We hope you’ve had a very merry Christmas! Looking back on the first Christmas means looking back at the prophecy that foretold of Jesus’ fate hundreds of years earlier. After studying Isaiah 7 last week, we’re heading to chapter 53 this week to study Jesus’ sacrifice that would save His people from their sins.
This chapter is particularly noteworthy because it’s not welcome in Jewish synagogues. Though it is from the Tanakh, it is such a clear link to Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah that it goes against Jewish teachings. Chris discusses our Savior from many key angles—His kingly history; His parallels to David, the great king of Israel; and His appearance among the people of His day. Thank you for faithfully supporting and enjoying The Friends of Israel Today in 2020, and may God bless you as we enter 2021!
If you missed part one of this series, you can listen now!
Steve Conover: Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. We have an exciting show for you once again this week, but before Chris comes, I want to remind you to visit our website, FOIradio.org. Again, that's FOIradio.org. We have over five years worth of programming on our site for you to listen to, and I invite you to browse around and enjoy the content we offer there, and on our main ministry, webpage/ you'll find trustworthy and accurate news on Israel in the Middle East, and while you're there, you can support our ministry by clicking on the donate button to help us continue teaching biblical truth about Israel and the Jewish people. Once again, that's FOIradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, we can't help but look at the Christmas account that we've been going through. And now what we want to do is ... When Jesus was born, he came, but we're not just celebrating the manger scene. We're actually looking today at the entire mission of Jesus. The manger scene leads to the mission of what Jesus came to do. So we're actually going to go to Isaiah chapter 53 as we end our year, which is awesome to think about. We're going to end our year looking at Isaiah chapter 53, the mission of Jesus.
Now, before we continue, I want to say thank you to all of the listeners, both on radio and podcasts that have been following us throughout 2020, and it has been an interesting year to say the least. But as we wrap up this year, I want to encourage you to go to FOIradio.org. Because on there, you'll be able to find a link to see a video from our executive director, Dr. Jim Showers, talking about the work that the Friends of Israel does and ways that you can partner with us this year end. The Friends of Israel is a global ministry that's reaching out to the Jewish communities all around the world and educating the church about the importance of Israel and the Jewish people from a biblical perspective. If you believe that matters, and I want to encourage you once again to go to FOIradio.org, there you can listen to Dr. Jim Showers, and you can be a part of partnering with the friends of Israel to continue the message that Jesus promised us through the scriptures, to minister and to support Israel and the Jewish people. Again, that's FOIradio.org.
Steve Conover: In the news, US president-elect Joe Biden says he'll reenter the Iran nuclear deal if Tehran returns to full compliance. Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Zarif, responded to Biden saying the deal will never be renegotiated, period. Zarif said Iran won't agree to any curbs on its missile program or a backing of regional proxies unless Western countries stop their, quote unquote, "Maligned behavior in the Middle East."
Chris Katulka: Well, here's my take. Iran doesn't like Western countries' behavior in the Middle East. You kind of almost have to laugh at that statement. You mean they don't like that Israel made peace with the UAE, with Bahrain, with the Sudan and other countries potentially on the brink of striking peace with the only Jewish state in the Middle East? That's what they don't like? Is that the malign behavior that Zarif is talking about? Here's a little word for president-elect Biden. If he neglects the Middle East advancements that were made by the Trump administration to cut a deal with Iran now, I'm going to tell you, it would only isolate the US from a majority of the Middle East.
Steve Herzig had a challenge for his Jewish friends. One that seemed simple enough, but ultimately had an unexpected turn. He would say, "Read these words from the Bible," handing his Jewish friends a piece of paper with these words written on it. "He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors, yet he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors." For those who accepted Steve's challenge, their initial glance at the few words that he had given to them, they said to Steve, "Please put away your New Testament." They didn't want to hear about Jesus.
But what they were about to learn was that these words hit closer to home. Steve responded, "It's not the New Testament you're reading. Those words come from the prophet Isaiah, from our Tanakh, the Old Testament." What Steve's friends didn't know was that Isaiah 53 is the clearest picture of Jesus's life, death and resurrection in the Old Testament. Steve, having grown up Jewish and reading the Tanakh, the Old Testament, can affirm the most Jewish people have never read these words before. This particular scripture unites the Old Testament with the New Testament for both Christians and Jewish people. And for thousands of years, Isaiah 53 has been a powerful tool for sharing the gospel to all people, dating back to the early church in the Book of Acts.
