The Validity Of The Bible In An Age Of Skepticism – Part 7

You know, in the Old Testament in the book of Amos in Chapter 4, verse 13, we are told that God declared unto mankind His thoughts and these thoughts had been brought into our reach because they had been put into words. You see, human speech that can be clearly understood, documented through the written word, is the model that God has chosen to reveal Himself to us down through the ages. In fact, back in the Old Testament, we are told how this has come into being, how this has happened. In the opening sentences of Jeremiah’s first chapter, it throws, I think, really good light on Christian revelation. They both state that these are words of Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 1:1, and that the Word of the Lord came to him in Jeremiah 1:2. And as John Stott says, “So Scripture is neither the Word of God only nor the words of men only, but the Word of God through the words of men,” and Stott goes on to say, “This is the double authorship of scripture to which we need to hold fast.” As Peter himself described it, he said, “God’s word is not an act of human will but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” So biblical truth is inspired truth. Listen to this, now this is also very crucial to recognize, it’s also eyewitness truth. You see this in both the Old and the New Testaments. As Peter, making reference to the Transfiguration, says, “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” And the apostles who authored and approved the New Testament books were eyewitnesses of the Risen Christ. In fact, that was required to be an apostle, and, again as John Stott says, this eyewitness principle lies behind all scripture, for God raised up witnesses to record and interpret what He was doing in Israel. So with that being said, and this is the question I get a lot of, how was it determined which of the inspired books should be included in the Bible that we have today? This process of determining which books are chosen is called canonization and the word canon as applied to the Bible means an officially accepted list of books. Now it struck me late yesterday afternoon that this might come up and I have not done all the research on this that I probably would like, but, we probably have some Catholics maybe in the room, or Catholic backgrounds, and you know, you have the Catholic Bible and you have the Protestant Bible and people say, well what is the difference. Well, the main difference is this, in the Old Testament; the Catholic Bible has six books that the Protestant Old Testament doesn’t have. Interestingly, though, the Protestant Old Testament conforms exactly to the Jewish Bible, the Jewish Old Testament, what the Jewish people call the Tanakh. The books of the Old Testament in the Protestant Bible and the Tanakh are the same. The Catholics have six additional books and I don’t know what they are, I mean I know the names of them, but I’m not sure why they’re there. I need to do a little research. But what’s interesting and important to know that the New Testament, the Catholic Bible and the Protestant Bible are in just perfect conformity. In fact, I haven’t read all of it, but in reading, I did some comparison, and it’s amazing how the Catholic Bible and the New Testament, the New American Standard Bible, which is what I use, are almost the same. Now, with that being said, the Old Testament that you find in your Protestant Bible today is the Hebrew Bible which the church inherited from the Jews, called the Tanakh. I have a copy of it in my office and the Hebrew Bible was divided, and so our Bible today is divided into three sections. They call it the law, number two, the prophets, and number three, the writings, and each of these sections covers one of three successive periods of history. Now, one of the things you’ll notice in the early books of the Old Testament, now listen, I found to be pretty fascinating, it had been recognized from ancient times that if God’s revelation is to be preserved, it had to be written down. For instance, in Exodus 17:14, after Israel led by Joshua had defeated one of their enemies, and where God had clearly intervened to help them, God said to Moses, listen to this, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered.” In Deuteronomy 31:24, God speaks to Moses and tells him to write in a book the “words of my law”, and then listen to what God says to Isaiah. “Now go write it on a tablet before them, and inscribe it on a scroll that it may serve in the time to come as a witness forever.” You see, guys, it becomes clear that God wanted certain historical events and certain spiritual truth written down and documented for the benefit of future generations. Like us. It was His revelation – what He wanted recorded and these words were the basis of the covenant relationship between God and His people. And what you see over time, is you see Moses and Joshua, add God’s writings to this book of the covenant. And then most scholars believe that the final touch in the Old Testament and in Malachi, was in 165 B.C. by Judas Maccabeus, and it was closed to further edition until obviously the coming of the New Covenant with the coming of Christ. This was the canon. This was the officially accepted list of books, accepted by the Jewish leaders and the Jewish nation. Now this is where it gets interesting guys. And when Jesus enters the world and you read about Him in the four