Before we move forward today, I want to make it clear that the material that is being presented in this particular discussion springs from two important books. They are Messianic Christology written by Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum and The Messianic Hope written by Dr. Michael Rydelnik. It is not my intent to present myself as a trained Bible scholar. It is my purpose to point you in the direction of doctrinally sound Bible instruction, and to demonstrate that you can also develop an authoritative voice in these important subjects for the purpose of your own disciple making activity.
In the last several editions we have been discussing the second of the four things disciples in the time of Jesus did when following a rabbi. They adopted his interpretation of Scripture. If the disciples adopted Jesus’ interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament writings reflect their understanding of His teaching, reinforced by the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
What Did Jesus Teach?
What the Apostles believed and did sprang directly from Jesus’ personal instruction. The disciples that Jesus taught did not have the freedom to develop their own theology! Why is this important? Two thousand years later, the doctrinal divisions within the Body of Messiah get in the way of our ministry together of advancing the Great Commission. Our common enemy, Satan, uses our doctrinal disputing in his seductive effort to disrupt our mission, discredit our faith, and dethrone our Savior.
Following His resurrection, in at least two appearances, Yeshua taught His followers the meaning of all of the Old Testament prophecies concerning His first and second coming. As we covered in “Putting the Pieces Together”, Matthew 2 records the four ways the fulfillment of messianic prophecy from the Tenak is dealt with in the New Testament.
The first is direct fulfillment. Micah 5:2 states: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”
King Herod asked the chief priests and the scribes a direct question in response to the arrival of the wise men from the East in their quest to find the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2-6). They replied with a quotation of Micah 5:2. Simply stated, there was a literal prediction followed by a literal direct fulfillment. Yeshua is the eternally existing second person of the Godhead, who stepped out of eternity past and into the present. Where did that occur? Bethlehem!
The second way that Matthew interpreted the fulfillment of messianic prophecy is typical fulfillment. In The Messianic Hope, Rydelik quotes R.T. France concerning a definition of typology as “the recognition of a correspondence between Old and New Testaments, based on a conviction of the unchanging character of the principles of God’s working.” Matthew 2:15 demonstrates Matthew’s example in the use of typology. “He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son.’” Following the angel’s warning of Herod’s coming despotic slaughter of the Bethlehem’s male children, Joseph took his young family south into Egypt. God provided some of the resources for their exile in the gifts the wise men brought in worship. Following Herod’s death the family returned home.
Here is Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.” Think about it. There are many parallels between Israel and His only begotten Son – Yeshua. Both fled to Egypt under threatening circumstances. Both experienced God’s miraculous provision while in Egypt. Both returned to the Promised Land to fulfill God’s purposes. At the time of Hosea’s writing, he clearly was looking back in time to Israel exodus. However, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Matthew looked at Hosea’s work and was led to consider Balaam’s prophecies in Numbers 23 & 24 (pay particular attention to 24:7-9) as well. Matthew saw the typology of Israel’s exodus, wilderness wandering, and eventual conquest of Canaan in the light of the correspondence to Joseph’s family flight and return. It makes perfect sense for Matthew to see Israel’s calling out of Egypt in light of God’s further inspiration and enlightenment to use Israel as a type in his gospel account to validate Messiah’s identity.
In Matthew 2:16-18 we see the third way the New Testament interprets the Tenak concerning messianic prophecy. Matthew’s use of Jeremiah 31:15 can be identified as applicational fulfillment. The prophet Jeremiah, speaking of Jewish mothers in Jeremiah 31:15 said: “Thus says the Lord, ‘a voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” By the time Babylon took Judah and Benjamin captive, Rachel had been dead for a long time. Her name was used symbolically as the matriarchal figure of all Israel. In her position as the grandmother of Jacob’s twelve sons, she was used by Jeremiah to mourn the loss of the mothers whose sons were killed and captured by Nebuchadnezer’s army. Stripped from their arms, their cries of grief reached to heaven. So it was for the mothers of Bethlehem whose sons were killed by the soldiers of Herod, the despotic ruler of might, only to be eclipsed by the baby who is the eternal King of Right.
Last of all there is summary fulfillment. Hard as you may look, you cannot find a single prophecy that comes anywhere near saying that Yeshua would be “called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:19-23).” In the time of Jesus, Nazareth was a little like Podunk, USA. As a backwater village located in the Galilee, Nazareth was never mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament. The people of Nazareth were the object of derision and jokes as evidenced by Nathanael’s response to Philip’s identification of Jesus of Nazareth as the One they had been waiting for. Matthew used Jesus’ designation as a Nazarene as a summary statement for what Moses and all the prophets taught concerning Messiah at His first coming, that He would be despised and rejected.
Before we close this subject, let me address a question some of you may have. Why didn’t Matthew just tell his readers how he was using the Old Testament in his account of Yeshua’s life and ministry? The answer is really very simple, his initial readers were all Jews. They were already familiar with how the Tenak was used by the rabbis of their day. They didn’t need an explanation.
This represents just one of the reasons it is so important for Gentile believers in Jesus to make an honest effort to learn to see the Bible through the lens of Jewish history, culture, and geography. Failure to have a balanced approach to reading, interpreting, and applying the Scriptures is the major contributing factor to the Church’s doctrinal dysfunction discussed in the third paragraph of this blog.
What You Can Do
Let me challenge you with something practical that you can do with what you may have learned today.
• Buy one of the books I credited at the top of this entry and read it, and study the Scriptures presented.
• Start talking about what you learn with others.
• Prepare a brief lesson on the four ways Matthew demonstrated the use of Old Testament prophecy in his gospel account.
• Pray for God to provide an opportunity to teach your lesson to someone during the coming Christmas season.
Maybe some of you will have other actionable suggestions on how to use what we have learned. Feel free to share those below.
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