Sharing Isaiah's Good News with those who don't know this promise of the Messiah is actually one of the most important things that we can do as Christians this Christmas season. It's moments like the one that Steve had with his friends along with really the countless acts of service our Friends of Israel workers do all year long that help us build bridges and bring hope to those who need it the most. And this is why I want to focus on Isaiah 53 for our time here as we wrap up this year. To celebrate the birth of our Savior for Christmas, and as we enter into 2021. To celebrate Christ's birth means that you celebrate his whole life. We're remembering when God became man, the incarnation. But he became man for a reason. He became man for a purpose. He came to redeem his creation.
Even Matthew tells us that when the angel came to Joseph to let them know that the baby in Mary is the Messiah from God, that his purpose is one that would save his people from their sins. Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords didn't come into this world with pomp and circumstance of a typical earthly King. Think about it. Earthly kings have an entourage of advisers around them, all the time giving advice and providing security to keep the royalty safe from harm. A king travels in style. He's treated with respect and honor and dignity. And then there's Jesus.
Listen to how Isaiah 53 describes Jesus. This comes from Isaiah 53, verse two. "He sprouted up like a twig before God, like a root out of parched soil. He had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention. No special appearance that we should want to follow him." Okay, so what we see here first in Isaiah chapter 53, verse two, is that he sprouted up like a twig before God. Like a root out of parched soil. That's what the text says. This verse is thick. It is thick with messianic, kingly hope. You're probably saying, "What does a twig have to do with a Messiah or a King?" What does a root or parched soil have to do with Jesus becoming the King of Israel? Well, that word for a root that is used there in Isaiah 53 actually goes back to a previous chapter that Isaiah writes in Isaiah chapter 11, verse one, which says this. "A chute will grow out of Jesse's root. A bud will sprout from his roots. The Lord spirit will rest on him. A spirit that gives extra ordinary wisdom. A spirit that provides the ability to execute plans. A spirit that produces absolute loyalty to the Lord."
This is a very messianic Psalm in Isaiah chapter 11. But notice, who is Jesse? Well, Jesse is actually the father of King David, and King David was considered one of Israel's greatest kings. But after King David, there were only a handful of kings, barely, who were righteous like he was. But God promised in Isaiah chapter 11 that he would go back to the root of Jesse. That means he's going to prune back David's line and a new sprout would arise. This would be Jesus. God promised David that he would have a son in second Samuel seven. A son who would sit on his throne forever. That person is Jesus the Messiah. The King of Israel.
So Isaiah 53, right from the very beginning, lets us know that this person that's coming up, this suffering servant in Isaiah 53, is rooted in King David's family. He's kingly, he's messianic. Listen to what this says though, about Jesus and Isaiah chapter 53 verse two. It goes on because awkwardly, even though he's king, it says that he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention. No special appearance that should make us want to follow him. Here's what's interesting. Each one of those statements, "He has no stately form, he has no majesty, no appearance." Those were actually words that were used to describe King David, but in a positive sense. That word for form, that he had no stately form. That word form, that same word is used to describe King David when it was said that he was young and he was handsome. He had fine form. That's actually where that word comes from. The same word is used here in Isaiah 53 to actually flip it around and say, Jesus had no form that would grab your attention. You'd look right over him.
Isaiah 53 too says there was no majesty. Those same words could be used to talk about a King's majestic robes that were worn. Jesus didn't come into the world with the pomp and circumstance of kings and nobles. No majesty. So there again, you see that connection that even though the king has come, we're not going to expect him to come in a kingly way. Again, the word used that this suffering servant of Isaiah 53 had no special appearance that we should follow him. That same word of appearances used of King David when he taunted Goliath and Goliath got mad at him. Do you remember that? And he saw that he was just a boy, handsome in appearance. Again, that word used to describe King David, but flipped upside down to show that nothing about Jesus would draw attention to him by royal standards, or even basic appearance.
When Jesus entered into the world, there was no human adoration of the king who was born to a mother nobody knew, in a town nobody visited, in a manger meant for animals. When God became man, he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should even want to follow him. In fact, Isaiah goes on to say that Jesus would be despised and rejected, and that doesn't sound like a great start for a king.
From the very beginning of Jesus's life, he was rejected. Herod rejected Jesus. Tried to have him killed. His own people in Nazareth ran him off. The teachers of the law and religious leaders of Israel despised Jesus. Judas, one of his very own, turned on Jesus, and eventually the whole nation rejected Jesus when they demanded Barabis to be freed over Jesus, who was completely innocent. Many people followed and loved Jesus, but he was ultimately rejected by his own. That's the reason the gospel of John opens in John chapter one verse 11, that he came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. Isaiah 53 shows us that Israel's king won't appear to them in the way that they would expect most kings to appear. He would be despised, rejected, looked over, forgettable. God's servant was destined to suffer. And this is why Isaiah 53 is called the Suffering Servant Passages.
