Written by A. M. Hodgkin
Looking forward into the future from the earliest ages, God’s servants saw One who was to come, and as the time approached this vision grew so clear that it would be almost possible for us to describe Christ’s life from the Old Testament Scriptures, of which He Himself said,” They testify of Me.” There was one central figure in Israel’s hope. The work of the world’s redemption was to be accomplished by one Man, the promised Messiah. It is He who was to bruise the serpent’s head (Gen.3:15); He was to be descended from Abraham (Gen. 22:18),and from the tribe of Judah (Gen.49:10).
The Testimony of the Scriptures to Christ
Isaiah looked forward and saw first a great Light shining upon the people that walked in darkness (Isa.9:2). And as he gazed he saw that a child was to be born, a Son was to be given (ver. 6), and with growing amazement there dawned upon him these names, as describing the nature of the child. “Wonderful.” Wonderful, indeed, in His birth, for the advent of no other child had ever been heralded by the hosts of heaven. His birth of a virgin (Isa.7:14), and the appearance of the star (Num. 24:17), were alike wonderful.
Increasingly wonderful was He in His manhood, and most wonderful of all in His perfect sinlessness. “Counselor.” “Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2:3). “The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father.” There dawned upon Isaiah the consciousness that this promised One was none other than God manifest in the flesh,“Immanuel, God with us” (Isa.7:14). As Jesus Himself said, “I and my Father are One” (John 10:30). The next name, ”The Prince of Peace” specially belongs to Jesus, for “He is our Peace.” His birth brought Peace on earth, and leaving it He bequeathed Peace to His disciples, “having made Peace through the blood of His Cross.” Then the prophet sees the child that was to be born seated on the throne of His father David, and he sees the glorious spread of His kingdom. Though born of a royal house, it was to be in the time of its humiliation. “There shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit” (Isa. 11:1,R.V.). We have in this a glimpse of His lowliness and poverty.
And now the prophets,one by one, fill in the picture, each adding a fresh, vivid touch.
The prophet Micah sees the little town where Jesus was to be born, and tells us it is Bethlehem (Micah 5:2 ; Matt. 2:6); Isaiah sees the adoration of the Magi (Isa.60: 3; Matt. 2:11); Jeremiah pictures the death of the innocents (Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:17-18); and Hosea foreshadows the flight into Egypt (Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:15); Isaiah portrays His meekness and gentleness(chap.42:2; Matt, 11:29),and the wisdom and knowledge which Jesus manifested all through His life from the time of His talking with the doctors in the Temple. Again, when He cleansed the Temple, the words of the Psalmist came at once to the memory of the disciples, ” The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up” (Ps. 69:9 ; John 2:7). Isaiah pictured Him preaching good tidings to the meek, binding up the broken-hearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, and giving the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isa.61:1-3; Luke 4:16-21). Mourning was turned into joy when Jesus came into the presence of death. The poor woman whom Satan had bound, lo, these eighteen years, was loosed at His word.
His gospel was indeed the message of good tidings.
Isaiah pictured even that sweetest scene of all, the Good Shepherd blessing the little children, for “He shall gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them in His bosom” (chap.40:11; Mark 10:16). Then Zechariah sings,”Rejoice greatly, 0 daughter of Zion,” for he sees her lowly King entering Jerusalem, riding on an ass’s colt; another Psalm adds the Hosannahs of the children, “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength because of Thine enemies, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger” (Zech. 9:9; Ps. 8:2 ; Matt. 21:4).
The prophets foresaw something of the character and extent of the Savior’s work.
The light that was to shine forth from Zion was to be for all the world,Jew and Gentile alike were to be blessed. The Spirit of God was to be poured out upon all flesh (Joel 2:28). “All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isa.52:10). The picture of a victorious, triumphant Messiah was a familiar one to the Jews of our Savior’s time. So engrossed were they with this side of the picture that they did not recognize Him when He came, and John the Baptist said, “There standeth One among you whom ye know not.” “Had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” But they ought to have known it, for the prophets who foretold His glory had spoken in no less certain tones of His lowliness. His rejection,and His sufferings.“Behold,” says Isaiah, “my Servant shall deal prudently. He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high” (chap.52:13) when suddenly, what does he see in the next verse 1 “As many were astonished at Thee, His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.” And how shall we picture the astonishment of the prophet as the vision of the fifty-third chapter dawns upon him with all the majesty of the suffering Messiah? From the root of Jesse was to spring up a tender plant who was to be rejected by Israel. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa.53:3).
