Category Archives: Journey through the Veda Pusthakan (Bible)

The Puzzle of the Psalm 22 Prophecy

A few years ago a work colleague, J, wandered to my desk. J was smart and educated – and definitely not a follower of the gospel.  But he was somewhat curious so we had some warm and open conversations between us. He had never really looked at the Bible so I had encouraged him to investigate it.

One day he came into my office with a Bible to show that he was taking a look. He had opened it randomly in the middle. I asked him what he was reading. Our conversation went something like this.

“I am reading in Psalm chapter 22”, he said

“Really”, I said. “Any idea what you are reading about?”

“I guess I am reading about the crucifixion of Jesus”, J replied.

“That’s a good guess”, I laughed. “But you are about one thousand years too early. Psalm 22 was written by David around 1000 BC. Jesus’ crucifixion was in 30’s C.E. one thousand years later”

J did not realize that the Psalms were not the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life written by his contemporaries.  Psalms were sacred Hebrew hymns written 1000 years before Jesus by inspired sages.  J had only heard some stories about Jesus, including his crucifixion, and randomly opening his Bible, read what seemed to describe the crucifixion. Not knowing any better, he just assumed it was the story of the crucifixion which is remembered around the world annually on what is called Good Friday.  We had a chuckle over his first mis-step in Bible reading.

Psalms are ancient Hebrew hymns and were written by Rsi David 3000 years ago.

Psalms are ancient Hebrew hymns and were written by Rsi David 3000 years ago.

Then I asked J what he saw in Psalm 22 that made him think he was reading about Jesus’ crucifixion. Thus began our little study. I invite you to consider some of the similarities J noticed by placing the passages side-by-side in a table. To help I have color matched the texts that are similar.

Comparison of Gospel accounts of the Crucifixion with the details in Psalm 22

Crucifixion details from the eye-witness Gospels Psalm 22:  1000 BC
(Matthew 27:31-48) ..Then they led him (Jesus) away to crucify him…. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “… save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him,…About the ninth hour Jesus cried…“My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” …48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. (Mark15:16-20)16 The soldiers led Jesus away… They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him…37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.(John19:34) they did not break his legs..., pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.…they crucified him… (John20:25) [Thomas] unless I see the nail marks in his hands ,…”…(John20:23-24) When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining…Let’s not tear it”, they said,”Let’s decide by lot who gets it” 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest…7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

That J made the logical but wrong conclusion that Psalm 22 was an eye-witness account of the Good Friday crucifixion, should make us ask a question.

How do we explain the similarity between the crucifixion accounts and Psalm 22?

Is it coincidence that the details match so precisely as to include that the clothes would be divided (seamed clothes were split along the seams and divided among the soldiers) AND have lots cast (if torn the seamless garment would be ruined so they gambled for it). Psalm 22 was written before crucifixion was invented but it still describes its various details (piercing of hands and feet, bones being out of joint – by being stretched as the victim hangs). In addition, the Gospel of John states that blood and water flowed out when the spear was thrust in Jesus’ side, indicating a fluid buildup around the heart.  Jesus thus died of a heart attack.  This matches the Psalm 22 description of ‘my heart has turned to wax’.

Psalm 22 was written as if Jesus’ crucifixion was being seen.  But how so, since it was composed 1000 years beforehand?

God-inspired Explanation for Psalm 22

Jesus, in the Gospels, argued that these similarities were prophetic. God inspired Old Testament prophets hundreds of years prior to Jesus’ life to predict details of his life and death so that we can know that this was all in the plan of God. Prophetic fulfillment would be like having a Divine signature on these events of Good Friday since no human could foresee the future in such detail.  This is evidence of God’s work and intervention in history.

