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What is the Gospel? The Gospel in the Old Testament: Promise of Yahweh’s Return (Part 2)

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The Gospel in the Old Testament: Promise of Yahweh’s Return

The bible uses thFRANCI~1e word ‘Gospel’ more than 120 times. The Old Testament alone employs the Hebrew word mebǎś∙śēr, translated as: to  bring a [good] news, about 30 times (בְּשֹׂרָהfrom which we get the Amharic equivalent – ብስራት). The Old Testament every so often uses it broadly to refer to any news, as oppose to its rigid New Testament uses of the word- to only  refer to the good news concerning Jesus Christ. According to the dictionary of Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament:

The root word (mebǎś∙śēr) is a common one in Semitic, being found in Akkadian, Arabic, Ugaritic, Ethiopic, etc. The root meaning is “to bring news, especially pertaining to military encounters.”

The earliest use of this Hebrew word, in the Old Testament, is mainly in connection with King David, in the historical books of Samuel and Kings. There we read messengers delivering news. In both instances, they are news in connection with the death of David’s adversaries: Saul and his son Absalom. The most significant (meaningful) uses of the word mebǎś∙śēr, is found  in the following verses to refer to either God’s past victory on behalf of his people or pointing to the future coming God’s own triumph to bring about the  End-time-salvation. (Is 40:1-9; Is 41:27; Is 52:7; Isa 61:1; Isa 60:6; Na 1:15; Joel 2: 32; Ps 40: 9; Ps 67: 12; Ps 96: 2; Ps 68:11)

In the near future, according to Isaiah 52 – 53 (in concert with all the prophets), God will fight a fierce battle by himself and will defeat his enemies. Isaiah then uses an imagery of messengers from the battle-field, who had witnessed God’s triumph (our equivalent of Battlefield Reporters), running towards the tower of the City of Zion and shout to the Watchmen from a distance saying: “the battle is over”. “Good newspeace…salvation…. your God reigns!
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, 
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
  The voice of  your watchmen—they lift up their voice;
together they sing for joy;
  for eye to eye they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.

The watchmen, who have been eagerly waiting to hear the out come of the battle, would in return broadcast the good news first to those who live in Zion (who have been afflicted and enslaved), and then to the ends of the earth (first to Jews then to Gentiles, concept communicated in –cf. Rom 1: 16-17). In order to see the significance of this good news, (i.e. …the return of the LORD…”), we should note to what happened in Israel that caused her God to abandon her. According to Ezekiel 10: 1-19 (for full context read Ezekiel chapters: 9 through 10) we see a picture of God’s glory abandoning the temple of Solomon thus leaving the city of Zion- which was the place of his reign (Jer 17: 12). In the vision, Ezekiel saw four creatures: – as he could identify them now as Cherubim, parked over the temple.

Then the Glory of the LORD went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. “And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the LORD, [we can see God’s hesitance to abandon his temple, but his people’s sin pushed him out] and the glory of the God of Israel was over them… Each one of them went straight forward.

This severe act of judgment over Jerusalem (the removal of the glorious presence of God [1] from their midst and the destruction of the city as a result), occurred in 586 BC when the Babylonian army destroyed the temple, bring the city to ruins, murdered the inhabitants and took the remnants to exile as slaves (II Kings chaps 24-25; 2 Chronicles 36). All this happened because of Israel’s Idolatry (Eze 8: 5-18). It was not as though God was too weak to save his people from this a great Army. Their God was not in his temple when Nebuchadnezzar’s armies destroyed the city. Jeremiah broke the bad news to Judah that Babylon was now God’s instrument of Judgment against his people because they failed to be faithful to the covenant, but God must remain righteous in keeping with his covenant stipulations, Deut 28: 15-68. But when God is through with Nebuchadnezzar, he would too be judged for his pride. This is what it means that God is Sovereign over all things!