gospels, you see Him butt heads and have real conflict with the Jewish leaders, with the Pharisees. But what you don’t see any record of any dispute between Jesus and Jesus’ apostles over the books and the words contained in the Old Testament. You don’t see Jesus come along and say, “Now this right here in the Old Testament is in error, we need to take…” you don’t see any of that. You see Him confirm the Old Testament as God’s word. And the Old Testament canon, which was accepted by the early church, was identical to the list of books accepted by the Jewish people. Roger Beckwith, an Old Testament scholar, who’s written several books on the Old Testament canon, says, “Sound historical studies show, therefore, that the Hebrew Old Testament, contains the true canon of the Old Testament shared by Jesus and the apostles with first century Judaism. No books are left out that should be included and none are included that should be left out.” Well, what about the New Testament? What about the New Testament canon? Well, if you look at Luke 24:48, John 15:27, and Acts 1:8, you see Jesus make it very clear that His apostles were designated witnesses and spokesmen out in the world after He was gone. They were special men, and they had a special appointment, and you will notice in the four gospels, I think this is pretty important, that the 12, the 12 are referred to as His disciples. And the word disciple means, “a learner”. In other words, what you had were these 12 men, and they were learning, they were being equipped. I mean, they were fishermen, they were tax collectors, and He was pouring His life into them, teaching them, instructing them, they were learners, but later, Jesus appoints them as apostles, and then, of course, after Jesus’ death, if you will remember, Judas kills himself and is replaced by Matthias. And then you have Saul of Tarsus who also is appointed as an apostle. He becomes the apostle Paul and is clearly recognized by all the other apostles as being one of them. They approved it. And this is what’s so important, the word apostle means something completely different, it means a messenger. An emissary, a representative. You see, they started out as students, as disciples, and then, He gave them the authority to be His representatives, His apostles out in the world. And He gave them a unique authority in the Church. And this authority, an apostleship, was not passed down. And so what you see, is that these apostles became agents of God’s revelation of the truths that would become the Christian source of faith and life – the New Testament. And having been commissioned by Jesus, one of their primary assignments was clearly seen in John 14:26 and John 16:13-14. These are Jesus’ words, He says, “The Holy Spirit is going to come when I leave and it’s to your benefit. Because the Holy Spirit is going to lead you into all truth, and will bring to remembrance all that you have seen and heard in my life.” Those were Jesus’ words. And so, over time, the apostolic teaching became the written words, which formed the books we now call the New Testament. Though, back then, that’s not what they called them. And so, what you see is from early Church history, you can see this pervasive recognition that the written word of the apostles was given full authority. For instance, in I Peter 3:15-16, you see Peter make reference to some of Paul’s letters that were already known and regarded as Holy Scripture. You know, like the book of Galatians or Ephesians. Many, you know, Paul had many letters in the New Testament. Then the early church father, Clement of Rome, a very distinguished, and very important church father, he died in 96 A.D., said, “The apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. So then, Christ is from God, and the apostles are from Christ. Both, therefore, came of the will of God in good order.” And then, you see him cite verses in his writings. He cites from all gospels, the books of Acts, Romans, I Corinthians, Ephesians, Titus, Hebrews, and I Peter. And then the great philosopher who I’ve quoted in some of our previous sessions, Justin Martyr, he was born in 65 A.D. and he died in 110 A.D. He would quote often from the gospels, beginning his citations with these important words, “It is written”, and when he said that, he was saying they recognized their scriptural authority. And what’s the point I’m making guys is that you see in that first century, the church, the church fathers, regarded as the gospels, and Paul’s letters and Peter’s letters, as authoritative scripture. And what you see is that at the end of the second century, you have this core collection of New Testament books that the Church regarded as scriptural authority. And it was 21 of the 27 books that are in the New Testament today. Now it’s important to know this, I’ll point this out, three of the books, three of the very important books, Mark and Luke and Acts, were not written by an apostle, but they were written by two men, Mark and Luke, who were very close to two of the apostles, and therefore their work was approved. It’s like they worked side by side. Mark with Peter, and Luke with Paul. In fact, Luke went with Paul as an eyewitness on the missionary journeys you read about in the book of Acts, the last books of Acts. And so basically, their work was approved by the apostles. Now for a number of years, and this is important to note, there were questions about the books of James, II Peter, II and III