Passages 3 & 4 – Genesis 11:27-12:7; Isaiah 53:1-12

The Person of Promise

By Mike Mazzalongo Posted: Sun. Apr 28th
In this lesson, Mike will look at the Old Testament passages that identify the person and the mission of the One promised by God.

The premise for this book is a world where the Bible is no longer available. Big tech, big government, big business, academia and the mainstream media have somehow conspired together to remove Bibles from public access. The result is biblical illiteracy in one generation. I suggested the idea that in such a scenario it might be necessary to commit to memory seven key Scripture passages that would provide what the Bible taught in summary form in an effort to maintain its message of salvation.

The first of these was Genesis 1:1 that described the creation of the world. The second was Genesis 3:1-24, a passage that explained the fall of man and God's promise to deal with this failure.

In this chapter we will study passages number three and four where the Bible begins to describe the person who will fulfill God's promise of salvation to man. The first passage is a description of this Savior in a historical context, and the second will describe Him from a spiritual perspective.

Passage #3 — Genesis 11:27–12:7

Up until the time of Abraham there was no information revealed directly concerning the promise made to Adam and Eve. People knew that God had spoken of a Savior of some kind but there was silence as to the time of His coming, who He would be and what He would actually do to save them.

The first revelation about these matters comes to a man called Abram who lived in the land of Ur which is modern day Iraq. The passage concerning Abram introduces the family through whom God will ultimately produce the individual who will fulfill the promise made in Genesis 3. This passage grounds in history and family what God had only promised in spirit.

Genesis 11:27 - 12:7 sets the opening scene of a storyline that will follow the human thread of the Savior's lineage from the man (Abram) first called to produce the nation from which this Savior would eventually come. The story begins by introducing a family that is in transition.

27Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot. 28Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30Sarai was barren; she had no child.
31Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there. 32The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.
- Genesis 11:27-32

Note the situation:

  • Haran died young.
  • Nahor married his dead brother's daughter (his niece).
  • Abram married his half-sister, Sarai, who is said to be barren.

We have few details, but it seems that Terah along with his son Abram, Abram's wife Sarai, and his grandson, Lot, left Ur in order to make his way to Canaan. Terah and his family only travelled as far as the city of Haran (probably built in memory of his dead son) and remained there. The story of Terah ends at this point. He may have refused to go on, he may have been sick, we do not know. All we do know is that his original destination was Canaan, but for one reason or another he never made it. This sets the scene for God's call to Abram.

1Now the LORD said to Abram,
"Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father's house,
To the land which I will show you;
2And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."

4 So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. 6Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. 7The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.
- Genesis 12:1-7

The Lord instructs Abram to leave Haran and the things keeping him there: his country (people of that era rarely left their villages, let alone their country); his culture, language, traditions, religion; his family and friends; his work, home and land.

Abram is asked to leave everything behind, however, God makes a series of promises to him if he responds to His calling with obedience:

  1. Abram will give rise to a great nation.
  2. He himself will become a great man.
  3. He will bless others with his life.
  4. God will protect him.
  5. The entire world throughout history will be blessed through Abram.

These sound like great blessings, but consider Abram's state:

A - He had to completely forsake home, family, nation and culture in order to have a great nation built from himself. In other words, he had to abandon the very things necessary to create a nation in order to have a nation come from his generation.

B - He had to abandon the safety of what was familiar in order to go into the unknown with only the promise of God's protection but no visible sign of it.

The journey to Canaan was approximately 400 miles for his family and servants along with livestock and possessions. In verse 7, the Lord "appears" to Abram. This is the first time this phenomenon (God present in the immediate physical context) is expressed in this way. We learn that God does so in order to add one more thing to the list of promises made to Abram.

  1. That the land he was living in would one day be the possession of his people.

With time, God changed Abram's name (which meant "high" or "exalted father") to Abraham (which means "father of a multitude").

This passage, as one of our seven passages, identifies the source and stream of the nation that served as a cultural, religious, political and historical stage upon which the "promise," the "seed of the woman" would make His historical, physical appearance. It answers the question, "Where would this promised one come from, or what nation would produce the seed that was to defeat the evil one?" Were people to look for Him among the leading nations of history, the Egyptians perhaps, or the Greeks?

Genesis 11:27-12:7 answers that question by showing us that God selected and called only one man who was a Chaldean from the Mesopotamian region of Ur (with its own multiple deities, temples and priests), from whom He would eventually send the Savior.

God revealed Himself to this one man and set about to make of him:

  1. A believer in the one, true and living God.
  2. An example of the kind of faith God wanted all believers to have.
  3. The human starting point for a people whose culture, religion, laws and historical experience would be a living witness of not only the promise that would be delivered through their nation (a Savior), but also the reason why the promise was made (man's guilt and condemnation due to sin), and the way that this condemnation would be removed (vicarious atonement - a concept brought to life and demonstrated through the Jewish sacrificial system which previewed how the Savior would ultimately fulfill His mission to save man from his sins).