As the prophet’s steadfast gaze is fixed upon the future, he sees this Holy One led “as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep dumb before her shearers, so He openeth not His mouth” (ver. 7 ; see Matt, 27:12, 14). He sees Him dying a death by violence,for “He was cut off out of the land of the living” (ver.8). Daniel takes up the same thought and tells us, “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself” (Dan. 9:26).
And now once more a chorus of the prophets unite their voices to tell us the manner of His death.
The Psalmist sees that He is to be betrayed by one of His own disciples, “Yea, Mine own familiar friend in whom I trusted,which did eat My bread,hath lifted up his heel against Me” (Ps. 41:9). Zechariah tells us of the thirty pieces of silver that were weighed for His price,and adds that the money was cast to the potter (Zech.11:12, 13, Jer. 19, Matt, 27:3-10). He also sees the sheep scattered when the Shepherd was smitten (chap.13:7; Matt. 26:31,56). Isaiah sees Him taken from one tribunal to another (chap.53:8 ; John 18: 24, 28). The Psalmist foretells the false witnesses called in to bear witness against Him (Ps.27:12; Matt. 26:59, 60). Isaiah sees Him scourged and spit upon (chap.1.6; Matt. 26:67, and 27:26-30).
The Psalmist sees the actual manner of His death, that it was by crucifixion, “They pierced My hands and My feet” (Ps.22:16). His being reckoned with criminals and making intercession for His murderers were alike foretold (Isa.53:12; Mark 15:27; Luke 23:34). So clear did the vision of the Psalmist become that he sees Him mocked by the passers-by(Ps. 22:6-8; Matt, 27:39-44). He sees the soldiers parting His garments among them, and casting lots for His vesture (Ps. 22:18; John 19:23, 24),and giving Him vinegar to drink in His thirst (Ps. 69:21; John 19:28, 29). With quickened ear he hears His cry in the hour of His anguish,“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Ps.22:1 ; Matt. 27:46),and His dying words, “Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit” (Ps.31:5; Luke 23:46). And, taught by the Holy Ghost, the Psalmist writes the words, “Reproach hath broken My heart” (Ps.69:20). John tells us that though the soldiers brake the legs of the two thieves to hasten their death, “when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs: but one of the soldiers pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. . . . For these things were done, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, not a bone of Him shall be broken. And again. They shall look on Him whom they pierced” (John xix.32-37; Exod. 12:46; Ps. 34:20; Zech. 12:10). Isaiah tells us that “though they had made His grave with the wicked ” “that is, intended to bury Him in the place where they buried malefactors” yet it was ordered otherwise,and He was actually buried “with the rich in His death.” ” For there came a rich man of Arimathaea named Joseph . . .and begged the body of Jesus . . . and laid it in his own new tomb” (Isa. 53:9; Matt, 27:57-60).
But the vision of the prophets stretched beyond the Cross and the tomb, and embraced the resurrection and ascension and final triumph of the Savior.
David sings: “Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show Me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps.16:10, 11). And Isaiah, after he has prophesied the humiliation and death of the Messiah, closes the same prophecy with these remarkable words: “When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin. He shall see His seed. He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isa.53:10, 11).
From the remotest past the saints looked forward to events which still lie before us in the future.
“Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying. “Behold, the Lord Cometh with ten thousands of His saints,to execute judgment upon all” (Jude 14). The patriarch Job said: “I know that my Redeemer liveth,and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth . . . whom I shall see for myself” (Job 19:25, 26). Zechariah had a vision of the Mount of Olives with the Lord standing there. King over all the earth, and all the saints with Him (Zech.14:4-9).
And as the prophecies of the past have been fulfilled so, certainly shall also the prophecies of the future.
“Now we see not yet all things put under Him, but we see Jesus, crowned with glory and honor” (Heb. 2:8, 9). And He says, ” Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
About the author and part of your Christian heritage: A. M. Hodgkin (1860-1955) I have been able to discover nothing about the author, except that he was the editor of Friends Magazine, and lived East Sussex, England. Any information about him would be greatly appreciated.