The Scarlet Thread

Good Friday Reflection: The Suffering Servant


The Chosen One has died this day
But He, the Son, will rise Sunday
For that is what Amoz’ son did say
And we know that his word is true


Who has believed our message? (John 12: 38, Romans 10: 16)

And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,

And like a root out of parched ground;

He has no stately form or majesty

That we should look upon Him,

Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

He was despised and forsaken of men, (Luke 18: 31 – 33)

A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;

And like one from whom men hide their face

He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Mark 10: 33, 34 and John 1: 10, 11)

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, (Matthew 8: 17)

And our sorrows He carried;

Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten of God, and afflicted. (John 19: 7)

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, (Hebrews 9: 28)

He was crushed for our iniquities; (Romans 4: 25, 1 Cor 15: 3)

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, (Hebrews 5: 8)

And by His scourging we are healed. (1 Peter 2: 24, 25)

All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

Yet He did not open His mouth; (Matt 26:63; 27:12–14; Mark 14:61; 15:5; Luke 23:9; John 19:9)

Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, (Acts 8:32, 33; Rev 5:6)

And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,

So He did not open His mouth.

By oppression and judgment He was taken away;

And as for His generation, who considered

That He was cut off out of the land of the living

For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

His grave was assigned with wicked men,

Yet He was with a rich man in His death, (Matthew 27: 57 – 60)

Because He had done no violence, (1 Peter 2: 22)

Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

But the LORD was pleased

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;

If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, (John 1: 29)

He will see His offspring,

He will prolong His days,

And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

As a result of the anguish of His soul,

He will see it and be satisfied; (John 10: 14 – 18)

By His knowledge the Righteous One, (Romans 5: 18 – 19)

My Servant, will justify the many,

As He will bear their iniquities.

Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, (Philippians 2: 9 – 11)

And He will divide the booty with the strong;

Because He poured out Himself to death, (Matt 26: 38, 39, 42)

And was numbered with the transgressors; (Mark 15: 28, Luke 22: 37)

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, (2 Cor 5: 21)

And interceded for the transgressors.

A Scarlet Summary

On New Year’s Eve my Malachi post concluded a series of blogs that started with the book of Genesis and continued through the Old Testament books in sequential order. The theme that bound all the posts together was “The Scarlet Thread”. To read more about that interpretive concept, click here, and you will be taken to a page on my blog that explains the Biblical basis of the concept.

Since that series has concluded, I wanted to thank you for reading and let you know I will be starting another series shortly, the theme of which will be the Old Testament foreshadows of a third day resurrection.

In Christ,

Bryan

P.S. Below is a summary of the Scarlet Thread blog posts and the basic theme of each.

