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The origin and identity of the Messiah of Israel

This special topic was recorded on March 3, 2008. Our speaker for this session was Elie Nessim.

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The text for this session:

Our theme today is the theme of the Messiah of Israel:


By way of introduction, the theme of Messiah is a vast one, so vast that our sages wrote:  “All the prophets prophesied not but of the days of Messiah, and the world was not created but only for the Messiah.


With such a vast theme before us, one can only at this stage give some headings.  Great numbers of books, good and bad have been written concerning the Messiah.  Our headings therefore are only partial and preliminary.




First heading:  



MESSIAH – His Origins



From the Prophets, we learn that Messiah is an eternal figure.  Isaiah chapter 7, verse 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. (God-With-Us)


Isaiah chapter 9, verse 6:  “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” 


In Micah chapter 5, verse 2:  “But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from old, from everlasting.”


And one more, found in Zechariah chapter 13, verse 7:  “Awake, O sword against My Shepherd, against the Man who is My Companion,” says the LORD of hosts.  “Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; then I will turn My hand against the little ones….” In the same breath, the Prophets proclaim Messiah’s humanity.  He is GOD and He is also Man.




The second heading is concerning:


The Identity of MESSIAH: 



As affirmed just now, Messiah is presented to us as GOD incarnate.  In other words, GOD united our human nature to His divine nature and appeared in this world as a Man.  Many and various titles are ascribed to Him - the first and foremost being Messiah, the Anointed One.  Three categories of GOD’s earthly representatives were anointed:  Priests, Prophets and Princes, such as Aaron, Moses and David.  Messiah too, was anointed.  We hear His voice in Isaiah chapter 61, verse 1:  “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor.” There is His prophetic ministry  “He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted.”  There is His priestly ministry. “To proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…” There is His Kingly ministry in proclaiming amnesty. 


Messiah combines in Himself the three-fold office of Priest, Prophet and Prince.  As Priest, in Psalm 110, GOD speaks to Messiah, and He says in verse 4:  “The LORD has sworn and will not relent, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”


He combines in Himself the office of Prophet.  In the words of Moses, Deuteronomy 18, verse 15.  Before his death, Moses wrote to the people of Israel: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren.  Him you shall hear.”  And again in verse 18, the LORD said: “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”


Messiah combines in Himself not only the office of Priest and Prophet, but that of Prince.  In Daniel chapter 9, the prophet is being informed by Gabriel, the archangel, of the coming of the Messiah, and Messiah there is called Messiah the Prince.  Daniel chapter 9, verse 25:  “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.  And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself.”


The identify of Messiah is three-fold: Prophet, Priest and King.





Our third heading is concerning:  


The Mandate of MESSIAH:



Messiah came to save His people from their sins.  Isaiah 53, verse 4 – 6:  “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.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  Messiah came to save His people from their sins.  This He did by offering His sinless soul in exchange for our sinful souls. 


We are back again at the book of Daniel chapter 9, verse 24:  “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.”  The Most Holy in this case is Messiah Himself, and He is called Most Holy because of His sinless nature, and we are informed there that He is to be anointed. 


It is Messiah’s supreme glory to be called Saviour of sinners.  He became Saviour of sinners by taking our condemnation on Himself and paying our penalty for us.  All who believe in Him and in His self-sacrifice are set free.


In chapter 28 of Isaiah, GOD announced this spiritual foundation in these words.  Isaiah 28, verse 16:  “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.””  It is by faith that we are set free from judgement, from condemnation.  “Whoever believes will not act hastily.”  All who believe in Messiah and in His self-sacrifice are set free.




Our fourth heading is concerning:


MESSIAH and His People:



Messiah’s people are given to Him out of all nations as a reward for His sufferings in their behalf.  There are three scriptures in Isaiah where GOD announces this.  In Isaiah chapter 42, verses 6 and 7 GOD addresses His Servant: “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house.”  Messiah is given as a covenant to the people of Israel, and as a light to the Gentiles.


In chapter 49 of Isaiah and verse 6:  “Indeed He says, it is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”  Messiah is a covenant, a light, salvation.


The third verse in Isaiah is in chapter 53, and verse 11:  “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.  By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.” 


It is thus that GOD’s promise to Abraham is fulfilled at the Akkedah, at the binding of Isaac on Mount Moriah, when GOD stopped Abraham in the act of slaying his son.  GOD intercepted Abraham.  Genesis 22, verses 15 – 18: 


“Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son – “blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.  In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.””  That was GOD’s promise to Abraham that Messiah’s people would be given to Him out of all nations.




Our fifth and our last heading is concerning: 


The Titles of MESSIAH:  



Only a selection is given here, but there are so many.  And the selection is taken from the writings of the sages of Israel.