[1] It is no wonder then that the New Testament repeatedly calls the Holy Spirit: the promise Holy Spirit it was the return of the Holy Spirit that marked the end of God’s Judgment and the beginning of the end-time salvation. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit”, Eph 1:13, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2: 38 “or as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7: 39

[2] The remnants being taken as slaves served for the prophets as a basis/ pattern for God’s future redemption. Just as God redeemed his people from Egypt, God will once more act to redeem his people from Assyria/ Babylon. This was highlighted in several places in the prophets. The coming salvation is like the exodus form Egypt. Hosea 2:14-15; Hos. 2.14-15 11.1; 12.9, 13.4-5; Amos. 2.9-10; 3.1-2; 9.7; Mic. 6.4; Isa. 10.24, 26; 11.15-16; Jer. 2.6-7; 7.22, 25; 11.4, 7; 23.7-8 = 16.14-15; 31.32; 32.20-22; 34.13-14; Ezek. 20.5-10. Jesus on the night he was betrayed announced that, that night was the night of the exodus, just as the Israelites ate the meal of the Passover by killing a lamb & applied the blood on their door posts & lintels. Jesus was that Lamb who ended God’s Judgment by his death on the cross.

Therefore, according to Isaiah, the content of the announcement is what constitutes the news to be the good news. That is “Your God reigns“. The Lord has now returned to his rightful inheritance, the place of his reign: – “for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion”. The return of the reign of God (reign of God = Kingdom of God) has been accomplished by his own triumph outside the camp. Sing for joy then: evil, sin and death have been defeated. His people no longer will be separated from him.

To this Zechariah also testifies: –

“Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey… 9 And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one…” (Zech 9: 9; 14:9; cf. John 12: 15).

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: The Lord is our righteousness.’ Jeremiah 23: 5
1 Therefore first and foremost the return of Yahweh’s reign back to his covenant people (as shown in Isa 52: 7), whom he abandoned because of their idolatry, signals that Yahweh isaiah-53-5himself must have accomplished redemption to cancel their sins committed against him. Isaiah identifies the means by which Yahweh redeems his covenant people as “my Servant” (the suffering servant: Isa 52:13 – 53:12) right after the announcement of the good news (Isa 52: 1-12).

Thus the New Testament writers, in concert, testify that Yahweh has finally acted in Jesus of Nazareth, who is the righteous branch from the seed of David. He brought about this End-Time salvation in keeping with God’s promises (Rom 1: 1-4; 2 Tim 2: 8; 2 Tim 1: 9-10; Rom 15: 8-13; Rom 16: 25-26).
Behold, my servant shall act wisely;

he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
… But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
up on him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

2 Second, the return of his reign (Kingdom) to Zion at the same time evokes a call to repentance since the righteous reign of God has not changed since the exile. If he judged Israel because of her idolatry, then his return must be received in spirit of repentance. With this in mind, the first chapters of the gospels make perfect sense. The evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke) open the announcement of the Gospel with this concept of the return of the Kingdom: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel- [the good news].”
For thus says the Lord:

“You were sold for nothing, and jyou shall be redeemed without money.”
…..Break forth together into singing,
syou waste places of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people;
      he has redeemed Jerusalem.
… Depart, depart, go out from there;
touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves

So then these four concepts are gloriously communicated in Isa 52 through 53 as the content of the proclamation of the good news in the Old Testament:

  1. The Lord’s judgment in abandoning his people is over (Isa 52: 3-5)
  2. God’s reign returns to his people for the sake of his own glory (Isa 52: 6-8),
  3. The Lord is now calling idolatrous Israel to repentance (Isa 52: 11-12) & finally
  4. The Lord has accomplished redemption on behalf of his people through the suffering of his servant (Isa 52: 9-10; 52: 13 – 53: 12)

A Chapter break at Isa 52: 13 would have been the proper place for it, as oppose to Isa 53: 1, so that the reader may see the obvious connection between God’s kingdom returning to Zion and the suffering of his servant accomplishing redemption. You need to note that chapter breaks are not inspired and were not there when Isaiah wrote the prophecy.

© 2013 – 2015, Samson Tilahun. All rights reserved.

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