Recently, I heard the testimony of Christian man who longed to share the good news of Jesus Christ with his co-workers, but he wanted to do it in a way that was non-confrontational. Therefore, he merely typed the following passage and passed it out to his fellow employees, asking them if they would mind reading it. The passage was this:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The man then asked his co-workers who had agreed to read the passage, “do you have any idea who this passage might be talking about?” Overwhelmingly, the people responded “Jesus Christ.” At that point the man said to his co-workers, “did you know that this passage was written about 700 years BEFORE Jesus even lived on the face of the earth?” If the people were willing to discuss the issue further, he met with them and presented the plan of salvation, but if they declined, he merely thanked them for taking the time to read the passage.
That passage was from Isaiah 53.
The Book of Isaiah is my FAVORITE book of the Bible. I read Isaiah, and I hear my own experience in its pages, but I also read about the God who is mighty to save regardless of the circumstances. Isaiah is referred to as “the Book of Salvation” because of the redemptive thread that runs through its 66 chapters.
There is such a prophetic tone to the book that many scholars (liberal ones, mind you) say that the book could not have possibly been written by one person. As a result, some liberal scholars say that Isaiah was written by anywhere from two to five people. They say that there is NO WAY that Isaiah himself could have known that Israel would be taken captive first by Assyria (in 720 B.C.) and then by Babylon in 586 B.C. They could possibly understand the Assyrian captivity because Isaiah was alive during this time. Yet, these scholars cannot believe that the same Isaiah could have predicted the Babylonian captivity in 586 B.C. OR that the man responsible for the liberation of Israel could be mentioned BY NAME (Cyrus, king of Persia) hundreds of years before he was born (see Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1-3). Because these scholars have a pre-conceived commitment against the supernatural (even in the Bible), the reasoning of the PROPHET (all caps, mine) Isaiah mentioning future events and names has to be explained away as being more than one person.
Enter the Dead Sea Scrolls.
In 1947, two Bedouin boys were playing near a series of caves in Qumran, close to the Dead Sea. One of the boys took a rock and threw it into the opening of the cave and heard what sounded like pottery breaking. Upon further investigation, the boys found several clay pots inside the cave that contained seven scrolls. This discovery eventually led to an archeological expedition from 1947-1956 that uncovered not just seven scrolls but 220 ancient scrolls written mostly in the Hebrew language. Many of these scrolls were merely fragments of Old Testament books. Yet, there was also an ancient commentary on the book of Habakkuk, portions of the Psalms, as well as some secular writings from Jewish history.
The GREATEST finding of all the scrolls was what came to be labeled “The Great Isaiah” scroll. It was named this because it is a COMPLETE scroll from all 66 chapters of the Book of Isaiah. It is the only complete Book of the Old Testament that has been found to date.
What makes this even more remarkable is the fact that “pieces of the Isaiah Scroll have been carbon-14 dated at least four times, giving calibrated date ranges between 335-324 BC and 202-107 BC; there have also been numerous paleographic and scribal dating studies placing the scroll around 150-100 BC” (http://www.allaboutarchaeology.org/dead-sea-scrolls-2.htm). Even if you accept the most conservative estimate of dating the scroll at 150 B.C., this finding really shoots some major holes into the theory that Isaiah could not have been written by one man some 700 years before Christ because even at 150 B.C. we have prophecies (fulfilled in Christ) like:
|Will be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14)||Was born of a virgin named Mary (Luke 1:26-31)|
|Will have a Galilean ministry (Isaiah 9:1,2)||Ministry began in Galilee of the Gentiles (Matthew 4:13-16)|
|Will be an heir to the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7; 11:1, 10)||Was given the throne of His father David (Luke 1:32, 33)|
|Will have His way prepared (Isaiah 40:3-5)||Was announced by John the Baptist (John 1:19-28)|
|Will be spat on and struck (Isaiah 50:6)||Was spat on and beaten (Matthew 26:67)|
|Will be exalted (Isaiah 52:13)||Was highly exalted by God and the People (Philippians 2:9, 10)|
|Will be disfigured by suffering (Isaiah 52:14; 53:2)||Was scourged by Roman soldiers who gave Him a crown of thorns (Mark 15L15-19)|
|Will make a blood atonement (Isaiah 53:5||Shed His blood to atone for our sins (1Peter 1:2)|
|Will be widely rejected (Isaiah 53:1,3)||Was not accepted by many (John 12:37, 38)|
|Will bear our sins and sorrows (Isaiah 53:4, 5)||Died because of our sins (Romans 4L25; 1Peter 2:24, 25)|
|Will be our substitute (Isaiah 53:6,8)||Died in our place (Romans 5:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 5:21)|
|Will voluntarily accept our guilt and punishment for sin (Isaiah 53:7,8)||Jesus took on our sins (John 1:29; Romans 6:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21)|
|Gentiles will seek Him (Isaiah 11:10)||Gentiles came to speak to Jesus (John 12:20,21)|
|Will be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7)||Was silent before Herod and his court (Luke 23:9)|
|Will save us who believe in Him (Isaiah 53:12)||Provided salvation for all who believe (John 3:16; Acts 16:31)|
|Will die with transgressors (Isaiah 53:12)||Was numbered with the transgressors (Mark 15:27, 28; Luke 22:37)|
|Will heal the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1,2)||Healed the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18, 19)|
|God’s Spirit will rest on Him (Isaiah 11:2)||The Spirit of God descended on Jesus (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; 4:1)|
|Will be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9||Was buried in the tomb of Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60; John 19:38-42)|
|He will judge the earth with righteousness (Isaiah 11:4,5)|
Isaiah is the second-most quoted Old Testament Book in the New Testament—second only to the Psalms. Therefore, its importance cannot be understated.
You see, Christianity cannot merely be seen as a fairy tale. There is history and robust archeological evidence welded to its truth claims. You may not believe, but it cannot be said that there is no hard evidence to the truths of Christianity.
Aldous Huxley would explain his atheism this way: “I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. … For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political“ (Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means (London: Chatto & Windus, 1946), pp. 270, 273).
We can pretend to act like the evidence is not there. We can ridicule, belittle, and joke our way out of believing, but the simple truth is that evidence is at our fingertips. It is truly up to us to make an “educated” choice about what we will do with that evidence.
Merry Christmas and Maranatha!!
(For more information on the Dead Sea Scrolls see http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/)