John, Jude, and Revelation. I mean today, I have people who’ll say, I don’t know why Revelations is in there. I’ll say, well, God obviously wanted it in there. But Dr. Bruce Metzger of Princeton says of this, he says, “This indicates how very careful the early church fathers were in accepting a book into the New Testament canon.” He says, “It showed real deliberation and careful analysis during this process.” And so, for many years, you had the undisputed books of the New Testament, and then you had a couple of disputed books, until the third century, when they had three separate Synods, which were like big conferences where key church leaders finally under the leadership of Augustine, agreed with the 27 books of the New Testament that we have today. And what they concluded were that those other six books were authentic and contained apostolic authority and therefore should be included. Now you need to know this, in the process, they excluded all kinds of books that I think people probably wanted in there. But they were very selective, and what they really wanted to focus in on was which of these books are truly apostolic. Have that apostolic authority. That is what is so critical and that’s what’s included, and that’s what we study today. As Charles Hill says, “The New Testament record remains as the permanent documentary expression of God’s new covenant. It may be said that only the 27 books of the New Testament manifest themselves as belonging to that”, now listen to this, “original foundational apostolic witness. They have demonstrated themselves to be the Word of God to the universal church throughout the generations.” Now, we’ve got about 23 minutes left and I want to share with you something that I think, it’s really powerful. If you’re not that familiar with it, some of you may be, some of you may not, but I, in my readings, what I’m finding for so many people, it provides the greatest evidence for the validity of the Bible. And let me start, I’m going to start with one verse out of the book of Matthew, it’s chapter five, verse 17. I want you to think about this as I read it as it relates to what we’ve already discussed this morning. These are Jesus’ words. He says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Old Testament law or the Words of the Prophets.” He said, “I didn’t come to abolish but to fulfill.” Interesting. Fulfill. What did He mean by fulfill? Basically, what Jesus was saying is that I didn’t come to get rid of the Old Testament or to change it or abolish it. He said as the Messiah, I came to fulfill it. You know, the Old Testament, and if you will remember, which we mentioned in the first session we met, was written over a thousand-year period. And in that Old Testament record, it contains numerous references to a coming Messiah. A deliverer. The problem is, the Jewish people saw him as being one who would deliver them from the Romans when, in reality, what you see is he came to deliver them from their sinfulness. And all these Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, you see fulfilled in Jesus. Now when you say, now what is this prophecy you’re talking about? Well, God gives us a great definition in the book of Isaiah the 46th chapter. He says, “Remember the former things long past for I am God and there is no other. I am God and there’s no one like me.” Listen to this, He says, “Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying my purpose will be established and I will accomplish all my good pleasure. Calling a bird of prey from the East, the man of my purpose from a far country, truly I have spoken, truly I will bring it to pass, I have planned it, surely I will do it.” You see what He’s saying, He’s telling us from the very beginning of time, I’m going to tell you what’s going to play out in the future. I’m letting you know, I’m letting you in on what is going to happen. And then He says, look for it. This is what I’ve planned, surely I will do it. And one of the things He says, and you’ll see, He says, look for the coming of the Messiah. Look for the coming of the Messiah, of God’s Messiah. In a minute, I’m going to show you some of these Messianic prophecies concerning the Jewish Messiah, but what you, the first time you see or they see Jesus revealing to the people who He really is. You know, for all of these years, we assume He was just a carpenter with his Dad. But you see this in the early chapters of Luke, chapter 4, verse 14. He says Jesus returned to Galilee, the region of Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him began to spread throughout the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised Him. And this is crucial. He then went to Nazareth. He went back to his home where you’d think they’d know who He is, where He’d been brought up. And on the Sabbath Day, He went into the synagogue, as was His custom, and He stood up, and they would do this, they would have people in the synagogue stand up and read some of the Old Testament scripture. He stood up to read and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, it was in Isaiah 61, was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written, the spirit of the Lord is on me because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. This is a Messianic prophecy. Then He rolled up the scroll, He gave it back to the attendant, and He sat down. And it says, the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him. He then said to them, today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Think of how they looked at Him. And then, this is what it says, they turned to each other and said, isn’t that Joseph’s son that said that? I find that interesting. It’s kinda like they weren’t even sure who He was. He lived there all of his life, which tells me He was very humble, He was not in the forefront, He kind of lived in the shadows. Probably just did his carpentry work. And all of a sudden, Joseph’s son is declaring that He is the Messiah. And it enraged them and they ran Him out of His hometown. They ran Him out of town. But that was the first time He declares to the people, this is who I am.  