Wednesday, February 21, 2024

SWEET LITTLE BABY TAMMUZ

In the book of Ezekiel, we read how an angel exposed the religious perversions that were being covertly conducted in the Temple.

The angel brought me to the gate of the house of Yehovah and I beheld women weeping for Tammuz. Then said he unto me, you shalt see greater abominations. And he brought me into the inner court where about twenty-five men had their backs toward the Temple, and they faced the east and worshipped the sun (Ezekiel 8:14-16).

Worship of the sun and of Tammuz started in ancient Babylon. Nimrod built a city as the epicenter of his world government. It was there in Babylon that Nimrod was worshipped as “god.” He bore totalitarian rule over the people, reducing them to slaves in his political, economic, and religious systems. According to ancient Jewish tradition, it was Noah’s righteous, eldest son Shem who slew Nimrod and scattered his body parts throughout the land of Shinar.

That should have effectively ended the worship of Nimrod, but his devoted followers erected a tower that reached into the heavens—a huge obelisk just like the ones we see in Washington D.C., Heliopolis (Egypt), Rome, London, Paris, New York City, and around the globe. These obelisks are images of the uncircumcised penis of Nimrod, the father of Babylonian sun god worship. The Creator calls this obelisk, “the image of jealousy” and an “abomination.”

A previously broken-down ancient Roman obelisk was re-erected in Israel in the summer of 2001. Coincidently, a homosexual perversion pride parade in Tel Aviv seemingly inaugurated its erection ... and in the month of Tammuz, no less!

Nimrod’s widow, Beltis (also known as Semiramus), would not willingly let the kingdom slip through her fingers when her husband was killed. She proclaimed that Nimrod did not die, but that he had ascended into the heavens and was now the sun god. He later impregnated her with the rays of the sun. (At least, that was his widow’s excuse.) She delivered that illegitimate child on the day of the rebirth of the sun, the Winter Solstice ... which, on the ancient Babylonian calendar (before the procession of the equinoxes), fell on December 25th; the day that Nimrod, the sun god, was reborn as Tammuz.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF DECEMBER 25

The December 25th birthdate of Tammuz, the Babylonian sun god, comes as a shock to some in the West but is common knowledge among Jewish scholars and historians. The Jews were taken captive in Babylon for their disobedience concerning sun worship, even though they staunchly maintained, “That’s not what ‘Tammuz’s birthday’ means to us.”

They had also been captives in Egypt, where they took on the worship of Ra, the Egyptian sun god who was born on ... December 25th.

In 168 B.C., the Syrian/Greek General Antiochus Epiphanes occupied Jerusalem and set up a statue of Zeus in the Temple and proclaimed that Zeus was god ... on Zeus’ birthday, December 25th.

When Rome conquered Persia, the Roman Army adopted the worship of Mithra, the Persian version of Babylonian Tammuz. The symbol of Mithra was the same as the symbol of Tammuz: The Babylonian “Tau,” or “cross.”

When Rome conquered Jerusalem, they hung Jewish patriots on the cross of Mithra as sacrifices to the Roman sun god who was born on ... you guessed it ... December 25th.

The confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel scattered the heathen into the far corners of the Earth and confused the names of their gods, but the rituals of worship remained much the same wherever they went. Many significant historical events concerning pagan worship occurred on December 25th; but of this one thing I can absolutely assure you that Yeshua - Jesus of Nazareth was not born on ... December 25th.

But who was? Little baby Tammuz: the “reincarnated” Nimrod.

FORTY DAYS OF WEEPING FOR TAMMUZ [during the time we refer to as lent]

Tammuz, so the story goes, was gored to death by a wild boar in a hunting accident when he was 40 years old. Hence, 40 days of weeping for Tammuz was instituted: one day for each year of his life. During that time, sun god worshipers would deny themselves a pleasure in this life, for the sake of Tammuz’ pleasure in the afterlife.

Sound familiar? It gets better!

EASTER RECONSIDERED

When Nimrod’s wife, Tammuz’s mother, died many years later, the exalted “Queen of Heaven” was sent back to earth by the gods on the first S-U-N Day after the Vernal Equinox. She arrived in a giant egg, which landed in the Euphrates River and broke open to allow her to emerge, reincarnated as the bare-breasted goddess of fertility and sexual desire. Her new name? Ishtar - Easter. To proclaim her divinity, Easter changed a bird into an egg-laying rabbit. On the western slope of the Hinnom valley in Jerusalem, in the dingy depths of the Canaanite caves designated for the worship of Easter and her son Tammuz, the priests of Easter would impregnate virgins on the altar of Easter at the Easter sunrise service. One year later the priests would sacrifice those three-month-old infants on the same altar, and dye Easter eggs in the blood of those sacrificed babies. To this very day, one denomination allows their Easter eggs to be dyed only one color: blood red! When you ask them why, they have no idea how the tradition started or what it rehearses ... but now you know!

Easter Sun day (the day set aside for sun god worship) is the day that concludes the 40 days of weeping for Tammuz; called by many “Lent.” From the time of its inception in Nimrod’s Babylon until this very day, this 40-day pagan festival climaxes as the sun god worshippers kill “the wild boar that killed Tammuz” and eat “ham” after the Easter sunrise orgy and child sacrifice service. There is one day that I can assure you that Yeshua – Jesus did not rise from the grave ... Easter sun day! And He never participated in “Lent!” WWJD? He would never, ever celebrate “Easter!”

Frequently, Easter and Passover are an entire month apart. Why? They represent the worship of two different gods. Easter is celebrated according to a pagan sun calendar developed in Babylon in accordance with the worship of Nimrod. Passover is celebrated according to the observance of the biblical new moon and the ripening of the barley in the land of Israel. Yeshua - Jesus kept the Feast of Passover. All of the rehearsals that were embedded in that feast were fulfilled in the year of his resurrection. On the other hand, Easter is the rehearsal of child sacrifice and fertility rites of the pagan sun god worshippers.

MAKE YOUR CHOICE CAREFULLY!

Which celebration should you keep? It depends entirely upon which GOD you serve; it’s your choice. Now you understand why the Holy One instructed us, “Do not learn the way of the Heathen and how they worship their gods, and then do the same to me – it is an abomination.”

Christmas and Easter are not celebrations of the birth and resurrection of Yeshua Jesus of Nazareth, but the continuation of child sacrifice festivals that were hatched in Babylon two thousand years before His birth!

We all recognize that the pagan calendar, which has been adopted by the Christian world, names every day of the week and nearly every month of the year after a pagan god or fallen angel. But many are surprised to note that the fourth month on the modern Jewish calendar is named after the pagan god Tammuz, in direct violation of the Torah, which states, “You shall not allow the names of other gods to come out of your mouth” (Exodus 23:12-14). I only speak the names of pagan gods for the same reason that the prophets of Israel spoke their names: to expose the perverted traditions that we have inherited from our disobedient ancestors.

COMING OUT OF BABYLON

The Almighty called Abraham to come out of Babylon by crossing over the Euphrates River and entering into a place where his offspring would be given a parcel of land “flowing with milk and honey,” and a job to do. Abraham’s descendants were to purge the land of every last vestige of the pagan sun god worship, and then they were to be YHWH’s [Yehovah’s] priests to the entire Earth. They were to be a nation of prophets who would make known the ways of the true GOD and call all nations to repentance. Israel was not obedient to the command to cleanse the land of paganism, but rather, they adopted the practices of the heathen.

The church was given a commission by the lord Messiah Jesus to spread the word of the coming Kingdom [Kingship] of God – Yehovah to all the nations of the world. They were to keep the creed of the lord Messiah Jesus as outlined in Mark 12:28-32. They were to love God – Yehovah with all their heart, mind, being, and strength and to love their neighbors as themselves enabled to do so by the power of the Spirit of God which they received when they were baptized, becoming new creations in the lord Messiah, and slaves bought and paid for by his shed blood when he presented himself to his God and Father Yehovah as a sin-offering sacrifice on the stake, reconciling humanity to Him!