Book Title Primary Theme of Blog
Genesis Jesus is Creator
Exodus The Passover foreshadows the gospel of Jesus Christ
Leviticus The law prepares us for the gospel by showing us our sin and our need for a Savior
Numbers Moses and the bronze serpent foreshadow the gospel of Jesus Christ
Deuteronomy Jesus is the Great Prophet prophesied by Moses
Joshua The account of Rahab foreshadows the gospel; Rahab is part of Christ’s genealogy
Judges The Old Covenant failed to change mens’ hearts but the New Covenant succeeds
Ruth The love story of Ruth prepared the way for the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem
1 Samuel How the people asking God for a king was ultimately fulfilled in Christ
2 Samuel David acquired the land where the temple would be built; the temple curtain was torn in two when Jesus was crucified
1 Kings Solomon was a foreshadow of Jesus
2 Kings Jesus used Elisha’s healing of a Gentile to show how the gospel would be opened up to all Gentiles
1 Chronicles The Davidic Covenant points to Jesus Christ
2 Chronicles The exile of the Jews foreshadowed the judgment of man and the exile of unbelievers to Hell
Ezra God used an ancestor of Christ to rebuild the temple after the return to Jerusalem; Jesus raised His own temple from the dead
Nehemiah The book of Nehemiah points to Christ
Esther Esther is a foreshadow of Christ
Job The suffering of Job foreshadows the suffering of Jesus
Psalms The parallels between Psalm 22 and Matthew’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion
Proverbs The paradox of the gospel when compared to earthly wisdom
Ecclesiastes Solomon’s reflection of life without God are paralleled by Paul’s reflection on life without Jesus
Song of Solomon Marital love foreshadows Christ and His bride
Isaiah Philip taught an Ethiopian that Isaiah 53 is about Jesus
Jeremiah The false prophets of Jeremiah’s day are similar to the false prophets in our day
Lamentations Oops – forgot to do a blog on this book!
Ezekiel The appearance of Jesus to Ezekiel
Daniel Jesus is the Son of Man prophesied by Daniel
Hosea Hosea prophesied the gospel going to the Gentiles
Joel Joel prophesied the day of Pentecost
Amos The apostles used the words of Amos to explain the conversion of Gentiles
Obadiah The cup of wrath versus the cup of blessing
Jonah Jonah is a foreshadow of Christ
Micah Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as Micah predicted
Nahum The wicked Ninevites are analogous to all who have broken God’s law
Habbakuk The righteous shall live by faith
Zephaniah Jesus will condemn many alleged Christians due to a false religion of works
Haggai Without the rebuilding of the 2nd temple, leading to Herod’s temple, the veil could not have been torn in two upon Christ’s death on the cross
Zechariah Zechariah prophesied the Messiah will combine the office of king and priest
Malachi John the Baptist was the prophesied forerunner to the Messiah

Malachi

Malachi ends the Old Testament on a bad note. He highlights the sins of the people – a people not far removed from the exile to Babylon due to sin. Rather than turning to God by living righteously, the post-exilic people of Malachi turned to sin: they intermarried with foreigners, they didn’t pay the tithe, they didn’t rest on the Sabbath, they offered lame sacrifices to God. God was not pleased.

“ ‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the LORD is to be despised.’ But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 1: 6 – 8

So the punishment of the exile did little to curb the sin of the people. In one sense, this ought to have been expected, for the words of the Mosaic Covenant, which promised blessing if the people were obedient, never inspired Israel to obedience. And the words of the covenant, which promised cursing if the people were disobedient, never caused Israel to fear sinning against God. The people always did what was right in their own eyes. In the days of Moses, they did what they wanted. In the days of the judges, they did what they wanted. In the days leading up to the exile, they did what they wanted. And now, after the exile and in the days of Malachi, they did what they wanted.

So the Old Testament ends on a bad note, in that the sin of the people is still raging and God is not pleased. The ineffectiveness of the Law to change people’s hearts is on full display. The inability to live up to God’s standard is evident. Yet despite all this, there is hope. God grants the prophet Malachi words that relate to the coming of the Messiah. He grants him words that discuss a great figure that will arise before the day of the Lord – a forerunner to Messiah.

Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse. Malachi 4: 5 – 6

This great figure prophesied by Malachi is John the Baptist. Only by God’s providence could it be that the last verses of the last chapter of the last book of the Old Testament prepare the way for the New Testament. Now how do we know that Malachi speaks of John, since he used the name Elijah? Because Luke tells us:

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1: 5 – 17

Jesus Himself confirms that John is the Elijah of whom Malachi spoke.

For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 11: 13 – 15

If the Bible stopped at Malachi, the story would be incomplete. We would be left with the sin of the people and the mysterious Elijah who was to come before the day of the Lord. We would also be left to wonder about how that mysterious figure fit in with the Messiah, the son of David, the one of whom the prophets continually spoke.

