BY JAN WILLEM VAN DER HOEVAN, ICZC —
The other day I heard an Israeli scholar say concerning those Christians who love Israel with all their heart and want to come, stand by and comfort Israel in any way they can – that after all is said and done they have a dangerous agenda: they want to see their Messiah return to earth – to Israel. “I’d rather say to them in that case, ‘Thank you for your offered help, but really, no thank you!'”
This sounds ridiculous.
First, if Jesus is not the true Jewish Messiah promised by all the prophets in the Tanakh, no one needs to be concerned or afraid that He will suddenly return!
If, however, Jesus was the true Messiah, then with all the corruption among today’s international and national leaders – also here in Israel – who would not want to have such a pure, kingly leader appear?
And even if, for the sake of argument we leave aside whether He was the true Messiah or not: After all the financial, sexual and other scandals we have seen in many of today’s leaders and politicians, who would not want to have such a pure, orthodox, sinless Jewish leader, who was so royal yet so self effacing, kind and uncorrupted, who healed those who had no other hope of being healed or restored? With all the hopeless, bereaved, crippled and destitute, would we not want such a true, Jewish, all-powerful, miracle working King or leader today?
So, leaving aside the theological implications, wouldn’t Israel – with its often quarrelling and personal-honor-seeking religious leaders, and often self-centered and corrupt politicians – do well with such an imposing young orthodox rabbi, kind and full of mercy towards the women, children, poor and the many sick and crippled in this country’s society? Wouldn’t everyone heave sighs of relief to have such an unspotted, spiritual, kindhearted, wonder-working rabbi as their leader; even if many today would insist on declaring that He is “not our Messiah?” Wow, if we ever needed such a royal Jewish leader in Israel, it would certainly be now!
Israel needs a king like David, a prophet like Moses, and a warrior or chief of staff like Joshua. May such a Messiah soon be here!
More than this – after all the truly false and pseudo messiahs that have been proclaimed by themselves or by others – it behooves us to again look carefully at the credentials the Holy Tanakh lays out as the identity of that wonderful person.
Generally speaking, there is in Israel and among the Jewish people a lack of clarity concerning the person of the coming Messiah, and what his characteristics are meant to be.
This uncertainty concerning the long-anticipated Messiah has led a number of individuals in history to believe themselves possible candidates. Because of this ambiguity, then, different people throughout Jewish history have sought to claim this title for themselves, beginning with the legendary figure of Bar Kochba through modern times to the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson of New York. Some believed themselves to be Messiah, some let others do the believing for them. But the fact that this all fluctuated between national heroes of a more political nature on one hand, and spiritual charismatic leaders or rabbis on the other, reveals the absence of a broad consensus as to what Messiah is to be.
This takes us right back to biblical times, where we also find this duality: spiritual leaders or prophets, like Moses and Samuel, who led the Jewish people in God’s name and anointed warrior leaders like Joshua and King David, or specially anointed heroes like Samson and Gideon during the period of the judges.
Which raises the question: What kind of Messiah can we expect? A spiritual prophet like Moses or Samuel, a warrior/king like David, or an anointed military commander like Joshua? Who are we to expect or, which is perhaps a better question, what kind of Messiah does Israel most need to bring her through all her problems at this moment in her history: an anointed king, a commander, a spiritual guide and prophet, or an exceptional peace maker?
That there is a natural longing to see some kind of leader emerge is apparent whenever a popular Israeli politician appears and the crowds chant” ‘melech yisrael’ – king of Israel.
This nation is destined ultimately to have a Messiah King, not just a prime minister or president who -especially with such a divided people and parliament – would never be able to accomplish the task.
Perhaps all the elements of Israel’s leaders who were previously anointed by God and given to the people – Samuel, Moses, Gideon, Joshua, King David and King Solomon – will be present in Prince Messiah when He comes.
In each of these previous leaders we see only a certain aspect of the characteristics of the promised Messiah.
David, perhaps, comes closest to the person we can all expect. He was at once a very spiritual, prophetic man, an amazingly effective military commander, and a true political leader and king.
Moses was more of a spiritual leader and prophet, and the promise was made even during his time that one day God would raise up unto His people “a Prophet like him” (see Deuteronomy 18:15), signifying that the Messiah would therefore definitely have the prophetic powers and calling of a Moses. An elevated spiritual leader, Moses met the Lord high up in the mountain where he received the Torah – the Ten Commandments from God – which he then brought down to his people.
Joshua, a more down-to-earth leader, a warrior, met the Lord down in the plain of Jericho, when He called Himself the Captain of the hosts of the Lord – before Joshua was able to militarily conquer the Promised Land.
In King David we find all these different elements combined: the priest and prophet who prays and sings his prayers and songs of worship before the Lord his God, even in his tent of tabernacle; the soldier, who experiences the Lord teaching him to fight as a mighty warrior, training his hands to war and conquer (see Psalm 18:34); and the king who rules over God’s people in God’s Name.
Also his son, Solomon, foreshadows the coming Messiah King, especially during his early reign as a true son of David when, in peace and justice, he rules over the whole kingdom entrusted to him.