You see, the heart of the New Testament teaching is that Jesus is the Messiah whose coming had been foretold for centuries. Listen to these opening lines in Paul’s letter to the Romans. He says, “Paul, a bondservant of Christ, called as an apostle,” there’s that word apostle, “set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand. He promised beforehand through his prophets and the Holy Scriptures, concerning his son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh.” And then Jesus, in Luke 24, He’s risen from the dead, and He’s giving kind of His marching orders to His men, His last orders before He leaves them, and in verse 44, listen to what He says to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you that all things which are written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” And then it says hHe opened their minds to finally really understand the scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus, it is written that the Christ will suffer and rise again from the dead the third day,” and then He says this. Guys, “You are witnesses of these things.” And what’s interesting is you read through the book of Acts, and this is really important, you see the apostle Paul on several occasions, Acts 17, Acts 18 and Acts 19. He would go into a new city and the first thing he’d do, he’d beeline straight to their synagogues while the Jewish people worshipped. And it says, and this is the language, “He would reason with them from the scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah.” And the evidence that he presented to the world was powerful because the evidence was two-fold. One, the resurrection. But number two, the fact that Jesus fulfilled all the Messianic prophecies and he could point out the verses in their scriptures. And this is why, guys, that the early church exploded. Because their message was so powerful and that same message is still powerful today. Philip Yancey says that for centuries the phrase, “as predicted by the prophets” was one of the most powerful influences on people coming to faith. Justin Martyr, who I mentioned a minute ago, the well-known teacher and philosopher, who lived just after Jesus, credits his conversion to Christianity on the impression made on him by the Old Testament’s predictive accuracy. And then the brilliant French mathematician Blaise Pascal said that the fulfilled Messianic prophecies played a major role in his coming to faith. These were words he uttered 350 years ago, he says, “If a single man had written a book foretelling the time and manner of Jesus’ coming, and Jesus had come in conformity with these prophecies, this would carry infinite weight.” He says, “But there’s much more here. There’s a succession of men, over a period of 4,000 years, coming consistently and invariably, one after the other, to foretell the same coming. There is an entire people proclaiming it, existing for 4,000 years, to testify in a body to the certainty that they feel about it, from which they cannot be deflected by whatever threats and persecutions they may suffer. This is quite a different order of importance.” And then Peter Kreeft, the famous philosopher at Boston College, who’s written probably 60 or 70 books, he said, “If you were to calculate the probability of any one person fulfilling, sheerly by chance, all of the Old Testament Messianic prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, it would be as astronomical as winning the lottery every day for a century. Even if Jesus deliberately tried to fulfill the prophecies, no mere man could have the power to arrange the time, place, events, and circumstances of his birth or events after his death.” Guys, this in my mind is just another powerful piece of evidence that points to the validity of the Bible. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the name Barry Leventhal. I want to show you just kind of how the power of this works in a person’s life. He was a young Jewish man, back in 1966, he said he was on top of the world. He was the offensive captain of the UCLA football team and in the pre-season, they were predicted to end up last in the pack 8, which it was then. And they went on to win their conference championship and then went on and won the Rose Bowl. And, he was the captain, he was the star of the game, and he says, and it was the first Rose Bowl championship UCLA had ever won, and he said, “My life was great,” he remembers. “I was a hero, people loved me. My Jewish fraternity chose me as the National Athlete of the Year and I basked in the glory of it all.” He said, “But soon after that victory, my very best friend, Kent, came to me and said, Barry, I’ve become a Christian and, as my best friend, I just wanted you to know that.” Leventhal says, “I had no idea what Kent was talking about. I