101 Portraits of Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures

INTRODUCTION

When I came to know Christ as Savior and Lord in 1971, I immediately took a consuming interest in the Bible. For a while, I attended a nearby church in our hometown in California, one that I soon found out had an existential, subjective view of Scripture. They taught that the Bible only became God's Word as we come to understand it. For them biblical truth was up to each individual-how each reader responded to it. In other words, their reason trumped God's revelation. The Christian believes that reason is good, but knows that reason is always subordinate to God's Word.

One Palm Sunday, the church planned a parade around town with homemade banners. Since my favorite study was already Jesus in the Old Testament, I made a banner of Zechariah 9:9; "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." I was amazed that no one seemed to get it: The verse is a clear reference to Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on "Palm Sunday" prior to His crucifixion. (See Matthew 21, especially verse 5.) This prophetic verse was written hundreds of years before its fulfillment! Did not this verse, and many others like it, speak to the Bible's supernatural origin? Is the Bible not the inerrant Word of God?

The Bible does have a supernatural author. Its origin was not in the minds of mere men, but in the mind of almighty God. One way we know this to be true is that the Bible, although inscribed by many men over thousands of years, has but one central subject-the Lord Jesus Christ, and God's unfolding plan of salvation through Him. If you are willing to search, you will see glimpses of Jesus on every page in every book of the Old Testament-the Hebrew Scriptures. How could this be, apart from these Scriptures being inspired by God?

The final books of the Old Testament were written at least 500 years before Jesus' birth. The first five books of Moses were written at least 1,500 years before that. And yet, one common thread is sewn through them all-Jesus Christ. Imagine for a moment that my great-great-great-grandfather in his journey over the Atlantic to the new world in America had written a book that described me in detail. Although I wouldn't be born for more than a hundred years, his book would describe where and when I would be born, what I would do for a living, what my character and actions would be, my exact name, and so forth. That would be unusual, would it not? Actually, it would be impossible for a mere human. But Jesus was written about thousands of years before His physical appearance on earth.

Following His resurrection, Jesus has a conversation with two of His followers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-27). The two men are journeying from Jerusalem, and as they walk they talk about the events of the past few days. Jesus walks up to them, but they do not recognize Him. He asks them what they are discussing. One of the men, Cleopas, asks Jesus if he has not heard of Jesus of Nazareth, "a great Prophet of God who was crucified." Why, just this morning is three days since Jesus' death, Cleopas tells him, but when some women went to his tomb, His body was not there. Angels beside the tomb told them Jesus had risen from the grave, Cleopas tells Jesus.

Then Jesus says this to them:

"How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

In this short volume I merely scratch the surface of that last verse, "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." Ours is a faith established in history.

But Jesus does not jump into the pages of history as a little child in a stable in Bethlehem. His story begins much further back in history than that. In fact, His story goes all the way back to before history on earth began! In a sense, He IS history, as all history is His Story. Jesus is the Creator God, the promised Redeemer, the great Prophet, Priest, and King of the Hebrew Scriptures. He is Yahweh, Jehovah-the great I AM-of the burning bush. He is Immanuel-God with us!

Jesus is pictured in many ways in the Old Testament. He is seen in His mighty acts, such as in Creation. He is the antitype, typified by men like Adam, Melchesidek, and David. Jesus is foreshadowed by furniture, (yes, furniture), rocks, food, doorways, trees, water, boats, colors, animals...in hundreds of ways. His future coming and glory are foretold by men speaking for God about events hundreds, even thousands of years in the future.

Jesus also appears on the pages of the Hebrew Scriptures as the "Angel of the Lord." He visits an incredulous Sarai and Abram with a promise too good to be true. He wrestles with a man named Jacob, changing Jacob's name to "Israel." Like a great novel that gives its readers clues as to what will come about later in the book, the Old Testament is full of allusions to and promises of the kingdom of the coming Messiah who will save His people from their sins. In short, Jesus is revealed everywhere. Only an all-powerful and omniscient God could have conceived it and given it to men to write down in their own words.

Someone asks, "But if Jesus is revealed on every page of the Old Testament, why didn't the Hebrews believe in Him?" The answer is found in Paul's Letter to the Romans chapters 9 through 11. Paul was a Hebrew and persecuted the Church. Later, his spiritual eyes were opened to see the reality of Jesus as the long awaited Messiah-the Christ. It is the same with unbelievers today. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:4, "The god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

What happened to the fellows on the road to Emmaus also happened to Paul on the road to Damascus. It happened to me in 1971.God opened my spiritual eyes so that I could see the reality of who Jesus is. Following their journey to Emmaus we read these words:

When he [Jesus] was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:30-32).

Jesus says in John 5:24: "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."

If you have never received Christ's free gift of salvation by faith alone, you may not be able to see Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures. This book may not make any sense to you, because your spiritual eyes have not been opened. If this is true of you, I would urge you to lay the book aside for a moment and pray this simple prayer: "Lord, I want to see you. Come into my life and save me from my sins, opening my eyes to the truth of your Word and Gospel. I repent of my unbelief." If you are sincere, Christ will not fail you.

