Jesus in the Old Testament

by Rick Phillips

As our families and churches prepare for the Christmas celebration, many are seeking to emphasize the biblical expectation of the promised Savior, rather than the commercial and sentimental emphasis of our society.  One way to do this is to walk through the Old Testament, following the centuries-long expectation of God's people for the promised Messiah.  This spirit is found in one of our advent hymns: "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus."  It reads:

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee.

Israel's strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art,

Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

In this spirit, I would like to offer a series of brief meditations on how the Old Testament anticipates Jesus' coming and in which Christ appears prior to his incarnation.  If these direct our thoughts to Christ during the holiday season, and especially if these meditations prove suitable for parents to read to their children, I will be greatly rewarded.

Jesus and Adam

Did you know that Adam knew Jesus?  Adam was the first human being, made by God's special creation in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:7).  Jesus was there, with the Father, as they fashioned the first man and breathed into him the spirit of life.  John 1:2-3 says that Jesus "was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made."  This means that Jesus was working with God the Father in creating Adam. 

Adam got to know Jesus better in those glorious first days of creation.  Genesis 3:8 says that Adam and Eve "heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day."  That is referring to Jesus, prior to his birth, who took a visible form and was a divine friend to his most beloved creatures.  Imagine what it would have been like, before there was sin or anything bad in the world, when Adam and Eve were still righteous and upright in their hearts, for them to walk through the Garden talking with God's Son!  Jesus wants this same kind of friendship with us.  He wants us to know him.  He wants to be our divine friend.  He wants to teach us the glory of God in the beauty of holiness.

But Adam and Eve sinned.  Sin made them hide from Jesus because they were afraid to be punished.  God found them, however, and taught them to trust in Jesus, who would now be their Savior.  In Genesis 3:15, God gave the first salvation promise and it was all about Jesus.  He cursed Satan, who had tempted Adam and Eve into sin, by foretelling that Jesus would someday defeat him.  God promised: "He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."  It would hurt to have your heel bruised, and Satan was able to hurt Jesus by causing him to die on the cross.  But Jesus would crush Satan's head - that is, he would cause his complete ruin and defeat - by taking away the guilt of our sins.  God pictured for Adam and Eve how Jesus would save them, and when they believed in him they were saved from their sins: "And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21).  Can you see what this pictures?  God had the lamb die in the place of Adam and Eve, showing how Jesus would die for our sins so that we can be forgiven.  God then clothed Adam and Eve with the innocence of the lamb, just as Jesus would clothe us in his own perfect righteousness.  We call this message the gospel: the good news that God forgives our sin through faith in Christ and clothes us in his righteousness.  If you believe this, you will be saved by the same faith that made Adam and Eve the first Christians.

There is one last thing to say about Jesus and Adam.  Did you know that Adam was a type of Jesus Christ?  This means that Adam was himself a picture of what Christ would come to be.  Adam pictured Christ in one way: by being the covenant head (or leader) for all who belong to him.  When Adam sinned, he acted as our representative, since all of us are born from his line.  The New Testament says, "In Adam all die" (1 Cor. 15:22).  This means that because of Adam's sin - both the guilt of what he did on our behalf and the sinful nature we gain from him - we all must suffer death as the punishment for sin.  But because of his love and grace, God sent Jesus to be a new Adam.  By trusting in Jesus, we gain him as our covenant head and we are saved because of what he has done for us.  Though by nature we are joined to Adam and his death, through faith we are instead joined to Jesus for his salvation.  The Bible says that while sinners are joined to Adam for death, believers "in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22).  Where Adam failed us by sinning, Jesus saves us by fulfilling God's covenant of salvation.  We are no longer just members of Adam's sinful race, but by trusting in Jesus we have joined his new righteous people.  Jesus was born to start a new human race made up of those who believe in him, are born again, and live forever in the joy of God's grace.

Don't you think that Adam and Eve would have been looking forward to Jesus' birth?  They were made by him, he was their divine friend, and he was the Savior they were trusting for salvation.  All these things are true of us as well if we believe in Jesus!  We should be looking forward to Christmas as a way of thanking God for the wonderful salvation he has given through his Son.