The church has failed to do what they were commissioned to do, so much so that Jesus makes an amazing statement when he says: when the Son of Man returns to this earth will he find faith? Luke 18:8: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find the faith on the earth?”

The Torah [God's instruction] reminds us, “Do not learn the way of the heathen, how they worship and serve their gods, and then do the same and say that you are doing it for me, it is an abomination” (Deuteronomy 12:30-31). Just as the Almighty told Abraham in Genesis, He also, in the book of Revelation, tells those living at the end of the age to “come out of Babylon.”

Now the question is: "Will you come out of Babylon?"




Tuesday, January 23, 2024

THREE KINDS OF SUFFERING

Paul says, “through many tribulations, we must enter the kingdom of God.” The lord Jesus says the same: When the seed is sown, three things will happen as described by the following three words.

The first word is “tribulation,” and the second is “persecution.” Both words appear in Matthew 13:21 and Mark 4:17. The third is “temptation,” it appears in Luke 8:13.

We now examine these three things: tribulation, persecution, and temptation.

Each will put tremendous pressure on you.

1. Tribulation (pressure)

In fact, the Greek word for “tribulation” (thlipsis) means pressure (cf. CSB). To be in tribulation means to be under pressure. This is true not only in terms of definition, but also in the practical realities of the Christian life. This Greek word is also used in Acts 14:22: “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God”.

You are going to be under pressure all the time. That is what the word “tribulation” means. I am sure that those who just got baptized are already beginning to discover some pressure, right? If you haven’t yet felt the pressure, it will probably come soon. But if it doesn’t come soon, I worry for you as to whether you know what it is to be a Christian.

But what is the attitude of a true Christian? What does Paul say in Romans 5:3–5? You need to keep his words in mind if you are going to be a true Christian: More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Romans 5:3–5, RSV)

Notice that “we rejoice in our sufferings.” The Greek wordthlipsis here translated “sufferings” is the same word translated “tribulation” elsewhere. The phrase means “we rejoice in being under pressure.”

Does that reflect your thinking? Today the church is full of people who become Christians to collect lollipops or have a good life. No wonder this kind of Christian will start grumbling as soon as the pressures come. When the weight begins to crush on them, they will say, “What’s going on?” Well, what’s going on is that you have become a Christian. If a preacher doesn’t tell you that you are going to be under pressure the moment you become a Christian, he shouldn’t be preaching the gospel.

Evangelists who seek numbers and decisions give me much trouble. After getting decisions from the people, they have no more concern for them. That is where pastors have to take over and sort out the mess. What happens is that people come to me and say, “Why is everything around me going wrong? My father got sick, my mother got into financial trouble, and my business is not doing well. I have problems here and there. What’s going on?”

If you knew what it is to be a Christian, you would rejoice with Paul who says, “More than that, we rejoice in our tribulations!” You might wonder what’s happening with Paul? Is he asking for trouble? No, he understands what the Christian life is like: being under pressure all the time. Remember that you are called to suffer! And thank God for that pressure. Learn to say with Paul, “I rejoice!” We rejoice in the suffering and the pressures we have to bear.

2. Persecution

The second word is “persecution” (diōgmos). You wouldn’t be much of a Christian if you have never endured some persecution, the worst of which is persecution from fellow Christians. Don’t be upset when those who persecute you are the religious Christians. I have constantly pointed out that those who persecutedthe lord Jesus the most were the Pharisees, the most religious of the Jews; and the scribes, who are the theologians; and the chief priests, who are the religious leaders.

John Wesley, a mighty servant of God, was persecuted by his fellow Christians. To be sure, he was also persecuted by nonChristians, but it was the Christians who persecuted him the most. He was thrown out of the Church of England, of which he was a member. He was not allowed to preach in any Church of England because he preached holiness, and the Church didn’t want to hear any of that. Wesley had to preach on the streets because he was not allowed to preach in any church. But thanks be to God, it was through Wesley that a mighty revival came to England, and left its mark in history in a way that no other revival did. Wesley knew he was going to be persecuted, yet he bore no ill will against those who persecuted him. Today the Church of England regrets what they had done to John Wesley, and are trying to get the Methodist Church back.

Remember this: Those who serve God will face persecution. If you are faithful to the gospel, you will face persecution from fellow Christians as well as from non-Christians. You will sometimes wonder to yourself, “How come the whole world is my enemy?”

Paul says to Timothy: Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in the Messiah Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:10–12, RSV)

When you become a Christian, understand that you are going to suffer persecution. If you don’t want to suffer, don’t be a Christian in the first place.

3. Temptation: testing, temptation to sin

The third word is “temptation,” which we see in Luke 8:13. The Greek word peirasmos, which generally means temptation, has two meanings. The first is to be under God’s testing or trial(sometimes it may be God who is testing you). The same Greek word is used in 1 Peter 4:12 in this sense of testing: Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. (NASB)

In verse 14, Peter says: If you are reproached for the name of Jesus the Messiah, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (RSV)

The Greek word oneidizō here translated “reproached” means,in this context, being tested through the suffering of reproach for the sake of the Messiah. The word “testing”—being under pressure, being tried in fire by God as it were; is very much a part of the Christian life.

You will be tested

The second meaning of "peirasmos" (“temptation”) is to be tempted to sin. It comes directly from Satan’s involvement and activity. He entices you to sin, and shows you the pleasures of sin. In Luke 4:13, Satan tries to tempt the lord Jesus to sin and turn away from God, so that he may fall: And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (ESV)

From the three words that Jesus uses; tribulation, persecution, temptation; we can see why those sown on the rocky ground collapsed. It also shows that suffering is inseparable from the Christian life.

In the parable, when the sun came out, those in the rocky ground withered because they had no root and were unable to draw in moisture. The sun is compared to suffering. The sun can either destroy or cause growth. This point is crucial to an understanding of this parable. On the one hand, the sun is essential for plants to grow and bring forth fruit. On the other hand, the sun destroys those plants which have no roots. Tribulation, persecution and testing are like the sun. They will either deepen you spiritually or destroy you, depends on the kind of Christian you are.

Written by Eric Chang. This small portion is taken from Eric Chang’s book: The Parables of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1.

You can download this book at the website listed below:

https://christiandiscipleschurch.org/sites/default/files/bookstore/books/Matthew_Parables_Volume1.pdf

I cannot urge you strongly enough to read this book written by Eric Chang! His message is directed to all those who claim to be Christians, such as myself.

HOW TO BE WISE

HOW TO BE WISE, WITH A LIVING RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

James 2:8: If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well

                                         R-O-Y-A-L

R is for repentance

How do we exchange what we cannot keep for what we cannot lose? The lord Jesus tells us how to do this because he doesn’t want to keep us in the dark. Yesterday I talked about the royal law. The word “royal” consist of five letters, r-o-y-a-l, each of which stands for something significant for our present topic.

The first step in the royal law, or the law of the king, is repentance. You learned about repentance in Sunday school, but do you know what repentance really is? One of the great difficulties in teaching is dealing with those who think they know something when they really don’t.

Everyone says, “Oh, I know what repentance is,” yet does not begin to understand what repentance is.

In Matthew 4:17, the very first word that the Lord Jesus preached was “repent”. Why repent? Because God’s kingship is about to be implemented. God is about to reign as King upon this earth. The Bible does not teach that God is King only in heaven. The point of Jesus’ message is that God is going to reign here in Melbourne; God is going to reign as King on this earth. And Jesus is saying that because God is going to reign soon, you had better repent. You need to repent in order to enter into a living relationship with God.

Repentance is not just saying “sorry” and then repeating your sin the next time. That is not repentance. Repentance in the Bible means that your whole direction of life has changed.

To use Jim Elliot’s statement, the true substance of repentance is to give what I cannot keep to gain what I cannot lose. It is a complete change of direction in life.

I can expound each of these points with a whole message, but I am just touching on them and moving on to the important last part of this message.