Now, before we continue with Isaiah 53, as we're here in this Christmas season and we're moving into the new year, maybe you want to study a little bit more about the birth of Jesus and understand the backgrounds that were going on during the birth of Jesus. And that's why I want to introduce you to a book called, They Called Her Miriam, the Virgin of Nazareth, written by our very first executive director, Dr. Victor Buksbazen. Dr. Buksbazen, a Jewish man himself who became a believer in the Lord Jesus, took the understanding of what was happening in the Jewish world in the first century at that time, and draws a perfect picture of what that world looked like. What was the world that Mary entered into? What was the world that Jesus was born into? How did God use Mary and Joseph during this time as Jesus was a young boy? All of the different prayers and songs that Mary sung, this isn't to elevate Mary into a status of God-like character. This is to give a character picture of who Mary is so that we can better understand who Jesus is.
God chose Mary, an amazing woman, a woman that God favored, in order to bring the Messiah, the true light of the world to this earth. And so Dr. Buksbazen's account of Miriam, the mother of Jesus, is an amazing book that you'll want to get your hands on.
Steve, can you let our listeners know how they can get They Called Her Miriam, the Virgin of Nazareth?
Steve Conover: Yeah. To purchase your copy of They Called Her Miriam by Dr. Victor Buksbazen, visit us FOIradio.org. That's FOIradio.org. There you'll find a link on our homepage that will direct you to the book. And you can call our listener line at (888) 343-6940, and someone will return your call during our regular business hours. Again, to purchase the book, call (888) 343-6940. In Canada call (888) 664-2584. Again, in Canada, that's (888) 664-2584.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back. This Christmas season as we remember the birth of Christ, we also want to remember his mission. His divine mission. Right from the beginning, the angel's announcement of Jesus's birth proclaimed that Jesus came to save his people from their sins. The name of Jesus in Hebrew, Yeshua. Yeshua literally means salvation and deliverance. The King of Israel would deliver his people, just not the way they expected him to. And Isaiah 53 explains that perfectly.
Listen to Isaiah 53 describes the deliverance the suffering servant would bring. This comes from Isaiah chapter 53, verse five. It says this, "But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities, and upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace. And with his wounds, we are healed." It's no surprise that Jewish people in the days of Jesus were expecting a king who was like David to arise that would cleanse Israel of its own idolatry. That it would rid the land of Roman oppression and would ultimately bring Shalom and peace.
But Isaiah paints a different picture of Israel's king. That through suffering, the king would bring spiritual peace and healing. The suffering king would be pierced for our transgressions. A visible image of Jesus nailed to the cross for us, bearing our punishment that he was crushed for our iniquities in order to bring us healing. I believe Isaiah 53:5 best sums up the mission of Christ's first coming. He came with great humility into the world, and through his obedience to the father, even to the point of death, he was pierced for our rebellion against God. Our sin was placed upon him. He received the blame and guilt and punishment of our wrongdoing so that we might be healed and reconciled to the Father.
Isaiah 53 prophesied of the suffering king's mission. Isaiah 53 in the birth of Jesus reveals to us that from the very beginning, Jesus had a mission. Not even Rome, the largest empire in the world, could stop Jesus from fulfilling his calling. But as we wind down 2020, the crazy year that 2020 has been, as we turn a page on this year, I want to ask if you found your mission as a believer in Jesus Christ.
I have four kids. Olive, Cohen, Preston, and Levi. Each one of our kids have names that we've given to them that have an anticipated mission in mind from me and my wife. We named our daughter Olive because our prayer is that she would communicate the peace Christ brings to people's lives, like an olive branch to anyone she encounters. What we named our twin sons Cohen and Preston. Cohen is the Hebrew word for priest, and our prayer is that one day Cohen would be a man who would love connecting people with the God who loves them. Preston is a priest village, a safe place for people to come and hear the good news. And we pray that Preston will one day be a safe place for people to learn about the love of Christ. And then our last child is Levi. Levi was the priestly tribe who served in multiple ways to make it possible for Israelites to worship God. And our prayer is that Levi will one day serve the Lord in any capacity, to invite people into the worship of our Lord.
And you know what? My kids are young, and I don't know how it will turn out. I don't know if their names will match their mission. But here's the thing. God does have a mission for them. And God has a mission for you. We've all been called to serve him in some way, in some form, and in some capacity. Jesus's mission didn't end at his resurrection. He actually passed the mission on to us, that we would take the message of forgiveness and reconciliation, peace and hope, that he made possible into a lost and broken world.
I pray this year that you find your divine mission to make Christ known. Christ knew his mission right from the very beginning. Do you know yours?
Steve Conover: Chris, I'm reminded of the proverb that says, "A good name is more desirable than riches." It's really a matter of priority, isn't it?
