As I’ve mentioned a few times already, for the four Sundays in advent each of the elders are going to preach on Jesus from a different part of the bible. This morning I’m going to preach on Jesus in the Prophets. Next week Kyle is going to preach on Jesus in the Psalms. The following week John is going to preach on Jesus in the Gospels. And finally Pastor Mike will preach on Jesus in the NT letters.
The overall aim of this series is twofold. First, it is meant to help you grow in amazement at the fact that Jesus’ birth was foretold in significant detail, long before—centuries before—it actually happened (first two sermons) and that it happened exactly as foretold (second two sermons). Second, it is meant to help you grow in amazement at the significance of the One who was born and what He accomplished (all four sermons). It is one thing for a person’s birth to be predicted long before it happened (that’s one kind of awesomeness), but it’s an entirely different thing (an entirely new kind of awesomeness) when the one whose birth is predicted is the Son of God and the everlasting savior and ruler of the world—which is what all of the Law, Prophets, Gospels, and NT letters promise and describe.
In short, the overall aim of this series is to fill your worship tanks with all the worship fuel the bible offers in order to help your Christmas celebrations to burn white hot—and to do so by showing you Jesus throughout the bible.
Likewise, the specific aims of this sermon, a sermon on Jesus in the prophets, are to (1) set the stage for understanding the way the OT describes Jesus (present and promised) and (2) give you a taste of the specific glory of Jesus as told by the OT prophets.
For all of these ends, and whatever other ends God has for us, let’s pray—humbly declaring to God our desire for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, even as we acknowledge the great glory of Christmas as the highest expression of exactly that.
JESUS TAUGHT THE WHOLE OT POINTED TO HIM
The first two sermons in this series are based on a critical assumption. The assumption is that Jesus really is in the Old Testament; that we’re not wrongly reading Him back into the text. Clearly Jesus’ existence, incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection are critical parts of the NT teaching. And clearly Christians have always understood the OT to generally promise a Messiah. But does the OT really speak of Jesus? Is right to read the Law, Prophets, and Psalms as speaking of Jesus specifically? Jesus himself answers that question for us directly in the both Luke’s Gospel and John’s.
On the day of Jesus’ resurrection, as two of His followers were still trying to make sense of His death and empty tomb, Jesus came alongside of them …
Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Similarly, in John’s Gospel, after healing a man on the Sabbath and being rebuked for it by the Pharisees, Jesus said to the unbelieving religious leaders …
John 5:39, 46 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me… 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.
Again, the simple point for us to see is that Jesus Himself taught that the Law and the prophets—the Scriptures—acknowledged His OT presence, told of His nature, promised His NT coming, and described His saving work. Grace, Jesus made clear that He is in the OT; that the OT spoke of Him. Therefore, while the NT further explains Jesus, and while Jesus’ NT presence is of a different sort, we cannot miss the fact that He was every bit as much in the OT as the New. The question is, then, “What does the OT say about Jesus?”. For God’s glory and our good (for our worship fuel), the next two sermons are designed to help us look at some examples of exactly what Jesus meant; beginning this week with the prophets.
JESUS WAS SPIRITUALLY PRESENT IN THE OT
The first thing to see concerning Jesus in the OT is that He was spiritually present and working throughout it. It is a basic tenet of Christian doctrine that God has eternally existed as one God in three persons—Father, Son, and Spirit. The three persons have shown up differently at different times in history, but all three have eternally existed. In other words, no person of the Trinity has ever come into existence; each has always existed. While virtually every person I know would agree with this, and while it’s almost universally acknowledged that the Father (1:1) and Spirit (1:2) are present from the very first few words of Genesis, I’ve found that for some reason most people don’t know that Jesus was present and active from the beginning as well. Most people treat Christmas like it is the first time Jesus shows up in the bible. While Christmas is the first time Jesus appeared with a body, it is not the first time Jesus appeared.
Theologians generally agree that Christophanies (appearances of Jesus) were common in the OT. In fact, some count more than 70 such appearances.
For instance, it is generally understood that Jesus is the one described as “The angel of the LORD” in the OT. That is, the “angel of the LORD,” a visible, human-looking representative of God (sometimes called God—i.e. Genesis 16:13), is usually understood to be the spiritual presence of Jesus.
