Christianity 201

November 1, 2013

The Book of Boaz

Kinsman Redeemer 1

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16 (NIV)

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” Luke 18: 29-30 (NIV)

I am currently reading Jesus on Every Page by David Murray, published this summer by Thomas Nelson. The book is all about how the Old Testament reveals Jesus, and the activity of Jesus during Old Testament times. If it were possible, I would blog the whole book here. It’s that good. Part of my motivation for reading is that there were other books on the pre-incarnate Christ I wanted to read, but missed the opportunity. Here is a very small excerpt:

Jesus on Every Page - Davd MurrayThe Old Testament was originally written for “the church in the wilderness.”  That’s why instead of jumping immediately to ask, what does this mean for me? we must pause and ask, what was the original message to the original readers of this Old Testament passage? …

Example:  When we turn to the book of Ruth and ask this fundamental question, what is the coming Saviour like? our focus shifts radically from Ruth to Boaz.  The book might equally be named after him because he is the center and pivot of the book.  Chapter 1 begins with a bitter Naomi, and the book ends with a blessed Naomi. What made the difference?  Three chapters of Boaz.  All eyes should be on him.

The key word in the book also dramatically spotlights Boaz.  The Hebrew word ga’al appears twenty-one times.  It is variously translated, but it basically combines two elements:  relation and redemption.  It refers to a close family member who steps into defend, protect and provide for the needy.   It’s a word used to describe God’s past action of redeeming Israel out of Egypt, and the later prophets also used it repeatedly to describe a future redemption that God would accomplish.

When Mr. and Mrs. Israelite were reading in Exodus about God’s past redemption or in Isaiah about God’s future redemption, they would perhaps turn to each other and ask, “Isn’t there another book about redemption somewhere in the Scriptures?  Oh, yes, that little book about Boaz has lots about redemption.   Let’s read there and find out what kind of Redeemer God is and what kind of Redeemer the Messiah will be.”

If you want to read Ruth like Mr. and Mrs. Israelite did, then ask, what is the Messiah like?  And if you do, you will discover the beautiful answer:  The Messiah is like Boaz.  Notice Ruth’s important genealogical postscript that further boosts the messianic momentum by tracing her descendants to King David.

pp. 61-63

Today’s two-for-one special: The graphic at the top of the page and the two scripture verses which introduced today’s thoughts are from a seminar by Brian Lindman of Christ Presbyterian Church in Bradenton, Florida.  Click here to listen.  The sermon is part of a series, “Jesus in All of the Bible,” which is similar to the theme of the above book.

February 13, 2013

“Before Abraham Was Born, I Am”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” —John 8:58

Today we look at the “I am” passage in John 8.  To Jesus’ hearers, the statement would be reminiscent of these words in Exodus 13:

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,    the name you shall call me    from generation to generation.

Dr. Charles Price, pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto, Canada wrote on this recently:

It is no wonder many people in Jesus’ day had difficulty with him. Statements like this were so outlandish and ridiculous to the human ear, and blasphemous to the Jewish ear.

Of course, anyone can make bizarre claims, so the question is: Are the claims of Jesus true or false? If the claims are false, they are false for one of two reasons. Either because He knew they were false – which would make Him bad, or He didn’t know they were false, which would make Him mad. If, however, they were true, He was God. These are the only three options open to us, if the record of His words is true. It is not an option to say He was merely a ‘good man’, for a good man who was not divine, would not make the statements Jesus made about ‘coming from above’, or being in existence before Abraham!

If Jesus was a bad man, deliberately deceiving people, then He is the biggest confidence trickster in history. Today there are almost two billion people who claim, in some measure, an allegiance to Jesus Christ. If He was mad, He would join the ranks of many mad men in history, like Rasputin for instance, but for whom time would confirm their insanity.

From the logic of the situation alone, Jesus’ claims to be pre-existent and sent from His Father carry strong claim to be true. One of the things He said was that He would be crucified and then rise again after three days. That happened exactly as He said it would.