 "In him was life, and the life was the light of men" - John 1:4

Jesus and Abraham

he coming of Jesus is always good news.  This is what Abraham learned when Jesus appeared to him during a sad time in Abraham's life.  Genesis 18 is a fascinating example of Jesus appearing in the Old Testament.  He is first identified as "the Lord" (Gen. 18:1), which is God's covenant name, and also as one of "three men" who came to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre (Gen. 18:2).  We find out in chapter 19 that two of the "men" were really angels, so that one of "the men" was really "the Lord."  God had come in the form of a man, and this is what Jesus would do permanently when he was born in the manger at Bethlehem.  

I said that this was during a sad time in Abraham's life.  He and his wife Sarah had so longed to have a son.  This was especially important in ancient times, since only a son could carry on Abraham's name and his covenant headship.  God had promised him, "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing... in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:2-3).  Abraham knew that this required him to have a son, yet his wife was unable to have children.  At one point he complained to God about this, and God promised him a multitude of offspring through the son he would have:  "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them," God promised.  "So shall your offspring be" (Gen. 15:5).  The Bible says that Abraham "believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness" (Gen. 15:6).  This means that Abraham was justified through faith alone in Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:3).  Like him, when we believe God's promise to save us through Jesus, our sins are forgiven and we are justified before God.

The problem for Abraham was that while he believed God's promise, he just kept getting older and now his wife was too old to have children.  This is why Abraham was sad when Jesus came to him at the oaks of Mamre.  When Jesus arrived, Abraham seems to have recognized him, since he ran to him, bowed to the ground, and immediately arranged food for them to eat.  This shows that Jesus must have been in a real human body, because he ate Abraham's food!  But Jesus did not come merely to eat.  He came with a message of good news!  He declared to Abraham, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son" (Gen. 18:10). 

What good news this was to Abraham!  It was his heart's desire, and his wife's as well!  So do you know what they did?  The Bible says that Sarah laughed!  "So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, 'After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?'" (Gen. 18:12).  Jesus heard this, and he realized how long they had waited and how hard it was to believe this good news.  When we read what he said, it may seem that he was angry.  But I don't think that he was.  Jesus understands how hard it can sometimes be for us to believe, particularly when we have waited for a long time.  The New Testament says that Sarah really did believe (Heb. 11:11), so Jesus must have known that.  He said to Abraham, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?  At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son" (Gen. 18:14). 

Do you think that Jesus' promise of good news turned out to be true?  Of course it did.  Genesis 21:2 says, "Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him."  What is especially funny is the name that they gave their son.  As God had told them to do, they named him Isaac, which means "laughter."  This indicates how happy God made his servants when they believed his promise and were blessed.

I know there must have been laughter in Jesus' heart too while all this was going on, because he knew that God was going to do so much more for Abraham and for all who join him in faith.  Jesus knew that God was not only going to give a son, but his own Son.  Jesus was himself going to be the Son whom God would give to bring us salvation.  This is what Jesus meant when he later said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day.  He saw it and was glad" (Jn. 8:56).  When did Abraham see Jesus incarnate as a man, since he lived 2000 years before Christ's birth?  Abraham saw Jesus at the oaks of Mamre, when he believed God's promise to given him a Savior-child.

Abraham saw the Lord in the form of a man, fulfilling God's salvation promise.  Do you know that we have seen the very same thing in the Bible?  God has been faithful to us, just as he was faithful to Abraham!  And how amazing it is that God would give his Son, so that we could be saved by trusting in him.  If you think about how great it is, go ahead and laugh about it.  Laugh with a happy heart, because God has blessed you together with Abraham.  As you think about Jesus being born at Christmas, remember how much Abraham longed for a son and remember that our salvation needs a true Son to fulfill God's covenant promise.  Then, like Abraham, be glad, for Jesus has come with good news that our Savior has been born!

Jesus and Moses

The New Testament says something funny about Moses that scholars don't quite understand.  Hebrews 11:32 says that Moses' parents hid him "because they saw that the child was beautiful."  Baby Moses was special, and his parents understood something of his wonderful calling before God.  In fact, the Jewish historian Josephus wrote that Moses' father received a dream in which he learned that his child would grow up to deliver Israel from Egypt.  Christians look back on Moses and realize he was wonderful as one who anticipated the birth of baby Jesus.  