O is for Obedience

The second thing is obedience. If you want to know the living God, you must learn obedience. In the Bible, obedience does not mean obeying with a long face, but obeying joyfully, as we read in Hebrews 10:7: “I have come to do your will, O God.” If you tell me with a long face, “From now on, I will obey God,” I will say, “Forget it.” But if you say, “Can I have the privilege of living in obedience to God?” I will see that you are beginning to understand the truth.

The gospel as preached in the churches today is some kind of intellectual exercise: believe and you will be saved. Yet the gospel is not just to be believed, but obeyed, as we read in John 3:36; 1 Peter 4:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 3:1; 1 John 5:2.

Y is for Yoked

The third point is yoked. To be yoked means to be joined to the Messiah. Those who are going to be baptized today will be yoked to the Messiah through baptism as new people, just like two persons getting married will be yoked to each other, bound to each other, through marriage. So  we have the sweetness of communion with the Messiah, and through him with God, because now we have “commitment,” a term we use often. Yoked means commitment: I am committed to the Messiah, he is committed to me.

And this yoke is most important because it is the source of our strength. In a marriage, when one person is weak, the other will support him or her.

What is the point of getting married? Is it to come home for a good quarrel after a whole day’s work? Is it to throw plates at each other as some kind of physical exercise? What is the point of getting yoked together? When two animals are yoked together in a farm, they both carry the load. Likewise when two people are yoked together, they carry the load together instead of working individually.

But in many marriages today, there is a brake on the yoke such that one is trying to go forward, and the other is trying to go backward. It reminds me of cars for driving schools where the instructor has a brake on his side and the student driver has one on his side. When the student steps on the accelerator and the car doesn’t move, it is because the instructor is stepping on the brakes on his side. That’s how it is with many marriages

Those of us in pastoral work have to counsel people with marriage problems, and you wonder why they got married in the first place. Maybe they got married because they enjoy kung fu or boxing, and had no one to fight. Let me assure you that God does not want us to get baptized and yoked to Christ so that we fight him every day. The lord Jesus has better things to do than that. God wants us to be bound with the Messiah so that in him we can walk forward hand in hand in sweet fellowship and encouragement.

A is for All, Absolute

The next letter is a, which stands for “all” or “absolute.” This part is very important in the lord Jesus’ teaching, yet it is on this point that most Christians are stuck. I don’t know how many endless hours of counseling that I, not to mention all our coworkers, have spent with people who don’t understand this basic principle of how much one ought to be committed to God. The person may say, “I am 75% committed to God, so can I be baptized?” and we say, “No, that’s not enough. 75% will not do.”

“80%?”

“No.”

“85%?”

“No.”

It is like bargaining at a Hong Kong market. They don’t understand that God requires all or nothing. That is the Scriptural teaching, not something we invented. Those of you who have gone through Commitment Training would know this, so I don’t need to spend time on this point.

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, with all your strength. You are to love Him with all - with everything - you have.

The words in Luke 14:33 are even more uncompromising:

“He who does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

This does not mean that you go sell your car and house, and sleep on the streets. What it means is that from now on you will say, “God, You have redeemed me with the blood of Jesus. I belong to You, and everything I have is Yours.” It is just like in a marriage. Everything I possess, including this beautiful jacket, belongs to my wife. I gave up everything when I married her under this yoke. If she wants my wallet, she can have it. I would never say, “Don’t touch it, it belongs to me,” about anything I own. When I married her, I forsook myself; everything is hers, and she is mine. So why do we find it so terrible that the lord Jesus says, “Unless a man forsake all that he has, he cannot be my disciple”?

L is for Launch out

L is for launch out. One of the reasons Christians do not enter into a deep relationship with God is that they are cowards. Many people are eager to get married, yet do not understand that it takes a lot of courage to get married. If you have never been married, you wouldn’t understand this whole problem.

You are going to give your life to someone for the  next 50 years, or however long you will be together. Yet it takes even more courage to be a Christian. The problem with many Christians is they don’t have the courage to launch out into something new. Marriage is something new, but becoming a Christian is something even newer.

America became great because of its pioneering spirit: Go west, young man! Launch out into the unknown! That is the kind of attitude you see in Peter. In Luke 5:4, the lord Jesus tested Peter by saying, “Take the boat and launch out into the deep.” In Luke 8:22, Jesus told his disciples to launch out and cross over to the other side of Galilee. But they launched out straight into a storm! The lord Jesus knew that the storm was coming, yet he said to them, “Take the boat out into the lake.”

Becoming a Christian is not for cowards, for it takes courage to launch out into something new. And it takes great courage to give up what you cannot keep to gain what you cannot lose.

Written by Eric Chang. This small portion is taken from Eric Chang’s book: The Parables of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1.

You can download this book at the website listed below:

https://christiandiscipleschurch.org/sites/default/files/bookstore/books/Matthew_Parables_Volume1.pdf

I cannot urge you strongly enough to read this book written by Eric Chang! His message is directed to all those who claim to be Christians, such as myself.

Monday, January 1, 2024

PAUL'S CHARGE IN PHILIPPIANS 1:28

Antonin Scalia (1936-2016) served twenty-nine years as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, Scalia became distinguished as a man of strong character and unwavering devotion to both God and Country! In an article titled "Supreme Confidence: The Jurisprudence of Justice Antonin Scalia" (The New Yorker, March 28, 2005), Margaret Talbot wrote, "Scalia considers himself an interloper in the sophisticated world - a blunt-spoken, rules-are-rules jurist and traditional Catholic in a secular world made wobbly by moral relativism." This was illustrated time and again in his writings, his rulings from the bench, and his speeches. A good example of this can be seen in his address to the Knights of Columbus Council 969 at the Holiday Inn in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in January 2005.

To a gathering of his fellow Catholics, Scalia said:

"God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools ... and He has not been disappointed. ...

My message is this:

“Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for the Messiah Jesus. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world."

I can't help but think of the words of Paul to the Corinthians: "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.' Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Corinthians 1:18-20). "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (vs. 25).

Jesus declared: "Let not your hearts be troubled" (John 14:1). "In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

Adolf Hitler noted, that one of the best weapons employed by the forces of evil in their effort to overcome all that is good and wholesome and reasonable is great terror in association with great force.

Many disciples of the Messiah Jesus have fallen victim to that terror and have perished as a result. Winston Churchill, in response to the terror befalling his nation from the forces of evil led by Hitler, declared in his first statement as Prime Minister before the House of Commons on May 13, 1940, "Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival."

The English novelist Robert Smith Surtees (1805-1864) summed it up this way: "Better to be killed than frightened to death."

To die while bravely fighting the good fight is far nobler than dying while fleeing in fright from the forces arrayed against us! The Scriptures repeatedly urge the people of God to "fear not," for after all, "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4). Like Jesus’ disciples who found themselves in the midst of a raging storm at sea, and who were terrified at the prospect of perishing due to the powerful forces pounding down upon them, we too, as his faithful disciples, quite often find ourselves facing a monstrous storm sent forth by the world about us which seeks to destroy us, and we, like those early disciples, too often find ourselves in the depths of despair over the mighty terrors that surround us. The words of Jesus to them that day are equally applicable to us: "O you of little faith; why are you afraid?!" (Matthew 8:26).

We should begin each new day with the powerful promise of the Messiah Jesus in our hearts and minds: "Fear not, for I am with you!"

As the apostle Paul penned the last of his four "Prison Epistles" to the brethren in the city of Philippi, he sought to comfort them and encourage them in their daily walk with the lord Jesus. He did not want them to be discouraged by his own circumstances, nor by the various trials they faced as a result of their commitment to Jesus and his message of the coming Kingdom of God. He wanted their hearts to be filled with joy rather than fear, and for them to live and serve courageously, rather than cowering in the face of the worldly forces arrayed against them. He also urged them to remain united in the Faith and in their love for one another, for a body of believers at odds with one another is easy prey for our enemy. Thus, Paul wrote to them saying that he hoped to receive word "that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel [the message of the kingdom of God]; in no way alarmed by your opponents; which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God" (Philippians 1:27b-28, NASB).

