We have for 43 years have studied Christ in the New Testament, we’ve seen Him historically in the gospels, theologically in the epistles, eschatologically in the book of Revelation, but that’s not the full picture. We have to see Him prophetically in the Old Testament.
…but I don’t understand how a Jewish rabbi should view the New Testament. How…how am I as a Jewish rabbi to understand the meaning of the New Testament in connection with the Old Testament.
I said, “Great question. And the answer is, get in the sandals, get in the sandals of Zacharias because Zacharias understood exactly what was going on with the arrival of Messiah as it related to the Old Testament.” This is the first bridge in the New Testament from the Old to the New
400 Years of Silence from God
The Old Testament, the Jewish Old Testament had closed with Malachi, the last prophet. And Malachi had said, “The Son of righteousness will rise with healing in His beams,” and that was a Messianic statement. Called the Son of righteousness, and here down in verse 79, again the shining of the Sunrise from verse 78 is the fulfillment of that Messianic prophecy, the Son of righteousness will rise.
And Malachi closes his book by saying that, and then saying, “And before the Messiah will come one like Elijah who will announce his arrival.” That was 400 years before this happened. Four hundred years of silence, God hasn’t spoken, there has been no word from heaven, no angel has showed up. And then all of a sudden out of nowhere to this very ordinary man comes an angel and says, “You and Elizabeth heretofore barren are going to give birth to a son. This son is going to be that Elijah-like prophet that was predicted by the final words of the Old Testament and he is going to be the one who
will declare the arrival of Messiah.
The 400 Years of Silence Broken
So, after 400 years of silence since the end of the Old Testament, the silence is broken, angelic announcements occur. The prophet has been announced and by the time you get to chapter 1 verse 67, already born, and it is my conviction that very likely as Zacharias sings this song, if you will, he has in his arms the newborn baby John the Baptist, the prophet. The Messiah also will soon be born in a matter of months and all Old Testament messianic promise and covenant will begin to be fulfilled.
…Zacharias then is the point at which the silence of God is broken after 400 years.
Christ as seed
And it promises a Redeemer. Abraham’s seed, and Paul says in Galatians, “Not seeds as many, but seed, that’s the Messiah, it promises one seed coming out of the loins of Abraham as well as out of the loins of David. And that’s why the genealogies go back through David to Abraham. The Messiah will be a Son of David, Son of Abraham; He will be the seed of Abraham who brings salvation and redemption. He will be the Redeemer.
The Salvation of Israel
What’s going to happen is prior to the Millennial Kingdom, in the period the Bible calls the Tribulation, the salvation of Israel as a unit, as a nation will take place. The rebels will be purged out, the prophet said. And then the Jews will be saved. A hundred and forty-four thousand Jews will preach the gospel, twelve thousand from every tribe.
Two Jewish witnesses in the city of Jerusalem will be seen by the whole world. They’ll be killed and rise from the dead. An everlasting angel flying in the sky will proclaim the gospel. And the end result and you can see it at the end of chapter 11 of Revelation, there’s going to be salvation comes to Jerusalem. And when Israel is saved and the fountain of cleansing is open to them, then the Lord will come and start His Kingdom.
The three great covenants
But in particular, Zacharias understands that the coming of Messiah means the fulfillment of three great covenants—three great covenants: the Davidic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, and the New Covenant. And what I mean by that is covenants, or promises that God made with David and then He had previously made with Abraham, and then the New Covenant.
Zacharias knows that with the arrival of Messiah comes the fulfillment of these covenants which they had longed to see realized since they were given. In the case of Abraham, several thousand years earlier. David’s a little later and the New Covenant is even later in the prophets. There had been no fulfillment. There was a kind of languishing, a kind of dissipating joy and anticipation as century after century went by and the promises to Abraham and David and the New Covenant had not come to pass. But now that the prophet has come and the Messiah will soon come, these covenants are about to be fulfilled.
The three other covenants of the bible
Just for the sake of information, there are three other covenants in the Old Testament, stated to be covenants. Sometimes you hear people talk about covenants, but the Bible doesn’t call them covenants. I like to think that if the Bible doesn’t call them covenants, we probably shouldn’t call them covenants either.
But there are three other covenants we could refer to in the Scripture, one is the covenant God made with Noah that He wouldn’t drown the world again in water.
That has no salvation aspect, no spiritual salvation aspect.
But that was nonetheless a unilateral guarantee from God.
And then in Numbers 25 there’s a priestly covenant by which God pledges Himself to a priesthood. That has no saving aspect either.
And then there is the Mosaic covenant, or sometimes called the Sinaitic Covenant because Moses got the Law on Mount Sinai and that also has no salvation feature.
The purpose of the Law is not to save anybody but to condemn everybody.
So there are those covenants, the Mosaic, the Priestly, and the Noahic Covenant.
