hos. 1:4, 5).It was after the birth of Jezreel that Hosea seems to have noticed a change in Gomer. She became restless and unhappy, like a bird trapped in a cage. He went on preaching, encouraging the wayward nation to turn from its sin and trust God for deliverance from the threat of surrounding nations. “Return unto the Lord!” was the theme of his message, and he preached it repeatedly with power (Hos. 6:1; 14:1). But Gomer seemed less and less interested in his ministry. In fact, she may have grown to resent it. She probably even accused Hosea of thinking more about his preaching than he did of her.
She began to find other interests to occupy herself, and spent more and more time away from home.The dangers are great when a husband and wife have few interests in common. Sometimes he goes his way and she goes hers. They each have their own set of friends, and there is little communication to bring their two worlds together. A husband’s preoccupation with his work may be the major contributing factor to the cleavage. Or it may be a wife’s growing involvement in outside activities and subsequent neglect of the home. It may simply be a disinterest in the things of the Lord on the part of either husband or wife. But it sets the scene for great calamity. Husbands and wives need to do things together and take an interest in each other’s activities. In this inspired story, the responsibility is clearly laid upon Gomer rather than Hosea. She did not share her husband’s love for God.That brings us, secondly, to his unrelieved agony.
Scripture does not give us the details of what happened, but what it does say would permit us some speculation concerning the progressive trend that led to the tragic situation we eventually discover. Gomer’s absences from home probably grew more frequent and prolonged and soon Hosea was feeling pangs of suspicion about her faithfulness to him. He lay awake at night and wrestled with his fears. He preached with a heavy heart during the day. And his suspicions were confirmed when Gomer got pregnant again. It was a girl this time, and Hosea was convinced that the child was not his. At God’s direction, he called her Loruhamah, which means “unpitied” or “unloved,” implying that she would not enjoy her true father’s love. Again the name was symbolic of Israel’s wandering from God’s love and the discipline she would soon experience. But even that spiritual message could not soothe the prophet’s troubled soul.No sooner had little Loruhamah been weaned than Gomer conceived again. It was another boy. God told Hosea to call him Lo-ammi, which meant “not my people,” or “no kin of mine.”
It symbolized Israel’s alienation from Jehovah, but it also exposed Gomer’s sinful escapades. That child born in Hosea’s house was not his. It was all out in the open now. Everyone knew about Gomer’s affairs. While the entire second chapter of Hosea’s prophecy describes Jehovah’s relationship with his unfaithful wife Israel, it is difficult to escape the feeling that it grows out of Hosea’s relationship with Gomer, sandwiched as it is between two chapters that clearly describe that sad and sordid story. He pleaded with her (2:2). He threatened to disinherit her (2:3). But still she ran off with her lovers because they promised to lavish material things on her (2:5). He tried to stop her on occasion (2:6), but she continued to seek her companions in sin (2:7). Hosea would take her back in loving forgiveness and they would try again. But her repentance would be short-lived and soon she would be off again with another new lover.Then the final blow fell. Maybe it was a note, maybe word sent by a friend, but the essence of it seems to have been, “I’m leaving for good this time. I’ve found my true love. I’ll never come back again.” How Hosea must have suffered! He loved her deeply and grieved for her as though she had been taken in death. His heart ached that she should choose a life that would surely bring her to ruin. His friends were probably saying, “Good riddance to her, Hosea.
Now you’ll be through with her adulterous ways once and for all.” But Hosea did not feel that way. He longed for her to come home.We cannot escape the message of his undying love. Hosea wanted to see Gomer restored to his side as his faithful wife. And he believed that God was great enough to do it. One day word came by way of the grapevine gossips that Gomer had been deserted by her lover. She had sold herself into slavery and had hit bottom. This was the last straw. Certainly now Hosea would forget her. But his heart said “No.” He could not give her up. And then God spoke to him: “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods” (Hos. 3:1).

Gomer was still beloved of Hosea even though she was an adulteress, and God wanted him to seek her out and prove his love to her. How could anyone love that deeply? The answer was right there in God’s instructions to Hosea, “even as the Lord loves.” Only one who knows the love and forgiveness of God can ever love this perfectly. And one who has experienced His loving forgiveness cannot help but love and forgive others. Christian husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (Eph. 5:25), and Hosea is an outstanding biblical example of that kind of love.