More specifically still, the NT describes Jesus’ presence in the OT in a number of ways. As one pastor points out (Glen Scrivener)…
- The “I Am” in whom Abraham rejoiced was Jesus (John 8:56–58).
- The Lord who motivated Moses was Christ (Hebrews 11:26).
- The Redeemer who brought them out of Egypt was Jesus (Jude 5).
- The Rock in the wilderness was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4).
- The King of Isaiah’s temple vision was the Son (John 12:40–41).
Since this is a sermon on Jesus in the prophets let me mention a quick example from Isaiah 63.
Isaiah 63:8-9 For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.” And he became their Savior. 9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
In this passage, having told of the certain judgment of God upon Israel for Her sin against God, Isaiah recalled the past and promised the future mercy and salvation of God. The key for us is to understand that “the angel of his presence”—that is, the angel of the presence of the LORD—was Jesus. Grace, without fully understanding what he was talking about, Isaiah tells us that Jesus was and would be present to save the Israelites. Isaiah’s prophecy says that in love and pity Jesus redeemed them, lifted them up, and carried them.
Again, Jesus was every bit as present and active in the OT times as in the New. This—new revelation for some—is an awesome aspect of the glory of Jesus. To rightly understand and appreciate and celebrate the promise of Jesus’ coming, then, we must understand, appreciate, and celebrate that He has been actively working for the good of His people from the very beginning. Part of what makes advent and Christmas so special is that it marks a particular kind of coming, but not the actual beginning of Jesus’ presence to bless.
And all of this, of course, this OT presence, temporary salvation and redemption of Jesus, pointed to the full measure of presence, salvation and redemption He would accomplish for His people in the flesh. Again, then, although Jesus was present to save and deliver in the OT generally, and in the prophets specifically, there was a constant promising of something greater—a greater coming, a greater salvation, a greater redemption, a greater reconciliation. The OT prophetic writings (along with the rest of the OT), predicted an incarnate Messiah. He was present and also promised. That’s where we’ll turn now; and as we do, remember, if advent is going to take its proper place in your heart and home, it will be because it begins, ends, and is filled with real and full and deep knowledge of these things—not merely family traditions and holiday cheer.
JESUS’ PHYSICAL PRESENCE WAS PREDICTED IN THE OT
Some scholars have found what they believe to be nearly 600 OT predictions of various sorts of the Messiah—of Jesus physical presence and deliverance. To find that many requires—in my estimation—a particularly creative interpretation of many, many texts. The actual number is probably less than 100. Either way, the key for us to see is that there are a lot of passages in the OT that point to an incarnate coming of Jesus.
This is a sermon on Jesus in the Prophets, but I think it’d be helpful for you to see, once again, a few passages from other places in the OT first. Some of the clearest in the books of the Law are Genesis 3:15; Numbers 24:15-19; and Deuteronomy 18:15-18.
The Messiah Would Defeat the Devil
Even in the opening pages of Genesis, it was promised that a descendent of Eve would defeat the devil. Embedded in this promise, of course, is a promise of the Victor coming in the flesh. He did. His name is Jesus.
Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
The Messiah Would Be a Guiding Light for and from the Line of Jacob
Numbers 24:17… I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel…
While the specific nature of the promises of this passage were certainly subtle to its first hearers—that is, while the fullness of the meaning was not immediately apparent—it is clear now that they pointed to a physical descendant of Jacob who would one day rise to guide and rule in new and different ways. This Star, this Scepter, this Risen One is Jesus!
The Messiah Would Be a Greater Moses
Deuteronomy 18:15-18 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers- it is to him you shall listen… 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.
As great as Moses was among God’s people, God promised to raise up one “like” him, through whom God would speak in even greater ways. This new Moses, this greater prophet, is God in the flesh; it is Jesus!
We see another clear example of this in 2 Samuel 7.
The Messiah Would Rule on David’s Throne Forever
2 Samuel 7:12-13 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
Through the prophet, Nathan, God said to David that one of his descendants, a physical descendant (“who shall come from your body”) would sit on David’s thrown forever. The greater David, the everlasting ruler is Jesus!
The Psalms, which Kyle will show us next week, are also full of Messianic prophecies.
Most of all, though, the OT Prophetic writings promise and describe various aspects of the advent.
