The Only Hope is Israel’s Hope.
Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
As we move into the storyline of Jesus and His friends, the New Testament, we must establish the aspirations and desires of the Jewish people of the 1st Century. What did people want to witness happening in their lifetime?
It should not surprise us that the Jewish people living in Judea under Greek occupation were very diverse in their desires. Some embraced the changes experienced affecting economics, politics, and religious beliefs. Motivations varied. Others were in opposition to outside influences to outside Greek interference in Jewish life, some violently so.
Some, but not many, were like the sons of Issachar. They looked at what was happening and understood the implications of current events on the long-term plan of God. God created Israel to be a “light to the nations.” While not previously successful as a nation among nations, the “remnant” of Israel knew something was about to change.
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? – Romans 3:1-3
As the Silent Years progressed from Malachi to Matthew, some members of the Jewish community within Judea knew something spectacular was about to happen. Elizabeth, Zacharias, Mary, Joseph, the Bethlehem shepherds, Anna, and Simeon. All of these belonged to a subset of the Jewish people known as the “remnant.” The remnant of Israel in the period preceding Yeshua’s birth knew what the Hebrew Bible said concerning the arrival of the expected arrival of the Son of David.
Think about it. The first prophecy concerning Messiah’s birth is found in Genesis 3:15.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.
Progressively, moving from Genesis to Malachi, prophecy after prophecy is added to the resume of the future Son of David. Before He was born! Detail after detail, with ever-increasing specificity, led to an angelic pronouncement 4,000 years after it all began in the Garden of Eden.
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10-11
By committing the Scriptures to memory and meditating on them day and night, God revealed the approximate timing of Jesus’ miraculous birth to the remnant. While not all Israel accepted Him, the remnant knew who to look for, how He would arrive, and believed in Him when He appeared. The remnant hoped for that which they had not yet seen.
It has now been 2,000 years since Jesus returned to heaven with a promise, “I will return for you.” The Hebrew Bible and the New Testament contain details of Jesus’ Second Coming. Like many within Israel in the time of Jesus, many today don’t know the Scriptures and what God reveals concerning what is happening in the world right now. Moreover, they are so consumed with “me-ism” they never consider that God has an overall plan for history that extends beyond personal cares and concerns.
Today, people are not much different than those who missed Jesus’s first appearance. Most have no hope. Take a look around. Rumors of war, runaway inflation, racial tension, COVID. It seems as if everywhere we look, hopelessness abounds.
Christian, will you be a hope extender to those around you?
New Testament Lessons
Read Isaiah 53:1-12,
- Idolatry, serving pagan gods, had previously led to God removing His protection of the Chosen People. Foreign invaders (Assyria, Babylon, Persia) enslaved and exiled them from their Promised Land. Eventually, many returned just as Jeremiah had prophesied.
- Although they were back in their land, the Jewish people never gave up hope for freedom and self-rule during the period of Greek occupation.
- Led by Judah Maccabee, Israel became united and freed herself of Greek rule. Israel remained an independent nation for about 100 years.
- The kipa is a small round cap worn by Jewish men during synagogue services. It symbolizes submission to the God of Israel, the hope of the Jewish people.
- Make a short list of Old Testament prophecies about the birth, life, and death of Jesus. Memorize a few of the verses and think about how to use them in conversations with others.
- Israel hoped for Messiah’s first appearing. The Church looks forward to His second appearing.
- How does knowledge of the prophetic passages equip believers of Jesus to offer hope in these chaotic times?
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