But thankfully we have the New Testament. We have the completion to the story. We can read how John prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus, and how Jesus is the Messiah that the prophets spoke of and wrote about. We can read how the New Covenant established by Christ is better than the Old Covenant given through Moses. We can read how hearts are transformed, not by the Law, but by the very Spirit of God. We can read how the Messiah, the great coming king, had to die. We can read about Him rising from the dead on the third day. And we can read the sweet words of John the Baptist, recorded by John the apostle, concerning this Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, of whom the whole of the Old Testament, including Malachi, points to:

Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ John 1: 29 – 30

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. John 3: 35 – 36

Zechariah

One of the most amazing Messianic prophecies in all the Bible comes from Zechariah. And no, I am not referring to the famous verse from chapter nine quoted in Matthew 21.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9: 9

Although this is a great prophecy, there is one more stunning that God gave to Zechariah. For rather than a prophecy about Jesus riding on a donkey, it is a prophecy about Jesus sitting on a throne. But He is not only sitting on the throne as king, which would be expected for the son of David; He is also sitting on the throne as priest, something unheard of in Israel.

Take silver and gold, make an ornate crown and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”’ Zechariah 6: 11 – 13

The ruling structure of Israel had separate offices of king and priest. Priests were from the tribe of Levi. Kings were from the tribe of Judah. But when the Branch comes, according to Zechariah, He will combine the roles, and there will be peace between the two offices. These words of Zechariah are supported by a messianic psalm :

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.” Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; in holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew. The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Psalm 110: 1 – 4

From the view of the Old Testament, when Messiah comes, He will be a king and a priest in the order of Melchizedek. He will not be a Levitical priest. And therefore it is anticipated that the Mosaic Law will come to an end and be replaced by the New Covenant, for why remove the priesthood from Levi unless great changes were going to occur?

In the New Testament, the book of Hebrews continues the discussion of this theme of Messiah as king/priest. The importance of this concept cannot be overstated, given the context of the Israel theocracy that was established through Moses. Age old structures, established by God, were changing, by God. The author goes to great lengths to explain that the changing of established structures was prophesied, and he further explains how the priesthood of Melchizedek exceeds the priesthood of Levi. His words are long and dense, but worth the read:

Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. And inasmuch as it was not without an oath (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, “the LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever’”); so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. Hebrews 7: 11 – 28

The book of Hebrews is called Hebrews for a reason. It wasn’t written for the pagan Gentile, although anyone in Christ benefits from reading it. It was written to Hebrews – those who knew the Law and who knew the intricacies and nuances of what was being written about. The author does well in explaining the logic of the king/priest role that Zechariah prophesied would come:

  • The priests of old were based on bloodline. The sons of Levi were priests, and when a priest would die he was replaced by another son of Levi. Jesus, who is the eternal God-man, never needs to be replaced due to death, and therefore His priestly work exceeds that of Levi.
  • The priests of old were sinners, and offered up sacrifices not only for the people, but for themselves. Jesus, the only man to ever be born under the Law and follow it without sin, has no need to repent of sins. And therefore His priestly work exceeds that of Levi. The priests of old were reminders of the sins of the people. The temple was nicknamed “the house of blood” due to the flow resulting from the sacrifices continually offered up. Jesus died once for all, and His blood was enough to end the daily sacrifice. The temple was no longer needed.

We can infer that the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy by Jesus was hard to grasp by Jewish converts, hence the explanation in the book of Hebrews. It is not easy to change, even with simple things on a personal level. Imagine how hard it must have been for the Hebrew Christians in the early church, to see the things that Moses wrote about (Levitical priesthood, sacrifices, etc.) going away. How hard must it have been to change their mindset, to change their understanding of God.

But, alas, if the teachers of that day cared more about the coming Messiah than creating a false law, and had taken to heart the prophecy of Zechariah, perhaps all of the Jews would have been better prepared to receive the words that the apostles taught about the Messiah, the one who combined the offices of king and priest, and who rules forever on His throne.