thought he’d always been a Christian.” But Barry was intrigued by the change he began to notice in Kent’s life. And so several weeks later, Kent introduced Barry to a guy named Hal who was a campus minister. And one day they were in the student lounge and they started talking about this issue of the Messianic prophecies. And he says, it kind of got tense, the conversation, because Hal was showing Barry that the predictions of the Messiah from the Old Testament were fulfilled by Jesus and finally, Barry blurted out, “How could you do this?” “Do what?” Hal asked. “Use a trick Bible,” Barry charged. “You’ve got a trick Bible to fool the Jews.” Hal responded, “What do you mean by a trick Bible?” Barry said, “You Christians took those so-called Messianic predictions from your own New Testament and then rewrote them into your edition of the Old Testament in order to fool the Jews but I guarantee you those Messianic prophecies are not in the Jewish Bible.” Then he said, “Now, hold on Barry. Do you happen to have a copy of the Tanauk? Do you have your own copy?” He said, “Well, I’ve got one from my Bar Mitzvah. So what?” Then Hal said, “I’m going to give you some verses, I want you to write them down and I want you to go read them in your own Tanakh and we’ll just leave it at that.” The two men volleyed back and forth and Barry wanted to get Hal off his back and agreed to check them out, and he said all right, and he scribbled the references down and he said, “I’ll check them out. Don’t call me, I’ll get back in touch with you.” But kind of intrigued that night, Barry dusted off his old Tanakh, the one he hadn’t even opened since he was 13, and he was shocked at what he found. Every prediction Hal had referenced was indeed in the Tanakh and Barry’s initial reaction was kind of the unthinkable. Could Jesus really be the Jewish Messiah? And then his second thought was, if he is, I’m in big trouble. He kept silent about all this for a while and decided he needed to do more study. He needed to inquire more, before he came to any kind of conclusions. And then he says, this, “I vividly remember the first time I seriously confronted Isaiah 53,” which we’re going to look at in just a minute, “or better still the first time it seriously confronted me,” Barry explains. Being rather confused over the identity of the servant in Isaiah 53, I went to my local rabbi and said to him, “Rabbi, I have met some people at school who claim that the so-called servant in Isaiah 53 is none other than that Jesus of Nazareth, but I would like to know from you, who is the servant in Isaiah 53?” Barry was astonished at his response. The rabbi said, “Barry I must admit that as I read Isaiah 53, it does seem to be talking about Jesus but since we Jews do not believe in Jesus, it can’t be speaking about Jesus.” Barry didn’t know a lot about formal logic at that point, but he knew enough to say to himself, that just doesn’t sound kosher to me. Not only does the rabbi’s so-called reasoning sound circular, it also sounds evasive and even fearful. Today Barry observes that there are none so deaf as those who do not want to hear. “It is April now, more than three months after the glorious Rose Bowl victory. I suddenly realize that I had nothing that withstood the test of time, let alone the test of eternity,” Barry recalls. “This was most graphically demonstrated to me by the Rose Bowl victory itself. Just a few mere months after the most significant event in y life and perhaps in my entire life, all the glory, everything involved, was now slowly fading away into a distant memory. Is that all there is to life?” Barry asked himself. As he continued to study, as he continued to seek, he came to the conclusion that Jesus was the Messiah. And on the afternoon of April 24, 1966, Barry knelt down by his bed, humbled himself before God, acknowledging that Jesus was the Messiah of the world and that he needed God’s forgiveness that only came through Christ. And he surrendered himself. He says, “There was no lightning or thunder, only God’s personal presence and peace as Jesus has promised.” And since his remarkable discovery, Barry has been reaching the Jewish people with the truth that the Messiah has come. The evidence for this truth is in their own scriptures. And the examining of the evidence for those scriptures is the focus of Southern Evangelical seminary near Charlotte, North Carolina where Barry currently serves as the academic dean and as a professor. Now, what are some of these messianic prophecies? We’ve just got a couple of minutes left. Let me mention a few to you. Isaiah 7:14. It was written approximately 700 B.C., 700 years before Christ. That would be like something today written back in the 1400s pointing towards today. It says this, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son and she will call his name Emmanuel,” which means God with us. And the fulfillment you read in Matthew chapter 1, verses 18, 24 and 25, and then in Luke 1:26-35. Micah chapter 5, verse 2, written between 740 and 690 B.C. “But as for you, Bethlehem, 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.”  