Anticipating Jesus in the Major Prophets

Simone Martini, “Maesta: Isaiah,” detail from the frame, 1315. Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, Italy.

Advent Week 4: Anticipating Jesus in the Major Prophets

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken… Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

Isaiah 40.5, 10-12

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11.19-20

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jeremiah 31:33

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53.5

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14

When we arrive at the Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Lamentations), the message of Messiah begins to get louder and louder and louder. The foundation was set in the Torah and developed in the earlier writings in the scriptures so that the writing prophets have a very full picture of this coming one to prophecy about. They knew about him in abstract and inquired carefully how their prophecy (which God had given them) told about this coming Messiah. There could be multiple volumes of books written on anticipating the messiah in the prophets. This week, we’ll take a look at a handful of passages in the Major Prophets. They are called this because they are the largest books, and so they provide a more complete prophetic message than any individual minor prophet.

Isaiah prophesied to Israel before and during the time the northern kingdom was exiled. The pattern of the prophets is to proclaim God’s judgment because the nation had rebelled against God’s word. But then they also prophesy about a future restoration. There are a handful of these prophetic cycles through the book of Isaiah. Isaiah 40 is prophesying about a future restoration. This is confirmed in the New Testament where Isaiah 40 is mentioned in reference to John the Baptist who prepares the way of the Lord. This indicates that the Messiah is not just a king, but he is Yahweh himself. So after Isaiah’s prophecy about John the Baptist, he says, the glory of the Lord will be revealed. The coming one will be the one who reveals God’s glory. And the apostle John says this very thing, ‘We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father full of grace and truth.’ ‘Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.’ So this glory of God which the New Testament authors attest to have seen, the prophets of old testified about.

And this glorious messianic servant, although he is God himself who measures the waters with his hands and marks off the heavens with his span, Isaiah prophesied that he will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. The coming servant, the glory of Yahweh, will not only bring judgment, he will bring comfort and support for his people.

Always in line with the prophecy of the messiah is the hope for salvation of God’s people. And so with the prophecy of a person to save, there are prophecies like Ezekiel 11 and Jeremiah 31 that anticipate the renewal and recreation of the hearts of God’s people. God promises to give them a new spirit and heart. Where Israel had a heart of stone, God will give them a heart of flesh.

The prophets even give us the way God will save his people and renew them. He will send his servant to be pierced for our transgressions and to be crushed for our iniquities. God chastised him to bring his people peace. With these wounds we are healed. Healing from sin and salvation from the curse of Adam is through the Messiah. Initially, you might have expected salvation through military might or the great leadership of a King, but the divinely inspired scriptures prophesied that salvation would be through suffering and the shedding of blood and the salvation would be a personal salvation from the stubborn hardness of our own hearts.

This is the Jesus whom the Old Testament was waiting for, and yet we can miss the central nature of his work and the breadth of its application. The messiah did come and today we not only remember that, but we wait in anticipation for his final coming when he will bring to completion the work that he has begun in each of us.

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