Haggai

When one thinks of Haggai, one ought to think of “the temple of God”. For after the end of the exile, when Jews had returned to Jerusalem according to God’s promise, it was the prophet Haggai whom God used to exhort the Jews to continue their rebuilding of the destroyed temple of Solomon. Specifically, Haggai exhorted two main leaders, Zerubbabel and Joshua, to lead the work:

In the second year of Darius the king, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘This people says, “The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt.” ’ ” Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?” Haggai 1: 1 – 4
Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him. And the people showed reverence for the LORD. Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke by the commission of the LORD to the people saying, “ ‘I am with you,’ declares the LORD.” So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God. Haggai 1: 12 – 14
On the twenty-first of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet saying, “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people saying, ‘Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? But now take courage Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD, ‘take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ declares the LORD of hosts. Haggai 2: 1 – 4

Zerubbabel was from the tribe of Judah. His participation in the rebuilding of the temple continued a theme of Scripture, where persons from the tribe of Judah helped to build the Lord’s buildings. In the days of Moses when the tabernacle was constructed, Bezalel from Judah was used.

Then Moses said to the sons of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all craftsmanship;… Exodus 35: 30 – 31

Hundreds of years later, Solomon from Judah, David’s son, oversaw the building of the first temple.

As for the house which King Solomon built for the LORD, its length was sixty cubits and its width twenty cubits and its height thirty cubits. 1 Kings 6: 2

So in the days of Haggai when God used Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, to build the second temple, the pattern was continued. This pattern continued once more, when a few hundred years after Zerubbabel, God used a man from the tribe of Judah to build a temple. This man God used was a descendant of Zerubbabel, no less.

The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers…After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. Matthew 1: 1 – 2, 12

Jesus the Messiah – of Judah, of David, of Zerubbabel – built a temple made not of stones nor by human hands, but of flesh and human hearts. This temple He built was the church.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it…” Matthew 16: 13 – 18

The church, built on Christ and His gospel, is the combined group of Jews and Gentiles whom God granted faith to in Jesus Christ. The age old distinction between Jew and Gentile was done away with.

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2: 13 – 22

But in order to make this temple of living people, Jesus had to die; the temple of His body had to be destroyed.

And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.” The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. John 2: 15 – 21

The Jews destroyed Jesus’ body. And on the third day He raised it from the dead. He established His church, His temple of living people, and made obsolete the physical temple with animal sacrifices.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9: 11 – 12

When meditating on this great plan of God – the establishing of a New Covenant by the blood of Christ – one should note that what Christ did on earth was possible, in part, because God spoke to the prophet Haggai, who spoke to Zerubbabel and Joshua. Those two men listened to the prophet and led the people to build the second temple. Without Zerubabbel’s temple, there would not have been Herod’s temple. Without Herod’s temple, there would not have been a veil to be torn, upon the death of Christ.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. Matthew 27: 50 – 51

Without the torn veil, the words of Hebrews would have no significance to us:

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10: 19 – 22

But since the veil of the temple was torn, we can have great confidence before God, as the author of Hebrews says. And we should be comforted knowing that we are Christ’s temple, the people whom He died for.

Hallelujah!

Zephaniah

When God had determined to exile the southern kingdom of Judah, He sent them prophets to warn of the pending destruction. Zephaniah was one of those prophets and he spoke these words:

The word of the LORD which came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah:…I will stretch out My hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the names of the idolatrous priests along with the priests. And those who bow down on the housetops to the host of heaven, and those who bow down and swear to the LORD and yet swear by Milcom, and those who have turned back from following the LORD, and those who have not sought the LORD or inquired of Him. Zephaniah 1: 1, 4 – 6

This was a scathing rebuke of the false religion occurring in Judah. Priests and laity were worshipping Baal. They were swearing by Milcom and swearing by the name of the Lord. They exchanged God’s truth for their own religious lies. They were syncretistic and polytheistic in their worship.

This phenomenon of false religion that perverts the Lord’s truth is not unique to the days of the exile. It is not as if people worshipped God falsely only in that day, but now things are fine. Rather, Jesus spoke some words that paint a picture similar to the one that Zephaniah painted with his words.

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7: 15 – 23

Jesus is speaking about the final judgment. People who on the surface claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, many of whom hold the office of pastor or missionary or servant of the church, but many who are just normal congregants, will be condemned by Christ on the day of judgment.

Why?