© 2008-2009 Robert C. Beasley. All Rights Reserved.


13. JESUS: OUR ACCESS TO GOD

Genesis 28:10-12

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

Perhaps you remember the story of Jacob's deceit. He not only tricks his older brother, Esau, out of his birthright, he later deceives his father, Isaac, into giving him Esau's blessing. Fearing mortal reprisal from Esau, Jacob agrees with his mother, Rebekah, that he ought to flee Beersheba and head for his relatives' home in Haran. In these verses we find him on the trail toward Mesopotamia. The Scripture says that he camped for the night in a place called Luz, which Jacob later renamed Bethel. He had only traveled about 10% of the 500 miles of his journey.

As he lies down to sleep with his head propped up on a rock, he has a most mysterious dream. He sees a great stairway or ladder reaching up to heaven. Whatever this "stairway" was, it must have been immense and exceedingly lofty. The Word says that it reached to heaven, and Jacob saw "the angels of God ascending and descending on it." Angels are mentioned often in Genesis, and indeed, in all of Scripture. The New Testament letter to the Hebrews says in 12:22: "But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly..." Earlier, in 1:14, the writer tells us that angels are "ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation..." What does the presence of the angels on this enormous staircase mean? First, it means that heaven — the "heavenly Jerusalem" — actually exists. Second, it means that heaven is truly interested in the earth. God is invested in His creation. Whatever else it may mean, the stairway's central focus is on God, and His promise to Abram that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring." We know that it is through Jesus that the promise will be fulfilled.

But Jacob is not living by faith at the time he receives this promise! In fact, he was fleeing from the results of his sin — the opposite of faith. He shows this in his response to God's promise and reassurance. In verses 20 through 22 a shaken and awestruck Jacob makes this vow:

"If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."

Notice that his vow is conditional. If God does all these things for him, then Jacob will submit to Him. That isn't faith; that's bargaining! Jacob begins to negotiate the terms of his trust in God. The point is that Jacob's faith does not precede God's promise. Jacob's salvation depended solely upon God's grace.

God's grace is manifested to us in the person of the same Lord who spoke to Jacob from heaven — the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the central focus of the stairway, as the one Mediator between God and man. In John 1:50-51, after Nathaniel had put his faith in Him, Jesus said,

"You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that." He then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant. Through His grace we have access to heaven and eternal life. He is the Father of the living, not the dead. Only Jesus bridges the infinite gap between heaven and earth.

© 2008-2009 Robert C. Beasley. All Rights Reserved.


58. JESUS: OUR FRIEND OF FRIENDS

1 Samuel 18:1-4

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself... And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.

The friendship between Jonathan and David is the closest and most devoted in all of God's Word. One thinks of the exemplary friendships of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, or between Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth. But this friendship exceeds those in important ways.

Jonathan was King Saul's son, and heir to the throne of Israel. Throughout the Bible, we see the envy of kings and princes against anyone who might be the slightest threat to their reign. Abimelech, in Judges 9:5, murdered his seventy brothers just before receiving his crown. In 2 Kings 10:7, followers of King Jehu slaughtered seventy princes of Ahab's family. We have read of Herod and his jealous rage on hearing of a king being born in Bethlehem. But Jonathan is different. Not only does he befriend the man whom his father envies and will seek to murder, he loves David "as himself." What's going on here?

In Leviticus 19:18, God gave this command: "'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus reinforced the absolute primacy of this decree over all of the rest of the Law regarding earthly relationships. Jonathan's love for David reflects obedience to this command like no other, save the Lord Jesus Himself. Notice that he becomes "one in spirit" with David and makes a covenant with him. Their friendship is not based on, "What have you done for me lately?" Instead, it is based on a solemn oath of covenant loyalty. I believe that Jonathan knows that the salvation of Israel will come through David's kingly line. In order for that to happen, he has to get out of the way. Notice that he gives David his robe. A prince's robe speaks of his claim upon the throne. He gives David his right to be king! Then he gives David his sword, his bow, and his belt. (In ancient times, the surrender of the sword usually meant death for the surrendering king.) Jonathan hands over not only the throne, but his very life, knowing that his covenant with David will probably mean his own death. He is willing to die that his friend might ascend to the throne.

To love someone as yourself, you must stake your own joy in the joy of the loved one. When our Savior came to this earth He gave up His throne in heaven. He also was willing to die so that His Church might find joy. Paul writes in Philippians 2:5-8:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!

In the same way that Jonathan makes a covenant with David, Jesus makes a covenant with His friends — the Church. His is an eternal covenant that will make His friends to be kings, ruling with Him forever. Jesus said in John 15:13: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Imagine! The King of the universe loves you and me as Himself, and was willing to come to earth as a servant and die for us! The King of Kings has become our Friend of Friends.

