My Redeemer Lives

We sometimes sing a song called I Know That My Redeemer Lives, and it may come as some surprise that the words from that song are inspired by an Old Testament passage. In Job 19:25, Job states:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,

and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

The term redeemer comes up some twenty-five times in the Bible, and, with just a couple notable exceptions, the term almost always refers to the Messiah. In this context, Job has lost everything, but he expresses confidence that His Lord will be a mediator, and advocate, a messenger, and a redeemer. Two thousand years before the birth of Christ, Job shows understanding that God will not leave His creation without access to Him.

Job’s Redeemer

In Job 9:33, Job longs for an arbiter, or a mediator, between him and God, so that one might argue his case. In I Timothy 2:5, Paul explains that we do have a Mediator between God and man who is both man and God – Jesus Christ. Then, in Job 16:18-19, Job expresses confidence in a witness in Heaven. He understands he has an Advocate before the father, one who will serve to represent those who cannot represent themselves. Job knows he has divine representation before the Father, and I John 2:1 reminds us that we also have an Advocate in Jesus Christ.

Returning to Job 19:23-25, Job expresses a desire to have his words recorded that others may know as he does that his Redeemer lives. Despite his deteriorating health and morale, he seems to be growing spiritually, expressing confidence in a Redeemer and a Savior who would appear before God with him. I Peter 1:18 reminds us we were delivered and redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. Christ is our final Redeemer who delivers us from the chains of this life.

Finally, in Job 33:23-24, as Elihu is reminding Job not to be so self righteous, he speaks of a messenger without equal who lifts us from the pit. Isaiah speaks of such a one in Isaiah 61:1-3 who lifts His own out of darkness, cleansing them, and delivering them. Jesus, when speaking in His hometown, applies this passage to Himself. He is the messenger who soars above the thousands.

Conclusion

Throughout Job, a picture begins to form, and that picture finds clarity and resolution in the personage of Christ. Whether or not he understood the full import of his words, job looked beyond the things of this live, looking for reconciliation with His God. He had faith that such a Redeemer lives, and we can have that same hope. Jesus is our Advocate, our Mediator, and our Redeemer. He is what we need most, and He will cleanse us and lift us up when we turn to Him.

lesson by Tim Smelser

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Jesus & Prophecy

In Matthew 5, a familiar passage beginning the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes an interesting statement in verse 17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” This is one of many statements by Jesus we could classify as a purpose statement like those we see in Luke 19:10, Mark 2:10, John 6:38, and John 12:27 where Jesus gives reason for His coming to our world.

The fulfillment of scripture is a theme with which Jesus bookends His public ministry. He makes this claim both in Matthew 5:17, at His first public lesson, and in Luke 24:44, just before He ascends to Heaven. He claims to be everything the Old Testament is pointing to, and the entirety of the gospel of Matthew is structured around this theme. Numerous times in his gospel, Matthew coincides events in Jesus’ life with passages from the law and prophets, often writing, “that it may be fulfilled.” Paul’s sermon in Antioch of Pisidia, recorded in Acts 13:16-41, centers on Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecy.

The Prophetic Measure

Why is there such an emphasis on prophecy throughout the New Testament? Why does Jesus and His apostles take so much time to point out the ways Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection fulfill the shadows of the Old Testament? Luke 4:16-21 records Jesus teaching in His hometown, and He makes a bold claim that He is the one Isaiah writes about. This is a serious claim. It is a potentially blasphemous claim. If it is to be true, there must be evidence (Romans 4:17). This is one reason the fulfillment of prophecy is so important.

Jesus fulfills about 332 prophecies in His life. The probability of one doing this is roughly 1 in 84×1099. These prophecies include minute details surrounding His birth, His teachings, His miracles, His betrayal, His death, burial, and His resurrection. Jesus makes extraordinary claims about His identity and deity, but He has extraordinary prophetic evidence to support His claims.

