After losses and what felt like lots of waiting, we finally held our newborn son. My heart loved him the minute we conceived him, but gazing at him somehow deepened that love. When my eyes connected with his, something changed within me–as if the bonds that held us together became more spiritual than physical.
I know now that in those first minutes, hours, and days after the birth of our son, I was beholding him. Yes, regarding him with my eyes, but also perceiving him with my heart.
While my analogy helps us better see what it means to behold, it fails to capture the extent of what it means to behold Jesus. However, the comparison of mother and child does help us understand that looking upon Jesus as our Messiah goes beyond outward glimpses. In fact, the eyes of our hearts can begin soaking in the truth that beholding Messiah means putting our full attention on Him and yielding our deepest selves to Him (JD Walt, Daily Text, 2/9/17).
Prophets and Stubborn Cycles
In the Old Testament, centuries before Jesus comes on the scene, God’s people consistently seek deliverers. They cry out to God in their enslavement in Egypt, and God sends them Moses. In the years of the “judges,” the Israelites fall into a cycle of disobedience that always leads to oppression, and in the depths of their despair, they beg God for someone to save them. And, He faithfully sends them a new judge (aka: Deborah, Samson, Gideon, etc) to lead them out of captivity.
In the era of the kings, a similar cycle ensues. Again and again, kings lead the people into immorality and idolatry until God finally allows His people to be swept off to exile, where they repent and begin to seek God’s deliverance.
Through it all, God raises prophets to speak His word over His people, and we can scour their words for the same promise-giving nuggets that glisten a golden hue, illuminating images of the Messiah, God’s once-and-for-all Deliverer.
God’s prophets call their people to behold Messiah.
God beckons us to behold Him, as well. One way we do this is by reading God’s Word, which reveals much about Jesus, our Messiah. To uncover truths about Him, we can mine through the major and minor prophets, digging for hints of His character and signs of His purpose. In all, we’ll find about 324 specific prophecies that Jesus fulfills, two of which we’ll look at today.
Behold, the Virgin
One of the most well-known messianic prophecies comes from Isaiah. Tucked in the midst of conversations between the prophet Isaiah and Judah’s King Ahaz is this word about the promised Deliverer:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”Isaiah 7:14, ESV
For the original hearers, these words become a sign of God’s promise. For us, we know these words as part of the Christmas story. In fact, we can turn to Matthew 1:23 and Luke 1:31 to see them repeated:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”
To our overly accustomed ears, we can miss the power of God’s message. Instead, if we allow ourselves to pause and behold, releasing what we think we know in order to perceive Him more fully, our minds can grasp the miraculous: a virgin shall conceive.
Have you ever tried counting how many virgins have given birth over the centuries? One. Only one, ever. Behold! This is a miraculous sign that God is at work! By sending His only Son to be the only baby birthed by a virgin, God is keeping His word. God is demonstrating His love. The newborn in a manger is so much more than what our eyes can see–that’s why God sends angels to deliver the message of His birth so that shepherds can look upon Him. It’s why kings from far eastern countries travel to give Jesus gifts and to see with their own eyes the One the stars tell them about. These shepherds and kings, they do more than see. They behold their king, their Savior. They behold the long-awaited Messiah.
Behold, the Days of the New Covenant
In those years of exile, when Israel’s misery is at its peak, God sends word of hope through his prophet, Jeremiah:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”Jeremiah 31:31, ESV
As familiar as we have become with the language of “new covenant,” this is bold news to the weary, weakened people in exile. All they’ve ever known are the old ways–the law. But now, through Jeremiah, God is promising a new way, one in which His law will be written on the hearts of people (v.33). This new covenant is ushered in by Jesus:
“After supper he took another cup of wine and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.’”Luke 22:20, NLT
The writer of Hebrews understands this connection between Jesus and the new covenant. And he greatly desires his audience to see it, as well:
“But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises. If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it.”Hebrews 8:6-7, NLT
Then, the writer of Hebrews throws in Jeremiah’s prophecy to help his audience remember that this change, this coming new covenant, has been foretold:
‘Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,Hebrews 8:8, ESV
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.’”
The writers of God’s Word intentionally weave Old Testament words throughout the New Testament to demonstrate that Jesus is the fulfillment of messianic prophecies. They want their readers–then and now–to see that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s promise fulfilled.
A Time to Behold
No one has to put it in writing that the last two years have been, collectively, the hardest our generation has seen. And, yet, if we don’t pause to see the wilderness we’ve been living in for what it is, we’ll fail to see our need for Messiah. If we don’t look for Him, we’ll certainly never behold Him for all that He is.
I’ve heard it said that the more we look, the more we’ll see. That’s never more true than of our Messiah. It’s why when John the Baptist says upon seeing Jesus, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29), he recognizes for the first time who Jesus is–the Messiah. John looks, then looks again to behold more of Jesus.
We can do the same.
Wherever you find yourself on this last Sunday before Christmas–lost in the busyness, gripped by grief, drowning in disappointment, distracted by all the fun–remember that Jesus came for you. Look to Him with purposeful eyes, to see beyond what you’ve noticed before. Let go of what you think you know and allow all He is to wrap itself around your heart and give it new life. This Christmas, yield all of yourself to your Messiah.
Behold your King. Behold Messiah.
- Two simple words, “behold Messiah,” inspired a lot of this series and most of this post. First, I heard Lauren Daigle sing these words in her song, “Light of the World.” Then, this year, I heard Kari Jobe sing the same two words in her song, “Messiah.” They didn’t say behold “the” Messiah or “our” Messiah, just “behold Messiah.” As I heard the two words together, something shifted in my soul. There is only One Messiah. It is who Jesus is. So, maybe Messiah is more than an attribute or description or title–it is His name! So, behold Messiah. I’ve included both of these songs on our Behold playlist.
- Lauren’s song reminds us of the need we still have to behold Messiah:
“For all who wait
For all who hunger
For all who’ve prayed
For all who wonder
Behold your King
- Kari Jobe’s song might be newer to you, and I think that works to your advantage. I pray we’ll hear the words afresh. All the same truths, sung a little differently, just might open the eyes of our hearts.
- Lauren’s song reminds us of the need we still have to behold Messiah:
- Even as the busyness ramps up, determine to pull your journal out this week. List the prophecies you know of that He fulfills and let that list be your springboard to write about how you see Jesus as Messiah. It might help to have the playlist going as you ponder and process. 🙂 Then really let that list soak into your soul–and behold Messiah!