He’s saying, a person who goes back to all eternity will come into the world and will be born into Bethlehem. Fulfillment Matthew 2:1 and Luke 2:4-7. This next one is powerful to me. I don’t know why, but to me, it’s just so powerful. It’s Isaiah 9:6, again written 700 years before Christ and it says, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the government will rest on his shoulders and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”  I find it interesting, that word; he will be called Mighty God. There he’s saying, he speaks to the Incarnation, that God was going to come into the world and be born. A child be born to us, it says, and, of course, the fulfillment there is Matthew is 4:15-16. This next one, according to Tim Keller, is very significant. It comes from Zechariah 9:9 written 520 B.C. This is what the verse says, “Rejoice greatly O Daughter of Zion! Shout daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you; righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” And it’s fulfilled in Mark 11:1-10. Listen to what Tim Keller says. He said, “When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, people laid down their cloaks on the road in front of him and hailed him as a king coming in the name of the House of David.” This type of parade was culturally appropriate in that era. A king would ride into town publicly and be hailed by cheering crowds, but Jesus deliberately departed from the script and did something very different. He didn’t ride in on a powerful warhorse the way a king would. He was mounted on a _poss???_, that is a colt or a small donkey. Here was Jesus Christ, the king of authoritative miraculous power, riding into town on a steed fit for a child or a hobbit. In this way, Jesus let it be known that He was the one prophesied in Zechariah, the great Messiah to come. Now the most significant of all Messianic prophecies is found in Isaiah chapter 53. I’m not going to read the whole chapter to you because we don’t have time. I’m going to read this and then I’m going to close with a story and then we’ll be done. But listen to this; it’s a picture. It’s a picture of a suffering servant. In fact, I asked this question once and I don’t know anything about Hebrew, but I asked why isn’t this more future tense. And this is what I was told. Hebrew does not; ancient Hebrew did not have future tense. So listen to it. “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Listen to this, this is powerful. “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; he was like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,” now that was Jesus when he was, he was like a lamb, he never said a word while they were crucifying him. He didn’t even open his mouth, is what it says. “His grave was assigned with wicked men,” you know he was crucified between two criminals, and yet was with a rich man in His death. The wealthy Joseph of Arimithea buried him.  “Because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, my servant, will justify the many, and He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.” Guys, I remember hearing a guy, his name was Baruch Maoz. He was from Boston. He was Jewish. He became a Christian, just like Barry Leventhal. He became a minister and he moved, and as far as I know, still lives in Israel and has a big Christian church in Israel. And I had a chance to hear him speak and then he took questions and I asked the question, “How do the Jews today treat Isaiah 53? How do they deal with it? How do they explain it?” And these were his words. He said, “They treat it as if it did not exist.”  He says, “They completely ignore it.” I want to close with a story about a man and then we’ll be done. One of the fine pastors in our country today is a guy by the name of Louis Lapides; he is a senior pastor of a big church out in California. He grew up in a Jewish home in Newark, New Jersey and his family attended a conservative Jewish synagogue. And then when he was 17, his parents divorced, and he said, “That really put a stake in any religious heart I may have had.” He said, “On top of that, what I felt like about Judaism, is I didn’t feel like as if I had a personal relationship with God. They have some beautiful ceremonies and traditions.” But, he said, “I found myself distanced and detached from this God of Mount Sinai who said ‘Here are the rules, live by them, you’ll be okay, I’ll see you later.'” And so, he kind of became a wonderer, became what we would probably call a hippie, ended up living in Greenwich Village, and it was in the late 60s and wouldn’t you know it, he got drafted, and he went over and he fought in the Vietnam War. He said it was a very dark period in his life. He said, “I saw all the suffering and the devastation of war.” He said, “I was particularly bothered by all the evil that I had seen. It caused me to wonder, is there a God out there to explain all this?” And so, he began to study Eastern philosophy and Eastern religion and when he was on a furlough, he would go to Japan and he would go to Buddhist temples and fortunately, he says, “I survived the war. But when I left Vietnam,” he says, “this is the way you could describe my life.” He says, “I was a pothead who was planning on becoming a Buddhist priest.” That was kind of what he aspired to do with the rest of his life. But he said over time as he was studying Buddhism, he said, “I found it so empty. You know, it didn’t make any sense to me, so I tried Scientology, then I tried Hinduism.” And he said, “It was about this time I decided to change locations. I moved to California.” He said, “One day I was out on Sunset Boulevard and I saw these Christians. I thought I’d go kind of heckle them a little bit. And, I think they were out preaching.” And this is how Lapides describes the conversation, “One of the Christians brought up to me the name of Jesus. I tried to fend him off with my stock answer – I’m Jewish, I can’t believe in Jesus.” A pastor spoke up, “Do you know the prophecies about the Messiah?” he asked. Lapides was taken off guard. “Prophecy?” he said. “I’ve never heard of him.” The minister startled Lapides by referring to some of the Old Testament predictions. Wait a minute, Lapides thought; those are my Jewish scriptures he’s quoting, how could Jesus be in there? When the pastor offered him a Bible, Lapides was skeptical. He said, “Is there a New Testament in that Bible also?” The pastor said, “Yeah.”  “All right, I’ll tell you what. I’ll read the Old Testament but I’m not going to open that new one,” Lapides told him. He was taken aback by the minister’s response. “Fine,” said the pastor. “Just read the Old Testament, and when you do, ask the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel, to show you if Jesus is the Messiah because He is your Messiah. He came to the Jewish people initially and then he was also the Savior of the World.” To Lapides this was brand new information. He’d never heard of this. It was intriguing. It was astonishing. So he went back to his apartment, he opened the Old Testament to the first book, Genesis, and he went hunting for Jesus among words that had been written hundreds of years before the carpenter of Nazareth had ever been born. Pretty soon, Lapides said, “I was reading the Old Testament every day and seeing one prophecy after another. For instance, Deuteronomy talks about a prophet greater than Moses who will come and who we should listen to. I thought, ‘Who can be greater than Moses?’ It sounded like the Messiah. Someone who is great and as respected as Moses but a greater teacher and a greater authority. I grabbed a hold of that and went searching for it.” And Lapides said, “As I progressed through the Bible,” he went through one book at a time, “I was stopped cold when I read Isaiah 53,” which I just read to you. He said, over time, Lapides said he encountered more than four dozen major prophecies in the Old Testament and finally said, “I decided I would take a chance and I’d open that New Testament and just see what it said.” He said, “With trepidation, I slowly turned to Matthew as I looked up to Heaven waiting for the lightning bolt to strike. Matthew’s initial words leaped off the page.” And I quote, Matthew 1:1, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Lapides’ eyes widened as he recalled the moment he first read that sentence. “I thought, wow, son of Abraham, son of David?” He said, “It all started to kind of fit together.” He said that these fulfilled prophecies were so convincing that he concluded finally, intellectually, that Jesus was the Messiah and the New Testament gospel message was true. Yet it had not made its way from his head to his heart. He said soon after then he and some of his friends, his hippie friends, went out on the Mojave Desert. I’m sure a lot of them to take drugs. He went to reflect because he took drugs at the time. He tells you that. And he spent time by himself and while out there, he made this decision, he prayed this prayer and he said, “God, I’ve got to come to the end of this struggle. I have to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the Messiah. I need to know that you as the God of Israel want me to believe this.” And a while later, he says, “The best I can put together out of that experience is that objectively spoke to my heart. He convinced me experientially that He exists and at that point, out in the desert, I said, God, I accept Jesus into my life. I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do with him but I want him. I’ve pretty much made a mess of my life and I need you to change me.” And he said that God began to do that in a process that continues to this day. He said, “My friends knew something had changed out in the desert. They couldn’t understand it. They’d say something happened to you in the desert. You don’t do drugs anymore. There’s something different about you. I would say, well, I really can’t explain what happened. All I know is that there is someone in my life and it’s someone who’s holy, who’s righteous, who’s a source of positive thoughts about life, and finally,” he says, “I just feel whole in a way I’ve never felt before.” And today, he’s a senior pastor at a large church in California. And guys, I have story after story after story of so many Jewish people from all over the world who’ve come to the Christian faith because of the convincing nature of these prophecies. And what you see is men and women who’ve chosen to look and seek with open and honest hearts and they’ve recognized, basically, that some of Jesus’ last words to His disciples ring true when He said, Jesus said this, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms.” And guys, to me, this is one of the great proofs that validates Jesus as the Messiah, but also validates the Bible as the Divine Word of God.

Let me close in prayer, Lord we’re grateful for what you’ve given us, that you dispense to us your truth in the scriptures and how grateful we are that you haven’t just led us out here alone with no shepherd, with no guidance, with no leadership, but that you’ve given us the scripture, you’ve given us the Holy Spirit, and you promised to lead and guide us … (tape ended here)

 

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