August 6, 2015

They knew He was the Christ

Isaiah 10:20–12:6, Luke 4:1–44, Job 3:17–26

One truth separates Christianity from “religion” and that is the identity of Jesus Christ. At best, the Jews and others call Him a teacher. Some say He was a prophet. Most would say He was a good man. Only a few will point to Him as the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Only Christians affirm that He is God in human flesh.
The prophet Isaiah knew His identity. He spoke of Him several hundred years before He arrived:

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord . . . . And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that remains of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt.” (Isaiah 11:1–2, 16)

Isaiah puts my mind on Jesus who has given me life, but also the exodus or first deliverance from bondage and comparing it to the second deliverance where the people of God were taken captive to Babylon then finally allowed to return to their home. God created the highway, a euphemism for the way He opened the doors and put them on the road to freedom.

Being set free from bondage in Egypt parallels the experience of a Christian. So does the second deliverance, but that one does not mean being saved twice. Being in Babylon was an exile related to their disobedience. For some who did obey, it was a test of faith. It helped all of them realize of the power of sin and of their own helplessness.

Christians experience this also. It might be sin, or it might be a test of faith, but that “Babylon” is an unpleasant captivity. And when that test is finished, the deliverance feels like being born again, yet it is not. It is more like graduation after being in school for a difficult, even impossible course of study. Or it can be a release from God’s deeper cleansing. When in “Babylon” it feels as if God is angry, so that release is a time of great blessing. Isaiah told them . . .

“You will say in that day: ‘I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.’ With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel’.” (Isaiah 12:1-6)

It is easy to see that Job was in one of those testing periods. He was already a child of God, but the day came when his faith was being tested. He wished he had never been born: “Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water. For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes.” (Job 3:23–26) Job endured, and God restored him to former blessings.

Jesus was tested too. He, “full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.” (Luke 4:1–2)
Satan came to Him with tests related to those that Israel failed. (An interesting aside is that food was the first test, just as it was for Eve and for the Israelites when they left Egypt.)

Satan knows where we are the weakest. However, Jesus passed the tests, specific yet broad enough that I can see how my tests fit in the same three categories. The good news is that because of what Jesus did, and because He lives in me, I am able to pass tests to my faith.

I am overjoyed that God brought me through the Exodus. I am also overjoyed that He also brings me through any exile to Babylon. I might feel as if there is no hope (like Job), yet He does not give up. God sent Jesus with a mission . . .

“And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to (Jesus). He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed...’” (Luke 4:17–18)

Because of this and the reality of it, I also know what Isaiah knew: Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. I shake my head in wonder, realizing that many people decide Jesus is not what He claimed to be. How can that happen? “And demons also came out of many, crying, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.” (Luke 4:41) Evil demonic beings know who Jesus is. Why then are millions oblivious to or ignorant of the great reality of His identity?

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