Oh that the Salvation of the LORD ...

The Psalmist's words: "Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD brings back the captivity of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad" (Psalm 14:7 or 53:6), indicate for the Israel nation a time of distress to come.

The psalm speaks of "the captivity" of the Lord's people, and it refers to "all the workers of iniquity . . . who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call on the LORD" and who would "shame the counsel of the poor" (14:4,6).

This David foresaw, yet the future was not all dark and despairing, "for God is with the generation of the righteous . . . the LORD is his refuge" (14:5). And however black the intervening period, some day "the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion" , and the Lord would turn "the captivity of his people."

The Messiah's Coming and Kingdom

David wrote these words by inspiration of the Lord, and so we look to the future for their ultimate fulfilment, and relate them to the coming of Israel's Messiah.

The return from the Babylonian exile was limited to only a few thousand Hebrews, and it was engulfed some six centuries later by the more awful tragedy of the destruction of the Second Temple and the dispersion of the Jewish people. So surely there is yet to be a greater and permanent turning of Israel's captivity, when her salvation (her Yeshua) comes out of Zion!

This turning of Israel's captivity is everywhere associated with the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah prophesied that upon one who is "a Rod from the stem of Jesse, a Branch shall grow out of his roots," that the "Spirit of the LORD" will "rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.

" . . . with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth" He will also administer punishments: "He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked" (11:1-4).

Universal harmony and peace, such as have not been known since the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, will then encircle the earth. Jerusalem, the city of peace, which for so long has known so little peace and so many grievous wars, will at last enjoy unbroken tranquillity. "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (11:9).

Indeed, "it shall come to pass in that day that the LORD shall set his hand the second time to recover the remnant of his people . . . He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (11:11,12).

Truly the Scriptures promise rich blessing for the future when the Messiah reigns. The hope and expectancy of believers gather round the King, the Messiah of Israel, mighty in majesty, righteous in rulership, just in his judgements.

Contrast without Contradiction

The Scriptures paint another picture of the Messiah, but now with colours sombre and dark. Of one whom the Lord calls "my Servant", who would be "exalted and extolled and be very high," yet we read: "Just as many were appalled at you, so his visage was marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men" (Isaiah 52:13,14).

Who is this exalted Servant of the Lord who would suffer such appalling disfigurement? Is he not the one of whom the prophet proceeds to speak, one with "no form nor comeliness . . . no beauty that we should desire him . . . despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" ? (53:2, 3).

We must bear in mind that in both instances it is the same one in view; in both instances it is "the LORD's Servant." We note the contrast: "Behold, my Servant . . . shall be exalted and extolled and be very high" and "by his knowledge my righteous Servant shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities" (53:11).

Who is that "Servant" , the Lord's "Servant" , who is to be exalted and lifted up, and yet come so low in travail and in bearing the iniquities of others?

Sinless Sufferer our Substitute

How low indeed he was to be brought! "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed" (53:4-5).

What an enigma is this! The Lord's Servant to be made so high yet to be brought so low! For "he was oppressed and he was afflicted . . . he was cut off from the land of the living . . . he was stricken, and they made his grave with the wicked . . . he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth" (53:7-9).

Nor were these afflictions to be merely the expression of man's malice and hatred – it was the Lord Himself who would afflict His Servant: "And the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all . . . it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief" (53:6,10).

We see the Scriptures paint two pictures, in striking contrast, of the Messiah. In one we see Him as a glorious Conqueror and King; in the other we behold Him as grievously afflicted and oppressed, but not for sin of His own. His sufferings, whilst related to an outburst of human hatred are in some deeper, awful sense, at the hand of God.

Psalm 22 reveals a Messiah of suffering, a Messiah who suffered at the hands of men, but whose sufferings were laid on Him by the hand of the Lord, a Messiah who is both afflicted by the Lord, yet delivered by Him!

One Messiah, Two Portraits

What is the explanation of this paradox? Are there two Messiahs, one to suffer, the other to reign? There are indeed a number of pictures of the Messiah seen under inspiration of the prophets – by David and Isaiah, by Micah and Zechariah for example. But it was the one Messiah they pictured.

They saw Him come to suffer, to endure affliction and reproach, and to die. Then the telephoto lens of inspired prophecy saw also His coming in power, His coming to reign, and the prophet wrote: "Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness . . . " (Isaiah 32:1).

There are two advents, one to suffer for human sin, to bear the stroke of Divine justice which should have fallen on us, so that the righteous wrath of God against sinners might be satisfied. Then another coming, a second coming, a coming again, to put down all opposition to God, to rescue and raise redeemed Israel to its long-appointed place among the nations, and to sit upon the throne of His glory – King of kings and Lord of lords.

In between the two comings lie the long extended centuries. The Messiah spoke to His disciples after His resurrection, and "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." And he said, "Ought not the Messiah to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:27, 26).

Suffering before glory; cross before crown; sorrows before supremacy; humiliation before exaltation; partial rejection before recognition and reign! May the longed-for day of glory soon dawn and our desire be: "Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!"