Sunday, December 15, 2013

Day 15 (10): Behold the Lamb of God - Part II, Scene 1a (22-26)


(This is the longest day of listening, but try to listen to the music in one sitting allowing about 20 minutes. Cozy up with the Christmas fire and/or candles burning for a period of uninterrupted quiet before the Lord during this busy season. Yesterday I listened to it as I walked around my block.)

PART II: "The accomplishment of redemption by the sacrifice of Christ, mankind's rejection of God's offer, and mankind's utter defeat when trying to oppose the power of the Almighty" 

Scene 1 - "The redemptive sacrifice, the scourging and the agony on the cross"

22. Chorus

Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world. (John 1:29)

(Notice how the music communicates the weightiness of sin. It is a very "heavy" tune.)

23. Aria (Alto)

He was despised and rejected of men: a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3)

He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6)

24. Chorus

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows! He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him. (Isaiah 53:4,5a)

25. Chorus

And with His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5b)

26. Chorus

All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)


Scene 1 in Part 2 is the longest scene in the entire oratorio, but I could not split it up. You must experience it in its entirety in one sitting. It is not a pretty picture, and as you might well understand, after today's meditation, why Handel's Messiah was originally intended for Easter and not for Christmas. You are welcome to delay Movements 22-31 for Holy Week (Palm Sunday - Good Friday) and Movement 32 to the end of Messiah for Easter Sunday and beyond. It is up to you. Regardless, do not skip this very difficult part of Messiah.  Do not be alarmed, the "Hallelujah Chorus" is right around the corner!  We can so much more appreciate the Christmas season if we fully understand that the baby in the manger was born to die on a cross so that He could fulfill God's purpose and plan that we first learned about in Genesis 3:15. 

The longest movement in this scene is "He was despised" lasting more than nine minutes. Part II is also unique in that it is the only part opened by a chorus and dominated by choral singing. 

John 1:29

We heard from John the Baptist in the first vocal movement of Messiah as he quoted Isaiah 40:3 stating he was not the Messiah or Elijah or a prophet but was the "voice of one crying in the wilderness" calling all people to "make straight the way of the Lord" (Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4). I mentioned in that post, this was alluding to people who removed all obstacles on a road so a reigning king could go through unhindered; but when Jesus arrives the next day, John does not say, "Behold the King" but "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" Hardly a title for a king! But His title as the "Lamb of God" is so important for us.

John was alluding to the Passover lamb. Let's review the events in Exodus 12.

The previous nine plagues were terrible, but this one [the death of the firstborn] "sent upon them His burning anger, fury, and indignation and trouble, a band of destroying angels" (Psalm 78:49). This plague hit Pharaoh at his Father's heart. In that time, Pharaoh's son would have been considered a god. This plague was a challenge to the goddess Isis, who was the wife and sister of Osiris. She was the goddess who protected children, yet no Egyptian firstborn child would be protected by her. The Israelite children would be protected though. The blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts and lintels of the door told the destroying angels to "passover" (pāsaḥ in Hebrew) the houses where the Israelite firstborn children slept safely in their beds. From this night on, they would commemorate this by holding the feast of Passover (pesaḥ in Hebrew). 
The Scarlet Thread of Redemption 
Jesus is the perfect "Lamb of God" (John 1:29) who takes away the sin of the world. The blood of the Passover lamb sprinkled over the doorposts and lintels allowed the Israelites to escape death and be delivered from bondage, so Christ's blood is our means of redemption and deliverance (Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7).  Bible Book Club Exodus 12 post
The corresponding Hebrew words for the phrase "takes away" when applied to sin means:
To be chargeable with the guilt of it (Exodus 28:38; Le 5:1; Ez 18:20), and to bear it away (as often). In the Levitical victims both ideas met, as they do in Christ, the people's guilt being viewed as transferred to them, avenged in their death, and so borne away by them (Le 4:15; and compared Is 53:6-12; 2 Co 5:21).  Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, John 1:29
Isaiah 53:3-6

In Isaiah 53, Jerusalem is called to "wake-up" and put on glorious garments and sit enthroned. Gentiles would no longer thrash the holy city. Jerusalem was sold for free because of their sins (50:1), but they would be redeemed (the Hebrew word, gā’al, means "to purchase out of slavery") and pay nothing. But Who will pay? 