Consider how baby Moses was so much like baby Jesus.  If Josephus is right, Moses' father was told in advance about the saving mission of his baby son.  This is just what later happened to Joseph, when the angel told him about Jesus' birth and gave his name: "you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Mt. 1:21).  Another parallel is the way that Pharaoh was trying to kill all the baby boys in Israel, just as King Herod would try to kill Jesus with all the boys born in Bethlehem (Ex. 1:22; Mt. 2:16).  This shows that Satan was desperate to stop both of these babies from growing up and fulfilling their mission from God.  Moses was saved from Pharaoh when his mother put him in a basket to drift down the Nile, trusting God to protect him; Jesus was saved from danger when the angel warned Joseph and Mary to flee with him to Egypt for protection (Ex. 2:3; Mt. 2:13).  Is this a coincidence that Moses and Jesus had so much in common as babies?  No!  The Bible wants us to realize that just as Moses came to deliver Israel from bondage in Egypt, Jesus was born to free us from the bondage of our sin.

Not only was Moses like Jesus as a baby, but Moses was trusting Jesus for his own salvation.  Jesus taught this when he was once rebuking the Pharisees for not believe in him.  The Pharisees like to talk about how great Moses was.  But Jesus pointed out how Moses believed in him!  Jesus said: "There is one who accuses you; Moses, on whom you have set your hope.  For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me" (John 5:45-46).  When, we wonder, did Moses ever write about Jesus?

One place where Moses wrote about Jesus was Deuteronomy 18, when he spoke of a prophet who come just like Moses: "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers - it is to him you shall listen (Dt. 18:15).  Jesus was this prophet.  And when Jesus went "up on the mountain" to give his Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1), he was completing the teaching of the Ten Commandments that Moses gave on Mt. Sinai.

Another place where Moses wrote of Jesus is the book of Leviticus.  You will not find the name "Jesus" in that book.  But you will read about God forgiving us through the blood of animals sacrificed for our sins.  Moses was writing about Jesus, who was the true sacrifice that the animals only pictured, and whose blood on the cross truly atones for our sins (Lev. 16:34).  Some people teach that Moses had no idea that these sacrifices pointed to Jesus, but Jesus said that he did!  Moses also wrote about Jesus when he described how Israel was protected in Egypt by the lamb's blood on their doors, so that the angel of death passed over them.  God told him: "when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you" (Ex. 12:13).  Moses told Israel to remember the Passover by sacrificing lambs and eating the Passover meal, and in this way to look forward in faith to Jesus' coming (Dt. 16:1-2; 1 Cor. 5:7).  These were some of the ways in which Moses taught about how Jesus would come to "save his people from their sins" (Mt. 1:21).

There is one last mention of Moses' faith in Jesus, in Hebrews 11:24-26.  Like all boys and girls today, when Moses grew up he was tempted to sin.  When Moses' mother put her baby in the Nile River, God arranged for him to be found by the daughter of Pharaoh.  So Moses was raised as a prince of Egypt!  Being in this wealthy family, however, Moses was tempted to live in sin.  Did Moses choose to live this way?  No, instead he remembered his God and the sufferings of his people Israel in Egypt.  Moses left a life of sin in order to serve God's people!  That is exactly the kind of gift we should give to Jesus at Christmas!

Listen how the New Testament explains Moses' faith: "He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward" (Heb. 11:26).  Isn't this a wonderful statement!  No wonder Moses' parents thought he was a beautiful baby, since he would understand how wonderful Jesus and salvation would be!  Moses wanted to trust in Jesus and live a life that would glorify him.  Moses knew that God's greatest gift is his own perfect Son, Jesus the Savior, and that the greatest gift to God is our trusting faith, even if the world does not approve.  And what a reward Moses received for this!  We know from the Bible that even now Moses is in heaven with Jesus, praising God and sharing in his glory (Lk. 9:30).

The New Testament shows us that Moses should be our example in trusting Jesus for our salvation.  As we think about Christmas, perhaps we can marvel that we are trusting the very Savior who Moses loved long before he came.  What a great day it was for Moses when Jesus was born!  And, like Moses, we should worship Jesus by obeying God's Word.  Make the decision that like Moses you will turn from sin in order to glorify Christ!  Then you will get a great reward, as the free gift of God's grace, to join Moses in heaven to live forever in the presence of Jesus.