This is why one of the special titles for the Messiah is “Son of David” – not only because King David had all these three elements of priest/prophet, king and warrior in himself (and so in this way was a typical forerunner of the coming Messiah), but also because David was born in Bethlehem, a city where, according to the prophet Micah, the Messiah too would be born.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”(Micah 5:2)
This is why, as someone once told me, it was possibly the saddest day when the Israeli government decided in 1995 to give the city of Bethlehem away to Yasser Arafat and the PLO, to become a Juden-rein Muslim territory, so rendering impossible the birth of a Jewish Messiah in this city of David. Since that day, no Jews have been permitted to live in Bethlehem.
The Messiah, to be genuine, must therefore resemble King David. He must not only be a royal descendent from David’s house; like David, He must also be born in Bethlehem. And like the direct physical son of David, Solomon, He must be a person who will establish peace and justice over the whole earth, beginning in the city of Jerusalem.
In the Tanakh (the Scriptures) the person of the Messiah is so identified with King David that He is sometimes even named “David,” as for example in Ezekiel 37:25:
Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever.
But like David He will also be a Man of war – a Lion of Judah who will fight for His people Israel, trampling the nations that have come to swallow up Israel in the winepress of His wrath. As Zechariah prophesies:
Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, for the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You.
It shall come to pass in that day that there will be no light; the lights will diminish. It shall be one day which is known to the Lord – neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen that it will be light.
And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be – “the Lord is one,” and His name one. (Zechariah 14:3-9)
So the Messiah is not just One Who is brought as ‘a Lamb to the slaughter’ (Isaiah 53:7); He will also be like a roaring Lion – “the Lion of Judah.”
There are equally as many passages in the Scriptures that describe clearly and forcefully this aspect of the coming Messiah: He will in the end days go out to war for His people:
The Lord shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud; He shall prevail against His enemies. (Isaiah 42:13)
Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this One who is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? – “I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”
Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like one who treads in the winepress?
“I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, and I wondered that there was no one to uphold; therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; and My own fury, it sustained Me. I have trodden down the peoples in My anger, made them drunk in My fury, and brought down their strength to the earth.” (Isaiah 63:1-6)
However He will also be the spiritual guide to His people, a prophet like Moses – a High Priest and Prophet combined, like Moses and Aaron in One – who will direct His people in all matters of faith and Torah, eclipsing the need for a chief rabbi or a Chief Rabbinate in His days!
So the Messiah will be like Moses the true Lawgiver; and in His days this law will go forth from Zion, not only to all Israel, but even to the uttermost parts of the world.
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. (Micah 4:1-4)
His coming will be sudden, and it will only occur after His temple, the house of God, has been built upon God’s holy hill in Jerusalem – that hill which is rightfully called “the Temple Mount.”
“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)
And the glory of the Lord came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east. The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple. (Ezekiel 43:4, 5)
So He will come to His temple, when people least expect Him – “as a thief in the night” – yet with great power and glory, as Daniel describes, on the clouds of heaven:
“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the cloud of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7: 13, 14)
It all has to be like this, because unless He, the Messiah, comes with unmistakable power and glory, He will not be seen for what He is, the true King and Messiah of Israel, the Ruler of the world. For so many self-appointed ego maniacs, in both the religious as well as the political world, will surely first try to present themselves as saviors and messiahs of mankind!
Thus does the Tanakh seem to imply that, at an hour when people least expect it – when darkness will cover the nations; when because of all the earthquakes, disasters, wars and rumors of war, men’s hearts will fail them from fear; when the general situation of this planet and its inhabitants has come to the brink of utter hopelessness – then God’s light will come in the powerful person of Israel’s King Messiah, Son of the house of David. As is written:
When darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3)
In the lead-up to that time, every ruler in this world, of whatever nation – especially of course of the nation of Israel – has by the grace and inspiration of God the opportunity to foreshadow, even as King David did in His reign and rule, some of the characteristics of this coming Messiah of mankind. He can choose to put God and His laws first and foremost, seeking Him continually for wisdom and direction; seeking His council even as David did, including as to how to fight and overcome the enemies of his nation. David did all this. And, on top of it, he was a great lover of His God, putting the place set aside for His God in his city above everything else, as he expresses in Psalm 132:
A Song of Ascents. Lord, remember David and all his afflictions; how he swore to the Lord, and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob: “Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house, or go up to the comfort of my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” … For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: “This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” (Psalm 132:1-5, 13-14)
So equally now – an Israeli or other nation’s prime minister or president can make sure that his first holy duty is to the God of heaven and earth. And in this case, Israel’s leader has a unique privileged possibility and calling to prepare in this fateful 21st century a house for the Lord God of Israel, to thus show in the first place to his own Israeli people – but then also to the nations of the world – that Israel will not suffice with just having a religion for some of their people – as most of the nations indeed have also. No, Israel’s leader – may God grant it soon – will, like David, be seen to want God (and not just a religion) to again take up His residence through the majestic and powerful person of the Messiah on His holy Hill in Jerusalem, for all the world to see.
May God inspire a leader in Israel to again prepare a dwelling place unto God in Jerusalem.
May that day come soon!