Naturalistic Explanation for Psalm 22

Others argue that the similarity of Psalm 22 with crucifixion events of Good Friday is because the Gospel writers made up the events to ‘fit’ the prophecy.  But this explanation totally ignores the testimony of historians from that time outside of the Bible.  Josephus and Tacitus respectively tell us that:

“At this time there was a wise man … Jesus. … good, and … virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned Him to be crucified and to die.” (Josephus. 90AD. Antiquities xviii. 33   Josephus was a Jewish Historian)

“Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius” (Tacitus. 117 AD. Annals XV. 44.  Tacitus was a Roman Historian)

Their historical testimony agrees with the gospels that Jesus was crucified. This is important because many of the details in Psalm 22 are simply particulars of the act of being crucified. If the gospel writers were going to make up the actual events to make them ‘fit’ Psalm 22 then they would basically have had to make up the whole crucifixion.  Yet no one from that time denied his crucifixion, and the Jewish historian Josephus explicitly states that this is how he was executed.

Psalm 22 and Jesus’ legacy

Also, Psalm 22 does not end at v.18 as in the table above. It continues on. Note the triumphant mood at the end –after the person is dead!

26 The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him— may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations will bow down before him,

28 for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive.

30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.

31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn— for he has done it. (Psalm 22:26-31)

This is not talking about the details of events of this person’s death. Those details were dealt with in the beginning of the Psalm. The psalmist is now addressing the legacy of that person’s death with ‘posterity’ and ‘future generations’ (v.30).

Who would that be?

That is us living 2000 years after Jesus’ crucifixion.  The Psalmist tells us that ‘posterity’ which follows this ‘pierced’ man who died such a horrible death will ‘serve’ him and be ‘told about him’.  Verse 27 predicts the geographic scope of the impact – going to the ‘ends of the earth’ and among ‘all families of nations’ to cause them to ‘turn to the LORD’.  Verse 29 predicts that ‘those who cannot keep themselves alive’ (since we are mortal that means all of us) will one day kneel before him. The righteousness of this man will be proclaimed to people who were not yet alive (the ‘yet unborn’) at the time of his death.

Psalm 22’s conclusion has nothing to do with whether the gospel accounts borrowed from it or made up the crucifixion events because it is now dealing with a much later era – that of our time. The gospel writers, living in the 1st century could not ‘make up’ the impact of the death of Jesus down to our time.  They did not know what that impact would be.

One could not make a better prediction of the legacy of Jesus than Psalm 22 does. Even simply noting the annual worldwide Good Friday celebrations remind us of his global impact two thousand years after his death.  These fulfill the conclusion of Psalm 22 as precisely as the earlier verses predicted the details of his death.

Who else in world history can make a claim that details of his death as well as the legacy of his life into the distant future would be predicted 1000 years before he lived?

Perhaps, like my friend J, you will take the opportunity to consider Psalm 22 in light of Jesus’ crucifixion. It will take some mental effort. But it is worthwhile because the man Psalm 22 foresaw promised:

I have come that they may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10)

Here is the entire gospel account for Good Friday that Psalm 22 foresaw and here its gift for you is explained.

For the Varna as well as Avarna: The Man coming for all people

We have learned how the ancient Vedas foresaw the Coming Person.  We started at the beginning of the Purusasukta in the Rg Veda.  Then we continued with the Hebrew Vedas, suggesting that what both the Sanskrit and Hebrew Vedas (Bible) predicted was fulfilled by Yeshua Satsang (Jesus of Nazareth).

So was Jesus of Nazareth this prophesied Purusa or Christ?  Was his coming just for a certain religious group, or was his coming for all – including all castes, from the Varna to the Avarna.

Caste (Varna) in Purusasukta

The Purusasukta said of Purusa that:

Purusasukta Verses 11-12  – Sanskrit Sanskrit Transliteration English Translation
यत पुरुषं वयदधुः कतिधा वयकल्पयन |
मुखं किमस्य कौ बाहू का ऊरू पादा उच्येते ||
बराह्मणो.अस्य मुखमासीद बाहू राजन्यः कर्तः |
ऊरूतदस्य यद वैश्यः पद्भ्यां शूद्रो अजायत ||
11 yat puruṣaṃ vyadadhuḥ katidhā vyakalpayan |
mukhaṃ kimasya kau bāhū kā ūrū pādā ucyete ||
12 brāhmaṇo.asya mukhamāsīd bāhū rājanyaḥ kṛtaḥ |
ūrūtadasya yad vaiśyaḥ padbhyāṃ śūdro ajāyata
11 When they divided Puruṣa how many portions did they make?
What do they call his mouth, his arms? What do they call his thighs and feet?
12 The Brahman was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rājanya made.
His thighs became the Vaiśya, from his feet the Śūdra was produced.