Paul always sought in his teachings to stress the importance of our unity and harmony in the One Body – the called-out Assembly of God - Yehovah, which is the body of the lord Messiah Jesus, and to warn of the dire consequences of allowing diversity within the body to distract and divide us.

If we stand together against the forces of evil, we can endure; if we strive against one another, we will not long survive the storm that will come upon us. As Jesus said: A house divided against itself cannot stand [Matthew 12:25]. A people divided will fall.

Verse 28 in the above statement by Paul to the assembly in Philippi is an interesting one in many ways, and also a surprising one, for Paul uses some unusual language in the original. He begins by pointing out that Christians, as disciples of Jesus and ambassadors of his gospel message, will have "opponents." No surprise here, for the lord Jesus made it clear time and again that if we choose to follow him, we will experience trials and tribulation, and we will share in his sufferings he faced. The Greek word Paul uses is "antikeimai," which means "to oppose, be adverse or averse to, to stand against; to occupy an opposite position." In our text, it appears as a present participle. "In addition to its legal sense it signifies 'to withstand'; the present participle of the verb with the article (Philippians 1:28), which is equivalent to a noun, signifies 'an adversary'" [Dr. James Strong, The New Strong's Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words, p. 963]. Paul uses the same word when he writes to the church in Corinth, saying, "A wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries" (1 Corinthians 16:9).

Whenever and wherever we seek to faithfully serve the lord Jesus, we will be opposed; the enemy is always near and ready to pounce. We must expect it, and we must be ready and fearless always realizing that when we do hold our ground, our God and Father Yehovah will always provide us the enabling power of His spirit to be able to do so!

At this point, the question naturally arises: Who are these "opponents" and "adversaries" the brethren in Philippi faced, and what exactly is the nature of their opposition? "Various forms of 'antikeimai' ('to oppose') are used in the NT to denote opposers of the Christian faith, including opponents of Jesus, as well as adversaries of the called-out Assembly of God, both Jewish and Gentile" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 120]. "Who were these opponents? We read about how hostile Jews often dogged Paul's steps and caused trouble in the assemblies he founded. Such was the case in other Macedonian churches (i.e., Thessalonica and Berea). In light of Paul's discussion in Philippians 3:2-6, it seems clear that Jewish hostility was present. But there is nothing in Philippians 1:28 that restricts the reference to Jewish opponents. What is virtually certain is that these were external foes, not false teachers within the assemblies. It is most likely that Paul was speaking generally of adversaries of the assemblies of whatever kind. Whether Jewish or pagan, they usually employed the same tactics, and thus the need for unity and courage among believers was crucial" [ibid, p. 119].

Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, the noted NT Greek scholar, concurs: "Paul probably thinks chiefly of their heathen antagonists ... who would struggle hard against a faith which condemned all idol worship. ... At the same time, we cannot exclude the possibility that he had non-Christian Jews in his mind as well" [The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 3, p. 431]. "By virtue of their having embraced Christianity, they were looked upon by their neighbors as aliens, as followers after strange gods, and they were hated accordingly" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible - the NT, vol. 2, p. 300].

"It was a foregone certainty that Satan would use every device to induce Christians to waver or defect. The world at that time, as it always has been and is more so today, was a hostile environment for Christianity. The Christian life could be lived successfully only by those who were determined to fight with all of their strength enabled by the spirit of God to maintain their integrity. It is clear here that Paul expected the Philippians to do just that" [Dr. James Burton Coffman, Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, p. 273].

Although the nature of the "issues" that constitute challenges and oppositions to the Faith and our devotion to the lord Jesus today may be different than those faced in ancient Philippi, they are no less real and no less dangerous! Our adversaries today are just as determined as the adversaries the early saints – holy ones faced, and they are just as committed to destroying both us and the cause of the Messiah Jesus. Thus, we must be just as courageous! "What are the social and political issues to which the church must speak if she is faithful to the Messiah Jesus which may bring forth adversaries?

The rights of women and children; violence in the home; the cheapening of human life by easy abortion; inattention to the elderly, the poor, and the homeless; outrage against the rising crime rate that makes us calloused to persons caught in a cycle of living outside the law; etc. It may be that the assemblies can measure the effectiveness of her prophetic ministry by the adversaries who emerge to question and challenge her gospel" [Dr. Maxie D. Dunnam, The Communicator's Commentary: Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, p. 273].

Fellow believers (and fellow Americans... as well as fellow citizens of this planet), we need to open our eyes spiritually to some very harsh realities that face us right now!! As we begin this new year (2024), the forces of evil and tyranny are gaining ground in their opposition to goodness, righteousness, and sanity. Satan is unleashed and he is wreaking havoc across our nation and around the globe. I am witnessing things that, quite frankly, I never would have believed I would ever see in my beloved country. Good is called evil, and evil is called good; our leaders have not only abandoned all common sense and decency, but they have also abandoned us!

I personally have no doubt whatsoever that we are in the last days of which the Bible speaks: that time of ghastly, godless chaos that will reign until our God and Father Yehovah sends the lord Messiah Jesus down to take his place on the throne of David at Zion at the end of this age. The last years of this age are going to be very intense for the people of God. We have got to set aside sectarian squabbles and unite as one body in the Messiah Jesus, for the battle being waged against us is intense.

It is time to stand together as one body in the Messiah Jesus as we experience this last great engagement with EVIL that is taking place all around us. It is going to get uglier and uglier as the months go by, and we will witness and experience unimaginable things!! We must be ready to fight the good fight ... even to the point of death. The ultimate victory is assured for the people of God, as is the ultimate destruction of those who oppose our God, but the battle is going to be brutal, and it will test our resolve and our faith. We must not waver! We must as Paul says: “hold fast”

Notice: Philippians 2:12-16:So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do everything without grumbling and disputing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God blameless in a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

As Winston Churchill urged the British, so we need to urge one another, to fight on "at all costs, despite all terror, however long and hard the road may be."

The apostle Paul stated it this way to the brethren in Philippi, "Do not be frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved - and that by God" (Philippians 1:28, NIV). Our salvation, as well as the final destruction of all those opposing God, is assured. It is coming, and it will be accomplished by Him.

Our challenge is to remain faithful to the point of death, to stand in brave opposition to all the insanity around us, and stay united in love with all other believers, as that day draws ever closer. Although the end is certain, the present battle is going to be unimaginable, for EVIL knows few limitations when it is unleashed in its fullness. And we are seeing and experiencing this right now!

If you are a believer who takes seriously the call to "walk in a manner worthy" of that calling in your daily life, you are going to be opposed ... and it is going to get more and more brutal. Thus, Paul warned the disciples then, and he warns us now: "Do not be frightened in any way by those who oppose you." That Greek word he uses here in this verse is found nowhere else in the NT writings! It is the word "pturo," The word used by Paul in verse 28 means "to frighten, startle, scare; to be terrified." Other translations of the text (in different versions of the Bible) are affrighted, alarmed, intimidated, afraid, terrified, and paralyzed. It is easy to see how one could be intimidated and paralyzed with fear; that is a rather common human response to something so evil that it staggers the mind. However, it must not be the response of those in whom the Spirit of God dwells and in whom we have unwavering trust! Yehovah will prevail and provide us by His indwelling presence to prevail, therefore we will not despair. If our God and Father Yehovah and His son the lord Messiah Jesus are for us, who can stand against us!

There are many words Paul could have chosen to convey the idea of not being "frightened." So why did he select this one? After all, it appears nowhere else in his writings, and nowhere else in the NT writings. The word is unique in that it has reference primarily to horses. It speaks of the reaction of a horse to being "spooked" or "startled unexpectedly" (taken by surprise). It is also unique in that "it is almost always passive" voice in the Greek [Drs. Arndt & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 727] - that is: one "lets oneself be intimidated" or terrified [ibid].

"The original word used by Paul is strong - literally, 'scared,' - flinching like a frightened horse" [The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 20 - Philippians, p. 7, 49]. "Literally - said of horses or other animals startled or suddenly scared; so, of sudden consternation in general" [Drs. Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 1304]. "From a word used of the terror of a startled horse" [Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, vol. 2, p. 53]. "Only here in the New Testament; properly of the terror of a startled horse" [Dr. Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 3, p. 427].

