Ancient Israel was Expecting the Savior’s Birth
Before Jesus was born, God spoke to the ancient Israelites through their prophets. These Old Testament prophets promised that God would someday send a Savior or a Messiah to save them from their sins. We have many of these prophecies in the Old Testament of our Bible. Because of these prophecies, the Israelites were waiting and expecting a Messiah or a Savior. But when the Savior finally did come to earth, many didn’t recognize Him!
If Jesus had been born to a rich family, or if He had gone along with the religious leaders’ power games, they might have recognized Him. Or if Jesus came in leading an army and fighting and freeing Israel from the cruel Roman rule, they might have recognized their Savior. We will read just a few of these prophecies today from one of the prophets and see if we might have missed Jesus like many did back then.
Let’s pretend that a camera had been invented that could not only take pictures of a person’s face and body but could also capture shots ahead of time of how the person would live his life and what was inside his soul and spirit. I don’t think God used such a camera, but God did give Isaiah and the other prophets many detailed pictures or prophecies about the coming Messiah or Savior (Jesus) and what He would be like. Today we only have time to go over some of Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the expected Savior. But there are many more prophecies of His coming in Scripture.
Amazingly, the prophet Isaiah’s pictures of Jesus were taken about 700 years before Jesus’ birth. They captured scenes showing what would happen to Jesus and even how these future events would affect us. Through his “prophecy” camera Isaiah received the photos and left them in an album for all of us to see. Let’s turn to Isaiah 42:13-15 and Isaiah 53:1-12 and view each shot.
The first picture that Isaiah captured was of Jesus being praised and lifted up. But He was also called “My Servant”. “See, My Servant will act wisely, he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.” (Isaiah 52:13) We read in the New Testament, “Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name.” (Phil.2:9)
The second picture of Jesus was of a broken and beat-up man, astonishing those who saw Him. “Just as there were many who were appalled at Him, His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14)
The third print is of Jesus cleansing many in the world of sin. The practice of sprinkling with blood or water to cleanse was performed by priests as part of the Old Testament law. “He will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of Him. …” (Isaiah 52:15)
The fourth photo of Jesus is of an unimpressive, overlooked, ordinary looking person. Nothing special to draw us to Him. If He came today, He wouldn’t drive the right car or have a degree from a better university. He wouldn’t even dress to make the right impression. “He grew up like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by people, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” (Isaiah 53:1b-3)
In the fifth picture, Jesus is on the cross dying for our sins. “Surely, He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)
The sixth photo will break your heart when you look at it. Here Jesus is seen as a lamb being carried off to be killed. And He went to his death voluntarily. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment, He was taken away. And who can speak of His followers? For He was cut off from the land of the living, for the transgression of my people he was stricken.” (Isaiah 53:7-8)
The seventh picture in Isaiah shows Jesus dying with the criminals and being given a grave with the rich. This picture also shows that Jesus had not done anything wrong. “He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:9) We know from Scripture that Jesus died on the cross between two criminals and that Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, buried Jesus’ body in his own grave.
This photo shows that it was God’s will to allow Jesus to suffer and die. But I think we are in this picture too. Read along and see. “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer. And though the Lord makes His life a guilt offering, He will see his offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand.” (Isaiah 53:10) The offspring mentioned here are Jesus’ spiritual descendants, according to many Bible scholars. And of course Jesus would rise from the dead and live forever.
And the last picture in Isaiah’s photo gallery shows Jesus as our Savior, victorious, and joyful that His perfect sacrifice has saved so many of us. He is satisfied that His death gave us life and He is praying (making intercession) for us. “After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life, and be satisfied by His knowledge my righteous Servant will justify many. And He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:11)
Jesus understood His mission and work as the fulfillment of these prophecies (pictures) in Isaiah. Some Bible scholars have called Isaiah 53 the chapter that describes Jesus as the “Suffering Servant”. Jesus was willing to pay the price for us and be our “suffering Servant”. The last verses of Isaiah 53 say that Jesus was pleased that all of His suffering has brought us eternal life. Let’s live our lives in such a way that He will continue to be pleased.