This is the first mention of Castes or Varna in the Sanskrit Vedas.  It speaks of the four Castes as separating out from Purusa’s body.  The Brahmin Caste/Varna came from his mouth, the Rajanya (today known as Kshatriya Caste/Varna) from his arms, the Vaishya Caste/Varna from his thighs, and the Shudra Caste from his feet.  For Jesus to be Purusa he must be able to represent everybody.

Does he?

Christ as Brahmin and Kshatriya

We saw that ‘Christ’ is an ancient Hebrew title meaning ‘ruler’ – the Ruler of rulers in fact.  As ‘the Christ’, Jesus fully identifies with and can represent the Kshatriya.  We also saw that as ‘the Branch’ Jesus was also prophesied to come as Priest, so he fully identifies with and can represent the Brahmin.  In fact, the Hebrew prophecy indicated that he would unite the two roles of Priest and King into one person.

…he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’ (Zechariah 6:13)

Jesus as Vaishya

The Hebrew Rsi/prophets also prophesied that the Coming One would, like a merchant, be a trader.  Isaiah (750 BC) foretold in the Bible:

Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. (Isaiah 43:3)

Here God is speaking prophetically to the Coming One, saying that He would not be trading in things, but he would be trading for people – in exchange for his life.  So the Coming One would be a merchant, trading in the freeing of people.  As a merchant he identifies with and can represent the Vaishya.

Shudra – Servant

The Rsi/prophets also foretold in great detail his coming role as a Servant, or Shudra.  We saw how the prophets foretold that the Branch would also be a servant whose job it would be to remove sins:

“‘Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch…. and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day. (Zechariah 3:8-9)

The Coming Branch, who was Priest, Ruler and Merchant, was also a Servant – Shudra.  Isaiah prophesied in great detail of his role as Servant (Shudra).  In this prophecy God advises all nations ‘distant’ from Israel (that includes you and me) to pay attention to the work of this Shudra.

Listen to me, you islands;
hear this, you distant nations:
Before I was born the Lord called me;
from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.
He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me into a polished arrow
and concealed me in his quiver.
He said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.”
But I said, “I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing at all.
Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand,
and my reward is with my God.”

And now the Lord says—
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
and gather Israel to himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord
and my God has been my strength—
he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,

that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:1-6)

Though coming from the Hebrew/Jewish race, the prophecy stated that the service of this Servant would ‘reach to the ends of the earth’.  Though Jewish, Jesus’ service has indeed touched all nations on earth as prophesied of this Servant.  As Servant, Jesus fully identified with and can represent all the Shudra.

Avarna Represented also

To mediate for all peoples Jesus would also have to represent the Avarna, or Scheduled Castes, Tribals and Dalits.  How would he?  Another prophecy from Isaiah predicted that he would be completely broken and despised.  He would be viewed as Avarna by the rest of us.

In what way?

Here is the prophecy in full with some explanations inserted.  You will notice that it speaks of a ‘He’ and ‘him’ so it is prophesying a coming man.  Since the prophecy uses the image of ‘shoot’ we know it is referring to the same Branch who was Priest and Ruler.  But the description is different.

The coming Despised One

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him [God] like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

In spite of being the ‘shoot’ before God (i.e. The Banyan Branch), this Man would be ‘despised’ and ‘rejected’, full of ‘suffering’ and ‘held in low esteem’ by others.  He would literally be regarded as untouchable.  This coming one would also be able to represent those as broken as Untouchables of the Scheduled Tribes (Vanvasi) and Backwards Castes – the Dalits.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We sometimes judge the misfortune of others, or look at those who have a low position in society, as a consequence, or karma, of their sins.  This prophecy states that similarly the afflictions of this man will be so great that we could think he is being punished by God.  This is the reason he will be despised.  But he will not be punished for his own sins – but rather for ours.  He will bear an awful burden – for our healing and peace.

