Are we really poor miserable sinners?
How does the Old Testament point to Jesus?
Here is a key, incredible, awe-inspiring passage from the Hebrew Scriptures:
"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, 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." (Isaiah 9:6-7)
A standard Jewish response to this is that these titles do not refer to Jesus, as he was never called any of these titles during his lifetime. Actually, that's not the point, as these titles are names given to both God and the Promised one himself in Jewish writings. It is clear that the Promised one is being referred to as he will reign on David's throne, a necessary condition for Messiahship. So this passage could be paraphrased, "For to us a child is born ... and he will be God Himself ...". So the point is not that this couldn't be Jesus specifically referred to, but that, if Jesus has a claim to be the Promised One, then he would also need to be God Himself.
These titles are known as the "throne names" of the Messiah, the Promised One. Jewish commentators generally state that these titles belong either to God Himself, or to a Jewish contemporary - King Hezekiah is the usual suspect. But Ibn Ezra, one of the greatest Biblical commentators of all, refused to follow the party line and stated explicitly that these were all the names of this child of the future. This child who would grow up to be the man who would be God.
Here's another familiar passage:
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2)
Reading this verse in its entirety we are looking for a Promised One, who had existed from long before. This is a reference to the Memra, the manifestation of Jesus at the time of Creation. There is further affirmation of this in the Targum Jonathan:
"And You Bethlehem Ephrath, you who were too small to be numbered among the thousands of the house of Judah, From you shall come forth before Me The Messiah, to exercise dominion over Israel, He whose name was mentioned from before, from the Days of Creation."
So the Messiah, who was also the Memra, is to be born in Bethlehem. It is most unlikely that any Messiah is going to come out of current Bethlehem, as it is now an Arab village, without a Jew to be seen.
You should now have a reasonable portrait of The Promised One. The battle for truth though is ongoing and although I have presented over the last few articles, I believe, a reasonable apologetic for Jesus as the fulfillment, the opposition will never be satisfied until the Holy Spirit illuminates their heart. We can only go so far in our debates, whether over prophecy fulfillment or over any number of battlegrounds, ranging from the very existence of God to issues of creation, Israel or end-times. In the final analysis it is all a matter of faith. You either believe or you don't. You either want to believe or you find yourself in opposition for reasons that perhaps you are not even clear about. But if you are a believer in Jesus then you have been shown that, in the great debates of Biblical interpretation, we do have reasonable answers for the Christian position. We must not feel insecure when confronted by alternative explanations. The fact is that whatever answer we give will always be queried and challenged, but at least we are providing food for thought.
There can only be one truth and, although religious Jews may think they are fighting the good fight by defending traditions that have been handed down to them, there are no better weapons than an open mind and an open and willing heart prepared for change, however painful.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book 'Jesus Man of Many Names')