Who Is He?

An old cartoon depicts a wife acknowledging her husband's comments on the news as he mumbles from the morning paper. Says she: "I don't know why all the nations can't be like one happy family" to which he replies, his answer muffled by a mouthful of buttered toast: "Trouble is – they are!"

It has ever been thus, and as things appear, only a miracle can change it – the kind of miracle to be expected from a Messiah. A Messiah? For a long time now the title has conjured up a figure of sublime and superlative qualities.

A man? But more than a man surely. A warrior, armed for war, who would not wound but heal; a ruler stern and strong, but whose virile visage would radiate gentleness, cheer and hope; wielding the sword of justice, but inspiring respect, not fear; demanding action, but directing all the action into peace and prosperity.

From whence does this hope for mankind come? Who has projected this radiant and hoped-for hero on to the dark and sombre clouds of humanity's sky? He emerges from the sacred scrolls of Israel's Scriptures and from nowhere else. If we really wish to identify him, that is the place to look.

The simple word Messiah is not to be found there spelt like that, but its Hebrew original is – the Mashiach, the Anointed One. It is to be found as a noun forty times. Sometimes it is a priest who is anointed as in Leviticus. Sometimes a king as was Solomon (1 Samuel 9:16). Sometimes a king elect as in the account of David (1 Samuel 16) who was chosen from Jesse's sons when Samuel poured upon him the anointing oil.

The patriarch Jacob used oil in this significant way when he poured oil on the pillar he set up for a memorial of his vow. "Then Jacob . . . took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it . . . Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going . . . then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set up as a pillar shall be God's house . . . '" (Genesis 28:18, 20-22).

God acknowledged his dedication. "I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar where you made a vow to me" (Genesis 31:13). So the concept of anointing oil was accepted by God as a valid and significant act of separation.

Years later the Tabernacle and its furnishings were sanctified by the same specially prepared oil, and so were the priests and their regalia. Later still the priests were touched by the oil and were then known as the Lord's anointed. Indeed the Word says that Israel as a nation came into God's special care. He said: "Do not touch my anointed ones, and do my prophets no harm" (Psalm 105:15).

King David is distinguished as the Lord's anointed: "Great deliverance he gives to his king, and shows mercy to his anointed, to David and his descendants for evermore" (Psalm 18:50).

One of the reasons why the Messiah is thought of as the one who is to restore order among the warring nations at the end of the age is the word Isaiah penned: "The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

"to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort those who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness . . . " (61:1-3).

This picture presents the only personage who could fill the blank space in the world scene as we know it today, and who would lighten the deepening shadows of nuclear threat, political turmoil, international distrust, and suffering and oppression on a wide scale.

As we peruse the sacred text penned by Isaiah we recall that the One who read it aloud that day in the synagogue in Nazareth significantly closed the book after the phrase "to preach the acceptable day of the LORD" and He read no further. He did not read, "and the day of vengeance of our God."

Significantly too He went on to claim that He Himself had come to be the fulfilment of the prophecy: "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21). And He went on to do a lot more than talk about it. He DID it. He did everything that He quoted from Isaiah. It was all abundantly fulfilled as His Jewish contemporaries who saw His ministry and the miracles that He did testified. Every account of Him was written by a Jewish pen, and still today miracles of like kind are done in His name, for as Isaiah said when introducing Him: "His name shall be called Wonderful . . . " (9:6). And so it is!

But in the Psalms we read: "I will declare the decree: the LORD has said to me, 'You are my Son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel'" (Psalm 2:7-9).

This surely is "the day of vengeance of our God." And the One who will have this role of 'breaking' and 'dashing' before He receives the 'nations for His inheritance and the ends of the earth for His possession', is the Son, as the LORD has said to Him: "You are my Son."

Who is He? He is the very One who fulfilled to the letter the word of Isaiah re His role on earth when He "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). He is the One who will return to fulfil the rest of Isaiah's prophecy about judgement. His name is Yeshua, Immanuel, who was born in Bethlehem.

The Psalmist warns kings and judges and world leaders to "serve the LORD with fear" in case they "perish in the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little" . But "blessed are all those who put their trust in him" (Psalm 2:11,12).