These prophecies were fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, who was ‘pierced’ on a cross, stricken and afflicted.  Yet this prophecy was written 750 years before he lived.  In being held in low esteem, and in his suffering, Jesus fulfilled this prophecy and is now able to represent all Backward Castes and Tribals.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth

It is our sin and our going astray from dharma which requires that this man carry our iniquities or sins.  He would be willing to go peacefully to the slaughter in our place, not protesting or even ‘opening his mouth’.  This was fulfilled precisely in the way which Jesus went willingly to the cross.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.

The prophecy stated that this man would be ‘cut off’ from the land of the living’, which was fulfilled when Jesus died on the cross.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Jesus died condemned as a ‘wicked’ man even though ‘he had done no violence’ and no ‘deceit was in his mouth’.  Yet, he was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a rich Priest. Thus it was fulfilled that Jesus was both ‘assigned a grave with the wicked’ but also ‘with the rich in his death’.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand

This cruel death was not some terrible accident or misfortune. It was ‘the LORD’s will’.

Why?

Because the ‘life’ of this man would be an ‘offering for sin’.

Whose sin?

Those of us among the ‘many nations’ that have ‘gone astray’.  When Jesus died on the cross, it was to cleanse all of us, regardless of nationality or social position, from sin.

11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Here the tone of the prophecy changes and becomes triumphant.  After this terrible ‘suffering’ (of being ‘despised’ and ‘cut off from the land of the living’ and assigned ‘a grave’), this Servant will see ‘the light of life’.

He will come back to life!  And in so doing this Servant will ‘justify’ many.

To ‘justify’ is the same as getting ‘righteousness’.  We saw that Rsi Abraham was ‘credited’ or given ‘righteousness’.  It was given to him simply because of his trust.  In a similar way this Servant who would be so low as to be untouchable will justify, or credit righteousness to ‘many’.  This is exactly what Jesus accomplished by rising from the dead after his crucifixion and now he is able to ‘justify’ us.

12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.(Isaiah 53:1-12)

Though this oracle was written 750 years before Jesus lived, it was fulfilled in such detail by him that it proves this was the plan of God.  It also shows that Jesus can represent the Avarna, those often held in the lowest esteem.  In fact, he came to represent, bear and cleanse their sins, as well as the sins of the Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra.

He came as the center of God’s plan to offer you and me the gift of life – cleansing from the guilt and karma of sin.  Is it not worthwhile for you to fully consider and understand such a precious gift?  There are several ways to do this here:

The Branch: Named hundreds of years before his coming

Isaiah first wrote of the coming Branch.  A ‘he’ from the fallen dynasty of David, possessing wisdom and power was coming.  Jeremiah followed by stating that this Branch would be known as the LORD – the Jewish name for Creator God, and would be our righteousness.

Zechariah continues The Branch

Zechariah returned after the Babylonian exile to rebuild the Temple

Zechariah returned after the Babylonian exile to rebuild the Temple

Rishi-prophet Zechariah lived 520 BCE, when Jews began returning to Jerusalem from their first exile.  Upon their return, the Jewish people started rebuilding their destroyed temple.  The High Priest at that time was a man named Joshua, and he was re-starting the work of Temple priests. Zechariah, the Rishi-prophet, partnered with his colleague Joshua, the High Priest, in leading the returning Jewish people. Here is what God – through Zechariah – said about this Joshua:

‘”Listen O High Priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant the Branch.” …, says the LORD Almighty, “and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day”.’ (Zechariah 3:8-9)

The Branch!  Started by Isaiah 200 years before, continued by Jeremiah 60 years earlier, Zechariah carries on further with ‘The Branch’ even as the Royal dynasty was now cut down.  Like a banyan tree this Branch has continued by propagating roots from a dead stump.  The Branch is now called ‘my servant’ – the servant of God.  In some way the High Priest Joshua in Jerusalem at 520BCE, colleague of Zechariah, was symbolic of this coming Branch.  But how? It says that in ‘a single day’ the sins will be removed by the LORD. How would that happen?