The Barrier to the fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenant
There was a barrier to the fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenant and the barrier was the same, disobedience
Zacharias knew that the promises to David and Abraham wouldn’t come true through the Mosaic Covenant, couldn’t come to pass because they kept the Law. He doesn’t even talk about the Law. He jumps immediately to the New Covenant because he knows that’s the only entrance into these blessings. Everything God said to Moses is a threat, it’s a threat, because in the Mosaic Law, in the demands and the commands of God, there’s no power to break sin. There is no way to produce a new heart. There’s no way to change the inner man. The Law has no power to regenerate, no power to transform, no power to forgive, no power over sin.
In fact, the Law excites sin. It multiplies sin because the more commands there are, the more the evil heart is excited to violating them.
So there has to be another covenant, he goes immediately to that covenant, it’s the New Covenant…
The New Covenant
Here’s the New Covenant. “Not like the covenant I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. Not like the Law, not like the Mosaic Covenant. My covenant which they broke, not like that one, but this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, in the future, says the Lord. I will put My Law within them and on their heart I will write it and I will be their God and they shall be My people. They will not teach again each man his neighbour and each man his brother saying know the Lord, they will all know Me from the least of them to the greatest of them, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more.”
That’s the covenant that forgives.
The only hope then to receive the promises to David and Abraham is to be forgiven and to have a new heart and a new spirit and to have the Law of God written on the heart.
It’s an internal transformation.
The prophet Ezekiel speaks of it in equally magnificent terms in Ezekiel 36 and verse 25. And I know you’re somewhat familiar with this familiar…with this portion of Ezekiel because it’s so…it’s so magnificent. But just listen to verse 25 of Ezekiel 36. “I will sprinkle clean water on you,” and he’s talking to Israel again. “I will sprinkle clean water on you and you’ll be clean. I’ll cleanse you from all your filthiness and all your idols. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit within you, remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you, cause you to walk in My statutes and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
I’m going to transform you. I’m going to change you. I’m going to regenerate you. I’m going to change you from the inside, you will obey Me because you’ll be totally different. And that covenant was ratified by the death of Jesus. That’s why in Luke 22:20 He picks up the cup at Passover and says, “This is the cup that represents the New Covenant in My blood.” And Paul repeats that in 1 Corinthians 11, “This is the cup that speaks of the New Covenant in My blood.”
What is the New Covenant then?
It is the unilateral, irrevocable, unchangeable, eternal promise by God that He will save sinners by forgiving their transgressions and regenerating them from the inside to love Him and obey Him, that’s the New Covenant.
And He’s been doing it throughout all of redemptive history and here in Jeremiah and Ezekiel He promises to do it for Israel…to do it for Israel someday…someday.
The New Covenant embodies grace and peace and the Holy Spirit and regeneration and the knowledge of God and the forgiveness of sin and a new heart and pure fellowship with God and love for God. This covenant was personal and individual…and you are part of that covenant. He’s done that for you and for me. That is what Zacharias understood was the only hope of salvation. That’s why I say he’s a true believer. He’s not looking to the Law, he’s looking to God. And he knows why God would do that. Why would God do that? Why would God do that to somebody? Because he kept the Law? No, no, he gets it because of the tender mercy of our God.
Why would God do this? Because of the tender mercy of our God. The language here in the Greek is so powerful, eleeos is the word for mercy. We use it in English, eleemosynary means a non-profit organization, an organization that operates on a merciful basis.
But the more important word is splanchna which refers to the inner organs, the bowels. The tender mercy of God down deep embedded in the very nature of God is mercy.
It’s not a superficial attitude of God, it’s not a concession of God, it is a deep-seeded desire for doing good and showing favour and kindness and mercy to undeserving sinners. It is a glorious attribute of God. When Moses in Exodus 33 said, “Show me Your glory.” He said, “Let My mercy pass before you.” We have to have mercy. Read Psalm 107, that’s your assignment today, read Psalm 107. God loves mercy.
The word “sunrise” is actually in Greek the rising. The arrival of Messiah, listen, is like the first blaze of sun in the morning that breaks the darkness of night. The heavenly sun is arriving. The sun of the Most High, the Savior who is the divine light will shatter the darkness of the soul’s night. He remembers, that’s from Malachi. When Malachi says the Son of righteousness will arise with salvation in His beams. He borrows that language.
Messiah is the sun that banishes spiritual darkness. Jesus said, “I’m the light of the world, whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness. They will have the light of life.”
…comes as the Messiah, to shatter the darkness. Darkness in the Scripture is used to describe ignorance, blindness, what is hidden, error. It’s also used to describe things in a moral category, sin, wickedness, the presence of Satan. It’s used to describe the absence of God. Darkness is used to describe hell
Israel still to this day have not repented
The Messiah comes to bring the light of salvation. I can’t resist having you turn to chapter 59, let me just wrap it up with this portion of Isaiah, chapter 59. Verse 2 says that Israel is sinful, your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God. Your sins have hidden His face from you.” That is their condition even today. Zacharias didn’t know it would be two thousand years and they still would not have repented.