Chapter 3

The Messiah

In the previous chapter, it was shown that mankind’s rebellion toward and disobedience of God (that is, sin) has both alienated and separated us from God.  No human being is worthy to exist in the company of God the Father; being holy, He cannot tolerate any creature made in His image, yet tainted by sin, to remain in His perfect presence.  Because God no longer could live in the presence of the sinful Israelites, the glory of the Lord, in fact, departed from the temple and from Jerusalem (Ezek. 10:4,18,19, 11:22,23).  Similarly, He has turned away from us (Isa. 59:2,3).

There is no one in all of Creation who is worthy or able to intercede, on behalf of mankind, to bridge the broad, deep gulf between God and us.  Nor can anyone gain God’s approval on one’s own.  (David said to God, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings”—Psalm 51:16.)  So His own arm of righteousness provided the salvation that we needed and that God wanted for us to have (Isa. 59:16).

“His own arm” is personified by the Messiah in Hebrew (or Cristos in Greek, Christ in English).  To the Jews, “...the Messiah would be the king of the Jews, a political leader who would defeat their enemies and bring in a golden era of peace and prosperity.” (1)  Actually, He would be that and much, much more.  He would be the person through whom anyone who desired to know God personally and intimately, and who wished ultimately to enter into God’s presence and to spend eternity with Him, could do so.  The Messiah, meaning “Anointed One,” was sent to do for humankind what we could not do for ourselves.

David went on to say, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).  To reconcile humanity back to God, the Messiah would have to be 1) strong enough to accept false accusation, ridicule, and undeserved punishment on behalf of the human race (resulting in a broken spirit) and 2) humble enough to demonstrate genuine sorrow, and a willingness to die, for the sinful state of mankind (thus possessing a broken and contrite heart).  Indeed, this Messiah truly would be a unique individual.


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Table of Contents

names for and attributes of the Messiah

The following is a partial list of titles and descriptions of the “Messiah.”  He is the one, throughout the Old Testament (from which all of the terms are taken), used by God, supernaturally, to guide the children of Israel and to deliver them from their enemies.

Titles & Attributes of the Messiah

Titles Descriptions &
Old Testament References
Anointed One the definition and a name of Messiah (Psalm 2:2; Dan. 9:25a,26a)
Outstretched arm or
his arm or the arm
or his holy arm
or his own arm
or my own arm
a physical representation of Messiah (Exo. 6:6b; Isa. 40:10b, 48:14c, 52:10a, 53:1b, 59:1a,16b, 63:5c; Jer. 32:17a,21)
banner an attribute of Messiah (Isa. 11:10a,12a, 13:2a, 49:22b)
Branch of Righteousness or a Branch or the Branch a name of Messiah (*Psalm 80:15b; Isa. 11:1b; Jer. 23:5a, 33:15a; Zech. 3:8b, 6:12a)
Everlasting father an attribute of Messiah (Isa. 9:6b)
the finger(s) a physical representation of Messiah (Exo. 8:19a, 31:18; Deut. 9:10a; Dan. 5:5a)
a mighty hand or his hand(s) or my/your right hand or the hand or my hands or my own hand(s) or a hand a physical representation of Messiah (Deut. 7:8; Job 12:9,10; Psalm 19:1b, 60:5, 95:5b, 108:6a, 118:15b,16; Isa. 34:17b, 41:10d,20a, 45:11b,12b, 48:13ab; Ezek. 1:3b, 2:9a, 3:22a, 8:1b; Dan. 5:23e,24; Hab. 2:16d)
Immanuel a name of Messiah: God with us (Isa. 7:14c)
my King or the king or
King or your king
an attribute and name of Messiah (Psalm 2:6, 10:16a, 29:10b; Isa. 33:17a; Jer. 23:5b; Zech. 9:9c, 14:16,17)
my Lord an attribute of Messiah (Gen. 18:3; Josh. 5:14b; Psalm 110:1a)
The Lord a name of Messiah (Gen. 18:1,10a,13,14a; Isa. 2:3a, 40:3a; Zech. 9:14a, 12:1b,7a,8a, 14:3a,7a,9a; Mal. 3:1b)
Mighty God a name of Messiah (Isa. 9:6b)
Prince of Peace a name of Messiah (Isa. 9:6b)
Prince of princes a name of Messiah (Dan. 8:25b)
a rock or the rock
or my rock
an attribute of Messiah (Psalm 31:2c,3a, 62:2a,6a,7b, 71:3a; Isa. 8:14b; Dan. 2:34a,35c,45ab)
Ruler over Israel an attribute of Messiah (Micah 5:2b)
seed an attribute of Messiah (§Gen. 3:15b, 12:7a, 13:15, 21:12c, 24:7b [see Gal. 3:16 for the previous four references]; 1 Chr. 17:11b)
servant an attribute of Messiah (Isa. 42:1a, 49:5a,6a,7b, 52:13a, 53:11b; Zech. 3:8b)
shepherd an attribute of Messiah (Gen. 48:15b; Isa. 40:11a; Jer. 31:10c; Ezek. 34:12-16)
My Son or the royal Son
or his son or a son
an attribute and name of Messiah (1 Chr. 17:13b; Psalm 2:7a, 72:1; Prov. 30:4e; Isa. 7:14b, 9:6a, 66:7b)
son of man an attribute of Messiah (Psalm 80:17b; Dan. 7:13a)
Wonderful Counselor (or “Wonderful, Counselor”) attribute(s) of Messiah (Isa. 9:6b)
word of the Lord an attribute of Messiah (Gen. 15:1a,4a; Psalm 33:4a,6a; Isa. 2:3c)