The Weight of Prophecy

Genesis 3:15, Genesis 12, Genesis 49:10, and Deuteronomy 18:18 include some prophecies in the Pentateuch. In the books of history, we see prophecies in I Samuel 2:10, I Samuel 2:35, and II Samuel 7. In the Psalms, chapters 2, 16, 22, 69, and 110 point to the Messiah among others. Isaiah prophecies of Jesus in chapter 7:14, 9:6, 11:1, 28:16, and in the servant songs: chapters 42, 49, 50, and 53. In Jeremiah, chapters 23:5, 30:9, 30:21, 30:15, 33:21-22 point to the heir of David. In Ezekiel, prophecies can be found in chapters 34:23-25 and 37:22-26. Zechariah, in chapters 3:8-10, 6:12, 9:9, 11:12-30, 12:10, and 13.

Era after era, book after book, whether a tome of law, a collection of psalms, or a record of prophecy, the Old Testament points to a Messiah. This is why Jesus and His disciples make such a point to emphasize these passages. He is more than a good philosopher or a famous Rabbi. He is Emmanuel, God with Us. He is the fulfillment of the shadows of the Old Testament, deity in the flesh who loves us and gave Himself for us.

lesson by Tim Smelser

John’s Picture of the Messiah

Each of the gospel writers have a slightly different representation of the Messiah. Matthew, Mark, and Luke bear several similarities in their presentations and focus, but the Gospel of John stands out from the others. John records only seven miracles in his gospel, and five of those are unique to John. He portrays Jesus in a very specific way, but, unlike Matthew, he does not continually refer to Levitical scripture to reinforce his points. Rather, he focuses on Jesus’ words describing Himself.

Imagery from John

  • In John 2, we see Jesus driving the merchants and money changers from the temple, condemning them for corrupting His father’s house. When asked for a sigh, He said He would rebuild this temple in three days once destroyed, but He has changed subjects. He is not speaking of the physical temple so much as His own body. Jesus here is pictured as God’s true temple.
  • John 3 records Nicodemus and Jesus conversing about the meaning of being born again. In verses 14-15, Jesus draws a parallel between Himself and the serpent in the wilderness, lifted up to save people. Where the serpent’s salvation would be physical and temporary, Jesus’ would be spiritual and eternal.
  • In John 6:29, after Jesus has fed several thousand from meager portions, the people ask Jesus for another sign once He retreats from them. He speaks to them of a bread from Heaven – to them, a reference to manna. Jesus, however, applies this personally and calls Himself the Bread of Life. He is the true manna.

John 7:37 has Jesus calling those who thirst for life-giving water to come to Him as Moses brought water from a rock in the wilderness. John 8:12 records Jesus calling Himself the light of the world, possibly referring to the pillar of fire the children of Israel followed through the wilderness. In John 15:1, Jesus calls Himself the true vine that bears fruit, and this compares to the vineyard song of Isaiah 5. Finally, John 19 records the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion, and, starting in verse 31, John describes how Jesus’ bones would remain unbroken as a Passover lamb was to remain unbroken.

Conclusion

John paints a picture of Jesus as a fulfillment of many Old Testament objects and events. He sends a message that there is more to Jesus than what they thought they saw, and He could be more to us if we open our eyes and hearts. When we begin to comprehend the extent of Jesus’ ministry and sacrifice, how can we not love Him and obey Him?

lesson by Tim Smelser

The Servant of Isaiah

Genesis 3:15 is the first instance of God revealing His remedy for solving the problem of sin, and that solution is His Son – the ultimate Servant who would die on our behalf. Isaiah records four Servant psalms, describing this One who would sacrifice Himself. In Acts 8, Philip intercepts a eunuch from Ethiopia who is reading Isaiah 53 – one of the Servant songs. Others include Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 49:3, Isaiah 50:4-11, and Isaiah 52:13-Isaiah 53. In these, we see Jesus and His crucifixion, but the eunuch is confused by these and entreats Philip for help.

The Servant of Isaiah 42 is clearly and individual, but chapter 49 calls Him by the name of a nation. Isaiah 50:4 records Isaiah speaking in first person as the Servant. The writers of the New Testament make reference to these Servant passages at least fourteen times in their writings, and they consistently apply these prophecies to Jesus. This I, this Israel, this elect Servant is identified as our Savior.

The Elect Servant

The latter parts of Isaiah 42:1 coupled with Psalm 2 are recognizable from the record of Jesus’ baptism by John. In Isaiah 41-42, God is admonishing His people for their idolatry and their reliance on self. He calls on them to defend their worship of idols, and He concludes that none can answer Him for their actions. The Servant is introduced as God’s answer, as the One He upholds. This Servant will bring justice to the nations. He will be gentle and peaceful. He will establish God’s word throughout the world.