Jesus and Joshua

Most Christian children know how "Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho... And the walls came tumbling down!"  And it's true!  Joshua did lead Israel in obeying God's commands so that when the priests blew the trumpets and the people shouted a great shout, "the wall fell down flat" (Jos. 6:20)  How great is our God who cast down the walls of Jericho and gave his people the Promised Land!

But if we asked Joshua about the fall of Jericho, I do not think he would consider it the greatest moment in his life.  Years earlier, when Moses was still leading Israel, Joshua was one of the twelve spies sent to the land of Canaan to see what was there.  When ten of the twelve spies came back fearing, saying the Canaanites were too strong, Joshua was one of the two spies who believed in the Lord.  Joshua told the people that while the enemy was very strong, God was stronger still: "If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us... . Only do not rebel against the Lord" (Num. 14:8-9).  Because of Joshua's faith in God's Word, he was one of only two men from the generation of Israelites who left Egypt (Caleb was the other) who was allowed by God to enter the Promised Land.  What a great day it was for Joshua when he trusted the Lord and urged all the people to trust him, too!

Joshua had another great day when he finally led the people of Israel across the Jordan River into the Promised Land.  They had waited and wandered for so long: forty years!  And now God performed a miracle for Joshua just as he had done for Moses when Israel passed through the Red Sea.  The waters of the Jordan parted and Israel crossed over on dry ground (Jos. 3:16-17)!  It was such a great day that Joshua had each tribe take a large stone from the river and with them he built a memorial mound so that future generations would remember the great day when Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land (Jos. 4:21-22).

But even that was not Joshua's greatest day.  After Israel had crossed over the Jordan, God told all Israel to gather to worship him.  This was the second generation of the Israelites who came out of Egypt in the exodus, after the first generation died in the desert.  The men of this generation had not been circumcised.  Circumcision was the sign of God's covenant with his people, the cutting away of the male foreskin to signify the consecration of their flesh from sin.  What a great day it was for Joshua when all the men were consecrated to the covenant of the Lord!  For Christians, baptism means the same thing that circumcision does, only by remembering the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins (see Col. 2:11-12).  What a great day it was when Christian children or adult converts were baptized and thus entered into the covenant people of God!  Then, after the men were circumcised, the whole nation celebrated the Passover meal - their first meal together in Canaan looked back with thanks for how the blood of the Lamb had saved them from the angel of death (Ex. 12:27)!  Christians look back on the true Lamb of God who takes away our sin - Jesus Christ - when we celebrate the Lord's Supper in the church.  What a great day it always is when we join together at the table of Jesus Christ!

But even that was not Joshua's greatest day.  It was after he and Israel had consecrated themselves - set themselves apart - to the Lord that Joshua had his greatest experience.  He was walking near Jericho when "a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand" (Jos. 5:13).  Joshua could tell that this was a divine warrior, so he asked if he was for or against Israel.  The man spoke to him: "'I am the commander of the army of the Lord.  Now I have come.'  And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped" (Jos. 5:14).  Joshua was in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, in one of his pre-incarnation visits to his people.  Jesus came to remind Joshua that he was personally going to command the armies of angels - that was why the walls of Jericho were going to fall down. 

What a great day - truly, his greatest day - when Joshua took the sandals off his feet - just as Moses did at the burning bush - and worshiped the Lord Jesus in the presence of his glory.  Jesus is the Savior who fights our battles, too.  This is why he was born in Bethlehem, as we celebrate in Christmas.  The greatest battle that Jesus has won was not the fall of Jericho but his conquest of sin by dying in our place on the cross.  Just as Joshua's greatest day was when he met Jesus Christ, our greatest day is when we believe in Jesus and trust him to forgive all our sins.  Then every week have another great day as we come into Jesus' presence and worship God through faith in his Son.  Jesus commands all the legions of angels, so he can cast down our foes!  More than that, Jesus commands the justice of God to forgive our sins through faith in his blood.  And, like Joshua, those of us who believe in him, who have been baptized into his church, who gather at the Lord's table, and who serve as soldiers in Jesus' cause, can know that the banner of our commander's army is the love of God for all his people (SoS. 2:4).

Jesus and Jacob

When we think of Jesus appearing in the Old Testament, just about the last thing we expect him to do is wrestle.  But that is just what he did with the patriarch Jacob!  Jacob was in the proverbial place "between a rock and a hard spot."  He had just cheated his father-in-law Laban out of his best herds.  Running from him, Jacob now faced his brother Esau, who he earlier had cheated of the family's covenant blessing.  Jacob was in a quite a fix, all because of his conniving ways.  