* “son,” rather than “branch,” in the New International Version

§her seed” (that is, “seed of the woman”) implied in the New International Version

offspring,” rather than “seed,” in the New International Version; has a dual meaning in the first four instances: can imply the Messiah or Israel; but in the fifth case, refers only to the Messiah

Messianic predictions

The ancient Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament clearly put forth in their writings the idea of a Messiah, who eventually would come as a king to defeat Israel’s enemies.  Ultimately, after setting up His throne in Jerusalem to reign as King and Priest, the Messiah would usher in a golden era of prosperity and peace for Israel and for the world (Psalm 2:2,6,9, 72:1-19; Isa. 9:6b,7, 63:1-6; Jer. 23:5,6, 33:15,16; Dan. 2:44,45, 7:13,14; Micah 5:2,4,5a; Zech. 6:12,13, 9:10b,14-16, 14:3,4,9,16).  However, there was a general sense of perplexity due to the fact that some passages depicted the Messiah also as a servant coming in meekness and humility; and, after suffering and being despised and rejected by the ones he came to serve, he would be killed or “cut off” and, at some point thereafter, miraculously resurrected by God (Psalm 16:10, 22:1,2,6,7,12-18,24-31; Isa. 9:6a, 42:1-4, 49:5-7, 50:6, 52:13-15, 53:1-12, 61:1-3; Dan. 9:26a; Zech. 9:9, 12:10b).

It was incomprehensible to most Jewish minds that the Messiah, who would be the eternal ruler of Israel and of the world, also could show evidence of what they considered to be commonalty, weakness, and failure.  To resolve this puzzling paradox, it simply was easier to assume that there must be two Messiahs making two separate appearances—first “Messiah ben Joseph” and then “Messiah ben David.”

Messiah, meek and mighty

In reality, though, there was to be only one Messiah making two distinct appearances.  To see that the person in question would come first in “meekness” and later in “might,” let us begin by looking at some key statements made by Isaiah.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor [or Wonderful, Counselor], Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this (Isa. 9:6,7).

There are indications here that the Messiah would have a number of different attributes:  He would be humbly born as a human child, He would possess traits—and even names—of God, and He would be in control of a government of peace that would last forever.

