Not Just Another Saviour
by Rev. Steven Schlei
In this season of the year, we celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus. The whole Bible is focused upon the coming of our Lord from heaven. In the Old Testament, God gives us many pictures of our coming Saviour. The people of God anticipated the coming of God's ULTIMATE SAVIOUR in the many deliverances that God gave to them.
Almost two thousand years have passed since that well remembered announcement by an angel of the Lord to shepherds tending their flocks in fields outside the sleepy little village of Bethlehem: "Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord."
The birth of a God-sent saviour was nothing new in Israel. Over the course of centuries, God sent His people many saviours (Nehemiah 9:27). Joseph saved the family of Jacob from starvation. Moses delivered the people of Israel from the bondage of Egypt (Acts 7:35). During the period of the judges, God raised many saviours to give deliverance to His people (Judges 3:9,15), the mighty man, Samson, being probably the most well remembered of them all.
Again, during the time of the kings, God sent saviours to His people to give them deliverance from their enemies. For instance, we read in II Kings 13:5, "Then the Lord gave Israel a deliverer, so that they escaped from under the hand of the Arameans; and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents as before." Interestingly, this unidentified deliverer may well have been one of the pagan kings of Assyria whose attacks upon Aram, the enemy of Israel, removed some of the Aramean military pressure that Israel had suffered. Aram now had to fight Assyria instead.
Yes, God used some very unusual instruments to grant deliverance to His people. The believers in Israel saw the sovereign hand of God at work in all the earthly deliverances given to them, no matter which saviour God might select to do the job. Indeed, Israel was to understand that behind every act of salvation, the Lord was very much at work. God did not want them to forget that fact. He said, "I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no saviour" (Isaiah 43:11; 45:21; Hosea 13:4).
King David was one of the greatest saviours ever to be sent to Israel. Yet, David acknowledged the fact that he was but God's instrument of salvation; he confessed that it was the Lord who had given him deliverance from the hand of all His enemies
(II Samuel 22:1-2).
On occasion, a mysterious being, identified in the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord, either summoned the saviours of Israel to their task or announced their coming. It was the Angel of the Lord who called to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:2), summoning him to save Israel from the oppression of Pharaoh. This Angel of the Lord (the word angel means messenger) was none other than the Lord Himself
Likewise, it was the Angel of the Lord who called Gideon to deliver Israel (Judges 6:12). Again, it was revealed that this messenger of the Lord was the Lord Himself (Judges 6:14). Samson's birth was announced by the Angel of the Lord (Judges 13:13). Samson's parents acknowledged that in seeing God's Angel they had seen the God of Israel (Judges 13:22-23).
At times, this special Angel of the Lord became the saviour and protector of Israel without the involvement of human deliverers (Exodus 14:19; 23-20; Psalm 34:7;
Isaiah 37:36). It was because God identified Himself with the sufferings and griefs of His people that He sent the Angel of His presence to save them (Isaiah 63:8-9).
Who was this mysterious being, this Angel of the Lord? Christians for centuries have confessed that this special Angel of the Lord was none other than the Son of God. The Son of God was the Angel of the Lord, the messenger of His Father, and He is God.
It was not the Angel of the Lord who announced the birth of the Bethlehem baby, for it was that very Angel who was being born to mankind. It was simply AN angel, Gabriel, who announced the birth of a Saviour in Bethlehem. That child to be born was one in a long line of saviours that God had sent to Israel, and yet He was not just another Saviour.
The prophet Micah had announced that the ruler of Israel to be born in Bethlehem was the very one whose "goings forth" had been from of old, from the days of antiquity (Micah 5:2). Thus, the birth of the child in Bethlehem was yet another "going forth" of the Angel of the Lord who had come many times previously to deliver Israel.
The existence of this unique, special child, unlike all other children, did not start with His conception in His mother's womb. This child to be born was none other than the Angel who so often during the centuries of Israel's existence had been the instrument of deliverance either directly, or ultimately as the one behind God's earthy deliverers. Now He had come to deliver God's people.
The prophet Malachi likewise had foretold that the "messenger (angel) of the covenant" was to come. That messenger of the covenant Malachi foretold would be the Lord. His coming would be preceded by another messenger (angel), namely John the Baptist (Malachi 3:1).
An angel appeared to Joseph to announce the birth of this holy and unique child to the virgin Mary. His parents were to give this child a special name which would be indicative of His assigned mission in life. The angel said in Matthew 1:21, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins."
The name JESUS was a fairly common name in biblical times. It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Joshua. The name Joshua means "the Lord saves." Many Jewish parents named their little sons Joshua as a confession that the Lord was their Saviour. Yet, this special child was not given the name Jesus (Saviour) as a confession of faith in God's ability to save.
The words of the angel's announcement to Joseph are very significant. Jesus was not just another in a long line of saviours having come to save God's people. He came to save His people. The people of the Lord are the people of Jesus. That is because Jesus is the Lord God of Israel come to save! He is the ultimate Saviour. All the other saviours God had sent were but faint replicas. The Son of God was the original, the genuine article, the paradigm, the model, the Final Saviour who stood behind all the earlier saviours and fulfilled and completed what they could not accomplish.
Why would the Creator God of all the universe come to this earth as a man? The angel announced His purpose in coming -- the child was born that he might save His people from their sins.
All the other saviours of Israel offered only a temporary deliverance. This great Saviour had come to deal with the very reason why man needed deliverance from oppression, famine, war, and the other ills that plague humanity.
This Saviour came to deal with man's sin. The apostle Paul stated it quite well in
I Timothy 1:15, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief."
To many people, the birth of Jesus Christ has little significance because they do not see sin as a heavy yoke which crushes humanity under its load. Yet, to those who are crushed by the burden of their own sins, Jesus gives those wonderful words of joyous invitation, "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
If you come to Him in faith and repentance, you will have a continuing feast of joy that will survive the temporary frivolity of the season. That bliss will last a lifetime, and for all eternity.