I absolutely love how the chorus is a “waterfall” of voices when singing “with His stripes we are healed.” It gives me chills. It is just lovely, isn’t it?

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Parts of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 are quoted in the New Testament:

52:15 in Romans 15:21

53:1 in John 12:38 and Romans 10:16
53:4 in Matthew 8:17
53:7-8 in Acts 8:32-33
53:9 in 1 Peter 2:22
53:12 in Luke 22:37

It prophesies of a servant Messiah who would suffer and die for our transgressions.  He would be "disfigured, despised, stricken, afflicted, pierced through, crushed, oppressed, cut off, and numbered with the transgressors." This would pay the penalty for our transgressions and purchase our redemption. We would be "bought out of slavery," and the purchase price would cost us nothing, but it would cost Him everything.  With this we would have peace (Shalom - completeness, wholeness, harmony, fulfillment, unimpaired relationships with others, and fulfillment in one's undertakings) and healing (forgiveness of sin, not healing of the body; 1 Peter 2:24; Psalm 103:3). 

His death satisfied God's righteous demands for judgment against sin leading to salvation for everyone who believes!

Now that is GOOD NEWS!

Isaiah 50:6

Many performances of Messiah leave out this verse. Maybe it is too harsh?

In Isaiah 50, The Lord was temporarily "divorcing" Zion because she had rejected Him without reason. They were being sent away because she had sinned. God did not reject Israel, but Israel rejected God. Therefore, their exile would be like a son sold into indentured servitude because of the great debt they owed God.

Isaiah 50:6 fits nicely with Isaiah 53 because it is part of the third "Servant Song" in the book, and Isaiah 53:3-6 is in the fourth. Isaiah 53:6 is a specific "snapshot of the Savior" describing Jesus more than seven centuries before His birth. There are several of these "snapshots" in the book of Isaiah (7:14; 9:2, 6-7; 11:1-2; 35:4-6; 40:10-11; 42:1-4, 6-7; 50:6; 52:13-53:12; 61:1-2).


It is such a paradox that the sad news of the suffering Servant is GOOD NEWS for sinning sheep! It is part of the stuff we are to SHOUT from the high mountains (Isaiah 40:9, Part I, Movement 9).

It was hard for me to write anything on this post this morning. So, I stopped and did a freewrite. I do a "Friday Freewrite Fifteen [minutes]" almost every week to get my fingers rolling across the keys, but I did not think I had anything to say until I just had this overwhelming sense of the presence of God with me:

I also like to record when I get one of those Holy Spirit waves coming over me, and I just had one. I am in the "Passion" of the Christ in Messiah right now meditating on "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," and I just had to pause. I cannot write my "Mind Meditation." (This is for my headier readers who might want to have more of a background of the verse - I like them by the way. I am by no means a "heady" person, but I do think that knowing the context of an isolated verse brings richness to my heart and life.) 
Just reading about John the Baptist announcing Jesus that way to all who would hear.  He was that "voice crying in the wilderness" that said to "prepare the way of the Lord." It all ties together with Part I of Messiah. Then, Jesus comes. "Preparing the way" in that context of Isaiah 40 was likened to preparing the way for a coming King. That is what the Jews thought that He would be, but what a turn on the head kind of thing for John the Baptist, that lone voice in the wilderness saying, "Behold the LAMB OF GOD." Jews would have known that the LAMB meant death, blood, sacrifice. What about the coming King? Why did John the Baptist say that? I am sure they were scratching their heads in amazement.  
But John was speaking under God's direction. He did not even fully understand what he was saying because later, from prison, He would say, "Hey, are you the guy we have been waiting for all these years or should be keep on waiting for someone else?"   
This blows my mind: The LAMB of GOD. Messiah masterfully starts with all the parts in the chorus saying it over and over and over: BEHOLD the LAMB of GOD. I love how it washes over you in wave upon wave of voices tumbling over like water.    
What a price He had to pay. 

Pray through John 1:29 and Isaiah 53:3-6 today. Journal about it. Draw it. Write a poem. God might even give you a song! I wrote a song to Isaiah 53:4-5 back in the 80s that I still sing to this day. It is such a sober reminder of the price He paid for my wholeness and healing. Maybe I will be brave enough to post a video of me singing it someday!

Let this be your prayer of commitment if you do not already know this suffering Servant as your Savior! Let it be your prayer of recommitment if you have forgotten about the price He paid for you. 
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