Further evidence of the Messiah’s dual nature—being both a servant and yet a world peacemaker and ruler—is in this statement by God:

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations (Isa. 42:1).

Let me emphasize here that in some biblical passages, Israel is referred to as God’s “servant” (Isa. 41:8,9b, 42:19a).  However, in most cases, God’s “servant” is a reference to the Messiah (Isa. 42:1a, 49:5a,6a,7b, 52:13a, 53:11b).

miraculous birth: God with us

The Messiah would not merely have traits of the Mighty God.  It would be more than that, as shown by this prophecy by Isaiah:

Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign:  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Isa. 7:14).

Here, “virgin” is translated from the Hebrew word, almah, which also may be translated “maiden.”  It denotes, as in other places (Gen. 24:43b; Exo. 2:8b; Prov. 30:19d), an unmarried girl of marriageable age, presumably a virgin.

Two miracles are implied in this passage: that a child would be born to a virgin and that He would be known by the term Immanuel, meaning “God with us.”  This may be the most profound mystery of the Bible.  Somehow, this Messiah, arriving into the world as a child, actually would be an incarnate (embodied in human flesh) form of God, making a physical appearance to mankind!  But how could God be both in heaven and on earth at the same time?

the Son of God

According to a psalmist, the Messiah would be referred to as the “Son” of God, thereby enabling the Father to remain in his royal domain (heaven) while the Son came to earth.  In keeping with the promise made to David, this “Son” would become King over the eternal Kingdom of God (1 Chr. 17:11-14), including the entire earth.

You are my Son; today I have become your Father.  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.  You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery (Psalm 2:7-9).

Now, although God at one time had referred to Israel as “my firstborn son” (Exo. 4:22), this is not the same meaning for “Son” as in the passage above by the psalmist.  Israel never was promised the entire earth as an inheritance or a possession—only a specific portion of it (Gen. 15:18-21, 17:8; Josh. 12:1–21:45).  Also, in a psalm by David, he said,  “All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him” (Psalm 72:11).  Here, the “him” referred to is a person (the Messiah), not the nation of Israel.

Finally, the Messiah would be the “Son” of God only in a human sense (being born to a woman).  However, speaking in a divine sense, He would be eternal, without beginning or end, and coexistent with God the Father in eternity (John 1:1,2,14; Rev. 22:13).

the son of man

Hundreds of years B.C., in a description of one of his visions, Daniel related the human-like appearance of the Messiah, His distinction from the Father (Ancient of Days), and His certain ultimate Authority and Power over all people in His eternal kingdom.

In a vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed (Dan. 7:13,14).

The “son of man” description of the Messiah also was stated by a psalmist, Asaph, as he spoke to God Almighty.

Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself.  Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.  Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved (Psalm 80:17-19).

(The phrase “raised up for yourself” also may be translated “made strong for yourself.”)  Here, God Almighty, through the Messiah, is pictured as “reviving” and “restoring” humankind to a position where God then can turn His face back toward us (since His face had been turned away—Isa. 59:2b).  However, only those who accept the redemptive work of reconciliation performed by the Messiah, who do “not turn away from [God],” and who “call on [His] name” (Psalm 80:18) will be saved.  But exactly who is this Messiah?

identity of the Messiah

Many in history have claimed (and still claim) to be God’s chosen Messiah to bring what everybody wants: world peace and justice.  And many of these self-proclaimed “messiahs” have gained (and are gaining) multitudes of followers.  However, only one person in history has fulfilled 100% of the messianic prophecies in the Old Testament of the Bible concerning the Messiah’s birth, birthplace, and lineage, and also those prophecies relating to a humble, suffering servant.  This person is Jesus of Nazareth.  The next part deals with a few of these fulfilled prophecies.

Proceed to Chapter 3, Part II

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Copyright © 1998– by Ted M. Montgomery, O.D.  Most rights reserved.