True to his nature, Jacob had a scheming plan.  He would send gifts over to his brother until he won his favor.  So off went his goats, then his rams, next his camels, cows, and donkeys.  Now all the animals were gone, so Jacob sent over his wives and even his children (Gen. 32:13-23).  Still, no news of welcome arrived from Esau and his 400 warriors.  Now Jacob was all alone beside the river and darkness was falling.  We can imagine Jacob wrestling with his fears, trying to find a scheme to save him, until Jesus came to wrestle him instead.

Jesus came in answer to Jacob's own prayer.  Jacob had been so desperate that he cried out to the Lord for help:  "O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac," he prayed... "Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him" (Gen. 32:9-11).  We know from the Bible that God always hears the prayers of his people and God answers those prayers to help (see Lk. 11:9).  But sometimes God gives us what we really need, not what we think we need.  This is why Jesus came to see Jacob.  What Jacob really needed was to surrender himself to the Lord - not just his goats, donkeys, and children.  He needed to be saved from his sin, and Jesus is the Savior who comes from heaven to give salvation to sinners.  We know it was Jesus - that is, the Second Person of the Trinity who later would be named Jesus - who came that night because Jacob said that he saw "God face to face" (Gen. 32:30).  

Here is what happened: "And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of day" (Gen. 32:24).  While Jacob was wrestling with his brain, seeking some plan, the divine person appeared and laid hold of him.  Resisting him, Jacob fought back all night.  Finally, the Lord "touched his hip socket so that "Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him" (Gen. 32:25).  Jesus then started to leave Jacob but he held on to him.  Jacob said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me" (Gen. 32:27).  This is what the Lord wanted, and so he blessed Jacob with a new name: "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed" (Gen. 32:28). 

What exactly happened that night?  God had wanted Jacob to stop striving in his own strength for the things that he wanted but instead to put his hands on God for his blessing.  Isn't this a lesson we need to learn?  There are things our hearts desire because we are certain we must have them.  For children at Christmas, it may be a certain toy or computer game.  For older Christians, it may be a relationship or a job.  We seek these things because we want to be safe and happy, so like Jacob we scheme how we can get them.  We may not even be sinning, but we are still relying on our own way of getting our own things.  But God wants us to take our hands off of the things that we want and to put our hands onto Jesus.  God will provide us what we need.  God will decide how to bless us.  It is fine for us to try to get good things, but God wants our hearts to be resting in his grace.  So when we pray for his help, we should surrender not only our sheep and donkeys, so to speak, but we should surrender our hopes, dreams, and even ourselves into God's hands.  We should let God be the one who determines how he will bless us, knowing that his ways are best.  Then, sometimes God not only gives us what he wants but he gives us what we wanted too, once we have first placed it into his hands.  This happened for Jacob, because God did restore his relationship with Esau.

When God changed Jacob's name to Israel, the Lord was saying that he was to be a new person.  "Jacob" meant "Grasper," and he was no longer to live that way.  He was to live as Israel, the name of one who trusted God, even if wrestling with God in prayer, and in that way he prevailed.  Jacob said of his meeting with the pre-incarnate Christ: "I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered" (Gen. 32:30).  When we look in faith to Jesus at Christmas, we are looking to Jacob's Savior, the Lord who wants us to surrender our whole selves to him in faith.

Did you notice one last thing about Jacob?  He left that place "limping because of his lip" (Gen. 32:31).  God gave him a reminder that he should stop grasping but should keep trusting the Lord.  Sometimes God brings painful things into our lives so that our hands will be placed onto him, and sometimes we may even limp a bit afterwards.  But if we learn the lesson of truly surrendering ourselves and allowing Christ to be the one who decides on the way he will bless us, even the limp will have been worth it.  As we prepare for Christmas, we are reminded that though God's ways seem hard to us, he really does give us his very best.  At the right time, God sent Jesus to be born in the manger to bring us salvation.  And in the right way, at the right time, he will give the things we really need to everyone who holds on to him and prays, "I will not let you go unless you bless me" (Gen. 32:26).