The Branch: Uniting Priest and King

Zechariah explains later. To understand we need to know that the roles of Priest and King were strictly separated in the Old Testament. None of the Kings could be priests, and the priests could not be kings. The role of the priest was to mediate between God and man by offering sacrifices to God for atonement of sins, and the responsibility of the King was to rule with justice from the throne. Both were crucial; both were distinct. Yet Zechariah wrote that in the future:

‘The word of the LORD came to me: “…Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest Joshua. Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says, ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD… and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two’’ (Zechariah 6:9-13)

Here, against previous precedent, the high priest in Zechariah’s day (Joshua) was to put on the king’s crown symbolically as the Branch. (Remember Joshua was ‘symbolic of things to come’).  Joshua, the High Priest, in putting on the kingly crown, foresaw a future uniting of the King and Priest into one person – a priest on the King’s throne.  Furthermore, Zechariah wrote that ‘Joshua’ was the name of the Branch. What did that mean?

The names ‘Joshua’ and ‘Jesus’

To understand we need to review the history of Old Testament translation. The original Hebrew Old Testament was translated to Greek in 250 BCE, and known as the Septuagint or LXX.  Still widely used, we saw how ‘Christ’ was first used in the LXX and here we follow that analysis for ‘Joshua’

'Joshua' = 'Jesus'. Both come from the Hebrew name 'Yhowshuwa'

‘Joshua’ = ‘Jesus’. Both come from the Hebrew name ‘Yhowshuwa’

As you can see in the figure Joshua is an English transliteration of the original Hebrew name ‘Yhowshuwa’.  Quadrant #1 shows how Zechariah wrote ‘Joshua’ in 520 BCE in Hebrew.  It is transliterated ‘Joshua’ in English (#1=> #3). ‘Yhowshuwa’ in Hebrew is the same as Joshua in English   When the LXX was translated from Hebrew to Greek in 250 BCE Yhowshuwa was transliterated to Iesous (#1 => #2). ‘Yhowshuwa’ in Hebrew is the same as Iesous in Greek. When the Greek is translated to English, Iesous is transliterated to ‘Jesus’ (#2 => #3).  Iesous in Greek is the same as Jesus in English.

Jesus was called Yhowshuwa when spoken to in Hebrew, but in the Greek New Testament his name was written as ‘Iesous’ – exactly how the Greek Old Testament LXX wrote that name. When the New Testament is translated from Greek to English (#2 => #3) ‘Iesous’ is transliterated to the familiar ‘Jesus’.  So the name ‘Jesus’ = ‘Joshua’, with ‘Jesus’ going through an intermediate Greek step, and ‘Joshua’ coming directly from the Hebrew.  Both Jesus of Nazareth, and Joshua the High Priest of 520BCE had the same name, being called ‘Yhowshuwa’ in their native Hebrew. In Greek, both were called ‘Iesous’.  This is similar to how बरगद = bargad (transliteration) = banyan = Ficus benghalensis (scientific Latin name).

Jesus of Nazareth is the Branch

Now the prophecy of Zechariah makes sense. The prediction, made in 520 BCE, was that the name of the coming Branch would be ‘Jesus’, pointing directly to Jesus of Nazareth.

This coming Jesus, according to Zechariah, would unite the King and Priest roles. What was it that the priests did? Representing the people they offered sacrifices to God to atone for sins. The priest covered the sins of the people by sacrifice. Similarly, the coming Branch ‘Jesus’ was going to bring a sacrifice so that the LORD could ‘remove the sin of this land in a single day’ – the day Jesus offered himself as the sacrifice.  With the removal of sin, the power of death would lose its authority over us.

Jesus of Nazareth is well-known outside the gospels.  The Jewish Talmud, Josephus and all other historical writers about Jesus, both friend and enemy, always referred to him as ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ’, so his name was not invented in the Gospels.

