My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE OLD TESTAMENT REGARDING THE MESSIAH (Part III)
By Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
The Prophecies of King David
After the death of Moses and the occupation of the Promised Land by the Jews, the prophecies about the Messiah disappear for many centuries. A new series of prophecies about the Messiah arise during the reign of David, a descendant of Abraham, Jacob and Judah, who ruled the Hebrew nation more than 1000 years BC. In these new prophecies the Kingly and Godly qualities of Christ are revealed. The Lord promises David through the lips of Nathan to establish an Eternal Kingdom in the Personage of His Descendant: "I will establish his throne forever, I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son" (1 Chron. 17:12-13).
This prophecy about the Eternal Kingdom of the Messiah is paralleled by a series of prophecies, which should be discussed more thoroughly. In order to understand and to properly asses the meaning of these prophecies, it is necessary to at least briefly familiarize oneself with the life of King David. King David, having been anointed as a king and prophet, was the prototype of the Higher King and Prophet--Christ.
David was the youngest son of the large family of the poor shepherd Jesse. When the God-sent Prophet Samuel came to the house of Jesse, in order to anoint the king for Israel, the Prophet thought to anoint one of the older sons. But the Lord revealed to the Prophet that the younger son, still a young boy, David, is chosen by Him for this high service. Then, in obedience to God, Samuel pours the Holy Oil on the head of the youngest son, thus performing the anointment to the throne. From that moment, David became the Anointed of God, the messiah. But David did not immediately set about the actually govern. A long road of ordeals and unfair persecution lay before him, put forth by the then King Saul, who had a deep hatred for David. The reason for this hatred was jealousy, because as a boy David defeated the previously unbeaten Philistine giant Goliath with a small rock and thus gained victory for the Hebrew army. After this the people said: "Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands" (1 Samuel 18:7). Only his strong faith in God the Intercessor helped David endure all the many persecutions and dangers to which he was subjected by Saul and his servants in the course of almost 15 years. Often, when wandering for months in the wild and impassable desert, King David would pour out his grief to God in inspired psalms. With time, the psalms of David became an essential element and an embellishment of both the Old Testament, and later in the New Testament religious services.
Upon being enthroned in Jerusalem after the death of Saul, King David became the most outstanding king ever to rule Israel. He had combined within himself many valuable qualities: love for the people, fairness, wisdom, courage, and, most importantly--a strong faith in God. Before deciding any state question, King David always zealously prayed to God, asking for understanding. The Lord always helped David and blessed his 40-year reign with major successes, in both internal and external politics.
But David did not evade severe ordeals. His deepest grief was the military uprising, headed by his own son Absalom, who wanted to become king before his time. In this instance, David experienced all the bitterness of villainous ingratitude and treachery among his subjects. But, as before with Saul, faith and hope in God helped David. Absalom died ingloriously, although David tried to save him by all means. He also forgave the other mutineers. Afterword David clearly portrayed his enemies' senseless and insidious revolt in his Messianic psalms.
While attending to the material well-being of his people, David imparted great meaning to its spiritual life. Often he headed religious holidays, bringing sacrifices to God for the Hebrew people and putting together his inspired religious hymns--Psalms. Being a king and a Prophet, and also to a certain extent a priest, King David became the prototype (a model), as a precursor of the greatest of Kings, Prophet and High Priest--Christ the Savior, the descendant of David. The personal experience of King David, and also the poetic gift with which he was endowed, gave him the opportunity to describe the character and feat of the coming Messiah in a whole row of psalms with unprecedented clarity and vividness. For example, in his 2nd psalm king David foretells the enmity and uprising against the Messiah on the part of his enemies. This psalm is written in the form of a discussion among three entities: David, God the Father, and the Son of God, anointed by the Father to the Kingdom.
The Prophecies of Isaiah
As we mentioned earlier, the Old Testament Prophets had the immense task of keeping the Hebrew nation believing in One God, and to prepare the foundation for faith in the coming Messiah as a Being Who had, besides the human, also a Godly nature. The Prophets had to speak about the Godliness of Christ in such a way that it would not be understood by the Jews in heathen terms, that is, as polytheism (belief in many gods). For this reason the Old Testament Prophets revealed the secret of the Godliness of the Messiah gradually, in keeping with the measure of belief in One God instilled in the Hebrew nation.
King David was the first to prophecy about the Godliness of Christ. After him there began a 250 year lull in prophecies, and the Prophet Isaiah, living over seven centuries before the birth of Christ, began a new series of prophecies about Christ, in which His Godly nature is greatly manifested.