Because when they say “Lord, Lord,’ and acknowledge with their lips that Jesus is Lord, they are at the same time in the secret tunnels of their heart repudiating His truth. For they attempt, on the day of judgment and in the presence of Jesus, to boast of their works as a means of entrance into heaven. They boast in the great things they did – prophecies, exorcisms, miracles – rather than boasting in Jesus Christ and His atoning death and resurrection.

Therefore, because the claim they present to God is someone other than Jesus Christ, their religion is syncretistic and polytheistic, just like the Jews in the days of Zephaniah. But they are not calling on the name of Baal or Milcom – they are calling their own name. They have deified themselves, so to speak, by thinking that they are adding to the work of Christ, and have a right to enter heaven apart from Jesus. If Jesus is God, and His power is not enough for salvation, then certainly these people are exalting themselves up to the level of a god greater than Jesus, if they think their work is enough for salvation.

To boast of works in the presence of Jesus Christ, especially as a means of salvation, is the surest way to demonstrate a complete lack of understanding and faith in the Jesus of Scripture. And this is why Jesus says “I never knew you…”, prior to exiling the false Christians for eternity.

Jesus Himself was asked what the work of God is. He was asked to explain that great thing that people ought to do. And He did not say “Prophesy! Cast out demons! Perform miracles!” He said this:

Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” John 6: 26 – 29

God does not ask us to prophesy in His name, He does not ask us to cast out demons in His name, He does not ask us to perform miracles in His name, in order to inherit eternal life. No – He doesn’t ask us to do anything. He asks us to believe in Jesus the Messiah.

For those of us who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we take great comfort in the words that Zephaniah offered to the remnant of Israel. For they are words that apply to the return of Christ and the establishment of His eternal rule, and therefore they apply also to us:

Shot for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you will fear disaster no more. In that day it will be said to Jerusalem: “Do not be afraid, O Zion; do not let your hands fall limp. The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” Zephaniah 3: 14 – 17

Habakkuk

“The righteous shall live by faith.”

This was the slogan, so to speak, of the Protestant Reformation. The great discovery of Martin Luther, while he was a Catholic monk trying with all his might to work for salvation and realizing he always fell short, was that the Scripture teaches salvation is not contingent upon works. This Biblical truth was hidden by the Catholic Church and replaced with a doctrine of works, which is why Luther despaired. Consider the apostate church’s own words, which from the days of Luther till now have not significantly changed on the matter:

No one can be absolutely certain of his or her salvation unless – as to Magdalen, to the man with the palsy, or to the penitent thief – a special revelation be given (Trent, Sess. VI, can. xvi). Nor can a theological certainty, any more than an absolute certainty of belief, be claimed regarding the matter of salvation, for the spirit of the Gospel is strongly opposed to anything like an unwarranted certainty of salvation.1

Faith and no works may be described as the Lutheran view. “Esto peccator, pecca fortiter sed fortius fide” was the heresiarch’s axiom, and the Diet of Worms, in 1527, condemned the doctrine that good works are not necessary for salvation.2

They say that no one can be assured of their salvation while living. They say that good works are necessary for salvation (ever hear of Catholic guilt?). They say that Luther is a “heresiarch”, meaning he is the originator of the heresy of salvation by faith alone. But what do the Scriptures say?

The Apostle Paul writes clearly on the matter, ironically in his letter to the Romans. If only Roman Catholic theologians would pick up that book and study it! Consider the important third chapter:

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; Romans 3: 19 – 24

Before that, in the first chapter, Paul talks about the nature of the gospel:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” Romans 1: 16 – 17

When Paul writes “but the righteous man shall live by faith”, he is not writing his own words, but is recalling the words of God given to the prophet Habakkuk.

Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith. Habakkuk 2: 4

Righteousness by faith is not Luther’s concept. It is not even a New Testament concept – it is God’s concept. God has always saved by faith and never by the Law, for consider that Adam and Abel and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph were alive before the Law was given to Israel. If they existed prior to the Law, then how did the Law save them? Rather, they were all saved by their faith in God. This God concept, recorded by Habakkuk and quoted by Paul in Romans, is also found in other New Testament passages:

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. Galatians 2: 21

Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “the righteous man shall live by faith.” Galatians 3: 11

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2: 8 – 9

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Hebrews 10: 35 – 39

So if Martin Luther is a heretic according to the Catholic Church, what do they think about Moses and Habakkuk and Paul? For did not all three write about righteousness by faith?