So he began his search, driven by that indestructible divine love, love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love that never ends. And he found her, ragged, torn, sick, dirty, disheveled, destitute, chained to an auction block in a filthy slave market, a repulsive shadow of the woman she once was. We wonder how anyone could love her now. But Hosea bought her from her slavery for fifteen shekels of silver and thirteen bushels of barley (Hos. 3:2). Then he said to her, “You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you” (Hos. 3:3). He actually paid for her, brought her home, and eventually restored her to her position as his wife. While we do not find anything else in Scripture about their relationship with each other, we assume that God used Hosea’s supreme act of forgiving love to melt her heart and change her life.

How many times should a husband or wife forgive? Some contend, “If I keep forgiving I simply affirm him in his pattern of sin.” Or “If I keep forgiving, she’ll think she can get away with anything she wants.” Others say, “If I keep forgiving, it’s like putting my seal of approval on his behavior.” Or “I can’t take another hurt like that. If he does that one more time, I’m leaving.” Those are human responses. Listen to the response of the Lord Jesus. You see, Peter had asked the Lord this same question: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” The Lord’s answer was, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21, 22). That is a great deal of forgiveness. In fact, Christ was simply saying in a captivating way that there is no end to forgiveness.

Sometimes it’s just the little slights and daily agitations that need forgiveness, the occasional sharp word or angry accusation. But we harbor it, let it eat at us, and build up bitterness and resentment which erodes our relationship. Maybe it’s a major offense, like Gomer’s, and we can never forget it. We stew on it and fret over it, and we keep bringing it up in a subconscious attempt to punish our mates for the hurts we have suffered. We try to forgive, but a few days later it’s right there again, preying on our consciousness. Big wounds sometimes take longer to heal. They will come back to our minds. There is no way to avoid it. But every time they do, we must first remind ourselves that we really did forgive, then rehearse how much God has forgiven us, then ask Him to take the destructive, unforgiving thoughts out of our minds.

Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that we must suffer in silence. The need for open and honest communication would demand that we share what we think and how we feel, what the wrong has done to us, and how our mates can help us get over it. God tells us how much our sin grieves Him. Gomer certainly knew how her affairs were tearing at Hosea’s heart. What we say must be said lovingly and kindly, but we have both the need and the obligation to share what is on our hearts.

Neither does forgiveness necessarily mean we cannot take positive steps to guard against the sin recurring. That might require some extended counseling; it might demand an honest reappraisal of our personalities or habit patterns; it might mean a change in our life-style or a relocation. God takes positive steps to help us want to please Him. That is what divine discipline is all about. We do not discipline each other, but we can discuss steps that will help us avoid these same pitfalls in the future.

Forgiveness does mean, however, that we will pay for the other person’s offenses. We will refuse to retaliate in any way to make the guilty person pay. We will absolve him of all guilt. God can use that forgiving love to melt hardened hearts and change callused lives quicker than anything else in this whole wide world. That is the lesson of Hosea and Gomer, the lesson of forgiveness. God’s love and forgiveness pervade Hosea’s entire prophecy. Please do not misunderstand it. God hates sin; it grieves His heart; He cannot condone it; His perfect righteousness and justice demand that He deal with it. But He still loves sinners and diligently seeks them out and offers them His loving forgiveness.

God’s ancient people Israel kept going back to their sins. “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud, and like the dew which goes away early” (Hos. 6:4). But God never stopped loving them. “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son” (Hos. 11:1). “I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love” (Hos. 11:4). “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel?” (Hos. 11:8). And because He never stopped loving them, He never stopped pleading with them: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity” (Hos. 14:1).

We need to love like that. We need to forgive like that. We need to drag the festering hurts we have been harboring in our hearts to the cross of Christ—where we laid our own burden of guilt one day and where we found God’s loving forgiveness—and we must leave them all there. When we fully forgive, our minds will be released from the bondage of resentment that has been building a wall between us, and we shall be free to grow in our relationship with each other.

Let’s talk it over

1. What do you think are the major causes for husbands and wives drifting apart?

2. What interests do you both share in common? What else could you do together to strengthen your bond of oneness?

3. Husbands and wives are not always aware of each other’s love. It might be helpful for each of you to finish the following statements: “I feel loved when you …” or “I am saying that I love you when …”

4. Can you think of wrongs you have suffered from your mate that may be keeping you from freely expressing your love? Admit them to your mate and verbalize your full forgiveness.