You and I, equipped with the full armor of God - Yehovah (Ephesians 6:11f), must "be strong in the lord Messiah Jesus and in the strength of his might" (vs. 10), and thus not flinch or falter or flee in fear before the enemy!

Paul also points out another great benefit of this unflinching faith - it is evidentiary in nature, both to the lost (our enemies) as well as to the saved (ourselves and our fellow believers). "The courage of God's saints amid dangers is a proof of His presence and favor; a token of final victory" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 20 - Philippians, p. 7]. Paul makes this connection in 2 Thessalonians 1 also. Speaking of the "steadfastness and faith" of the brethren there "in all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring" (vs. 4), he states that "This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God" (vs. 5). Specifically, that God would avenge the afflicted and destroy those who were afflicting them, thus manifesting to all concerned those who were worthy of life and those who were worthy of death (vs. 5-10).

This fearlessness in the face of unimaginable evil speaks volumes to both sides. We fear no evil, for you our God and Father Yehovah are with us!! "The courage and heroism of God's witnesses was a sign of coming victory and salvation. It was also a sign of defeat and doom to their adversaries. A triumphant spirit often carries the day against fearful odds. God gives His people the assurance of victory and then makes that assurance a most powerful element in the issue. The dauntless is carried through discouragement to triumph" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 20 - Philippians, p. 25]. "Failure of the church to be intimidated by enemies was a token of the ultimate failure of the enemies of God. The adversaries may not have recognized this, but it was nonetheless a sign that their attacks were futile and that the church would prevail" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 119].

David Lipscomb (1831-1917), a leader in the early American Restoration Movement, wrote, "The undaunted bearing of the Philippian Christians in the face of opposition and persecution was a token of destruction to their adversaries. It showed that their persecutors were powerless to thwart God's work and that their resistance to it was working their own spiritual ruin; that they were fighting against God, which could mean only their destruction" [A Commentary on the NT Epistles, vol. 4, p. 174].

I want to close with the following thoughts penned by Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965), an American Lutheran pastor and seminary president, who issues this powerful plea to the people of God in light of Paul's words to the brethren in Philippi:

"That is the spirit which is needed in our days also: the feeling of solidarity, the consciousness of being one with all believers in the Messiah Jesus, ... the spirit which makes for true unity and union and stands firmly against all attacks for the faith once delivered to the saints. ... Not in a single point of their faith, not in a single principle upheld by the Bible, should the Christians be overcome by terror and thus give way. Though the adversaries are strong and full of guile, they cannot and should not be able to strike terror into the hearts of the Christians. And the fact that the believers battle so valiantly and are not terrified is to their adversaries a token, an indication, of perdition, indicating that the victory must finally be on the side of the Christians. The latter, a poor small crew, standing up valiantly against a world of unbelievers without the sign of a tremor, is a token of their eventual victory over their many enemies. They will receive salvation in the fullest and deepest sense, the last great healing, the final glory. And all this from God, who alone is the Author and Finisher of our salvation" [Popular Commentary of the Bible - the NT, vol. 2, p. 301]. To this, I say, AMEN!! Come, Lord Jesus!

Note: I cannot emphasize strongly enough that we can only withstand all evil and persecution as we are enabled to do so, by the spirit of our God and Father Yehovah and the spirit of His son Jesus. We of and by ourselves are completely helpless to stand fast without the indwelling presence of our God and Father Yehovah and the spirit of His son enabling us to go forward relying and trusting in our God - Yehovah and His son Jesus to be with us to the end of our lives or the end of this age when we will experience rising up to meet the lord Messiah Jesus in the air as glorified and immortal men and women!

It is really all of our God and Father Yehovah and nothing of us, but to trust in Him! We are His workmanship! We are His slaves bought and paid for by the blood of the lord Messiah Jesus. We are His sons and daughters by the spirit of adoption that He has placed in His household. WE are all of those things according to His amazing grace that has saved us; whom He foreknew from before the foundation of the world; those who would be companions of His son Jesus in the New Age that will appear after the White Throne Judgment takes place, and this earth is cleansed by fire.

Friday, December 8, 2023

THE SUFFERING SERVANT

The fifty-third chapter of the Book of Isaiah is generally called the Fourth Servant Song the first three of which are found in chapter 42, chapter 49, and chapter 50.

The importance of the passage before us can scarcely be exaggerated. From the earliest times Christian writers have found here a detailed description of the sufferings and death of Jesus the Messiah and in this they clearly follow the New Testament.

First: we will look at the context in which the passage is set and show its importance in the light of the New Testament teaching about the content of the gospel and then we will attempt a brief exposition of the whole passage concentrating on those verses which explain the meaning of the Servant's death, bringing out significant New Testament passages as we go. 

CONTEXT AND STRUCTURE 

In his book, "What Saint Paul really said," Tom Wright points out that Christians have generally failed to understand what the Bible means by "Gospel" and "Justification" simply because they have not grasped the background to these terms in the thinking of Paul. The same can be said of Isaiah 53. To grasp its meaning, we must fit it into its literary and prophetic context. 

One of the greatest failings of historic Christianity has been its failure to recognize the importance of eschatology in its proclamation of what it calls its "gospel". 

The message preached is usually only a message about the death of Jesus and in such expositions, Isaiah 53 will be generously quoted. But its setting, that of chapters 40-66 will be ignored. We will now attempt an outline of the message of these chapters and examine the setting in which Isaiah 53 appears. 

The following is a summary of the main features of the second half of Isaiah. 

Because of its sins, the people of Israel have been taken into captivity. Many find themselves in prison. Others have been scattered throughout many nations and live in conditions of utter misery. The persecuting power is explicitly identified as Babylon (Isaiah 43:14, 46, 47,) 

Sometime during this period of captivity, a group of people appeared bringing a message of good news of deliverance to Israel and restoration to their land, forgiveness of sins and the appearance of a deliverer sometimes said to be God Himself, and later identified with a person known as the Servant of Yehovah. The Servant himself is the bringer of the gospel in Isaiah 61. 

The task of the Servant is to restore Israel and bring light and salvation to the surrounding nations. A time of prosperity and spiritual blessings ensued, called the Millenium, the 1,000-year rule of the Messiah Jesus over the nations. God's Spirit will be poured out freely. Israel will send emissaries to their former captors and the world will unite in universal worship of God - Yehovah. Those who refuse to submit will be dealt with severely and the book closes with a somber view of Gehenna [the Lake of Fire], where the wicked will be destroyed. 

Now let us take a closer look at the more immediate context of Isaiah 53. Chapter 52 contains a prophecy of the preaching of the gospel. Isaiah 52:7 shows that it is a message concerning the Reign of God, in New Testament language, the Kingdom of God. The following verse describes the ending of the captivity when "all the earth shall see the salvation of our God." A striking feature of this entire section is that Paul quotes from it directly no less than four times in the letter to the Romans. Isaiah 52:5 is quoted in Romans 2:24. "My name is blasphemed continually every day." Isaiah 52:7 appears in Romans 10:15 to prove that God has sent messengers to preach the gospel. He quotes Isaiah 52:25 in Romans 15:21 and finally, Isaiah 53:1 is quoted in Romans 10:16. 

Romans opens with Paul's introduction to the subject of the gospel which he says "was promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures concerning His Son Jesus the Messiah our Lord who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the Resurrection from among the dead." Although other prophets do predict the preaching of the gospel, Isaiah has more to say about that than any other. Paul is here identifying his message with Isaiah 40, 52, 61, and other passages. Clearly, the prophet Isaiah is for him supremely important. And Paul's teaching on the sacrificial sin-offering death of the Messiah can only be derived from Isaiah 53. 

It should be clear from what we have said that we believe that what has come to be called the futurist view of prophecy is the correct way to interpret Isaiah. New Testament fulfillments do not exhaust the meaning of any of these passages. 