Rather, it is the Roman Catholic Church that promotes heresy. And they themselves would do well to heed the words of God’s prophet:

Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith. Habakkuk 2: 4

Regarding the proud one, whose soul is not right within him – who is prouder than the man who desires to stand before God and declare that he and his works have added something to the work of Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified upon a cross unto death and then resurrected on the third day, and whose death and resurrection served as the perfect sacrifice for sins?

Is there a doctrine bitterer to the soul than salvation by works? And consequently, is there anything sweeter than righteousness by faith, in which our works are not even considered and only the perfect work of Jesus Christ is considered when God grants salvation to the sinners who believe in the Son?

Thanks be to God for preserving His gospel in the Scriptures throughout the generations. And in dark days, when the light of the gospel in the Bible is put under a shade, thanks be to God for raising up men who remove the shade and once again shine the light of the Word to the world!

In doing so, the Holy Spirit is using them to fulfill the promise of Christ to His church:

“…upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Matthew 16: 18

1 “Sanctifying Grace”, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06701a.htm

2 “Faith”, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05752c.htm

Nahum

The book of Nahum is a prophecy against the city of Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian empire – the same Nineveh to which Jonah was sent. Upon the preaching of the prophet Jonah, Nineveh repented and God withdrew His threatened wrath. Yet the repentance of Nineveh was temporary, hence the words of Nahum proclaiming God’s coming judgment; a judgment that would not be withdrawn as in the days of Jonah.

Who were these objects of wrath, the Assyrians?

They were a wicked people. A pastor once said that an ancient town, upon hearing that the Assyrians were coming, committed mass suicide, to avoid the awful torture that Assyria was known for. Archaeologists have uncovered bronze reliefs depicting heads impaled on stakes, severed heads hanging from city walls, soldiers holding victims by stumpy arms and legs, with dismembered hands and feet littering the ground. The following quote is from the Assyrian king Sennacherib, a king who is referenced in Scripture:

“I cut their throats like lambs. I cut off their precious lives (as one cuts) a string. Like the many waters of a storm, I made (the contents of) their gullets and entrails run down upon the wide earth. My prancing steeds harnessed for my riding, plunged into the streams of their blood as (into) a river. The wheels of my war chariot, which brings low the wicked and the evil, were bespattered with blood and filth. With the bodies of their warriors I filled the plain, like grass. (Their) testicles I cut off, and tore out their privates like the seeds of cucumbers.”1

This quote portrays a disgusting and violent treatment of people captured in war. The Assyrian rulers were ruthless and the people of Assyria were wicked. The common folk may not have mutilated prisoners of war like their military did, yet the whole culture was lifted up in pride, worshipped false gods and filled with wickedness. Hence the words of Nahum to the city of Nineveh:

Woe to the bloody city, completely full of lies and pillage; her prey never departs. The noise of the whip, the noise of the rattling of the wheel, galloping horses and bounding chariots! Horsemen charging, swords flashing, spears gleaming, many slain, a mass of corpses, and countless dead bodies – they stumble over the dead bodies! All because of the many harlotries of the harlot, the charming one, the mistress of sorceries, who sells nations by her harlotries and families by her sorceries. “Behold, I am against you,” declares the LORD of hosts; “And I will lift up your skirts over your face, and show to the nations your nakedness and to the kingdoms your disgrace. I will throw filth on you and make you vile, and set you up as a spectacle. Nahum 3: 1 – 6

Historians accept the destruction of Nineveh as fact, although they obviously do not attribute the fall to divine wrath. But for us who understand that the city fell by God’s order, it is worth noting that before its fall, and despite its abominations, blasphemies and cruelties, God through the prophet Jonah gave it a chance to repent. What a great demonstration of the grace of God, that even people like the Assyrians were not outside of the reach of God’s saving hand!