Jesus comes ‘from the stump of Jesse’ since Jesse and David were his ancestors. Jesus possessed wisdom and understanding to a degree that sets him apart from others.  His shrewdness, poise and insight continue to impress both critics and followers.  His power through miracles in the gospels is undeniable. One may choose not to believe them; but one cannot ignore them.  Jesus fits the quality of possessing exceptional wisdom and power that Isaiah predicted would one day come from this Branch.

Now think of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. He certainly claimed to be a king – The King in fact. This is what ‘Christ‘ means.  But what he did while on earth was actually priestly. The priest’s job was to offer acceptable sacrifices on behalf of the Jewish people.  The death of Jesus was significant in that, it also, was an offering to God, on our behalf. His death atones for the sin and guilt for any person, not just for the Jew. The sins of the land were literally removed ‘in a single day’ as Zechariah had predicted – the day Jesus died and paid for all sins. In his death he fulfilled all the requirements as Priest, even as he is mostly known as ‘The Christ’ or The King.  Then in his resurrection, he showed his power and authority over death.  He did bring the two roles together. The Branch, the one that David long ago called the ‘Christ’, is the Priest-King.  And his name was predicted 500 years before his birth by Zechariah.

The Prophetic Evidence

In his day, similar to today, Jesus had critics who questioned his authority.  His answer was to point to the prophets that came before, claiming that they foresaw his life.  Here is one example where Jesus said to those opposing him:

… These are the very Scriptures that testify about me… (John 5:39)

In other words, Jesus claimed that his life was prophesied hundreds of years previously in the Old Testament.  Since human insight cannot predict hundreds of years into the future, Jesus said this was evidence to verify that he had really come as God’s plan for mankind.  The Old Testament is available still for us today to verify this for ourselves.

Let us summarize what the Old Testament prophets have predicted thus far.  Jesus’ coming was hinted at the beginning of human history.  Then Abraham foretold the location where Jesus was to be sacrificed while the Passover foretold the day of the year.  We saw that Psalm 2 was where the title ‘Christ’ was used foretell a coming King.  Here we have seen that his lineage, priestly career, and name were predicted.  Can you think of anyone else in all of history whose life was even as remotely predicted as Jesus of Nazareth’s was by the many Old Testament prophets?

Conclusion: Tree of Life offered to all

The riddle of how and what the Branch was prophesied to do, mirrors the story of Savitri and Satyavan.  Like the pure Savitri, the Branch would face death for his love.  But instead of the love of a wife for her husband, the Branch would have powerful sacrificial love that would gain him a spiritual wife, who would be rescued from death forever.

The image of an immortal and sustaining tree, like that of a banyan tree, continues to the very last chapter of the Bible, where it again foresees into the future, picturing the next universe, with a ‘river of water of life’ where

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2)

So, peoples of all nations – including you – are invited to experience both deliverance from death and richness of the Tree of Life – a truly immortal banyan tree.  But the Old Testament rishi-prophets prophesy for us how this would first required that the Branch be ‘cut off’, as we see next.

Sign of the Branch: Like the persistent Banyan in Vat Savitri

The Vat-vriksha, Bargad or Banyan tree is central to South Asian spirituality and is the national tree of India.  It is associated with Yama, the God of death, so is often planted near crematoria.  Because of its ability to re-sprout it has great longevity and is a symbol of immortality.  It was also by a Banyan tree that Savitri bargained with Yama for the return of her dead husband and King Satyavan so that she could get a son – remembered in the annual celebration of Vat Purnima and Vat Savitri.

A similar account is found in the Old Testament of the Bible.  There is a dead tree … coming to life … representing a new son from a dead line of kings.  The major difference is that this account is a future-looking prophecy and was developed by different prophets (rishi) over hundreds of years.  This composite story was predicting someone coming.  The man who first told this story was Isaiah (750 BCE) which later Old Testament rishi-prophets further developed – in the Branch from the dead tree.