We humans want to be king, to sit on the throne of our own lives. But, like Jonathan, we need to get out of the way. Have you forsaken the throne of your own life? Unlike Saul, who sought foolishly to hang on to his kingdom, Jonathan shows us that the only way to be a true king and servant of the people is to relinquish your throne to Jesus.

© 2008-2009 Robert C. Beasley. All Rights Reserved.


78. JESUS: SON OF THE HOLY ONE

Proverbs 30:1-5

The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh — an oracle: This man declared to Ithiel, to Ithiel and to Ucal: "I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man's understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One. Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know! Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him."

Not long ago a book entitled "The Prayer of Jabez" was on the Christian bestseller charts. Agur, in Proverbs 30, also prayed a wonderful prayer in Proverbs 30:7-9:

Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, "Who is the LORD?" Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

Sad to say, but I doubt if a book on Agur's prayer would sell many copies in Christendom today.

Agur says that he's an ignorant man. Don't believe it for a second. He's like a law professor engaged in Socratic dialogue with his class. He claims that he has no knowledge of the "Holy One" — the Lord God. Then Agur begins to ask a series of questions to his class that make clear he knows a lot about the "Holy One."

Who has gone up to heaven and come down? (v. 4) Remember the stairway to heaven in Genesis 28 (Our Chapter 13) that pointed to the One who had come down from heaven and gone up again — our Lord Jesus. Jesus said, "No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven — the Son of Man" (John 3:13). In the same way, Paul says this about Jesus in Ephesians 4:7-9:

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.

Agur is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Agur then asks, "Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak?" Who but the Lord Jesus Christ has control of the natural elements of this world? He proved Himself by quieting the tempest and walking on the waters, among many other miraculous deeds. Jesus is the One who "sustain[s] all things by his powerful word" (Hebrews 1:3).

Agur knows the Creator of the universe and makes an allusion to the Trinity when he says, "Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!" Jesus Christ is truly the only begotten Son of God. He has not only established the universe, Jesus has established its "ends" — its past and its future.

Finally, Agur concludes his questioning with these words in Proverbs 30:5-6: "Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar." John begins his gospel this way: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John speaks of the living Word — our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the revelation of the true God in both His flawless physical manifestation, and in the flawless manifestation of His written Word — our Bible. The entire Bible points to Jesus, and speaks of His love for His Church, and of His strategy for bringing eternal life for all who would simply believe in Him, trusting in His Word.

© 2008-2009 Robert C. Beasley. All Rights Reserved.


100. JESUS: FORSAKEN BY HIS DISCIPLES

Zechariah 13:6-7

If someone asks him, "What are these wounds on your body?" he will answer, "The wounds I was given at the house of my friends. Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!" declares the LORD Almighty. "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones."

On the night He was betrayed by Judas, Jesus shared a meal with His disciples in an upper room. The event has become known as the Last Supper, where Jesus gave instructions regarding His sacrament of the Lord's Supper. After they ate, they sang a hymn and then walked over to the Mount of Olives. Matthew gives us this detail in 26:31-32: Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."

Jesus applied the above words of the prophet Zechariah to what was about to occur on Calvary. Peter was livid. He said, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times" (Matthew 26:33). Doubtless the rest of the disciples were also offended by Jesus' words to them. But you know the rest of the story. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, His disciples feared for their lives and ran away.

Why did they run away? Someone says, "I wouldn't have run! I would have stuck by Jesus' side!" It's easy to speculate on our own heroism, but we must remember some facts about the timing of Jesus' arrest and the disciples spiritual condition. Like us, the disciples were sinful people. Jesus had chosen simple, everyday human beings from the lakes and byways of Palestine to follow Him. Unlike us, however — those of us who have put our trust in Jesus — the disciples had not yet received the Holy Spirit. They were attempting to rely on the strength of their own flesh, which had none. Another fifty-three days would pass before the Holy Spirit would come upon them with power, and give them the strength they needed to overcome their fear of death, and the enemies of God who would rise up against them.

Following the resurrection;

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord (John 20:19-20).

Notice that the disciples were still trembling in their boots for fear of the Jewish leaders. Several days later, "On one occasion, while [Jesus] was eating with them, he gave them this command: 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about'" (Acts 1:4). The gift, of course, was the gift of the Holy Spirit which they received at Pentecost. After that event, the disciples were greatly encouraged — given courage — to stick with their Lord even if it meant persecution and even execution. Their new-found courage would lead almost all of them to die for Christ.

Many followers of Christ since that time have forfeited their lives on this earth to stick with their Lord. Just as their Shepherd was struck down, men and women around the world today stand ready to be struck down carrying His message of hope in the Gospel to a lost and dying world. But, for many of us in America, the question is not, "Will we die for Christ, or will we cut and run?" The real question is, "Will we live for Christ, or will we cut and run?" The answer is up to each of us. May we pray that through the strength and courage of Christ's Spirit, we will live for the honor and glory of Jesus our Lord and Savior (1 Corinthians 10:30).

© 2008-2009 Robert C. Beasley. All Rights Reserved.