5. How can you keep the wrongs for which you have forgiven others from creeping back into your mind and destroying your peace?

6. What positive steps can you and your mate take to keep certain sins from repeating themselves in your lives?

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Proverbs 3:5-6 is a familiar passage to many: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” Verse 5 is a complementary pair of commands. We are told, positively, to trust the Lord and, negatively, not to trust our own understanding. Those two things are mutually exclusive. In other words, if we trust in the Lord, we cannot also depend upon our own ability to understand everything God is doing.

First Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” We only see part of the picture God is painting. If we are to truly trust Him, we have to let go of our pride, our programs, and our plans. Even the best-laid human plans cannot begin to approach the magnificent sagacity of God’s plan. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

Most of us have a desperate desire to understand, but in so many areas we must acknowledge that we cannot understand. We must approve of God’s ways, even when we can’t comprehend them. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us why we often don’t understand what God is doing: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares 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.'” God sees the whole picture, while we only see our tiny corner of it. To trust in the Lord with all our heart means we can’t place our own right to understand above His right to direct our lives the way He sees fit. When we insist on God always making sense to our finite minds, we are setting ourselves up for spiritual trouble.

Our limited understanding can easily lead us astray. Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” When we choose to direct our lives according to what seems right to us, we often reap disaster (Judges 21:25). Every culture has tried to get God to approve of its definition of right and wrong, but God never changes and His standards never change (Numbers 23:19; James 1:17; Romans 11:29). Every person must make a decision whether to live his or her life according to personal preference or according to the unchanging Word of God. We often will not understand how God is causing “all things to work together for good” (Romans 8:28), but when we trust Him with all our hearts, we know that He is. He will never fail us (Psalm 119:142; Philippians 2:13).

Author: Malachi 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Malachi as the Prophet Malachi.

Date of Writing: The Book of Malachi was written between 440 and 400 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Malachi is an oracle: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi (1:1). This was God’s warning through Malachi to tell the people to turn back to God. As the final book of the Old Testament closes, the pronouncement of God’s justice and the promise of His restoration through the coming Messiah is ringing in the ears of the Israelites. Four hundred years of silence ensues, ending with a similar message from God’s next prophet, John the Baptist, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2).

Key Verses: Malachi 1:6, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me? says the Lord Almighty. It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.”

Malachi 3:6-7, “I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord Almighty.”

Brief Summary: Malachi wrote the words of the Lord to God’s chosen people who had gone astray, especially the priests who had turned from the Lord. Priests were not treating the sacrifices they were to make to God seriously. Animals with blemishes were being sacrificed even though the law demanded animals without defect (Deuteronomy 15:21). The men of Judah were dealing with the wives of their youth treacherously and wondering why God would not accept their sacrifices. Also, people were not tithing as they should have been (Leviticus 27:30, 32). But in spite of the people’s sin and turning away from God, Malachi reiterates God’s love for His people (Malachi 1:1-5) and His promises of a coming Messenger (Malachi 2:17–3:5).

Foreshadowings: Malachi 3:1-6 is a prophecy concerning John the Baptist. He was the Messenger of the Lord sent to prepare the way (Matthew 11:10) for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. John preached repentance and baptized in the name of the Lord, thus preparing the way for Jesus’ first advent. But the Messenger who comes “suddenly to the Temple” is Christ Himself in His second advent when He comes in power and might (Matthew 24). At that time, He will “purify the sons of Levi” (v. 3), meaning that those who exemplified the Mosaic Law would themselves need purification from sin through the blood of the Savior. Only then will they be able to offer “an offering in righteousness” because it will be the righteousness of Christ imputed to them through faith (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Practical Application: God is not pleased when we do not obey His commands. He will repay those who disregard Him. As for God hating divorce (2:16), God takes the covenant of marriage seriously and He does not want it broken. We are to stay true to the spouse of our youth for a lifetime. God sees our hearts, so He knows what our intentions are; nothing can be hidden from Him. He will return and He will be the judge. But if we return to Him, He will return to us (Malachi 3:6).

Micah 5:2 predicts, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” The verse clearly speaks of a coming king in Israel, but does it predict the coming of the Messiah?