Isaiah and the Branch

Isaiah lived in historically verifiable time, seen in the timeline below.  This timeline is taken from the history of the Jews.

Isaiah shown in historical timeline. He lived in the period of the Davidic Kings of Israel

Isaiah shown in historical timeline. He lived in the period of the Davidic Kings of Israel

You can see that Isaiah’s book was written in the period of David’s Royal dynasty (1000 – 600 BCE) ruling from Jerusalem. In Isaiah’s time (750 BCE) the dynasty and the Jewish kingdom was corrupt. Isaiah pleaded for the kings to return back to God and to the good practice and spirit of Moses’ Ten Commandments. But Isaiah knew that Israel would not repent, and so he foresaw that the Kingdom would be destroyed and the kings cease to rule.

He used an image for the royal dynasty, picturing it like a great banyan tree. This tree had at its root Jesse, the father of King David. On Jesse the dynasty of kings was started with David, and continued with his successor, King Solomon, and so on.  As illustrated in the image below, the tree continued to grow and develop as the next son in the dynasty ruled.

The image Isaiah used of the Dynasty like a large banyan tree with the Kings extending the tree trunk from the root of the founder - Jesse

The image Isaiah used of the Dynasty like a large banyan tree with the Kings extending the tree trunk from the root of the founder – Jesse

First a Tree … then a Stump … then a Branch

Isaiah warned that this ‘tree’ dynasty would soon be cut down, reducing it to a dead stump. Here is how he began this tree image which then he turned into a riddle of a stump and Branch:

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)

Isaiah warned the Dynasty would one day become a dead stump

Isaiah warned the Dynasty would one day become a dead stump

The cutting down of this ‘tree’ happened 150 years after Isaiah, around 600 BCE, when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, dragging its people and king into exile in Babylon (the red period in the timeline above). This started the exile of the Jews – some of whom migrated to India. Jesse was the father of King David, and so was the root of David’s Dynasty. The ‘stump of Jesse’ was therefore a metaphor of this shattering of David’s dynasty.  In the story of Savitri and Satyavan there was one dead king’s son – Satyavan.  In the prophecy of the stump the whole line of kings would come to an end and the dynasty itself would die.

The Branch: A coming ‘him’ from David possessing wisdom

Shoot from the dead stump of Jesse

Shoot from the dead stump of Jesse

But the prophecy looked further into the future than just the cutting down of the kings in using an image associated with the banyan tree.  When banyan seeds begin life they often do so on the stumps of other trees.  The stump is a host to the germinating banyan tree.  But once the banyan seedling is established it will outgrow and outlive the stump host.  This shoot foreseen by Isaiah would be like a banyan tree as a new shoot would go up from its roots – to form a Branch.  Isaiah used this imagery and prophesied that one day in the far future a shoot, known as the Branch, would emerge from the dead stump, just like banyan shoots sprout from tree stumps. This Branch is referred to as a ‘him’ so Isaiah is talking about a specific man, coming from the line of David after the dynasty would be cut down. This man would have such qualities of wisdom, power, and knowledge it would be as if the very Spirit of God would be resting on him.

A banyan tree outgrowing its host stump. Soon it will be a tangle of propagating roots and shoots.

A banyan tree outgrowing its host stump. Soon it will be a tangle of propagating roots and shoots.

The banyan tree in mythology is mentioned in many scriptures as symbolic of immortality. Its aerial roots grow down into the soil forming additional trunks. It symbolizes longevity and thus represents the divine creator.  This Branch foreseen by Isaiah in 750 BCE would have many similar divine characteristics, and last long after the dynasty ‘stump’ disappeared.

Jeremiah and the Branch

The rishi-prophet Isaiah erected a signpost so people could understand unfolding future events. But his was only the first of several signs. Jeremiah, living about 150 years after Isaiah, in 600 BCE when David’s dynasty was being cut down right before his very eyes, wrote:

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD our Righteousness“. (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

Jeremiah expanded on Isaiah’s Branch image of David’s dynasty. The Branch will also be a King. But not a King like the previous kings of David who had been reduced to a dead stump.

