It is significant that Jesus expects us to see him in the prophecies of the Old Testament. He once said to some religious leaders: ‘You study the Scriptures diligently to learn about eternal life [but these] are the Scriptures that testify about me’ (John 5:39). And when meeting two of his disheartened disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus said to them:
“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:25-27).
It is spine tingling to read the numerous prophecies about Jesus that were written several hundred years before he was born. These include:
- His birth in Bethlehem (prophesied in Micah 5:2; fulfilled in Matthew 2:1)
- His birth to a virgin (prophesied in Isaiah 7:14; fulfilled in Matthew 1:18)
- His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (prophesied in Zechariah 9:9; fulfilled in John 12:12-15)
- His betrayal for thirty pieces of silver (prophesied in Zechariah 11:12; fulfilled in Matthew 26:14-16)
- His hands and feet being pierced (prophesied in Psalm 22:16; fulfilled in John 19:33-34)
- His legs weren’t broken, unlike those who were crucified with him (prophesied in Psalm 34:20; fulfilled in John 19:31-33)
- Those around him gambling for his clothing (prophesied in Psalm 22:18; fulfilled in John 19:23-24)
- His resurrection (prophesied in Psalm 16:10; fulfilled in Acts 3:15)
In Genesis, chapter 49, we read of Jacob, one of the great biblical patriarchs, who was old and dying. His last act was to bless his sons and let them know that he was fully aware of their character. He had twelve sons, the descendants of whom would become the twelve tribes of the Jews. One of his sons was Judah.
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Up until that moment, Judah had not played a starring role in life. He wasn’t the oldest son or the most favoured son. And yet, old man Jacob says to him: ‘The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his’ (Genesis 49:10). This makes it plain that the eternal ruler (the Messiah) will come from the tribe of Judah, the tribe from which king David also came. Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah sometimes refer to the Messiah as being a ‘branch’ of King David (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15), or a branch of Jesse, (who was David’s father; see Isaiah 11:1). It will be of no surprise therefore to learn that Jesus was technically a descendant of King David (Luke 1:26-27,32).
Arguably the most spine-tinglingly accurate prophecy of Jesus’ ministry is that written by Isaiah. Isaiah began his ministry in 740 BC, and his prophecy occurs in Isaiah 53.
Verse 1 begins by saying: ‘Who has believed our message?’ This is a salutary reminder that many will choose not to believe the Christian message, no matter how it is couched.
Verse 2 goes on to describe God’s suffering servant, the Messiah. ‘He grew up …like a tender shoot … He had no beauty or majesty that we should desire him.’ The chosen servant of God had nothing outwardly going for him at all. The Jews were looking for a glorious king who would be a religious and political saviour. They did not expect him to be a person who was born in a place where animals feed.
Verse 3 continues: ‘He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering … He was despised and we esteemed him not.’ Jesus began his life as a political refugee – fleeing from the murderous intent of king Herod. And at the end of his ministry, he was mocked and flogged (John 19:1-3).
Isaiah’s prophecy is remarkable. Only the wilfully perverse could claim that its accuracy concerning Jesus was coincidental or insignificant.
Isaiah continues to say in verse 5: ‘He was pierced for our infirmities’. Jesus was nailed to a cross and speared in the side, and he endured this to pay the price for our sins that would otherwise disbar us from God’s presence (1 John 4:10).
In verse 7, Isaiah says that God’s suffering servant was oppressed, but ‘did not open his mouth’. The gospels record that Jesus did not open his mouth to defend himself during his trial (Mark 15:3-5).
Still later, in verse 8, we learn that the suffering servant is killed and ‘assigned a grave with the wicked’. Jesus was crucified between two robbers (Mark 15:27). Isaiah goes on to say that: ‘He was assigned a grave … with the rich in his death’. Hundreds of years later, Matthew records how Jesus’ body was placed in the grave of a rich man from Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-59).
And finally, Isaiah says in verse 11: ‘After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life’. This alludes, of course, to Jesus’ resurrection.
Isaiah’s prophecy is remarkable. Only the wilfully perverse could claim that its accuracy concerning Jesus was coincidental or insignificant. But those with a humble heart towards God will hear God whispering to them about Jesus. And I hope he is whispering to you.
Dr Nick Hawkes is a scientist, pastor, apologist, writer and broadcaster. He also describes himself as an absent-minded, slightly obsessive man who is pathetically weak due to cancer and chemo, who has experienced, and needs to experience, the grace of God each day.
Nick has written a book Soar above the Storm in which he draws on his experience of cancer to encourage anyone walking through a storm in life to find rest and hope in God. It offers a 40-day retreat to be refreshed and strengthened and find deep peace in God. Order it at Koorong.
He blogs and records podcasts at nickhawkes.net
Nick told his life story to Eternity https://www.eternitynews.com.au/good-news/deadly-storms-heroin-addicts-cancer-and-my-faith/