Now the words of Nahum and the fall of Nineveh may seem to be obscure Biblical knowledge, since for us ordinary citizens of a modern society, the unbelieving friends and acquaintances we have are not like the Assyrians and their king Sennacherib. We do not know mighty warriors who gut or castrate their captives, who spill entrails and dismember hands and feet. Yet due to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, we must be aware of the fact that spiritually speaking, we do know people like Sennacherib. For God judges the heart, and Jesus gave us words regarding the heart of man and God’s judgment of it:

You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Matthew 5: 21 – 22

But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man. Matthew 15: 18 – 20

There is not one person alive who is innocent of committing verbal murder, and who would avoid the fiery hell, based on the words of Jesus. Therefore, as we think of our unbelieving friends and acquaintances, or even strangers, it may be helpful to view the situation as being analogous to Jonah and Nineveh. We are as Jonah preaching to the citizens of Nineveh. We preach the gospel so that people might believe and repent and be granted life in God, and not have to be subjected to words of wrath on the day of the Lord – such as Nineveh was in the day of Nahum.

As we do this, as we share the gospel of grace with a view of God’s wrath, what helps us deliver this hard message with humility and gentleness is remembering that we too were once like the Assyrians – lost and in darkness and without hope. But the grace of God reached Nineveh in the days of Jonah, it reached us where we were at, and it can reach anyone at any time as God wills, no matter who they are.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6: 9 – 11

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1: 13 – 14

1http://faculty.uml.edu/ethan_Spanier/Teaching/documents/CP6.0AssyrianTorture.pdf

Micah

Christmas is approaching, and so is the time when verses regarding the birth of Christ will be read throughout churches and Christian households. Undoubtedly the first three verses of Matthew 2 will be part of the seasonal reading:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Matthew 2: 1 – 3

These three verses are rich with meaning – a meaning that derives from the history of Israel recorded in the Old Testament. For it is written that God gave Israel David as king. David was then promised an eternal throne by God, and David’s descendants ruled for a few hundred years. Due to perpetual sin, God exiled His people to Babylon and ended the Davidic dynasty. From that time until the birth of Jesus, God did not allow a son of David to sit on a throne as king. In fact, via the prophet Ezekiel, God told Zedekiah, the last Davidic king, that there would be no more Davidic kings until Messiah.

Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Because you have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your deeds your sins appear – because you have come to remembrance, you will be seized with the hand. And you, O slain, wicked one, the prince of Israel, whose day has come, in the time of the punishment of the end,’ thus says the Lord God, ‘Remove the turban and take off the crown; this will no longer be the same. Exalt that which is low and abase that which is high. A ruin, a ruin, a ruin, I will make it. This also will be no more until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it to Him.’ Ezekiel 21: 24 – 27

The last sentence from this Ezekiel quotation is an allusion to the Messianic prophecy in Genesis 49: 10.

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

Although God had ended the Davidic rule over Israel, it was because of God’s promise to David and because of the words of the prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and others, that there was great anticipation for the Messiah. People believed God would send Messiah and establish David’s eternal throne.

Moving ahead now to the birth of Jesus, we understand why Herod, an Idumean and not a son of David, was king – because God had ended the rule of the Davidic kings and allowed for Israel to be subjegated to Rome. And because of the people’s anticipation for the coming Davidic king, the illegitimate king Herod was terribly troubled upon the arrival of the magi, who asked him about a baby born as “King of the Jews”.

It is fascinating that Herod, a king appointed by Rome, an Idumean and not a Jew, believed enough in the possibility of a coming king to inquire of the scribes and priests as to where the Scriptures say the Messiah would be born. And yet it is obvious he did not believe in the hope of the Messiah, for it was his will to kill the baby who was born.

When asked by Herod to tell of the place where the Messiah would be born, the scribes answered with the words of the prophet Micah.

Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’” Matthew 2: 4 – 6

That prophecy from Micah was given seven centuries earlier – the Jews kept note of it for seven hundred years, for they did believe God would keep His word. What is fascinating about the fulfillment of Micah’s words is that the only reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem is because Caesar Augustus decreed that a census would be taken, and this census required people to travel to their own city. As a result, Joseph and Mary, from Nazareth, descendants of David, went to Bethlehem to register, for that was the city of David.

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son…Luke 2: 1 – 7

God used the decree of a Gentile ruler to bring to pass Micah’s prophecy – that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem. Over thirty years later, God would use the decree of Pontius Pilate to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy – that the Christ would suffer and die.

So Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem in accordance with the words of the prophet Micah. He was born to be king, but not a normal king. For what king offers himself as a propitiation and sacrifice for sins? Only one.

…Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1: 20 – 21

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Luke 1: 30 – 33

Jonah

What do these two gospel definitions, from Jesus and Paul, have in common?

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day…Luke 24: 45 – 46

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…1 Corinthians 15: 3 – 4

Both Jesus and Paul declare that the Scriptures, meaning the Old Testament, prophesied that the Christ would rise from the dead on “the third day”.

Yet this is a gospel mystery – nowhere in the Old Testament will you find a prophecy that states, in effect, “the coming Messiah will die and then rise from the dead on the third day.”

So we are presented with a paradox: there is no literal prophecy in the Old Testament about a third day resurrection, and yet both Jesus and Paul said Scripture teaches that doctrine. How does one make sense of this?

In order to make sense of it, one must grow in their understanding of Biblical prophecy. It is more than “prediction – fulfillment”, as in, someone says something will happen and then it happens. There is a mode of prophecy that is based on patterns. In the Bible, God over time repeats certain patterns to prepare one to receive a greater truth. This is known as typology (the study of types), and without understanding typology one will lack a certain depth in their Biblical comprehension. Here is an explanation of the mode from some Christian scholars:

Typology ought to be viewed as a subset of predictive prophecy, not in the sense of verbal predictions, but in the sense of predictions built on models/patterns that God himself has established, that become known gradually as later texts reinforce those patterns, with the goal of anticipating what comes later in Christ.1

Applying this concept of types and patterns to Scripture, one needs to look no further than the book of Jonah. Jonah has Messianic implications, not through predictive prophecy, but because of a type found in the first chapter. You may recall that Jonah was thrown into the sea for his sin. The Scripture says:

So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. Then the men feared the LORD greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows. And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1: 15 – 17

Now there is nothing obviously prophetic in this passage. But the words of Christ give it significance.

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” Matthew 12: 38 – 41

I am sure there are a great many Christians who have read Jesus’ words here and have understood the parallel – three days in the fish for Jonah and three days in the earth for Jesus. But it is more than a neat coincidence, and it would be my guess that many do not know Jesus is giving Jonah typological significance and that typology is not limited only to Jonah but has further applications in Biblical reading and interpretation.

It is true – the only way to understand the words of Jesus and Paul, when they say that the Scripture teaches a third day resurrection, is to understand the Old Testament types that point to a third day resurrection. And there are more than just in Jonah, although not many more. I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure none of the other third day types are pointed out by Jesus or the apostles, although there is a slight reference to one in the book of Hebrews. The other third day types can only be discerned after training the mind to look for such things and then reading through Scripture.

It is significant, I think, that the gospel definitions offered by Jesus and Paul, in Luke 24 and 1 Corinthians 15, cannot be fully understood without knowing how types function in Scripture. And since the Holy Spirit inspired the written word, and inspired the types to be documented, they are worth paying attention to, and it is a study worth undertaking.

Although theologians and Bible exegetes sometimes get nervous about typology, because they don’t want people turning everything in the Bible into a type, nevertheless it is a legitimate mode of Bible prophecy, and as in all things pertaining to Bible study, it ought to be done with care and with precision, and with respecting what the Holy Spirit is communicating through Scripture, not forcing what we think or feel upon the Holy Text.

1Gentry & Wellum. Kingdom Through Covenant, pg 103. Wheaton: Crossway. 2012. Print.