Jesus and Isaiah 
One of our Christmas carols says that Jesus was "born a child and yet a king."  How greatly God's people needed a king to deliver them from sin!  It was to David that God promised a throne that would last forever (2 Sam. 7:13), but for so many years that throne had been empty.  The line of David was like a tree that had been cut down, but the stump remained in the ground.  So Isaiah foretold that "a shoot from the stump of Jesse" would arise "and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit" (Isa. 11:1).  This was Isaiah's Christmas promise: a descendant of David would rise unexpectedly to reign in the strength and power of God for salvation.  

This promise was why the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke prove that he was born in the line of King David.  Jesus' lineage would be established by his father, and Joseph who adopted him as his own was a "son of David" (Mt. 1:20; see also Lk. 2:4).  In this way, Jesus was qualified to fulfill what Isaiah foretold: "For to us a child is born, to us a son if given ... . Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom" (Isa. 9:6-7).  When Jesus was born, the house of David really was like a tree cut down to be nothing but a stump, but how great would be the king who rose from that royal lineage!

But how did Isaiah know that Jesus would be born as the true king of God's people?  The answer is that Isaiah saw Jesus enthroned in glory as the Savior from sin! 

The year was around 740 b.c., when a young priest named Isaiah went into the temple.  He was sad and afraid because King Uzziah had died after 52 years as Judah's king.  Imagine living your entire life under a single king, who had reigned for decades before you were born, but now he was dead!  Isaiah saw this death as a crisis of sovereignty, because King Uzziah's son Jotham was not a godly man.  What would happen to God's people?  God answered by showing Isaiah that it really is Jesus who is king forever for our salvation.  Isaiah 6:1 says: "In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple."  We know this was Jesus because the apostle John said of Jesus that Isaiah "saw his glory and spoke of him."  When Isaiah went into the temple and saw the Lord enthroned as king forever, it was Jesus who he saw in his glory!

Isaiah's vision of Jesus tells us three things about our Lord as we prepare to celebrate Christmas.  First, Jesus is a glorious king who alone is sovereign over all.  Isaiah writes: "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple" (Isa. 6:1).  Jesus was exalted before him and his glorious robes spread out so that no one else could have a place where he was.  This shows that Jesus reigns alone as king and his glory fills all things.  Isaiah also saw "the seraphim."  This word means "burning ones" and identifies glorious angels who serve in God's presence.   They each had six wings: two to cover their feet, showing humility before Jesus; two to fly, to show their readiness to serve him; and two to cover their faces, because even these amazingly glorious creatures cannot bear to see the full glory of Jesus' majesty (Isa. 6:2).  What a glorious king Jesus is!

Second, Isaiah saw that Jesus is a holy king, so that all sin is exposed by his presence.  This is what the angels cried before him: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" (Isa. 6:3).  And even though Isaiah was a godly man, he was overwhelmed by conviction of sin before Jesus: "And I said: 'Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" (Isa. 6:5).  Did you know that if Jesus showed you his own perfect holiness, you would also fall to pieces before him because of your sins?  How wonderful it is that God has provided us with a king who is perfectly holy.  Jesus truly deserves to reign forever!

Third, and most wonderfully, Isaiah saw that Jesus is a gracious king who redeems his people from sin.  Isaiah was trembling because he was a sinner in the presence of the holy God.  But one of the angels took "a burning coal... from the altar" and touched it to Isaiah's lips.  He said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for" (Isa. 6:6-7).  The altar was where the sacrifices for sin were burned before the Lord - it was a symbol of the cross, where Jesus would himself die for our sins.  So this glorious and holy king is also the Savior for those who come to be forgiven!  This is the king Israel needed and who was born in the manger of Bethlehem.  When we celebrate Christmas, we are thanking God for his own Son, the glorious and holy king who saves us from our sins giving his own life for us!  This is why the Christmas carol rejoices: "Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free / From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee."

There is one last thing to say about Isaiah's meeting with Jesus.  This vision was when Isaiah became a prophet, because he wanted to serve the king who had forgiven his sins.  Hearing God say, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"  Isaiah answered: "Here am I!  Send me" (Isa. 6:8).  In this, the prophet shows how we can best worship Jesus at Christmas this year.  First, we believe in him for salvation and then we worship him as our holy and glorious king.  Then, seeing how great a king Jesus is, we join Isaiah in saying, "Lord, I want to serve you!  Help me tell others that you are the king who saves everyone who believes!"  

HT: Reformation21


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