Chris Katulka: It is. And that whole idea is reputation. And it's not a personal reputation. It's that your name wants to be connected to a reputation that people remember positively. And I think that when we put that within the biblical grid, the biblical understanding of reputation, what we really want to do is elevate the name of the Lord through our mission and the reputation that we have. That our testimony would be pleasing to him.
Steve Conover: Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellog: In the days preceding Christmas, many in Israel ask believers, "How can God have a birthday?" I recently answered a group of such people. If you have any more questions, ask and I'll answer, but the answer may surprise you. They fired off many questions. Why are you so happy at this time of year? Why do you make such a big celebration on Christmas? Who was Jesus? Why did he come? I responded, "I will answer you, but let me first tell a story. Once on a cold winter day, a man noticed a small bird outside his window, and the bird wanted to come in and warm itself, but the window was closed. The man opened the window to let it come in, but the bird became frightened and flew away. The man felt sorry, and wished he could become a bird so he could invite it inside."
"The Jewish people are like this poor bird," I told them. "But God loves them and did not want them to fly off on the road and be lost forever. So in his great mercy, he sent his son as a man. His son spoke with us in our language, telling us what God was like and how much he loved us. Then he suffered and died in our place so we could be reconciled to God. Because of this, we can be happy in the Lord and praise his name." They'd listened intently. But when I finished, one of them said, "Well that was a nice story, but it's only for Christians. There's nothing written in our Jewish Bible about Jesus." I replied, "Now I will show you that surprise. I will show you from the Jewish scriptures, the song sung in the Hebrew language by Christians at this time of year to welcome our Savior." And I read Zechariah 9:9. "Rejoice greatly, oh daughter of Zion, shout oh daughter of Jerusalem. Your King is coming to you. He's just in having salvation."
I continued, "Jesus came to earth because humanity had sunk deep into sin and God wanted to change hearts and provide lasting atonement. Jesus came to cleanse us from sin forever." One replied. "This is only a Christian starting found in Christian books. It's not for Jews." I countered, "You can read about the Messiah in your own Jewish Bible." Passages such as Michael 5:2, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah nine, six, and seven, and Isaiah 53 will clearly portray who he is. If you'll have time, I will be glad to read and discuss them with you.
I was delighted they were willing to read the scripture with me. When we were finished, I asked, "Now, do you understand why I am so happy? Do you think the stories of the rabbis are true and more relevant to the Messiah than what we have read from the scriptures?" "No," one said. "The Bible is the only book." I ask, "If that is so, what are you waiting for? Why not believe in your hearts all we have read, then you two can share in this joy." They all were glad I had explained the significance of Christmas.
There are many people in this world and each should have the opportunity to hear the good news of the incarnation and death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. All who yield their lives to him will receive salvation, forgiveness and eternal life.
Steve Conover: Thank you for joining for today's program and for joining us for the entire year of the Friends of Israel today radio programming. Chris, where are we headed next week?
Chris Katulka: Yeah first, everyone here, I'm looking at everyone at The Friends of Israel Today, and I know we all want to wish you all a very happy New Year. We are so thankful for our listeners and we just want to wish you a happy and healthy New Year. And we pray that the Lord blesses 2021 for you as you enter into it. And that's why actually we're going to be going back, and we're going to be looking at two episodes that we did in the past. We hand picked them because we love them so much. Because speaking of old going into new, leaving 2020, going into 2021, we want to look at the study of how we relate to God. Both how it happened in the Old Testament, going backwards to the Old Testament, and then an episode into the New Testament as we enter into 2021.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold, and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, PO box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, PO box 91, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. And one last quick reminder to visit us at FOIradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people. And from The Friends of Israel, a happy New Year to all.
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They Called Her Miriam: The Virgin of Nazareth
By Victor Buksbazen
Such legends and myths have been attributed to Mary, the mother of Jesus, that she seems almost too unknowable. But she was beautifully human and relatable, a flesh-and-blood Hebrew woman given the blessed privilege of bearing the divine Son. This book will open your eyes to the heart of Miriam, the Hebrew name of Jesus’ mother, in her New Testament context while revealing her place in God’s redemption story.
IN CANADA? ORDER HERE!
Apples of Gold: How Can God Have a Birthday?
“Why are you so happy this time of year?” The people in Israel asked Zvi this question at Christmastime every year. Zvi loved Christmas and enjoyed explaining why it is such a joyous celebration. But he always warned them that his answer might not be what they expected. Zvi took them to the Hebrew Scriptures to explain the joy of Christmas. They were shocked and thankful that he took the time to show them where the Messiah was talked about in the Old Testament.
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.