After this passage, the entire Old Testament simply lays out the fulfillment of God's promises to Abram by describing the growth and development of Abraham's family from a single unit to 12 tribes and finally to a great nation in possession of their own land. Starting from Abraham, the Bible traces each generation throughout the centuries (along with its wars, kings, interactions with God and ongoing prophecies concerning the fulfillment of the original promise).

This third passage ties together the physical history that starts with the promise made in the garden, is then linked to the main vehicle sustaining that promise throughout history (the Jewish people beginning with Abraham) which is then connected to the appearance of Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth, who was himself of the tribe of Judah, a direct descendant of Abraham.

Note that I did not include the other important identity marker for Jesus which is "Son of God" because His genealogical connection to David and Judah, and then back to Abraham does not identify Him as the One fulfilling the promise – for this we must look to the prophets.

Passage #4 — Isaiah 53:1-12

The Person of Promise - Spiritual

According to different scholars, there are between 200 and 400 prophecies concerning Christ contained in the Old Testament and fulfilled by Jesus in the New Testament (Association for Bible Research). The fulfillment of prophecy is one of the major arguments for the inspiration of the Bible (i.e. only an inspired book contains fulfilled prophecy). The Bible is the only Holy Book that contains both prophecy and its confirmed fulfillment in the same text.

Beginning with Abraham, the Old Testament primarily tells the story of the Jewish nation, but interlaced with this story is the golden thread of prophecy from generation to generation that spoke of God's promise and seed to come at a certain point of both human and Jewish history. The Jews were God's chosen people, but they were chosen for a reason and that reason was to bring Christ into the world. The prophets, however, were the ones who put a face and a purpose to the person of the promise.

The fourth of the seven passages, therefore, is from one of those prophets, Isaiah.

More than any other prophet, Isaiah's prophecies concerning the Messiah described not only the character of the Savior to come but laid out the details of His actual mission in saving man from eternal condemnation.

The Messiah's Character

1Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2For 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.
3He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
- Isaiah 53:1-3

Isaiah begins by anticipating doubt and disbelief of the things he is about to say concerning the Messiah (i.e. that He would suffer). He goes on to describe a man who would have no natural appeal to others, and who would be considered of low esteem and rejected by most people.

4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5But 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.
6All 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.

7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
8By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
9His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10But 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.
11As 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,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12Therefore, 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.
- Isaiah 53:4-12

Isaiah describes the various aspects of the Messiah's suffering.

1. The manner in which He suffered. He did so quietly.

7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.

2. The reason for His suffering. He paid the moral debt for our sins.

5But 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.

3. The result of His suffering. His intercession removes the sins of those who believe in Him (which was the promise made in the garden at the beginning).

11As 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,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12Therefore, 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.

4. The proof that His suffering removed sin and guilt: the resurrection.

10But 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.

Nowhere else in Scripture do we find a more comprehensive description of the person and mission of the Messiah, exactly fulfilled some seven centuries later by Jesus Christ.

This key passage also serves as the link that connects the Old and New Testaments in our "Bible in Seven Passages" series:

  1. It summarizes the information concerning the Messiah and His mission that is symbolized and described in the story of the Jewish nation including their religious system and teachings, and brings these together into a single person.
  2. It points directly to a specific person (the Messiah), a specific mission (vicarious atonement), a specific result (forgiveness of sin leading to justification of the sinner and a specific vindication: resurrection). All of these are wrapped into a single person and a single event to appear and take place in the future of the Jewish nation.
  3. This prophecy is so specific that it could only be fulfilled by a Jewish man living as part of the Jewish people at the time when Jesus was on earth.

Jesus Himself uses a passage from Isaiah to openly declare that He was the Messiah produced by the Jewish nation and spoken of by the Jewish prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures thus fulfilling all that was written in what we call the Old Testament and establishing, as well as confirming, the authority of the writings we refer to as the New Testament.

14And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. 15And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.
16And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
18"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
19To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."
20And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
- Luke 4:14-21

Summary

In the effort to summarize and maintain the key information and message of the Bible in only seven passages, the ones we have looked at in this study have provided the following information:

1. Genesis 11:27-12:7 (Passage #3)

This passage describes the way God fulfilled His promise to save sinful man (through the agency of a person born of a nation specifically chosen and formed by God for this very reason). The Savior will be a descendant of Abraham and the Old Testament will describe how this nation will eventually produce this person.

2. Isaiah 53:1-12 (Passage #4)

The passage in Isaiah describes the Messiah, His mission, the results of His mission and the way to verify His credibility. Isaiah's prophecy brings together the ultimate purpose of the creation of the Jewish nation (to produce the Messiah) with the ultimate purpose of the Messiah (to save mankind from spiritual death), and these two projected to a definite future time, place and person.

With the study of these two passages complete, we can now move on to the final three sections which are all found in the New Testament.

"We are a small congregation with no full-time minister. We have depended on video material from BibleTalk.tv for quality scriptural lessons that would have otherwise been unavailable to us. While we do supplement this with visiting preachers, Mike's work has been the cornerstone of our Sunday morning sermons."


Bill Schlarb, Bruce Veinot
for the Ottawa West Church of Christ