The Messiah Would Be Born of a Virgin
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
The Messiah Would Be Born in Bethlehem
Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
The Messiah Would Enter Jerusalem on a Donkey
Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The Messiah Would Bring Grace and Mercy by Being Pierced and Killed
Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
The Messiah Would Come a Second Time in Fullness of Power
Daniel 7:13-14 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
The Messiah Would Come to Restore and Rule Over Jew and Gentile Forever
Amos 9:11-15 “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old… 15 I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the LORD your God.
There are two simple, but unimaginably powerful, points from all of these OT passages promising Jesus that I want you to see. First, as Paul said in Romans, the entire OT testifies to the fact that God would send a Messiah (Romans 3:21). Jesus did not invent the concept when He came in the flesh. He had been promised many times over many centuries.
Second, Jesus, the Messiah that God had promised, would far surpass anything the people of God had ever seen or even imagined. He would be like Abraham, Moses, and David, but infinitely better. He would do great things like Abraham, Moses, and David did, but infinitely greater still. He would know the victory and success and blessings of Abraham, Moses, and David, but infinitely more. And He would bring deliverance like Abraham, Moses, and David, but infinitely and eternally more as well.
Please slow down and consider these things again. Think carefully enough about the OT teaching on Jesus to be properly amazed by it. It is far more than enough to fuel your advent preparation and Christmas celebration. It is a big part of what will make your life over the next four weeks (and into eternity) different from everyone in your life who doesn’t have and believe these things.
Jesus has eternally existed (along with the Father and Spirit). (Along with the Father and Spirit), Jesus has been working for the good of the people of God from the start. It was promised that He would come in the flesh to defeat the devil, be a guiding and saving light for God’s people, He would do even greater things than Moses, He would rule in the line of David in perfect power forever, He would be conceived by the Spirit in a virgin, He would be born lowly and rise to His true position of majesty, He would bring mercy and grace and eternal salvation for all mankind…through His suffering and death, and He would one day return in fullness.
As I’ve said many times, we can dismiss these things as children’s fairytales, we can reject them as the deceitful stories of manipulators, or we can accept them as the truth they are and bow down in worship and obedience to the One they describe. There is simply no place for casual or indifferent or partial responses…the claims are too many and too big for that.
THEREFORE, IT IS RIGHT FOR US TO CELEBRATE HIS BIRTH AND ANTICIPATE HIS RETURN
The OT told of Jesus’ glorious spiritual presence and work and promised His greater glorious physical presence and work. Jesus Himself testified to these things. So what are we to do with all of this? What difference should it make? How should it shape advent and Christmas for us? Two things…
Treasure These Things in Your Hearts
As I mentioned last week, our main response, the most significant way we apply this in an appropriate and God-glorifying way is by seeing and savoring all of this; by pondering and praising these promises; by tasting and treasuring the unique glory that is here. These are the “these things” that Mary pondered and treasured when she was told of them by God. May we join her!
In other words, in answer to the question of what we do with Jesus in the prophets, we give ourselves to carefully considering all the glorious realities they describe and crying out to God to fill us with all the joy and gladness and worship and obedience they demand. We pray and fight to keep from being meh about them. We fight and pray for God to help us believe all of this in such a way as to shape our entire lives; to know the peace, the confidence, the forgiveness, the reconciliation, the freedom, the strength, the humility, the joy, and the commission they bring. We fight and pray and pray and fight, not to miss a single drop of the limitless grace and gladness they offer.
Tell Them to the World
Second, in as many ways as possible we ought to describe and express and proclaim these things to as many people as possible. Insofar as they are true, they are worth telling to the closest of kin and the furthest reaches of the world. They are worth expressing in the simplest decorations and the most elaborate artwork. They are worth sharing with our friendly next door neighbors and murderous God-haters in other countries. They are worth celebrating together with the people of God and proclaiming even to our death among hostile unreached tribes.
Of course every promise concerning Jesus would have been useless had He failed to come, refused to die, been unable to rise from the dead, or only accessed through good works. But, Grace, in conclusion, let me remind you of something this first Sunday of advent…He did come, He did die on our behalf, He did rise from the dead, and we gain access, not through good works, but through child-like trust. In those ways, all of the promises of God in the prophets are “Yes” in Jesus! May we treasure and tell of Him in new and greater ways today because of that.