The predictions contained in the Old Testament respecting both the family out of which the Messiah was to rise, and the place of His birth, are equally applicable to Christ, as those which refer to the time of His appearance. But the facts of His life, and the features of His Character, are also drawn with a precision that cannot be misunderstood. The obscurity, the meanness, and the poverty of His external conditions are represented as follows:—He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. Thus saith the Lord,—to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nations abhoreth, to a servant of rulers, kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship” (Isa. 53; 49:7). That such was the condition in which Christ appeared, the whole history of His life abundantly testifies. And the Jews looking in the pride of their heart for an earthly king, disregarded these prophecies regarding Him, were deceived by their traditions, and found only a stone of stumbling, where, if they had searched the Scripture^ aright, they would have discovered an evidence of the Messiah. “Is not this the carpenter’s son; is not this the son of Mary? said they, and they were offended at him.” His riding in triumph into Jerusalem; His being betrayed by thirty pieces of silver, and scourged and buffeted, and spit upon; the piercing of His hands and of His feet; the last offered draught of vinegar and gall; the parting of His raiment, the easting of lots upon His vesture; the manner of his death and of His burial, and His rising again without seeing corruption,—were all expressly predicted, and all these predictions were literally fulfilled. If all these prophecies admit of any application to the events of the life of any individual, it can only be to that of Christ. And what other religion can produce a single fact which was actually foretold of its founder?
Though the personal appearance or earthly condition of the Messiah, was represented by the prophets in Israel, so as to bespeak no grandeur, His personal character is described as of a higher order than that of the sons of men. “Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips (Ps. 45:2). He hath done no violence, neither was there any deceit in His mouth (Isa. 40:11). The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord (Isa. 11:2). The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary (Isa. 50:4). He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather His lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom (Isa. 40:11). A bruised reed He shall not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench (Isa. 40:3). Behold, the king com- eth unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, riding upon an ass (Zech. 9:11). He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth (Isa. 53:7). I gave my hack to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid my face from shame and spitting (Isa. 50:6). The Lord God hath opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; neither turned away back. The Lord will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed (Isa. 1:5, 6).”
How many virtues are thus represented in the prophecies as characteristic of the Messiah; and how applicable they all are to Christ alone, and how clearly embodied in His nature. His wisdom and knowledge, His speaking as man never spoke, the general meekness of His manner, His perfect righteousness, and sinless purity, his kindness and compassion, His genuine humility, His greatness, His unconquerable courage, His firm resolution, His more than human forbearance, his perfect trust in God, His complete resignation to His will, His righteous wrath and holy indignation,—are all portrayed in the liveliest terms; and among all who ever breathed the breath of life, they can be applied to Christ alone.
“If I do not the works of my Father believe me not,—search the Scriptures for these are they that testify of me.” They did testify of the coming of a Messiah and of the perfection of His nature. And if the life of Jesus was wonderful of itself, how miraculous it appears, when all His actions fulfil the prediction of the Christ.
In describing the blessings of the reign of the Messiah, the prophet Isaiah foretold the greatness of His deeds:—“The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped: then shall the lame man leap as a heart, and the tongue of the dumb sing (Isa. 35:3, 6). The history of Christ shows how much such acts of mercy formed the frequent exercise of His power: at His word, the blind received their sight, the lame walked, the deaf heard, and the dumb spake.
The death of Christ was as unparalleled as His life; and the prophecies are as minutely descriptive of His sufferings as of His virtues. Not only did the paschal lamb which was to be killed every year in all the families of Israel—which was to be taken out of the flock to be without blemish—to be eaten with bitter herbs, to have its blood sprinkled, and to be kept whole that not a bone of it should be broken; not only did the offering up of Isaac, and the lifting up of the brazen serpent in the wilderness, by looking upon which the people were healed,—prefigure the manner of Christ’s death, and the sacrifice which was to be made for sin; but many express declarations abound in the prophecies, that Christ was indeed to suffer. Exclusive of the repeated declarations in the Psalms, of afflictions which apply literally to Him, and are interwoven with references to Christ’s kingdom, the prophet Daniel,, in limiting the time of His coming, directly affirms that the Messiah was to be cut off; and in the same manifest reference, Zechariah uses these emphatic words: “Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts: smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered. I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him (Zech. 13:7; 12:10).
But Isaiah, who described the glory of the kingdom to come, characterizes with the accuracy of a historian, the humiliation, the trials and the agonies which were to precede the triumphs of the Redeemer of the world; and the history of Christ forms, to the very letter, the completion of His every prediction. In a single passage, the sufferings of the servant of God are so minutely foretold, that no illustration is needed to show that they testify of Christ.
“He is despised and rejected of men. He came unto His own, and his own received him not; he had not where to lay his head; they derided him.”
“A mam, of sorrow and acquainted with grief.” Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus; He mourned over Jerusalem; he felt the ingratitude and the cruelty of men; He bore the contradiction of sinners against Himself: and these are expressions of sorrow which proceeded from His own mouth, “Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; but for this end came I into the world. My God!, my God!, why hast thou forsaken me?”
“We hid, as it were, our faces from him, he was despised, and toe esteemed him not.” All his disciples forsook Him and fled. Not this man but Barabbas; now Barabbas was a robber. The soldiers mocked Him, and bowed the knee before Him in derision.”
The list of His suffering is continued in the words of the prophecy: We did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. He was wounded, he was oppressed, he was afflicted, he was brought as a lamb to the slaughter. He was taken away by distress and by judgment. He was cut off of the land of the living.” He was crucified in the flower of His age. His grave was appointed with the wicked, and with the rich in his death. His grave was doubtless appointed with the wicked, or the two thieves with whom He was crucified, but Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, went and begged the body of Jesus and laid it in his own tomb. He was numbered with the transgressors. Barabbas was preferred before Him. He was crucified between two thieves; and the Jews said unto Pilate, “If he was not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.” His visage was so marred, more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men,—without any direct allusion made to it, but in literal fulfillment of the prophecy—the bloody sweat, the traces of the crown of thorns, His having been spitted on, and smitten on the head, disfigured the face; while the scourge, the nails in His hands and in His feet, and the spear that pierced His side, marred the form of Jesus more than that of the sons of men.
That the description of the Messiah’s sufferings might not admit of any ambiguity, the dignity of His person, the unbelief of the Jews, the innocence of the sufferer, the cause of His sufferings, and His subsequent exaltation, are all particularly marked and are equally applicable to the doctrine of the gospel. He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up as a tender plant, etc. The mean, external condition of Christ is here assigned as the reason of the unbelief of the Jews, and it was the very reason which they themselves assigned. He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. “His own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead unto sin, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes we are healed.” All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all. “All flesh have sinned; ye were as sheep gone astray, but ye are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” He hath done no violence; neither was there any deceit in His mouth; Thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin. “God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.”
The whole of this prophecy thus refers to the Messiah. It describes both His debasement and His dignity, His rejection by the Jews, His humility, His affliction, and His agony, His love, how His words were disbelieved, how His state was lowly, hqw His sorrow was severe, how He opened not His mouth but to make intercession for the transgressors. It presents spotless innocence, suffering by appointment of God, death as the issue of perfect obedience, His righteous servant as forsaken by God, and one who Himself was without sin, bearing the chastisement of many guilty.