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Messiah: Spirit and Light

by Dr. Jeffrey D. Johnson


The midrash, an ancient collection of jewish folklore and Biblical commentary, states that the Spirit of God that is spoken of in Isaiah that is resting upon the Messiah is the same Spirit of the Lord that moved over the primeval waters of creation.

And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

– Genesis 1:2

A young Jewish carpenter stood up in the synagogue in Nazareth; he stood up to read the Torah. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He unrolled it and began to read from chapter 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel.”

He looked at those in attendance that day and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Doing this, Yeshua (Jesus) declared himself to be the Anointed One of God—the Messiah.

The “Spirit of the Lord” mentioned was the same anointing Spirit that is mentioned in Isaiah 11:1-2—in fact the city of Nazareth was named after this passage, after “The Branch” (Netzer), which is a title for the Messiah. It is written, “He shall be called a Netzarim (Nazarene, Matthew 2:23). Isaiah is telling us that the Messiah will come from the line of Jesse and that the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him.

The Midrash, an ancient collection of Jewish folklore and Biblical commentary, states that this Spirit of the Lord that is spoken of in Isaiah as resting upon the Messiah is the same Spirit of the Lord that moved over the primeval waters of Creation: “The Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” This was the Spirit of Messiah as it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him (Genesis Rabbah 1:2, 6th Century CE).”

To put Genesis chapter one in context, we must go back to the Late Bronze Age. In the shadow of the majestic pyramids, ancient science, magic and wonders, the children of Abraham encountered a world with many different interpretations on how the world and the universe began.

However, when you read the opening verses of Moses’ Genesis you find a unique formula of communication. It is not a defense of a belief. It is not a political statement from a cult. It is simply a declarative piece of literature:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Genesis 1:1

Being divinely led by the Holy Spirit, Moses opens the account with the axiom, “In the beginning God created…” The declaration ends in Genesis 2:4, “These are the generations (report, description or history) of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” Between these verses you discover many divine activities that unfolded.

Let There Be Light

One of these divine events is found in verse three where “light” is mentioned. This particular light is before the creation of the sun, moon and stars (Genesis 1:3-5; 14-16). This is very peculiar. What was this light that existed before the sun, the moon and the stars? Some theological sages say it was none other than God’s glory that emanated throughout the universe, God’s Shekinah glory.

This same essence was present throughout the wilderness wanderings and in the Tabernacle and Temple, as well as on the Mount of Transfiguration as the Shekinah was manifested in Jesus. Furthermore, in the Book of Revelation we find that at the “end of time” the Shekinah will be present with the New Heaven and Earth:

And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 22:5

Therefore, we have a glimpse in understanding the revelation of the eternal God. In the beginning, God was there. In the end, God will still be there. His glory is brighter than any luminary. His presence is before all things and after all things. He is the absolute sovereign of the universe. Nature bows down before Him. He is not part of the natural world; rather, He is beyond its dominion.

So from the very beginning we have a declaration that God is, that He exists, and that He is greater than all we see or understand. By His sovereign Will He created and spoke things into existence. The fact that He was before, and will remain after, is actually very comforting.1

Light of Messiah

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Genesis 1:3

Light plays such an important role in the tradition of Judaism. Lighting candles on Shabbat (every Friday evening) is to remind Jewish people of their Creator and to sanctify this day from others.

Lighting the Hanukkah menorah is a memorial of the miracle of God’s intervention on Israel’s behalf in 168 b.c. Also, the seven-branched menorah found in the synagogue and formerly in the Temple “tells of an eternal light of divine origin.”2

It is said that the “holy lamp bore light in the Temple and from there to the world.”3

Particularly, the “light” from Genesis 1:3, which was in existence before the luminaries (verses 14-19), “was a light, according to the (rabbinical) sages, set aside for the future of Messianic fulfillment.”4

These beautiful symbols point to our Holy God in one fashion or another. Unfortunately, many Jewish people are blinded to the full meaning of the “Light.” Paul stated:

But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.

2 Corinthians 3:15

“Light” in Scripture is usually synonymous with God, hope, the “written Word” or the “living Word,” who is Jesus the Messiah.

For example, we find in the Gospel of Luke, as the angelic announcement came to the shepherds concerning Christ’s birth, that “the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid” (Luke 2:9).

The “glory” that terrified the shepherds was this brilliant eternal light. As they gazed they trembled. These men who watched over the Temple’s flock of sheep, realized they were in the presence of Holiness.

Furthermore, when Joseph and Mary entered the Temple with the child Jesus in order to fulfill the custom of the Law (sacrifice for Mary’s purification 40 days after the birth of a son), “a just and devout” man took the baby up in his arms and stated that Jesus is “A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:32).

Moreover, Jesus said in correlation to the significant emphasis on light:

I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

John 8:12

In contrast, “darkness” describes the condition of man’s sinful heart. One will stumble in the darkness unless they have a light to guide their way.

Tradition, though beautiful, is not the “light”; religion, though commendable, is not the “light”; self-esteem and self-awareness, though important, are not the “light.” The Psalmist wrote:

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105

He found the secret to “dispel the darkness”—namely, the Word of God. The Apostle John stated:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

John 1:1,14

Yeshua (Jesus), the Living Word, is the “Light” that dispels the darkness of sin from your heart. He is the “Passover Lamb,” the one without spot or blemish, the perfect sacrifice on Calvary for the sins of the world. You see, without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin (Hebrews 9:22).

Yeshua ha-Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah, is “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9).

In Review

1. From Isaiah 61, the “Spirit of the Lord” that rested upon Messiah Jesus is the same Spirit of the Lord that moved over the primeval waters of Creation.

2. The “Light” mentioned in Genesis 1:3 existed before the luminaries, and will exist after the luminaries are abolished; the light is the Shekinah glory that emanated throughout the universe.

3. This Shekinah is the same that was present during the course of the wilderness wanderings, the Tabernacle, Temple, appeared before the shepherds in Bethlehem, and was manifested in Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

4. The Psalmist wrote, “Thy word is a light unto my path—Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World.” The Apostle John said, Jesus is “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

5. The rabbis knew that Messiah would have the Spirit of Lord resting upon him and that he would be the Light that dispels darkness throughout the world.


Sources:

  • Blech, Benjamin, More Secrets of Hebrew Words, Jason Aronson, Inc., New Jersey, 1993.
  • Blech, Benjamin, The Secrets of Hebrew Words, Jason Aronson, Inc., New Jersey, 1991.
  • Johnson, Jeffrey D., God Was There, Genesis Chapters 1-12, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, OR, 2005.
  • Johnson, Jeffrey D., Unlocked Treasures, Contemplative Aspects of Faith, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, OR, 2011.
  • Trepp, Leo, A History of the Jewish Experience, Behrman House, Inc., New York, 1973.

Notes:

  1. Johnson, Jeffrey D., God Was There, Genesis Chapters 1-12, pp.1,2. Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, OR, 2005.
  2. Trepp, Leo, A History of the Jewish Experience, p.203. Behrman House, Inc., New York, 1973.
  3. Blech, Benjamin, More Secrets of Hebrew Words, p.17. Jason Aronson, Inc., New Jersey, 1993.
  4. Blech, Benjamin, The Secrets of Hebrew Words, p.30. Jason Aronson, Inc., New Jersey, 1991.

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