Don’t make the mistake of saying that in some way Jesus became the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead. No, He was eternally the Son of God, but, “He was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead.” It is His resurrection from the dead – the fulfillment of one of His naturally impossible claims – which declares and affirms who He is, the Son of God.

And that is why the gospel is much more than the teaching of Jesus. It’s about the person of Jesus Himself – the One who is alive!

Matthew Henry writes:

…[H]e does not say, I was, but I am, for he is the first and the last, immutably the same (Rev. 1:8); thus he was not only before Abraham, but before all worlds, John 1:1; Prov. 8:23As Mediator. He was the appointed Messiah, long before Abraham; the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), the channel of conveyance of light, life, and love from God to man. This supposes his divine nature, that he is the same in himself from eternity (Heb. 13:8), and that he is the same to man ever since the fall; he was made of God wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, to Adam, and Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Shem, and all the patriarchs that lived and died by faith in him before Abraham was born.

Abraham was the root of the Jewish nation, the rock out of which they were hewn. If Christ was before Abraham, his doctrine and religion were no novelty, but were, in the substance of them, prior to Judaism, and ought to take place of it.

This verse is central to the deity of Christ, and because of this you need to exercise extreme caution and discernment when encountering opinions about its interpretation online, especially if you don’t know the author or organization behind a particular blog or website.  Many of the websites claim that the passage was understood differently than we read it today, because they don’t teach the absolute deity of Jesus.

To that, I would simply suggest that one turn to John 10, and see what the reaction was to one of Jesus’ other statements about his divinity:

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

The “oneness” Jesus claimed is not something rooted in mysticism. He was claiming equality with God, and his words were understood by his hearers to mean that he was claiming equality with God.

October 23, 2011

Ron Rhodes: Jesus is the Messiah (Part One)

One of the best books I’ve never read is Christ Before the Manger by prolific author Ron Rhodes, subtitled The Life and Times of the Pre-incarnate Christ.  I set a copy aside somewhere, but I was probably afraid that once I delved into this subject, I might never finish!  This topic also deals with “theophanies,” which are visible appearances of God in various forms; and many believe and teach that where the Old Testament says, “Then an angel of the Lord appeared…” that many of these are instances of Jesus making a pre-incarnate appearance.

After spending some time searching online for an excerpt from the book, or even a good review, I finally came upon a Ron Rhodes article that appeared at the Bible Prophecy Blog.  This is a slightly different topic, dealing with the authority by which Jesus can be claimed to be the Messiah who the Jewish nation at the time was anticipating.  As then, so today, Jesus is not seen as fitting the role, and that was the primary motivation for this article. 

In this section, he begins by showing a circle of possibilities that keeps getting smaller and smaller, to the point where it can only truly apply to one person.  This is a longer article, so we’ll spread it out over two days, with part two tomorrow.

By Ron Rhodes

As one reads through the Bible, we find progressively detailed prophecies about the identity of the Messiah. Obviously, as the prophecies become increasingly detailed, the field of qualified “candidates” becomes increasingly narrow.

In showing a Jewish person that Jesus is the Messiah, one effective approach is to begin with broad prophecies and then narrow the field to include increasingly specific and detailed prophecies.

You might use circles to graphically illustrate your points as you share these prophecies.As suggested by Stuart Dauermann, seven increasingly detailed “circles of certainty” include:

1. Messiah’s humanity (Genesis 3:15).
2. Messiah’s Jewishness (Genesis 12:1-3; 28:10-15).
3. Messiah’s tribe (Genesis 49:10).
4. Messiah’s family (2 Samuel 7:16; Jeremiah 23:5-6).
5. Messiah’s birthplace (Micah 5:2).
6. Messiah’s life, reception, and death (Isaiah 52:13; 53).
7. Chronology of Messiah’s appearing (Daniel 9:24-26).

