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Monday, January 4, 2016

The Messiah in the Old Testament

The Messiah in the Old Testament

            The Messiah in the Old Testament (Zondervan Publishing House, 1995) is the title of a book by Walter Kaiser, professor of Old Testament at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.  Monthly, in my newsletter articles and weekly in my blog, I will begin 2016 with thoughts Kaiser’s book has raised in me. 
            I don’t know that I could write an opening paragraph any dryer than this.  What possible interest could my reading of Kaiser have for you, friendly reader?  Only this: there is continuity between Christianity and Judaism.  If we Christians are ignorant of Judaism, we ignore our spiritual relatives to our peril.  Thus we must give our attention to our spiritual roots.
            The Apostle Paul calls all non-Jewish Christ followers “wild olive shoots.”  In order to be part of God’s people, we have to be “grafted in” (Romans 11:19).  To follow Jesus with a deep, mature faith, we have to embrace that by God’s grace, we gentile Christ-followers are adopted into Israel and not at the expense of Israel. 
            What is the eternal destiny of Jewish people who do not accept that Jesus is the Messiah?  That is for God to decide.  I will not in this space offer any opinion about the eternal destiny of Jews or anyone else.  I enter this exercise with fear and trembling.  I know the history of evils Christians have committed against Jews.  It is understandable that one of the most detestable things to Jews is the attempt Christians make to convert them.  I pray I can write in a way that is respectful.
As an evangelical Christian, I would try to help anyone of any background who does not follow and worship Jesus come to that point in their journey where they decide to worship and follow him.  But my role is to love, to encourage, to help, and to support and to do it all with compassion.  I do not convert anyone.  I do not “win souls.”  The Holy Spirit does this.  My efforts at reading about the Jewishness of Jesus are not part of a design to specifically witness to Jews.  I feel called to witness to all people.  But for reasons stated above, this witness is shared humbly.  Confidently and boldly, but just as important, humbly.
            My goal in this study is to more deeply understand Jesus.  And I invite you to join me in this.  As the Gospel makes clear, Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed one of Israel.  So, if we are to understand our Lord, we need to understand why he is called “Christ.”  It’s a title, not his last name.  It serves as a name, of course, because there is no other Christ.  But to know Jesus, we need to know all aspects of Him (or as many as we can).  John 21:25 implies what we obviously see when we realize Jesus is God.  No one can ever know all there is to know of Him.  So we strive to know as much as we can. 
            Kaiser writes, “The Bible is to be read with an appreciation of its wholeness, its unity, and its concept of a divine plan that is being enacted both in immediate historical fulfillments, and in a final, climactic fulfillment in the last days” (p.26).  This unity carries from Old Testament words about the Messiah through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and into the age of the church.  Kaiser’s proposal is that “the messianic doctrine is located in God’s single, unified plan, called in the NT his ‘promise,’ which is eternal in its fulfillment but climactic in its final accomplishments, while being built up by historical fulfillments that are part and parcel of that single ongoing plan as it moved toward its final plateau” (p.31). 

In other words, from the start, God planned to save the world through the Jewish Messiah.  I hope you’ll walk with me as I explore all the implications in the claim that Jesus is the Christ even and we are his, ‘Christians.’ Follow the blog (  Leave comments, or Facebook me or tweet at me.  Participate in the conversation.  Together, let’s begin growing in our knowledge of our Lord by growing in our understanding of what we mean when we say Jesus Christ.

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