Micah 5:2 makes a couple of predictions. First, the birthplace of this future “ruler of Israel” would be Bethlehem Ephrathah. Since there were two locations known as Bethlehem at the time of Micah’s writing, the addition of Ephrathah is significant. It specifies the Bethlehem in Judah, the portion of Israel in which the capital, Jerusalem, was located. Bethlehem was considered “little,” or insignificant, among the cities of Judah, yet would serve as the birthplace of this future ruler.

Second, the coming ruler of Jewish background was one “whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days.” What else could this refer to other than the Messiah? Only the Messiah fits the description of a ruler in Israel whose origin was from times past. In fact, “from ancient days” is sometimes synonymous with “eternal” (as in Habakkuk 1:12). Only the Jewish Messiah could be a ruler in Israel from eternity past.

This interpretation is strengthened by the fact that the Jewish religious leaders in the first century identified Micah 5:2 as a Messianic prophecy. In Matthew 2, wise men from the East visited King Herod in Jerusalem and asked where the king of the Jews had been born. Herod assembled all the chief priests and scribes, and “he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea,’” basing their answer on Micah 5:2.

Only Jesus Christ fits the Messianic claims of Micah 5:2. He was born in Bethlehem Ephrathah (Matthew 2; Luke 2:1-20). Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the ruler of Israel (John 4:25-26). He also fits the description as being “from ancient times” or eternal (John 1:1; Colossians 1:16-17). No other ruler in Israel fits these requirements. Dozens of other direct prophecies in the Old Testament (some scholars cite hundreds) fit Jesus’ birth, ministry, and death.

Jesus told the Jews that the Law and the Prophets provided a clear witness that He was who He claimed to be. “These are the Scriptures that testify about me,” He said (John 5:39). Still today, those who investigate the prophecy of Micah 5:2 and other Messianic passages find compelling evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

Perhaps the greatest of all Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures / the Old Testament) concerning the advent of the Jewish Messiah is found in the 53rd chapter of the prophet Isaiah. This section of the Prophets, also known as the “Suffering Servant,” has been long understood by the historical Rabbis of Judaism to speak of the Redeemer who will one day come to Zion. Here is a sampling of what Judaism has traditionally believed about the identity of the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53:

The Babylonian Talmud says: “The Messiah, what is his name? The Rabbis say, The Leper Scholar, as it is said, ‘surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God and afflicted…'” (Sanhedrin 98b).

Midrash Ruth Rabbah says: “Another explanation (of Ruth 2:14): He is speaking of king Messiah; ‘Come hither,’ draw near to the throne; ‘and eat of the bread,’ that is, the bread of the kingdom; ‘and dip thy morsel in the vinegar,’ this refers to his chastisements, as it is said, `But he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.'”

The Targum Jonathan says: “Behold my servant Messiah shall prosper; he shall be high and increase and be exceedingly strong.”

The Zohar says: “’He was wounded for our transgressions,’ etc….There is in the Garden of Eden a palace called the Palace of the Sons of Sickness; this palace the Messiah then enters, and summons every sickness, every pain, and every chastisement of Israel; they all come and rest upon him. And were it not that he had thus lightened them off Israel and taken them upon himself, there had been no man able to bear Israel’s chastisements for the transgression of the law: and this is that which is written, `Surely our sicknesses he hath carried.'”

The great (Rambam) Rabbi Moses Maimonides says: “What is the manner of Messiah’s advent….there shall rise up one of whom none have known before, and signs and wonders which they shall see performed by him will be the proofs of his true origin; for the Almighty, where he declares to us his mind upon this matter, says, `Behold a man whose name is the Branch, and he shall branch forth out of his place’ (Zechariah 6:12). And Isaiah speaks similarly of the time when he shall appear, without father or mother or family being known, He came up as a sucker before him, and as a root out of dry earth, etc….in the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which kings will harken to him, At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived.”

Unfortunately, modern Rabbis of Judaism believe that the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53 refers perhaps to Israel, or to Isaiah himself, or even Moses or another of the Jewish prophets. But Isaiah is clear – he speaks of the Messiah, as many ancient rabbis concluded.

The second verse of Isaiah 53 confirms this clarity. The figure grows up as “a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground.” The shoot springing up is beyond reasonable doubt a reference to the Messiah, and, in fact, it is a common Messianic reference in Isaiah and elsewhere. The Davidic dynasty was to be cut down in judgment like a felled tree, but it was promised to Israel that a new sprout would shoot up from the stump. King Messiah was to be that sprout.