One of the titles of Messiah is: “Son of Man.”  We come across this title in Psalm 80 where the psalm writer prays.  Psalm 80, verse 17:  “Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.”  This is a prayer that GOD would send the Messiah.  He is called the man of GOD’s right hand because of that prophecy in Psalm 110 where GOD says to Messiah “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”  The prayer is that GOD would keep His hand upon the Messiah and prosper Him in what He has to do.  “Son of Man.”


Messiah is also called “David” because David is a type of Him.  We come across a prophecy of Messiah called “David” in Ezekiel chapter 34, and verse 23: 


“I shall establish one shepherd over them, and He shall feed them – My Servant David.  He shall feed them and be their shepherd.  And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the LORD have spoken.  I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.  I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing.”  This is a description of the kingdom of Messiah who is therefore called David because He is the descendant of David, Son of David, and also because David was in many ways a type of the coming Messiah.


Another of the titles of Messiah that is very important is the title “Branch”


In Isaiah chapter 4 and verse 2, Messiah is called “the Branch of ADONAI” or “the Branch of the LORD.” 


Isaiah 4, verse 2:  “In that day the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious; and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing for those of Israel who have escaped.”  The title “Branch” is a title of Messiah, and when He is described here as “the Branch of the LORD” it’s to show that just as a branch is part of the tree, so Messiah partakes of the deity, of the divine nature.


Another prophecy is found in Jeremiah 23, verses 5 and 6:  “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.  In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”  Here, very plainly is depicted to us Messiah the Branch in His royalty and in His deity.


Another scripture that describes Messiah the Branch is found in Zechariah the prophet, chapter 3 and verse 8:  “Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, you and your companions who sit before you, for they are a wondrous sign; for behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH.”  Joshua was the high priest of the day.  The prophet Zechariah was bidden to crown Joshua and thereby to depict in the crowned high priest, the coming Messiah who would be a priest upon His throne.   Here is Messiah the Branch; GOD calls Him here, “My Servant.”  -  Messiah in His Servanthood.  


And lastly, in chapter 6 of Zechariah and verse 12:  “Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH!  From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the LORD; yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD.  He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; so He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.””  That is, peace shall be established between Him and the One who appointed Him to be a priest upon His throne.


So in these various titles of “Branch” the different nuances, we have Messiah presented to us as divine, as human, as a Priest, as a Servant, as a King.


Another of the titles of Messiah is “Light” Our Rabbis say that one of the titles of the Messiah is “Light.”  And one of the verses in Isaiah chapter 9 describes the coming Messiah as “Light.”  Isaiah chapter 9, verse 2:  “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”  And the reason is given in verse 6:  “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.”  The light comes with the birth of the Child, with the gift of the Son.


Yet a further title of Messiah is “Peace.” “Shalom.”  Micah, the prophet, in his Bethlehem prophecy spoke about the birth of Messiah “whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting.”  He goes on to say in verse 5:  “And this One shall be peace.”  So one of Messiah’s titles is “Peace.” “Shalom.”  And that ties in with what Jacob said of Him on his deathbed in Egypt in Genesis chapter 49 and verse 10:  “The Sceptre shall not depart from Judah, not a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.”  Messiah, who is given the mystical name of Shiloh will take up the sceptre, will take over the role of lawgiver, and as a result, the nations will obey Him.  “To Him shall be the obedience of the people.”  The word ‘people’ is in the plural, to denote all the nations of the world.


And lastly, a bold suggestion was made by one of our sages - Messiah’s name is not only “David”, “Branch”, “Son of Man”, “Light”, “Peace”, “Shiloh”; perhaps also, “GOD.”  That was a very bold suggestion but it is on record and it ties in with that prophecy in Isaiah chapter 7 and verse 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 (which means GOD-With-Us).” 


So we see, in this brief survey, Messiah’s Origins, His Identity, His Mandate, His People, and His Titles.  But as we said at the beginning, the theme of Messiah is a vast one, as vast as the Scriptures themselves.


Yeshua, when He was here, said to His people:  “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”






(Q):  Can you further clarify why it is that traditional Judaism will not accept Messiah’s anointing as confirming His deity, even though the Scriptures confirm its relevancy in this connection?



(A):  Part of the reason why Judaism today refuses to accept that Messiah is divine is an over-reaction against idolatry.  Our people were taken to Babylon because of the sin of idolatry.  And that idolatry took the form of attributing deity to something they created – an animal or the figure of a person or human being, or a bird, or whatever.  When our people came back from Babylon, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction, and our sages said, ‘from now on, we must not ascribe deity to anything created.’  And because Judaism today regards Messiah as a mere human being, they refuse to ascribe deity to Him.  They say this is another form of that idolatry that led to the Babylonian captivity.  That’s part of the answer.  But there is also the opposition to the thought that GOD could ever lower Himself to take on human nature.  There is another great difficulty that is causing our people to stumble at the person of Messiah, and that’s why Simeon, when he had the baby Yeshua in his arms, turned to Mary and Joseph and said,  “this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against.”