Let us look at these in a little more detail.

Circle 1: The Circle of the Messiah’s Humanity

Scripture says that the Messiah had to become a human being. This circle is obviously a very large circle.

The Messiah’s humanity is prophetically spoken of in Genesis 3:15, when God is pronouncing judgment against the serpent following the fall of Adam and Eve:

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.

The word “offspring” refers to descendants. The Messiah would be a descendant of the woman– that is, He would be a human being. We find this fulfilled in Galatians 4:4-5:

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

Circle 2: The Circle of the Messiah’s Jewishness

Scripture says that the Messiah had to be Jewish– that is, He had to be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This narrows the circle considerably. Of all human beings who have ever lived, only Jewish human beings would qualify.

Point the Jewish person to Genesis 12:1-3, where God makes a covenant with Abraham (the “father” of the Jews):

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go 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.”

Then point the Jewish person to Genesis 28:10-15:

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

These Bible passages indicate that the promised seed (in Genesis 3:15) was to come through the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Circle 3: The Circle of the Messiah’s Tribal Identity

The circle gets even narrower when it is demonstrated that the Messiah had to come from the tribe of Judah. This is demonstrated in Genesis 49:10:

The scepter 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.

Here Jacob is on his deathbed. Before he dies, he affirms that the scepter (of the ruling Messiah) would be from the tribe of Judah.

Circle 4: The Circle of the Messiah’s Family

Scripture tells us that the Messiah had to be from David’s family. This narrows the circle still further. We see this affirmed in 2 Samuel 7:16:

Your [i.e., David’s] house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.

We also read in Jeremiah 23:5-6:

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.”

Clearly the ruling Messiah had to come from the family of David.

Circle 5: The Circle of the Messiah’s Birthplace

Scripture clearly prophesies that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. This narrows the circle of possible candidates for the Messiah tremendously. Micah 5:2 tells us:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

So far we have seen that the Messiah had to become a human being, had to be a Jew, had to be from the tribe of Judah and the family of David, and He must be born in Bethlehem (a small, insignificant city in ancient times). Failure to fulfill any one of these conditions disqualifies a person as a possible candidate.

Circle 6: The Circle of the Messiah’s Manner of Life,Rejection, and Death

Regarding the Messiah’s manner of life, rejection, and death, point the Jewish person to Isaiah 53. Note the following excerpts:

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him 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 men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (Isa. 53:1-4).

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 descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 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. (Isa. 53:7-9).

Note from these verses that: (1) The Messiah was to be despised and rejected by His fellow Jews. (2) He would be put to death following a judicial proceeding. (3) He would be guiltless. Obviously these facts about the Messiah narrow the circle still further.

Circle 7: The Circle of Chronology

Point the Jewish person to Daniel 9:24-26:

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens’, and sixty-two ‘sevens’. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens’, the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.

Regarding this passage, note the following facts: (1) The city would be rebuilt, as would the Temple. (2) The Messiah would come. (3) The Messiah would be “cut off” (die) but not for Himself. (4) The city and the Temple would be destroyed.

Note especially that the Messiah had to come and die prior to the destruction of the second temple, which occurred in A.D. 70.

Clearly, this narrows the circle of potential candidates incredibly. Is there anyone who has fulfilled all these conditions? Is there anyone who was a human being, a Jew, from the tribe of Judah and the family of David, born in Bethlehem, was despised and rejected by the Jewish people, died as a result of a judicial proceeding, was guiltless, and came and died before the destruction of the second temple in A.D. 70? Yes there was, and His name was Jesus!

To further demonstrate that Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, note the following facts, which are derived from my book, Christ Before the Manger: The Life and Times of the Preincarnate Christ.  These prophecies– taken together– narrow the field so much that there can be no doubt as to who the Messiah is.

…to be continued tomorrow, or click the link in the intro to read the whole article…

Song: Could it Be the Messiah – Michael W. Smith