Daily Bible Study Tips: The Prophets –
The Prophets: Miscellaneous Comments
Primary message of Pre-Exilic prophecy
Introduction to Messianic Prophecy
A Messiah from the House of David
The exaltation of Zion
The return of a remnant of God’s people
The birth of a new era
The restoration of paradise
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Introduction to Messianic Prophecy,
Joel 2:21-32 (5/26/09)
First, let's remind ourselves about prophets. Isaiah is one of the major prophets; Joel is a minor prophet. What's the difference between a major prophet and a minor prophet? Major prophets have long books; minor prophets have short books. That's it. No other difference.
The prophet Joel was among those who promised the people of Israel that God would reverse their present troubles. Even though times were tough right now, God would eventually pour out his Spirit upon His people. Peter referred back to this prophecy on the day of Pentecost.
Our passage from Joel is one of the Messianic prophecies, and in fact it hits several of the important points of Messianic prophecy:
- The restoration of paradise (23-27);
- The birth of a new era (28-31);
- The exaltation of Mt. Zion (32a-b); and
- The return of a remnant of God's people (32c).
The only two major points of Messianic prophecy that it misses are the coming of a messiah from the House of David and the Suffering Servant. Having even four points in such a short passage is unusual.
A Messiah from the House of David,
Genesis 49:10; 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 7:13-14, 9:2-7, 11:1-5; Jeremiah 23:5-6
Quick! What's your favorite prophecy? I'm so confident that it's one of the Messianic prophecies that if I'm wrong, find me on a Sunday and I'll buy you a donut. Messianic prophecy makes up only a small portion of God's prophetic message. Nevertheless, as Christians and people who don't read our Bibles as much as we should, we concentrate on Messianic passages almost to the exclusion of anything else. In fact, most prophecy is directed at specific situations and near-term outcomes. (Most of it applies to us in principle, however.) Now, we will turn our attention to the type of prophecy that concerns the whole world and all eternity.
The first important thing about the Messiah is that He will be a descendant of David, and thus the rightful king of Israel. David, with the one exception of his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, was God's man from beginning to end. He was devout, obedient, and faithful. He was never guilty of apostasy. He continually prayed for God's help in his daily life. He was truly sorry for his sins and consistent in asking God's help in overcoming them.
God was pleased with David and promised him that his dynasty would last forever. Among his descendants there would arise a mighty king, born in David's own hometown, who would rule forever with wisdom, justice, integrity, and peace, in accordance with the will of the LORD.
We saw above that the Jews knew the Messiah would be the Son of David because God had promised to establish David's throne forever. Today we see another prophecy about the Messiah--that he would come from David's home town of Bethlehem. Remember when Philip told Nathaniel, "We've found the Messiah! It's Jesus of Nazareth!" Nathaniel replied, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Nathaniel was pointing out that they knew where the Messiah was going to come from, and it was Bethlehem, not Nazareth. Apparently it was not common knowledge that Jesus had indeed been born in Bethlehem before moving to Egypt and then back to Nazareth.
The exaltation of Zion,
Isaiah 2:2-3, 25:6-9, 60:1-5; Zechariah 8:20-23, 14:8-9; Joel 3:16-17; Micah 4:1-2
You probably know that Jerusalem is built on Mount Zion, so "Jerusalem" and "Mt. Zion" are used almost interchangeably in the Bible when talking about the city. We remember that David went out and captured Jerusalem shortly after he was made king over all Israel, and then he made it his political capital and the center of worship. Solomon built the original Temple there. In its earthly heyday, Jerusalem was wealthy, beautiful, influential, and – most importantly – a center for the worship of God. During the latter period of the monarchy, none of this was true. Jerusalem paid tribute to other nations, even stripping the gold out of the Temple to do so. There were idolatrous shrines and images in and on the Temple itself. How far it had fallen!
Messianic prophecy tells us that this situation will be reversed, and not only reversed. The new Jerusalem, built on the old site, will be even more wealthy, beautiful, and influential than before. It will be the center of worship of the true God not just for the remnant of the Jews, but for ten times that many Gentiles. It will be a sacred city, and indeed, as we learned from Jarrod C.'s sermon some time back, it will be the point at which Heaven comes down and takes up residence on earth. See also Revelation 3:12, 21:2.
This thread of Messianic prophecy is called "the exaltation of Zion." Jesus' miracle of the loaves and fishes was a Messianic banquet. He is the light of the world, and we also know that the Lamb is the light of the City of God. Finally, he told his disciples to remain in Jerusalem to wait for the arrival of the Holy Spirit who would teach them all things.
The return of a remnant of God’s people,
Isaiah 10:20-23, 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:3-4, 29:10-14, 31:7-14
As all of you who are seamstresses (or are married to one) know, a remnant is the little bit of cloth left on the bolt after all the pieces big enough to make something out of have been purchased. The remnant is too small to be useful, but the store doesn't throw it away. Instead, they roll it up and put it on the remnant table at a reduced price. Someone comes along who can see some potential in such a small piece at a cheap price, and she rescues it and puts it to use.
Recall that a few weeks ago, I told you that the difference between regular prophecy and Messianic prophecy is about like this:
- Regular: "Repent, you miserable sinners, while you've still got time to be saved!"
- Messianic: "It's too late, you miserable sinners! You and your nation are doomed. But God will rescue some of your distant descendants and build Himself a new nation."
Even coupled with the grim reality of personal loss, this was a thrilling promise for people whose only idea of immortality was in the existence of their descendants. Thus we have the thread of Messianic prophecy that is usually called "the return of the Remnant."
The birth of a new era,
Isaiah 32:1-5, 16-20; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Joel 2:28; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Zechariah 14:9
The old Abrahamic Covenant didn't work out, because people kept breaking it. The old earthly kingdom of Israel didn't work out, because the kings and the people kept abandoning God. Thus there arose a thread of Messianic prophecy that promised the enactment of a new covenant, written on the hearts of God's people. Under this new covenant, the people will be faithful to God, their King, and He will continue to be faithful to them (as He always has been).
Jesus said, "This is my blood of the new covenant that is being poured out for many people for the forgiveness of sins." Shortly thereafter, at Pentecost, it was fulfilled that, "Afterward I will pour out my Spirit on everyone: your sons and daughters will proclaim my message; your old people will have dreams, and your young people will see visions." Much of the rest of the new era is yet to come.
The restoration of paradise,
Isaiah 11:6-9, 35:1-7, 41:18-20, 60:18; Ezekiel 34:25-31, 36:35; Micah 4:3-4; Hosea 14:5-7; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13-15
Have you ever been to Butchart Gardens in British Columbia? I've been there only once, many years ago. But you know what? Whenever I see a picture of the Gardens—no matter who took the picture or what time of year, I immediately recognize it. It must be the loveliest garden on God's green earth. And another thing about that garden is, I didn't lift a finger to till the soil, plant the flowers, or mow the lawn.
Paradise will be like that. You will not be saying, "Hmm, nice place. Where am I?" You will be saying, "Paradise! Just like I remember it!" A consistent message of Messianic prophecy is that God will restore the universe to the way it was in Eden. The St. John's Chancel Choir will be singing, but they will never need to rehearse. There will be peace, not war; harmony, not danger; plenty, not want; and a beautiful garden. And the LORD will do all the work.
Jesus began the restoration of Paradise during his earthly ministry by opening the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, and the tongues of the mute; by making the lame walk; and by giving his disciples His peace.
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