For the past year and a half I have been studying a Masters in Theology at Queen’s University Belfast, through the Irish Baptist College. My subject of choice has been the theme of the LORD’s Anointed in the Old Testament. The term “LORD’s anointed” is often a translation of the Hebrew word Messiah.
To date I have studied kingship in the historical books, and prophecy from the prophets. In the coming months I hope to look at New Testament fulfilment before embarking on a dissertation on Messiah and the Psalms. As I have thought, read and written about this subject I have formed a much more informed picture of the Messianic hope that Old Testament believers held.
What has struck me most forcefully has been the tension between an expectant people and a (apparently) delayed Messiah. This means that the day Jesus was born an incredible pent up hope was realised.
I spoke about this only a couple of weeks ago on the blog (An Emissary to Earth). Thousands of years had passed, with seemingly ever more painful consequences, with their hope going unrealised. That is, until one normal evening when a very normal Jewish girl in a normal Israelite town gave birth to a normal looking baby. But, that event was the realisation of Yahweh’s eternal promise. It was no normal evening – making that normal woman and town very significant.
One of God’s people living prior to this (extra)ordinary event could well have written the hymn referenced in our title: Come, thou long expected Jesus/born to set thy people free. Certainly they could have sung it with equal, if not more, gusto than we. However, it was written by a man living after that (extra)ordinary event – Charles Wesley, in the eighteenth century. This does not render the song meaningless, nor remove the gusto with which we may sing it.
As God’s people we still long for the appearing of the Messiah.
I find this time of year almost ‘magical’ (if I may use such a term) as I consider the realisation of this hope of the people. And this feeling has only been strengthened by a study of Messianic hope in the Old Testament. But I believe it also has something to teach us as Christians living this side of Jesus’ birth.
There is a hope for us; a hope promised by Yahweh; a hope not yet realised; a hope which will one day be realised. That hope is the appearing of Jesus once more. Is there an excitement building inside you as you consider Jesus’ first appearing? Is there a longing to see him walk on earth once more? Is his appearing a deep desire in you?
Are you crying in prayer ‘come, thou long expected Jesus’?