The passage we are considering is divided into five stanzas consisting of three verses each. The first is found in Isaiah 52:13-15, the second in Isaiah 53:1-3, the third in Isaiah 53:4-6, the froth in Isaiah 53:7-9 and the last in Isaiah 53:10-12. 

EXPOSITION 

THE MESSIAH AND HIS SUFFERINGS REVEALED TO THE NATIONS

The first stanza in verses 13-15 of Isaiah 52 forms a summary of what follows in Isaiah 53. The servant is introduced with the words "Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently." The word translated "deal prudently" primarily means to "act wisely" and also "prosperously" because prosperity is the result of acting wisely. The exaltation of the Servant predicted in the second half of the verse has been taken by some to refer to the resurrection and ascension of the Messiah but is more likely referring to his Second Advent. He is not now exalted as far as the kings of the earth are concerned; indeed the world generally despises the things of the Messiah but the thrust of this passage is that the leaders of the earth will come to acknowledge him. We may note here the passage in Philippians in which Paul speaks of the Messiah receiving a "name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of those in heaven and of those on earth and of those under the earth and that every tongue should confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

 Isaiah 52:14: gives us a summary of the sufferings; sufferings which cause astonishment to many. The verb which is translated as "astonished" means to be desolate or waste, to be thrown by anything into a desolate or bereaved condition; to be startled, confused as it was petrified by paralyzing astonishment. Many will realize then for the first time the extent of his sufferings as he is openly revealed in the sight of the nations. His sufferings were greater than that of any man and were not simply physical. Many men have undergone intense physical pain and even died heroic deaths, but the death of God's servant was more than just a physical death, as the next chapter will bring out. 

The sprinkling of many nations in Isaiah 52:15 has overtones of the sacrificial system the sprinkling of blood with the finger on the mercy seat and the altar of incense on the Day of Atonement.  It is also used for sprinkling the water of purification on a leper (Leviticus 14:7) and of the ashes of the red heifer on those defiled by a corpse. (Numbers 19:18). It is the Servant himself who sprinkles the nations, a hint of his priestly functions fully explained in the epistle to the Hebrews. Many have sought to render the word translated "sprinkle" as "startle" and this is reflected in some translations such as the RSV. Other scholars reject this opinion. Peake's commentary says that the word sprinkle "despite many contrary opinions, ought not to be excluded on grammatical grounds and in fact anticipates the central theme of the song." 

The kings of the nations so sprinkled will have nothing to say reminding us of Habakkuk 2:20, "But Yehovah is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him." The last part of Isaiah 52:15 is a sober reminder of the ignorance that will exist at the time of the Messiah's Second Coming. This is also mentioned in Isaiah 61:1-2 "Arise shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord Yehovah has risen upon you. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people: but Yehovah shall arise upon you and His glory shall be seen upon you." 

THE MESSIAH'S RECEPTION 

The second stanza contained in Isaiah 53:1-3 continues and expands on the theme of ignorance and unbelief summarized in Isaiah 52:15. Isaiah 53:1 is quoted in John 12:38. Paul quotes the same passage in the same sense in Romans 10:16 where it forms part of his explanation of why Israel has apparently not believed the gospel. The unbelief with which the Lord [Jesus] has been received down through the ages is something foreseen long ago and is part of the purposes of God. 

As early as the time of Moses Scripture declares that " Yehovah has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day." (Deuteronomy 29:4) Isaiah was told to proclaim the spiritual blindness and deafness of the people of Israel (Isaiah 6:9-10). He was told that this condition would last "Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, the houses are without a man, the land is utterly desolate, Yehovah has removed men far away and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land." (Isaiah 6:11; 12). This plainly refers to a captivity that has not yet taken place for the blindness of Israel and the nation, in general, continues to this day. 

The speakers in verse one of chapter 53 are a group of believers at that time and what follows represents their confession as they look back at the sufferings of the Messiah now made plain to them for the first time. This is the time described in Zechariah 12:10-14 when Israel will look on him whom they have pierced and there will be a great mourning for him because their descendants reject him as their Messiah 2,000 years before. 

The "arm of Yehovah" is a reference to divine power. The arm of Yehovah is mentioned as part of the great promise of deliverance in Isaiah 40. The remnant of Israel prays for it to be manifested in chapter 51:9. "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of Yehovah; awake as in the ancient days in the generations of old. Isaiah 52:10 says "Yehovah hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations. and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God."  

The Servant of Yehovah is therefore the arm of Yehovah manifesting God's power in deliverance and salvation. The Messiah stands as it were in the place of God, acting as His vice-regent. In Isaiah 4:2; 11:1,10; Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15 the Messiah is referred to as a Branch. These terms refer to the origin of the Servant in the House of David, in the land of Israel characterized by barrenness whose people despise him seeing nothing of beauty in him. 

The gospels amply testify to the truth of verse three. Jesus was despised by the leaders of the people and Jews have consistently down through the centuries considered that Jesus was an apostate who was smitten by God. The Christian Jewish writer David Baron has this to say about Jewish reaction to Jesus: "No person in the history of the Jews has provoked such deep-seated abhorrence as He who came only to bless them, and who even on the cross prayed, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." When on earth, at the end of His three-and-a-half years of ministry among them, they finally rejected him. Their hatred was intense and mysterious. "Away with this man; release unto us Barabbas ...Crucify him, crucify him" was their cry. And all through the centuries no name has provoked such intense abhorrence among the Jews as the name of Jesus.           

"I have known personally most amiable, and as men, lovable characters among the Jews; but immediately that Jesus was mentioned, a change came over their countenances and they would fall into a passion of anger. In the course of my missionary experiences these past thirty-five or forty years, how often has it been my lot to witness some of my people almost mad with rage - clenching their fists, gnashing their teeth, and spitting on the ground at the very mention of the name which to the believer "is as ointment poured forth!" 

It is likely that the term "rejected of men" has particular reference to men of high rank, leaders of the people rather than the generality of mankind.  Paul can say that not many of the world's mighty men or nobility have believed; God has rather chosen people who are generally despised by the world's intelligentsia with the ultimate aim of shaming the so-called wise amongst men. "Have any of the rulers believed on him, or of the Pharisees," was the contemptuous sneer of the leaders of the Jews and it remains the attitude of the majority of opinion formers in our world today, many of whom are deliberately reviving ancient pagan beliefs under the guise of scholarship while they are at the same time attacking the Bible. 

THE SIN-BEARER

Isaiah 53:4-6: forms the middle section of this chapter and of the entire prophecy. Its teaching is of central importance as it sets out the reasons for the sufferings of the Servant. David Baron translates verse four literally as follows "Verily they were our griefs (or sicknesses) which he bore, and our sorrows (or pains) with which he burdened himself, but we regarded him as one stricken smitten of God and afflicted." 

Baron goes on to state that "No plainer or stronger words could be used to express the thought of vicarious suffering than those employed in the original of this verse." Here we confront the important issue of what has come to be called "penal substitutionary atonement." That means in plain language that the Messiah was punished for our sins and took our place so that by his sin-offering sacrifice which he gave on the cross, God may forgive us our sins. 

The idea of bearing sin or bearing iniquity occurs quite frequently throughout the Old Testament and it always means to be punished for the iniquity. It is used in this sense in Numbers 14:34 when Israel was told by God that they would bear their iniquity for 40 years. That is, their punishment for their unbelief would last for that period of time. Aaron was to "bear the iniquity of the holy things "(Exodus 28:38,43) meaning that he would be punished for any sin committed concerning the tabernacle ritual. A person would "bear his iniquity" if he witnessed an offense and refused to disclose it under oath. (Leviticus 5:1) The idea of bearing iniquities occurs in Isaiah 53:4, 6,11, and 12 of this chapter. 

If to bear sin means to be punished for the sin, then it is clear that for the Servant to bear the sins of others means that he was punished for their sins. There seems to be no way of avoiding the conclusion that the Messiah died as a substitute for our sins. The Substitutionary language of this passage is well recognized even by those who do not accept the idea of substitution. The apostle Peter quotes the fifth verse in I Peter 2:24 saying plainly "He bore our sins in his own body on the tree." 

