of the Jew
Mr. Leslie S. Rainey, the editor’s uncle, presently serves the Lord in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa.
In the heart of the Hebrew people there is a glowing hope of the manifestation of her Deliverer and Messiah. In every crisis individually and nationally that the nation has faced over the centuries, the conviction of the Messianic expectation has brought comfort and consolation. How often I have listened to bearded, pious Jews recite in a synagogue, “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah; even though He tarry, yet I will wait for Him every coming day.”
The Bible reveals that Christ was of “the seed of Abraham” and He was reared in a pious Jewish home. Even though the average Jew does not believe in our Lord as the Messiah of Israel, he unconsciously witnesses to the reality of His Jewishness, and this we evidenced the longer we lived and laboured among the Jews in their own land. Again and again, it was brought home to our own heart in mingling with Jews from all over the world that they in some small measure attest to the humanity of Jesus Christ as a Jew. The life of Christ in its entirety was according to the Jewish pattern. At His death He was buried in the Jewish manner, and in His resurrection His Jewishness helped to identify Him as the fulfiller of the Old Testament Scriptures. A distinctive feature of His training was the consistent habit of attending the synagogue. The modern orthodox service of our times differs little from the liturgy of the synagogue at Nazareth. After one has attended several synagogue services, it is easy to picture our Lord being handed the scroll by the leader, and appointed to read from the prophecy of Isaiah. In that despised town of destiny called Nazareth, Christ declared His Messiahship. Turning to the same prophet we have a crystal clear portrait of what would happen to the Messiah of the Jews 700 years before His advent.
The Announcement (v. 1)
“Who would have believed our report?” This is the great question asked by the prophet representatively for the remnant of His people. The answer is obvious. It conveys the attitude of the Jewish nation to their Messiah, one of apathy, animosity and deliberate aversion till this hour. The implication is that few have believed. The announcement or report is the salvation of Messiah, which few of the nation received at Christ’s first coming. These words tell the blindness and deafness of God’s ancient people through the centuries (Isa. 6; Rom. 10:6, 17; John 12:38). The substance of the preaching they had not believed was the exaltation of God’s servant from a state of deep degradation. This is a work performed by the arm of Jehovah, the power of God through the Messiah. The picture is self-evident to one living in the East. The long flowing garment of the Jew is thrown back, exposing the arm for the carrying out of an important work. The mightiest manifestation of God’s power is in weakness (Isa. 52:10). The arm of Jehovah is in reference to His salvation, strength and sovereignty. The three great demonstrations of His power are Egypt, the Resurrection, and the Regathering of Israel (Num. 13:26; Luke 2:11; Acts 28:26).
The Appearing (v. 2)
These words bring before us the person of the Messiah and the attitude of the nation. Israel was not looking for a “tender plant” or a “root out of a dry ground” but for a mighty despot who would break the yoke of Roman power. Christ is seen in His lowly beginning.
1. His origin. The Davidic dust at that time was as dry as the sun-baked plains of Texas in summer heat, till the Root of endless life sprang forth. Says Dr. W. P. Paterson. “The condition of the Jews at the birth of Christ may be summarily described as marked by political impotence and religious decadence.” To the nation Christ was “as a root out of dry ground.” What is as uninteresting and unattractive as a dying root?
2. His growth. He drew strength from the root of the stump, and grew up before the face of God (John 1:1). The eternal Word was always face to face with God. Though unobserved by man, God took knowledge of Him. In Christ was seen the silent law of growth (Luke 2:40).
3. His protection. Christ was ever before the all-seeing eye of God. Though men sought to destroy Him, He was preserved until His work was finished. He was hidden in the hollow of God’s hand, a polished and protected shaft in the quiver of the Eternal.
4. His attractiveness. He was seen in the eyes of Israel as a root out of dry ground, but in the eyes of God as a sucker, or tender plant. Whilst the figure reveals His lowly character, it also tells out His liveliness. What is as attractive as a “tender plant,” whether in the home, the garden, or along the way? Christ was the altogether lovely One, and to possess Him we have all —without Him we have nothing. Israel was not interested, or looking for beauty of holiness, and they saw Him only as a peasant and as a carpenter’s son. They wanted then, even as today, a mighty general to lead them in top victory and earthly greatness. One who was able and willing to save them from their sins was unwelcome, unappreciated and unwanted.
The Animosity (v. 3)
Because the nation visualized the sufferings of Christ, they could not understand Him, and so despised Him. Leaders and common people hid their faces from Him as if He were a leper. He repelled them —four words bring this out:
1. Despised by men.
2. Forsaken by men.
3. Spurned by men.
4. Esteemed at nought by men.
The first word “despised” is vividly expressed in Psalm 22:7; Luke 19:14. He was “forsaken,” walking in loneliness during His life, and died abandoned by His closest friends. The word for “men” refers to the lords or the greats of the day and in contrast with people in general or common people. The coming of Christ into the world was without fanfare or trumpets and noise but joyfully told abroad by the lowly shepherds. Imperial Rome had no place for God’s Son and in the silence of the night was the advent of the Heir of the throne of David. The designation as the “man of sorrows” is fully told in the Gospel of Luke. He knew sorrow of heart in all its forms — a man whose chief distinction was of painful endurance. He suffered from the misunderstanding of His disciples, from the malice of His enemies, from the rejection of His people, from the ills and woes of a Satan-usurped country. To be acquainted with grief is to be one among the sick and thus become an expert in such. In His day the people’s actual estimate of Him was thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. How blessed to behold the estimate of God the Father concerning the Lord Jesus, “Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).
The present generation of Jews, especially the modern Israeli, has little time or thought for the Holy One of Israel and the gross unbelief of the nation makes us wonder when Israel will take up the language of Isaiah 53, and recognize the Lord Jesus Christ, their own Messiah. In spite of the present day blindness, bias and bigotry of the nation of Israel against the Person of Christ there is the dawn of a new day in Messianic expectations in the birth of the New State and their return to rebuild the Fatherland of the Jew. Now as never before the eyes of the world are upon the Star of David and all it symbolizes in Jerusalem. Oh the glory and greatness of that time when God in Christ shall be enthroned and the words of Gabriel wondrously realized: “And He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32, 33).
He who spoke and wrote this message will be greatly disappointed if it does not lead many to the Lord Jesus. It is sent forth in childlike dependence upon the power of God the Holy Ghost, to use it in the conversion of millions, if He so pleases.
No doubt many poor men and women will take up this little volume, and the Lord will visit them with grace. To answer this end, very plain language has been chosen, and many homely expressions have been used.
But if those of wealth and rank should glance at this book, the Holy Ghost can impress them also; since that which can be understood by the unlettered is none the less attractive to the instructed. Oh, that some might read it who will become great winners of souls!
Who knows how many will find their way to peace by what they read here? A more important question to you, dear reader, is this — Will you be one of them?