Isaiah is the most outstanding Prophet in the Old Testament. The book written by him includes such a great number of prophecies about Christ and about occurrences in the New Testament, that many call Isaiah the Old Testament Evangelist. Isaiah prophesied within the bounds of Jerusalem during the reign of the Judean king Ozziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah and Manasseh. The defeat of the Israeli army occurred during Isaiah's lifetime in 722 BC, when the Assyrian king Sargon took the Hebrew nation occupying Israel into captivity. The Judean empire existed another 135 years after this tragedy. The Prophet Isaiah suffered martyrdom during the reign of Manasseh, being sawed in half with a wooden saw. The book of the Prophet Isaiah is noted for elegant Hebrew and possesses high literary merits, which is carried over even in translations of his book into different languages.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote about the human nature of Christ, and from him we learn that Christ was to be born in a miraculous fashion from a Virgin: "Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel," which means: God is with us" (Isaiah 7:14). This prophecy is told to King Ahaz with the aim of convincing the king that he and his house will not be destroyed by the Syrian and Israeli kings. Just the opposite, the design of the enemies will not come to pass, and one of the descendants of Ahaz will be the promised Messiah, Who will be born miraculously from a virgin. As Ahaz was a descendant of King David, the present prophecy confirms the previous prophecies that the Messiah will arise from the line of King David.
In his following prophecies Isaiah reveals new details about the miraculous Child, Who will be born from a Virgin. Thus, in his eighth chapter, Isaiah writes that the people of God should not fear the intrigues of their enemies, because their plans will not be realized: "Take counsel together, and it shall come to naught; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us (Immanuel)" (Isaiah 8:10). In the next chapter Isaiah speaks of the characteristics of the Child Immanuel: "For unto us a child, is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Councilor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). The name Immanuel, as well as the other names given here to the Child, do not appear as proper names, of course, but indicate the characteristics of His Godly nature.
Isaiah predicted that the Messiah will teach in the northern sections of the Holy Land, in the boundaries of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, which was called Galilee:
"Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in their vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the Land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a grey light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined" (Isaiah 9:1-2).
This prophesy was mentioned by the Evangelist Matthew, when he described the sermon of Jesus Christ in this part of the Holy Land, which was particularly ignorant religiously (St. Matthew 4:16). In the Holy Writings light is the symbol of religious knowledge, truth.
In later prophecies Isaiah often calls the Messiah by yet another name--branch. This symbolic name confirms earlier prophecies about the miraculous and unusual birth of the Messiah, specifically, that it will occur without the participation of a man, similar to how a branch, without a seed, is born directly from the root of the plant. "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse (so was called the father of David) and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:1). Here Isaiah predicts the anointment of Christ with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, that is, with the full grace of the spirit, which cam e about in the day of His baptism in the River Jordan.
In other prophecies, Isaiah speaks of the deeds of Christ and His qualities, in particular, of His mercy and meekness. The prophecy presented here gives the words of God the Father: "Behold My servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put My spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street...A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench" (Isaiah 42:1-3). These words speak of the great patience and condescension to human weakness, with which Christ will treat repentant and destitute people. A similar prophecy Isaiah pronounced somewhat later, saying from the name of the Messiah: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek;' he hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the Messiah: to heal the spiritual ailments of the people.
By God's plan, the salvation of people should have been realized in the Kingdom of the Messiah. This blessed Kingdom of the faithful was sometimes compared by the Prophet to a harmonious building. The Messiah, being, on the one hand, the founder of the Kingdom of God, and, on the other hand, the foundation of the true Faith, is called the Stone by the Prophets, that is, the foundation, on which the Kingdom of God is based. This symbolic nomenclature of the Messiah is found in the following prophecy: "Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion as tone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not act hastily" (Isaiah 28:16)
It is remarkable that, in this prophecy the importance of faith in the Messiah is emphasized for the first time: "He that believeth shall not act hastily" In the 118th psalm, written after Isaiah, this Stone is mentioned: "The stone which the builders (masons) refused is become the head stone of the corner (cornerstone). This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:22-23, see also St. Matthew 21:42). That is, notwithstanding that "builders"--people, standing at the helm of power, rejected This Stone, God still placed Him as the foundation of the blessed structure--the Church.
But no matter how great the spiritual Light emanating from the Messiah, Isaiah foresaw that not all Jews will see this Light by reason of their spiritual callousness. Here is what the Prophet writes concerning this: "Hear ye indeed, but understood not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed" (Isaiah 6:9-10). By reason of their focus solely on earthly well-being not all Jews recognize their Savior in the Lord Jesus Christ, promised by the Prophets. As if foreseeing the lack of faith of the Judeans, King David, having lived before Isaiah, in one of his psalms called to them with these words: "Today if ye will hear his (the Messiah's) voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness" (Psalm 95:7-8). That is: when you hear the sermon of the Messiah, believe in His word. Do not persist, as did our ancestors under Moses in the desert, who tempted God and grumbled against Him (see Exodus 17:1-7), "provocation" means "reproach."
Please note: Every Orthodox Christian must have the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, i.e., Old and New Testaments. Saint John Chrysostom says clearly no one can be saved without studying the Holy Scripture. One cannot be saved by simply being born in the Christian Faith. Every Christian believer must work out his/her own personal salvation. Christians, the followers of Christ, must abide by the commandments of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that is, if they are truly followers. Christians are expected to be people of faith, of obedience, of humility, of love, of virtue, of compassion, of forgiveness, of honesty, of holiness, of prayer, of patience, of peace, of reconciliation, of sacrifice and of being willing to deny themselves and be willing to carry their own cross.
How can a Christian truly celebrate the coming of the Messiah (Christmas) without knowing who He Is?
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in the Incarnate Word of God,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God