Beyond doubt, the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53 refers to Messiah. He is the one highly exalted before whom kings shut their mouths. Messiah is the shoot who sprung up from the fallen Davidic dynasty. He became the King of Kings. He provided the ultimate atonement.

Isaiah 53 must be understood as referring to the coming Davidic King, the Messiah. King Messiah was prophesied to suffer and die to pay for our sins and then rise again. He would serve as a priest to the nations of the world and apply the blood of atonement to cleanse those who believe. There is One alone to whom this can refer, Jesus Christ!

Those who confess him are his children, his promised offspring, and the spoils of his victory. According to the testimony of the Jewish Apostles, Jesus died for our sins, rose again, ascended to the right hand of God, and he now serves as our great High Priest who cleanses us of sin (Hebrew 2:17; 8:1). Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, is the one Isaiah foresaw.

Rabbi Moshe Kohen Ibn Crispin said, “This rabbi described those who interpret Isaiah 53 as referring to Israel as those “having forsaken the knowledge of our Teachers, and inclined after the `stubbornness of their own hearts,’ and of their own opinion, I am pleased to interpret it, in accordance with the teaching of our Rabbis, of the King Messiah. This prophecy was delivered by Isaiah at the divine command for the purpose of making known to us something about the nature of the future Messiah, who is to come and deliver Israel, and his life from the day when he arrives at discretion until his advent as a redeemer, in order that if anyone should arise claiming to be himself the Messiah, we may reflect, and look to see whether we can observe in him any resemblance to the traits described here; if there is any such resemblance, then we may believe that he is the Messiah our righteousness; but if not, we cannot do so.”

A judge of Israel, Jephthah, had made a foolish vow to the Lord that if God gave  him victory in battle, he would sacrifice whatever first came out of his door  when he came home (Judges  11:30-31). Jephthah’s daughter was the first thing to come of out his door  when he came home (Judges  11:34). The Bible never specifically tells us whether Jephthah actually  sacrificed his daughter as a burnt offering. Judges  11:39 seems to indicate that he did: “He did to her as he had vowed.”  However, since his daughter was mourning the fact that she would never marry  instead of mourning that she was about to die (Judges  11:36-37), this possibly indicates that Jephthah gave her to the tabernacle  as a servant instead of sacrificing her.

Whatever the case, God had  specifically forbidden offering human sacrifices, so God never would have wanted  Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter (Leviticus  20:1-5). Jeremiah  7:31; 19:5; and  32:35 clearly indicate that the idea of human sacrifice has “never even entered God’s  mind.” Jephthah serves as an example for us not to make foolish vows or oaths.

Author: Haggai 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Haggai as the Prophet Haggai.

Date of Writing: The Book of Haggai was written in approximately 520 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: Haggai sought to challenge the people of God concerning their priorities. He called them to reverence and glorify God by building the Temple in spite of local and official opposition. Haggai called them not to be discouraged because this Temple would not be quite as richly decorated as Solomon’s. He exhorted them to turn from the uncleanness of their ways and to trust in God’s sovereign power. The Book of Haggai is a reminder of the problems the people of God faced at this time, how the people courageously trusted in God and how God provided for their needs.

Key Verses: Haggai 1:4, “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

Haggai 1:5-6, “Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.'”

Haggai 2:9, “‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”

Brief Summary: Will the people of God reconsider their priorities, take courage, and act on the basis of God’s promises? God sought to warn the people to heed His words. Not only did God warn them, but He also offered promises through His servant Haggai to motivate them to follow Him. Because the people of God reversed their priorities and failed to put God in first place in their lives, Judah was sent into Babylonian exile. In response to Daniel’s prayer and in fulfillment of God’s promises, God directed Cyrus the Persian king to allow the Jews in exile to go back to Jerusalem. A group of Jews returned to their land with great joy, put God first in their lives, worshiped Him and began to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem without the aid of the local people who lived in Palestine. Their courageous faith was met with opposition from the local people as well as the Persian government for approximately 15 years.

Foreshadowings: As with most of the books of the minor prophets, Haggai ends with promises of restoration and blessing. In the last verse, Haggai 2:23, God uses a distinctly messianic title in reference to Zerubbabel, “My Servant” (Compare 2 Samuel 3:18; 1 Kings 11:34; Isaiah 42:1–9; Ezekiel 37:24,25). Through Haggai, God promises to make him like a signet ring, which was a symbol of honor, authority, and power, somewhat like a king’s scepter used to seal letters and decrees. Zerubbabel, as God’s signet ring, represents the house of David and the resumption of the messianic line interrupted by the Exile. Zerubbabel reestablished the Davidic line of kings which would culminate in the millennial reign of Christ. Zerubbabel appears in the line of Christ on both Joseph’s side (Matt. 1:12) and Mary’s side (Luke 3:27).