Isaiah 49 further outlines the Servant’s mission. His mouth is described as a sword, and His strength is in God. He is named Israel, a reminder of what the nation of Israel was supposed to be. He is a continuation of God’s promises and a reminder of faithfulness to the descendants of Jacob. Where God’s goal was to bless the nations through Abraham’s line, the nation of Israel wanted to keep God to themselves at the time. Likewise, we cannot forget our roles in blessing the nations through faithfulness to Him. This Servant represents holiness and light. He is salvation and redemption. He loves though He is hated.

Isaiah 50:4 describes the Servant as a dutiful messenger who carries forth God’s word and will. The verses are reminiscent to Deuteronomy 18:18 describing a messenger in whose mouth would reside God’s word. This word comforts the weary, and this messenger submits Himself to the persecutions of standing up for what is right. His ears are open to God’s will, and He calls to those who would obey Jehovah and walk in light. People respond to Him by either trusting in Jehovah or trusting in themselves.

Isaiah 52:13 calls on us to behold His successful Servant, whom none expected to succeed. He will silence the wise and the powerful. He will be exulted in humility, and chapter 53 then describes the humiliation of this Servant. He is one who will live in sorrow, unrecognized by those who should honor Him. He would suffer atrocities and die. All of this is done in our place and for our sake. He intercedes for us and gives us righteousness. He provides spiritual freedom.

Conclusion

This is the Servant of whom the eunuch is learning in Acts 8. Beginning from that single passage, Philip preaches Jesus to him. Jesus was the answer then. He is the answer today. Our confidence cannot be in our selves, our abilities, our possessions, our nation, our leaders, our economy. Our confidence should be in that Servant who came for us, and our lives should be in His footsteps.

lesson by Tim Smelser

Revelation In Brief

Because the book of Revelation has become a playground of interpretations, we in the church tend to avoid studying it, seeing it a book we can’s understand. Revelation 1:1 clearly states that it is a book written in signs and imagery, but to really understand Revelation, we have to look at the book through First Century eyes. Avoiding getting bogged down in details can help us see the big picture. It is a book meant to be read and understood by Christians.

Revelation is the final chapter to everything preceding it. It contains over four hundred allusions to the Old Testament. The term overcome appears twenty-four times in the book, describing an overcoming or prevailing over death and the trials of this world. It is written in a time when Emperor worship supersedes all in Roman government. It is a time of conflict and persecution for Christians, so God delivers a message of prevailing over death. John 16:33, Roman 3:4, Romans 12:22 – all these verses contain the idea of prevailing in God.

The number seven is used repeatedly in Revelation, a number that, like ten and one thousand, denotes spiritual completeness. It is a perfect number of completeness in semitic culture, and Jesus uses it this way in Matthew 18 when discussing forgiveness. It is a combination of the divine number three and the four corners of the world – all of Creation and the Creator.

Seven Messages of Hope

William Hendrickson suggests there are seven cycles in Revelation telling the same basic story, a progressive parallelism that begins after the introduction of chapter one.