Further evidence for substitution if found in Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45. This important statement by Jesus reflects the language of Isaiah 53:11. Jesus said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." The substitutionary preposition anti is translated "for" in this passage. It is used in other passages in such a way as to indicate that its meaning is "instead of" or "in place of". Thus, Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of (anti) his father Herod." (Matthew 2:22) Jesus asked, "What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of (Anti) a fish give him a serpent?" (Luke 11:11). 

Another Greek preposition that is relevant to our subject is huper. This word can have several meanings and can often be rendered "on behalf of". In some passages, however, such as 2 Corinthians 5:14 and Galatians 3:13 it clearly has the meaning "instead of". This last passage is one of a number where a substitutionary interpretation is obvious even in English translations. Those who are of the works of the law are under a curse, but the Messiah has taken the curse upon himself so that the covenant promises to Abraham might come upon us. Another passage in 2 Corinthians 5:14 is likewise explicitly substitutionary. "If one died for all, then all died; and he died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again." 

The word translated "smitten" or "stricken" at the end of verse four is used in 2 Kings 15:5 where it is stated that King Uzziah was stricken with leprosy by God for his presumption in entering the Temple. Because of this connection some Rabbis in ancient times called the Messiah "the leprous one".  There is certainly no need to follow this interpretation, but a problem does arise in this verse in connection with disease and the Messiah. The words translated "griefs" and "sorrows" are the ordinary Hebrew terms for sicknesses and disease. Matthew quotes this verse in this connection to prove its fulfillment by Jesus in His healing miracles. (Matthew 8:17) 

Two different errors have arisen from a misunderstanding of these terms. One error following the Rabbis mentioned earlier sees the Messiah Himself as actually suffering from some unspecified diseases. According to this view, Jesus not only bore sin, but also was afflicted with the disease himself. Luke 4:23 has been quoted in support. Jesus said to the synagogue audience, "You will surely say unto me,' Physician heal yourself'." 

A more common error is the belief that since believers can expect forgiveness of sins because Jesus has borne them, they can also expect divine healing of all their illnesses because Jesus has borne them too. Healing is therefore as much a part of the atonement as is forgiveness of sins. Since is it obvious that believers do suffer illnesses and die, implicit in this view is that such people are lacking in faith to be healed. 

It is therefore essential to understand why sicknesses and diseases are used here. Throughout the Old Testament disease is often used as a synonym for sin. One of the best examples is found in Isaiah 1:4: "Alas, sinful nation a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, Children who are corrupters! They have forsaken Yehovah, They have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, They have turned away backward. Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in it but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up or soothed with ointment." (verses 4-6) 

It is obvious from the context here that literal diseases are not in view since the subject matter concerns the body politic of the whole nation. David also in some of the Psalms speaks of his sins as if they were diseases. In the great penitential Psalm 51:8; he refers to God having broken his bones something that literally did not happen. Healing is sometimes used as a synonym for forgiveness (Isaiah 57:19) 

David Baron has this to say about the miracles of healing. "The miracles of healing not only served to certify him as the Redeemer, and as "signs" of the spiritual healing which he came to bring, but were, so to say pledges also of the ultimate full deliverance of the redeemed, not only from sin but from every evil consequence of it in body as well as in soul. Hence our full salvation included not only the perfecting of our spirits but the "fashioning anew of the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory." 

The second half of verse four graphically describes the terrible suffering as the believing remnant continues to look back at the sufferings of the Messiah. The word "nagua" means one stricken or smitten with a dreadful shocking disease and is particularly applicable to leprosy as we noted earlier. He was "smitten by God" and afflicted, i.e. He is one bowed down by suffering. 

That Jesus was so punished is true but the punishment was for our sins and not for his own. Yet the Jewish people, in striking fulfillment of this prophecy, have taught for centuries that Jesus deserved to die the death he did. They have called him Poshe - the transgressor - who well deserved the violent death he suffered. The Talmud puts Jesus in hell along with Titus and Balaam. Imagine how they will answer to him at the Judgement Seat.  

Those who adhere to more modern versions of the view that Jesus deserved to die should consider carefully what they are teaching in the light of this passage. It is contrary to the whole thrust of this passage to claim, as do the Christadelphians that the Messiah dies for his inherent sin nature. They have God punishing Jesus for something inherent within himself. Talk of a "sin-nature" in the Messiah is foreign to this and all other scriptures. Isaiah 53:5 again re-iterates the substitutionary nature of the Messiah's sufferings. It was for "our transgressions", "our iniquities". The chastisement, which resulted in our peace, was upon Him. 

We note here the important word "peace", a common theme in this section of Isaiah. "There is no peace to the wicked." is the message of Isaiah 48:22 and Isaiah 57:21. Isaiah 57 foresees times when God will speak peace "to him who is far off and to him who is near". Paul refers to this verse in Ephesians chapter 2 when he explains that God has made Jews and Gentiles part of the one body of the Messiah through the cross. Surely Isaiah 53:5 is at the forefront of his thinking here. 

Isaiah 53:6 shows the necessity of the vicarious sufferings of the Messiah. Mankind in general, both Jew and Gentile have become totally alienated from God - Yehovah. There is no thought here or elsewhere that man by his own efforts can turn back to God - Yehovah of his own accord. The image of a flock of sheep without a shepherd graphically illustrates what men have done concerning the things of God. Sheep will wander all over the place without a shepherd to guide them and such has been the experience firstly of the Jews, but also of Gentile so-called believers. 

All of these iniquities have been "laid on him" by God - Yehovah. The term "laid on him" is more literally rendered "caused to alight on him" and is in Hebrew a term of some violence. It is used in I Samuel 1:15 "Go near and fall upon him; and he smote him that he died." B.W.Newton comments on this expression, "In other passages, our iniquity is spoken of as resting on the Holy One, and He bore it. Here it is spoken of as coming upon him like a destroying foe and overwhelming him with the wrath that it brought with it." The word avon rendered "iniquity" denotes firstly the transgression itself, secondarily the guilt which arises as a result and thirdly to the punishment which it incurs. 

THE MESSIAH'S GENTLENESS, DEATH, AND BURIAL

Isaiah 53:7-9 sets forth the attitude of the Messiah towards his sufferings stressing the voluntary nature of them and describes the judicial process by which He was executed and the nature of his burial. It is the passage that the Ethiopian eunuch was reading when Philip was directed to join him and from which he preached the gospel. The New Testament always applies this chapter to Jesus something which modern liberal commentators are loath to do.

 Isaiah 53:7 and 8 are beset with translation difficulties beginning with the first part of verse 7. The Hebrew term niggas (rendered "he was oppressed") sometimes means the rigorous exaction of debts. It is used in this sense in Deuteronomy 15:2,3. "Every creditor that lendeth aught to his neighbor shall (on the seventh year) release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbor or his brother, because Yehovah's release has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner, you mayest exact it again." The word is also used of the Egyptian taskmasters exacting the full quota of bricks from the Israelites. (Exodus 3 and 4) The oppression then is oppression of a judicial nature and was amply fulfilled in the trials of Jesus before Caiaphas and Pilate. 

All of this suffering was entered into voluntarily by the Messiah emphasized by the second half of Isaiah 53:7 "Yet he opened not his mouth." The gospels record that Jesus did not make any replies in his defense and only responded to the High Priest's questions when he was put under oath to do so. He was completely non-resistant. We should point out that the apostle Peter clearly brings out the non-resisting character of the Lord Jesus and urges Christians to follow the same example (I Peter 2:21-25) Suffering and persecution should be borne patiently following the Messiah's own example. The Sermon on the Mount enjoins the same attitude on disciples (Matthew 5:38-42) as does the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:17-21. A violent Christian is a contradiction in terms. We simply must not offer violence or hostility of any kind when we meet with persecution.  