Practical Application: The Book of Haggai draws attention to common problems most people face even today. Haggai asks us 1) to examine our priorities to see if we are more interested in our own pleasures than doing the work of God; 2) to reject a defeatist attitude when we run into opposition or discouraging circumstances; 3) to confess our failures and seek to live pure lives before God; 4) to act courageously for God because we have the assurance that He is with us always and is in full control of our circumstances; and 5) to rest secure in God’s hands knowing that He will abundantly bless us as we faithfully serve Him.

Obadiah verse 1 identifies the author of the Book of Obadiah as the Prophet Obadiah.
Date of Writing: The Book of Obadiah was likely written between 848 and 840 B.C.
Purpose of Writing: Obadiah, the shortest book in the Old Testament, is only 21 verses long. Obadiah is a prophet of God who uses this opportunity to condemn Edom for sins against both God and Israel. The Edomites are descendants of Esau and the Israelites are descendants of his twin brother, Jacob. A quarrel between the brothers has affected their descendants for over 1,000 years. This division caused the Edomites to forbid Israel to cross their land during the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt. Edom’s sins of pride now require a strong word of judgment from the Lord.
Key Verses: Obadiah verse 4, “Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD.”
Obadiah verse 12, “You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble.”
Obadiah verse 15, “The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.”
Brief Summary: Obadiah’s message is final and it is sure: the kingdom of Edom will be destroyed completely. Edom has been arrogant, gloating over Israel’s misfortunes, and when enemy armies attack Israel and the Israelites ask for help, the Edomites refuse and choose to fight against them, not for them. These sins of pride can be overlooked no longer. The book ends with the promise of the fulfillment and deliverance of Zion in the Last Days when the land will be restored to God’s people as He rules over them.
Foreshadowings: Verse 21 of the Book of Obadiah contains a foreshadowing of Christ and His Church. “Then saviors shall come to Mount Zion to judge the mountains of Esau, And the kingdom shall be the LORD’s” (NKJV). These “saviors” (also called “deliverers” in several versions) are the apostles of Christ, ministers of the word, and especially the preachers of the Gospel in these latter days. They are called “saviors,” not because they obtain our salvation, but because they preach salvation through the Gospel of Christ and show us the way to obtain that salvation. They, and the Word preached by them, are the means by which the good news of salvation is delivered to all men. While Christ is the only Savior who alone came to purchase salvation, and is the author of it, saviors and deliverers of the Gospel will be more and more in evidence as the end of the age draws near.
Practical Application: God will overcome in our behalf if we will stay true to Him. Unlike Edom, we must be willing to help others in times of need. Pride is sin. We have nothing to be proud of except Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.

Isaiah 40:28-31

After I’d witnessed an eagle in flight, I understood why God used this bird to describe a relationship with Him. The eagle—which simply opens its wings and soars—is wholly dependent upon air currents to keep it aloft.

In contrast, we often beat our wings trying to be better Christians. We resolve to read the Bible more or to improve at keeping our temper. We strive to escape old habits and temptations. But instead of flying to the mountaintops, we remain on the valley floor with tired wings. This is because believers sometimes get confused about what a spiritually mature person looks like. The godly believer isn’t someone who tries and tries to do well. I’ve been a believer long enough to know that I can’t live the Christian life. This flesh of mine isn’t a bit better today than it was the day I was saved.

Spiritual maturity means recognizing that we do not change ourselves. Flesh is corrupt, and its vices cannot be suppressed by any human means. But our omnipotent Father subdues believers’ human impulses through His Spirit. For example, God’s  indwelling Spirit calms anger and wields His strength to weaken the lure of old temptations. While others tire from trying to be good, the mature believer relies upon God and will “mount up with wings like eagles” (Is. 40:31).

Isaiah reminds us that even young men stumble and grow weak. Anyone trying to change himself into a model Christian will burn out beating his wings against the world system and his own flesh. God didn’t make these human bodies, minds, or spirits to fly solo. He created us to soar on His strength.