  • Revelation 2-3: The Seven Churches. In the letters to the seven churches, Christ assures these congregations that He knows them personally. He knows what they are going through. he knows their cares, and He calls upon them to stay faithful. If they overcome, they will receive eternal rewards of life with God.
  • Revelation 4-7: The Seven Seals. The second cycle, beginning in chapter 5, describes a scroll sealed with seven seals. It is perfectly closed to prying eyes. This sealed scroll is in God’s right hand, and none are found worthy to open the seal at first until a Lamb appears that appears once killed but now alive. Through the following chapters, the seals are opened with 144,000 along with a countless multitude in white praising God. Chapter 7:14 describe these worshipers as those who have overcome persecution and tribulation. They are awestruck at the outcome of the sealed scroll.
  • Revelation 8-11: The Seven Trumpets. The seven trumpets herald warnings. Chapter 11:15 records the final trumpet signaling God’s assumption of His people in His kingdom. No nation can stand against this kingdom, and the temple of God opens revealing the ark of His covenant. Judgment is delivered to those who reject God, and His people are brought to their reward.
  • Revelation 12-14: The Enemies of God. Satan is identified as a dragon in Revelation 12:9. The nation of Rome, the act of emperor worship, the enforcing military forces are described as allies of this dragon. As this cycle concludes, the theme of hope returns, promising rest from labors for those remaining steadfast in the Lord’s work.
  • Revelation 15-16: The Seven Bowls. These bowls depict God’s wrath with God’s patient warnings giving way to judgment. The theme of hope repeats even among these terrible events. Those clothing themselves with Christ and acts of righteousness escape judgment. Jesus says to watch, remain prepared, and keep our garments of holiness clean.
  • Revelation 17-19: The Judgment of Harlot. A key to revelation is identifying the harlot city of Revelation 17. It is described as the great city that rules over the world – directing attention away from Jerusalem and onto Rome. Her expressiveness makes the world rich, but an angel proclaims how great her fall will be. In this fall, God’s saints praise Him for purging the world of this corrupting influence.
  • Revelation 20-22: The Final Judgment and Reward. The final cycle depicts the marriage supper of the Lamb and His church, arrayed in the white garments of the righteous acts of her members. Chapter 20:11 describes a great white throne before which none could hide. The Book of Life is opened, and all are judged according to their works. Death is no more, and God’s realm is described as a garden much like Eden, repeating the promise of hope to the faithful.

Conclusion

We may not face the same persecution as those First Century saints, but we still have to remain faithful. We have to keep our robes unblemished of the world, clothed in acts of righteousness. We, like those Christians, look forward to a home with our Father. We see a message of hope and of reconciliation with God through John’s vision that he shares with us in Revelation. We can be washed in the blood of the Lamb. We can know victory in Jesus if we hear the words of our Lord and we overcome the trials of this world.

lesson by Tim Smelser

The Benefit of Genealogies

In Matthew 1, the New Testament opens with a genealogy establishing the lineage of Christ. Anyone familiar with the Bible knows it is full of genealogies. The first is in Genesis 4, and we have a tendency to gloss over these records. There is even danger that we may view these passages as mere padding or filler.

Think about the individuals contained within those verses – their families, their cultures, their histories. I Peter 1:19 and II Timothy 3:16 both make it clear that God is intentional with scripture. He inspires the writers to record what they do, so this infers a purpose behind every passage – even genealogies.

Purposeful Genealogies

Bible stories and instructions usually serve one of two purposes, either reminders of what we already know or as new instructions. While genealogies seem tedious to study, they help preserve the historic integrity of the Bible. By the end of chapter 5, we have a family record of lives between Adam and Noah. Are these mythical figures, or did Methuselah and Enoch truly exist. I’m inclined to believe these were real people. Genealogy is an ancient art form, and the scholars of ancient Israel were masters. These records reflect care and concern in preserving a national history. In this vein, genealogies can help provide a historical context to events.

Luke 3 contains yet another genealogy. It is a history that starts with Joseph and covers over fifty generations of Jesus’ ancestry. It is a record of roughly 2000 years worth of individuals preserved for our knowledge. Painstaking math results in an ability to date events around these lives with some degree of accuracy. The Archbishop Usher and Dr. William Hales are best known for using this methodology, and later archaeological findings would confirm many of their suppositions.

A final aspect of genealogies pertains to keeping the old law as God intended. Numbers 3:9-10 establishes a lineage of priests that would start with Aaron and carry on through his bloodline. Being a Levitical priest required that one be a direct descendant of Aaron. Records had to be preserved to ensure the priests were acceptable before God. Thus genealogies were recorded and preserved as necessary components to the ancient Jewish faith.

Genealogies and Us

Genealogies are not a point of concern in the New Testament, and those two lists that record Jesus’ lineage are the limit of New Testament genealogies. These serve to confirm prophetic fulfillment in the ancestry of Christ. Hebrews 7:11-12 speaks of a change to the nature of our priesthood and law. Christ ends the need for maintaining genealogies, for He assumes the mantles of priest and king, offices for which records of lineage were once required.

Titus 3:9 warns Christians from obsessing and arguing over genealogies, and I Timothy 1:4 reads very similarly. These lists once fulfilled a need. Today, they serve as a record of the individuals who experienced Bible events. They validate those events. They illustrate the prophecies leading up to Jesus, and they give us a window through which we can see the multitude to whom we are connected in God.

lesson by Alan Miller