Some Messianic Prophecies, Part 1

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To be a Jew, living under the Law was, to say the least, burdensome. If you somehow managed to keep all the laws, the blessings would be wondrous. But many and varied were the curses that awaited those who broke any parts of the Law. In Deuteronomy 79 and 28, no less than 18 curses are listed. Of significance is this one in the New Testament:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” (Galatians 3:13 TNIV)

Why is this verse so significant? Jesus Christ was “hung on a pole” or a cross, and He became a curse for us and He took upon Himself the curse and therefore the punishment for all our transgressions – for all our sins. He paid our sin debt; He redeemed us – saved us – from the curse of the Law and the wrath of God. Without the work of Christ, you and I would be hopelessly snared in labyrinth of laws no human being could hope to keep; we would be forever subjected to “curse of the law” for our entire lives.

God gave His people the Law, not make life hard for them, but to show them the impossibility of living a righteous life by simply trying to keep a set of rules and regulations. His people needed to acknowledge – to own up to the fact – that their means of salvation must exist outside of themselves. It’s not like God was keeping that means of salvation a secret. The coming of a Messiah had been prophesied for generations upon generations. In fact, a lot of Christians are astounded to find out that the very first prophecy concerning the coming of Christ is found back in the earliest chapters of the very first book of the Old Testament! God had barely finished creating the material universe when He gave the first hint that a Messiah would come.

Let’s take a look at that early Messianic prophecy, and some others. We’ll learn that God had been planning the redemption of mankind for a long, long time.

The Seed of the woman

In the Hebrew Bible, the very first word of the text is bereshit, which is translated, “in the beginning.” That phrase has become the title of the first book of the Hebrew Bible and our Old Testament, “Genesis,” or “origin,” or “source.” We can thank the translators of the Greek Old Testament for shortening the title down from “In the beginning” to “Genesis,” a much cooler title.

Genesis records the beginning or origin of many things, including the universe, our earth, human beings, the first cities and nations, and sin. It also records the very first prophecy.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:15 TNIV)

That’s God talking, and that’s the first prophecy. Let’s check out the context so it makes some sense.

You know the story well; the story of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace. The Devil, embodied as a snake or serpent, slithered into the Garden of Eden, tempted Eve to sin, she did, and in turn she tempted Adam, to sin. He did, and when God found out, here’s how He responded:

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9 TNIV)

In fact, God asked the first human pair a series of four questions in all. When God asks questions, it’s usually not a good sign for the one being asked those questions. These are the questions:

• Where are you? (verse 9)
• Who told you that you were naked? (verse11)
• Have you eaten from the tree? (verse 11)
• What is this you have done? (verse 13)

Of course, as human beings are wont to do, both Adam and Eve blamed others for their sin. She blamed the serpent, Adam blamed Eve but ultimately he blamed God:

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (Genesis 3:12 TNIV)

It doesn’t take a theologian to know that blaming God for anything is a terrible idea. Adam’s words drip with irony. Eve was God’s idea:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18 TNIV)

Adam’s pathetic excuse for his sin shows just how far he had fallen in such a short span of time. Adam saw God’s good and compassionate gift as the source of all his trouble.

In passing judgment, God issued a series of curses that would effect all of creation. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the whole universe was spoiled simply because of Adam and Eve’s sin.

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20, 21 TNIV)

The curses on the snake, the woman, and the man are brief. We are told the briefest details with not a peep from Adam, Eve, or snake. We have no idea what they thought. Oddly enough, the two people and the snake are not depicted so much as individuals involved in a personal crises, but are seen more as representatives. In fact, Adam and Eve’s story is not so much their story but ours – the story of all mankind. These two people are seen as the head of human race and the snake as something else that will dog the steps of every human being down through the time until this first prophecy is fulfilled.

In this prophecy, we read about “the bruised heel” of the coming Messiah. The promised Savior would be, and in fact was, the “Seed of the woman,” but He was also divine – the God-man. This Messiah, this Holy Seed, would bruise the serpent’s head – He would once and for all conquer sin. The serpent, Satan, would bruise the heel of the Savior, on the Cross, where He died, freeing all men from the curse of sin. John Borger:

God has defeated Satan through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s putting it simply, but truthfully. Jesus Christ would be the promised “Seed of the woman.”

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about : His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18 – 21 TNIV)

That’s the Christmas Story – the story we all know. It’s the story of the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew refers to Him as the Messiah, which would have been natural since Matthew wrote His Gospel to show Jesus was the legitimate Messiah – the long awaited Savior.

But Jesus was also the promised Seed of the woman. So what’s very interesting about Matthew’s Gospel is that, contrary to Jewish tradition, he includes four women in his genealogy. That was unheard of in this time. The men were important, not the women. But to Matthew, four women were so important they had to be mentioned by name. Tamar was an adulteress. Ruth wasn’t even a Jew, she was a Moabitess. Rahab was a prostitute. And Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, have been stolen from him by David. The two things that unite these four women are highly questionable sexual activities and childbearing.

But Jesus was the Seed of the woman. By mentioning these four women, Matthew shows us two things: First, God uses all kinds of people, in this case women, even those who are obviously imperfect, in carrying out His plans.  And second, we see the absolute solidarity of Jesus with sinful humanity. Jesus came to sinful man in order to break the hold sin had on their lives and to break down the walls between God and all human beings. But to do those things, Jesus had to be born “the Seed of the woman.”

The blessing of Abraham

Moses, in writing the book of Genesis, covered some 1600 years of human history in the first six chapters. But he took 14 chapters to go through the 175 years of Abraham’s family history. Why? It’s because with Abraham and his descendants, God’s plan of redemption is made known. It all started with one man, continuing through his family and the nation that descended from it. Ultimately, from this one man, from this one family, from this one nation, would come the Messiah, completing the plan of redemption begun back in Genesis 3.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. ” (Genesis 12:1 – 3 TNIV)

If we look at Abraham’s call within the context of the book of Genesis, we see something simply amazing. By placing his call after the scattering of the nations at Babylon in the previous chapter, we realize that Abraham’s call is God’s gift of salvation in the midst of judgment. Furthermore, the account of Abraham’s call and blessing is not unlike an earlier account of a similar gift of salvation in the midst of judgment: the conclusion of the Flood. Abraham, like Noah before him, marks a new beginning – another chance for mankind.

Abraham is one of the most outstanding men of the ancient world. So important is Abraham that he is honored by the three largest world religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Before his name changed to Abraham, he was known as Abram, which means “exalted father.”  The idea of a “new beginning” as God’s plan of blessing mankind is repeated over and over again throughout the story of Abraham and his family. But it’s also mentioned as far back as the days of creation:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. ” (Genesis 1:28 TNIV)

And here:

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1 TNIV)

The great promise given to Abraham and his descendants is just a restatement of God’s original promise back in Genesis 1. In a sense, Abraham is a new Adam, and the seed of Abraham is the “second Adam,” and new mankind. Those who bless Abraham, God will bless. Those who curse Abraham, God will curse. The way of life and blessing, once marked by two trees, is now marked by identification with Abraham and his seed.
But, who is Abraham’s seed, anyway? At the end of Genesis, we are given a clue:

“Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations be his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk. (Genesis 49:8 – 12 TNIV)

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of this prediction from Jacob. This little prophecy in Genesis meant that beyond the tribes of Israel, the people of the world would become obedient to the One who was come to come. He was the final Seed of the woman.

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