(Q):  In Isaiah 4: 2, it says, “In that day shall the Branch of the LORD...” You mentioned that Messiah is called the Branch.  In John 15: 5, it says I am the vine, ye are the branches, which pertains to us.  Can you clarify why the Messiah is called the ‘Branch’ and then we are called the ‘branches?’



(A):  It’s a different situation.  In Isaiah chapter 4, Messiah is called “the Branch of the LORD.”  That’s in His own Person.  In that other parable in John chapter 15, He is describing Himself in relation to His own disciples, and therefore He uses a different analogy.  He uses the analogy of a vine, plant with branches.  The analogy is different.  It cannot be identical with what the Prophet says here about Messiah the Branch.  In Isaiah 4, Messiah is called “the Branch of the LORD” as far as His relationship to GOD is concerned.  In John 15, He is called the vine and they are called the branches because He is depicting there His relationship not to GOD but to them, to His disciples.  So the relationship is different and the figure therefore is a different one.


(Q):  Many people use Messiah as ‘Saviour.’  Could you compare and contrast, or show parallels between those two titles or names?



(A):  Messiah is called “Saviour” because of what GOD says concerning Him.  He calls Him ‘My Anointed One.’  It’s in Isaiah 42:  “Behold!  My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.”  When GOD says, “I have put My Spirit upon Him” GOD says, ‘I have anointed Him.’  Therefore He is the Messiah spoken of.  And when it is written: “He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles” that involves His role as “Saviour.”  “He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.  A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth.”  That’s the role of the Messiah.  And in an earlier chapter, in chapter 33, the Prophet says, “The LORD is our Judge; the LORD is our Lawgiver, the LORD is our King; He will save us.”  Anointed to be Judge, Lawgiver, King and Saviour.  So the two titles are synonymous.



(Q):  It is generally accepted that Yeshua (Jesus) was born around 3 or 4 B.C. (give or take), but there are Scriptures that speak about the effects of His blood being shed from the foundation of the earth.  Could you speak a little bit to that?



(A):  Messiah was born into time in Bethlehem.  But as the Scriptures say, His blood was shed from the foundation of the world.  That tells us that from the foundation of the world, the Father and the Son had agreed that the Son would offer His life as a substitute for sinners, for you and for me.  And from the foundation of the world it was determined that He should shed His blood for sinners.  And therefore in Isaiah chapter 53, we read about this blood shedding.  Isaiah 53, verse 12:  “Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death.”  That is to say, He shed His lifeblood unto death.  “And He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”  Already from before the foundation of the world, it had been decreed, determined, and it was as good as done even though it needed to be enacted in time.  But in the purpose of GOD, it was an accomplished fact.  Therefore, Messiah’s blood is described as shed from before the foundation of the world.



(Q):  There has been much disagreement in the past and still today about whether Yeshua (Jesus) is fully human, fully divine or a mixture of both.  Could you just quickly or simply address that issue?



(A):  There is a problem here because the deity and the humanity of Messiah in one person is the greatest mystery in the whole of Scripture.  There is no greater mystery than that GOD, the eternal GOD should become incarnate, and yet as we heard from the prophets in Isaiah chapter 7, chapter 9, Micah 5, Zechariah 13, where GOD calls Messiah “the Man who is My Companion” we see that it was a mystery but yet a great truth.  This is where faith is needed to grasp this mystery of how two mutually exclusive truths are yet compatible with one another.  That’s the reason for the unbelief of man today.  They seek to understand this with the unaided human reason.  What is needed here is faith, as Isaiah the Prophet said in chapter 28:  “Whoever believes will not act hastily.”



(Q):  How would you answer someone listening today that says ‘how can I be sure that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah and the Saviour of the world?



(A):  The answer to that is the witness of history, the witness of Scripture, the testimony of eyewitnesses.  There is an empty tomb outside the walls of Jerusalem.  Nobody has ever been able to produce the body of Messiah.  He is risen as He said!



(Q):  Messiah is coming back.  Could you just speak briefly as to what brings Him back?



(A):  The return of Messiah is foretold in the Prophets, as a time when He will come to redeem His people and to judge this world.  The first time He came it was in order to call out a people for His name.  The second time He comes, it will be to gather them to Himself, to gather all His redeemed people into one body in heaven.

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