Commentators emphasize the difficulties of translating Isaiah 53:8, which reads in the KJV, "He was taken from prison and from judgment." The NASB reads ""By oppression and judgment he was taken away" while the NEB has "Without protection, without justice, he was taken away." The same version adds a footnote, "After arrest and sentence, he was taken away." David Baron comments: "The idea that is most prominent in the word luqqach ("taken away"), is that of being snatched or hurried away. The word otser (rendered "prison") primarily means a violent constraint Here, as in Psalm 107:39, it signifies a persecuting treatment which restrains by outward force, such as that of prison or bonds...The word mishpat (judgment) refers to the judicial proceedings, in which he was put upon his trial, accused, and convicted as worthy of death - in other words, to his unjust judgment... Hostile oppression and judicial persecution were the circumstances out of which He was carried away by death."

The phrase "and who will declare his generation?" is also difficult and is variously rendered by different translations. The NASB renders this "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 stoke was due." The word translated "generation" usually means "an age" or "the men living in a particular age" and by extension a group of people bound together by similarity of circumstances or moral character. In this latter sense, a generation can be coeval with the present evil age. Baron points out that the words rendered "declare" in the KJV can also mean to speak to complain or lament and is also used in a few passages to describe prayer (Psalm 55:17). He suggests that the meaning of this passage is "As for His generation - who (among them) poured out a complaint" (i.e. at his treatment); or "who among them uttered a prayer?" (i.e. on His behalf.) This could be an allusion to a Jewish custom in capital trials of calling upon all who had anything to say on behalf of the accused to come forward and "declare it" or "plead" on his behalf. If this is the case, it means that no one was called upon to speak for Jesus at His trial as would normally be the case, and ties in well with the first part of the verse. 

The substitutionary nature of his death is again mentioned at the end of the verse. The stroke that was properly due to the people fell on him. To be cut off is a biblical expression meaning to be executed. It is found in Daniel 9:26 where it is again used for the cutting off of the Messiah. 

The burial of the Messiah is the subject of the first part of Isaiah 53:9. The word "grave" here is not the Hebrew word "sheol" meaning the general grave of mankind but rather refers to a sepulcher or tomb. It was the custom of the Jews to give criminals an ignominious burial as Josephus records. "He that blasphemes God - Yehovah let him be stoned and let him hang upon a tree all that day and let him be buried in an ignominious and obscure manner."  Since the Jews condemned Jesus as a blasphemer this would no doubt have been His fate had not God miraculously intervened. The time of the Messiah's humiliation and sacrifice was now over, and God honored his Son by providing a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea to arrange for His burial in his own new tomb. 

The sinless nature of the Messiah is the subject of the last part of Isaiah 53:9. Peter quotes this verse giving it a different rendering. "Because he had done to violence, for was any deceit in his mouth" becomes in I Peter 2: 22 "Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in his mouth." 

THE MESSIAH'S EXALTATION

The last section of this great prophecy begins with a review of his sufferings and sacrifice. The word translated "bruise" means literally "to crush". "He has put Him to grief" means to afflict with sickness and reminds us again of verse 4. Two translations of the phrase "When you shall make his soul an offering for sin" are possible. The first is to translate as above and take the phrase as a statement made to God. The second view renders it as "When his soul shall make an offering". The NASB prefers this rendering and in addition, takes the word "soul" as equivalent to the personal pronoun "himself". Members of this audience will not need to be reminded that this is a legitimate and common use of the word "nephesh" throughout the Old Testament. Nephesh refers to the whole person and not to a supposed immortal substance that survives in a conscious state after death. It is closely connected with the blood in Leviticus 17:11 and verse 10 links the idea of the blood of the sacrificial animals with the common New Testament references to "the blood of the Messiah." The offering for sin referred to here is the trespass offering, the asham, the law concerning which is found in Leviticus 5:1-13 and Leviticus 7:1-10. The verse provides the important basis for the common New Testament doctrine that the Messiah was a sin-offering sacrifice. 

"He shall see His seed", has been taken by some Jewish interpreters in its natural sense of posterity or offspring and used to refute the idea that it is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth who had no natural offspring. This section of Isaiah, however, recognizes the important theological concept of the seed of Abraham (41:8,43:5, 44:3, 48:19), and the fulfillment of the covenant blessings. Paul shows in Romans 9 that Abraham's seed does not mean descendants according to the flesh; rather those who have the faith of Abraham are the children or seed of Abraham. The Messiah himself is the seed as stated by Paul in Galatians 3:16, a truth which is also found in the Old Testament. Psalm 72 applies the wording of the Abrahamic covenant to the Messiah (verse 17). Those who have been baptized into the Messiah are the seed of Abraham. 

Seeing his seed occurs after he became a sin-offering, in other words after his death. The seed then does not refer to literal descendants but to the spiritual seed of Abraham. Psalm 22:30 is parallel with this verse in describing his seed as one of the blessings following his sufferings and death. The last part of verse 10 could only refer to the resurrection. It is reminiscent of Psalm 16 and Psalm 21:4, "He asked life from you and you gave it to him, length of days forever and ever." Jewish writers have commented that the phrase length of days refers to the life of the age to come. Following his resurrection God's will will prosper in his hands. 

The Jewish commentator Abrabanel paraphrases the first part of verse 11 thus. "He shall see the travail of his soul, i.e. his seed; he shall be satisfied, i.e. with length of days." One of the results of his travail is found in the second part of verse 11. David Baron translates this as follows, "By his knowledge shall make righteous (or, bring righteousness) the Righteous One (My Servant) many." It is possible to take "his knowledge" in both the subjective sense of the knowledge that he has, or in the objective sense of the knowledge of Him on the part of others. If the former is correct then it could well mean that those who are made righteous, are made so through the knowledge that Jesus himself had, in other words, they will believe what He believed. This seems incorrect, however, and more likely refers to the fact that the righteous must know him. Knowledge then would be synonymous with faith, a meaning which it seems to have in several passages. (Hosea 4:6, John 17:3) The construction of "the Righteous One, my servant" is unusual in placing the adjective before the noun contrary to normal Hebrew practice. The definite article is also omitted from both words, the whole construction emphasizing the unique character of the Servant. 

We have already referred to Baron's translation of Isaiah 53:11. Contrary to the impression given in most translations, justification is not the subject here. It is the righteousness that springs from that justification and forgiveness which is being spoken of. The Bible requires that God's people are actively righteous. Indeed as Paul says in Romans 8:4 it is in them alone that the righteousness of the Law can be fulfilled. It is clear that this verse was in Paul's mind as he was writing Romans as he virtually quotes it in Romans 5:19." For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man's obedience many will be made righteous." 

The "many" referred to here are the mass of mankind and not just the Jews. We encountered this word in chapter 52:14,15 and it appears in significant New Testament passages bearing on the atonement. The Lord Jesus uses in Matthew 20:28 in what is really a commentary on this passage and Paul uses it extensively in Romans 5:12-21. 

The word "many" occurs again in the Hebrew of verse 12 where it is rendered "great" in English translations. They are those who share with him in his inheritance as described in Psalm 2. "Ask of me and I will give you the nations for your inheritance and the ends of the earth for your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron you shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel." The application to the Messiah is clear but he makes this same promise to those who overcome. (Revelation 2:27) They will be partners with him in the glory of the Kingdom of God. This is because "He poured out his soul unto death and bore the sins of many." The blessings of the Kingdom would be impossible without the death of the Messiah as our sin-offering sacrifice. 

The final statement of the chapter returns to the priestly theme hinted at in chapter 52. There the Messiah sprinkled all nations. Now he makes intercession for transgressors, standing between them and God. The priestly function of the Messiah is mentioned also in Psalm 110:4 and Zechariah 6:13 and is fully developed in the letter to the Hebrews. 

SUMMARY

In conclusion, the Message of this chapter is closely intertwined with the gospel of the Kingdom. A summary of the gospel preached by the apostolic church is given in Acts 8:12 and Acts 28:23,31 as the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus the Messiah. We could paraphrase this as "The Kingdom and the Cross". This must be the message that we preach to the world, for until the sin question is dealt with, none of God's blessings are remotely possible. Only the sin-offering sacrifice of the Messiah can deal with sinfulness and give us a right standing with God so that we can inherit the blessings of the Kingdom.