The Greatest Gift of All
By J.L. Robb
Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament and was written around 400 BC. The book is brief, only four chapters; and Malachi warns the people of Judah, his Jewish brethren, that they had strayed far away from God, yet again, chasing after the gods and idols of foreigners. This seems to have been habitual throughout much of Israel’s history.
Malachi tells the Jews that their lack of tithing or sacrificial giving had angered God. Sacrifice was required by God to show the love and dedication the Jews had for God; and the idea was: The sacrifice has to be the creme de la creme. The most unblemished animal, the very best crop. Instead the Jews sacrificed their blind and crippled animals showing total disrespect to The Almighty.
There is a silver lining in Malachi’s gloomy cloud though. He tells them that God is sending a savior for the people, a Messiah who will show them the way to salvation. He goes on to state that this Messiah would not just suddenly appear but would have witnesses proclaim his coming appearance.
The people of Judah lived in constant fear after occupation by various forces since the seventh century BC. They were ready for a savior, they needed a savior and the prophets had foretold of a Messiah who would appear, who would do miraculous and wondrous miracles but still be rejected by the people he came to save.
For the next four hundred years, the Jewish history is sketchy but several wannabe Messiahs showed up, preached in the deserts and fooled many of the people; but they did not heal the lame, the blind, the deaf, the lepers or raise anyone from the dead as had been predicted.
Four hundred years after Malachi walked the dusty streets of Jerusalem, Jesus was born in Bethlehem when Mary and Joseph were forced to make the journey for a required census. Sixty years later, Matthew wrote the history of Jesus’ miraculous accomplishments though there were too many to record all. The history proved that Malachi was correct.
The gift of the Messiah to the Jewish people was the greatest gift that God could give anyone. The Jewish people of the first century could strive for salvation and an eternal life that never ended if they had the fortitude, but none did. It was simple enough. Here are 613 laws from God to follow explicitly, and that would get you in the running. But no one ever did it perfectly until Jesus, a Jewish rabbi came along.
When God sent the perfect and flawless Jesus as a gift for the Judahites, He knew absolutely that His precious, unblemished, flawless Gift would be rejected. He knew that the Messiah would not only be rejected but would also be murdered by His chosen. God was willing to make a sacrifice for the Jewish folk so they could make it to heaven, even if they didn’t keep all the Law. And they did reject God’s unblemished sacrifice.
That was good for us though, the non-Jewish who came to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Jews of the time who didn’t believe that Jesus was who he said and rejected him, killed him and then killed the Jews who believed what they had seen with their own eyes allowed salvation to spread throughout the world, well beyond the ancient land of Israel.
I watched a video the other day by a rabbi that stated Jesus was not Jewish and that Jews could never be Christians. I guess he thought they would lose their Jewishness. I have some historical news for the rabbi: 100% of all the first believers in Jesus as the Messiah were Judahites. That is about as Jewish as one can get.
Malachi was not the only prophet to predict a coming Messiah for the Children of Israel.
Three hundred years before Malachi, the prophet Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would come to the Jewish population via a virgin birth.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. – Isaiah 7:14 NIV
“You” in this case was the once-again wayward people of Judah. The history of backsliding (that’s what the Bible called it, and stiff-necked) of the Children of Israel is well documented through archeology and written history.
Matthew, nearly eight hundred years later, confirmed Isaiah’s prediction.
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” – Matthew 1:23 NIV
Isaiah also predicted that the Messiah would be hated.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. – Isaiah 53:3 NIV
Isaiah, as always, is batting a thousand. Christians are being beheaded daily in some parts of the world by those who fear and hate the love of Jesus the Christ.
Forty years before Isaiah, Micah predicted the birthplace of the coming Messiah, Bethlehem.
“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 NIV
The prophet Jeremiah wrote around 580 BC, a hundred and twenty years after Isaiah. One of his predictions pertaining to the Messiah was rather dismal.
This is what the Lord says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” – Jeremiah 31:15 NIV
There were thousands of mothers weeping at the death of their baby boys when King Herod ordered them to be killed, hoping to rid the world of the newborn King.
When Herod saw that the wise men had tricked him, he was furious. So he gave an order to kill all the baby boys in Bethlehem and in the surrounding area who were two years old or younger. This was in keeping with the time he learned from the wise men. – Matthew 2:16 NCV
So what is the purpose of the Messiah? Jesus came because God so loved the world population that he sacrificed his own Son (an unblemished sacrifice) that we who do not reject him can have eternal life, a life that doesn’t end on a hospital bed or in an accident, a life like this:
Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat.’ – Revelation 7:16 NIV
Jesus is leading us to the end of God’s story, His final act; and it is a love story. The old Jerusalem will disappear and a new one will come into being, a new Garden of Eden without the serpent this time. A kingdom that is always just, and no one wants for anything. No death, no sickness, no starvation. Only God and His heavenly host and those who do not reject the Messiah.
Jesus the Christ is the greatest Gift that God has ever given the world.