The Branch: The LORD our Righteousness

The difference with this Branch is seen in his name.  He would bear the very name of God (‘The LORD’ – The Jewish name for God), so like a banyan tree this Branch would be an image of the Divine.  He will also be ‘our’ (us humans) Righteousness.

When Savitri disputed with Yama over the body of her husband, Satyavan, it was her righteousness that gave her the power to face death (Yam).  But, as noted about the Kumbh Mela, our problem is our corruption or sin, and so we lack ‘righteousness’.  The Bible tells us that therefore we do not have power to face death.  In fact it says we are helpless against:

… the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—  and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14b-15)

In the Bible the devil is like Yama since he holds the power of death against us.  In fact, like Yama arguing over the body of Satyavan the Bible records another time the devil disputed over a body, when

… the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9)

So, since the devil has power, like Yama in the story of Savitri and Satyavan, to dispute over the body of a noble prophet like Moses, then he certainly has power over us in death – because of our sin and corruption.  Even the angels recognize that only the Lord – the Creator God – has the authority to rebuke the devil in death.  And here, in the ‘Branch’ is a promise that in the future the LORD would impart ‘righteousness’ to us so we can have victory over death.  But how?  Zechariah fills in further details as he develops this theme, predicting even the name of the coming Branch with details that parallels the story of Savitri and Satyavan defying death (Yama) – which we look at next.

Like the Raj: What does ‘Christ’ of Jesus Christ mean?

I sometimes ask people what Jesus’ last name was. Usually they reply,

“I guess his last name was ‘Christ’ but I am not sure”.

Then I ask,

“If that is true then when Jesus was a boy did Joseph Christ and Mary Christ take little Jesus Christ to the market?”

Put that way, they realize that ‘Christ’ is not Jesus’ last name. So, what is ‘Christ’? Where does it come from? What does it mean?  Surprising to many, ‘Christ’ is a title that means ‘ruler’ or ‘rule’.  It is not unlike the title ‘Raj’, as in the British Raj that ruled South Asia for many decades.

Translation vs. Transliteration

To see this, we need to first understand some translation basics. Translators sometimes choose to translate by similar sound rather than by meaning, especially for names and titles. This is known as transliteration.  For example, the Kumbh Mela is an English transliteration from the Hindi कुंभ मेला.  Even though मेला means ‘fair’ or ‘festival’ it is usually brought into the English by similar sound to Kumbh Mela rather than Kumbh Fair.  For the Bible, translators had to decide whether names and titles would be better in the translated language through translation (by meaning) or transliteration (by sound).  There is no specific rule.

The Septuagint

The Bible was first translated in 250 BC when the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek – the international language at that time. This translation is known as the Septuagint (or LXX) and it was very influential.  Since the New Testament was written in Greek, its many quotations of the Old Testament were taken from the Septuagint.

Translation & Transliteration in the Septuagint

The figure below shows this process and how it affects modern-day Bibles

The flow of translation from original languages to modern-day Bible

The flow of translation from original languages to modern-day Bible

The original Hebrew Old Testament (written from 1500 – 400 BC) is shown in quadrant #1. Because the Septuagint was a 250 BC Hebrew –> Greek translation it is shown as an arrow going from quadrant #1 to #2.  The New Testament was written in Greek (50–90 AD), so this means #2 contains both Old and New Testaments. In the bottom half (#3) is a modern language translation of the Bible.  To get there the Old Testament is translated from the original Hebrew (1 -> 3) and the New Testament is translated from the Greek (2 -> 3). The translators must decide on names and titles as explained previously. This is shown with the green arrows labeled transliterate and translate, showing that the translators can take either approach.

The Origin of ‘Christ’

Now we follow the process as above, but this time focusing on the word ‘Christ’.

Translation steps of 'Christ' in the Bible

Where does ‘Christ’ come from in the Bible?

We can see that in the original Hebrew Old Testament the title is ‘מָשִׁיחַ’ (mashiyach) which literally means an ‘anointed or consecrated’ person such as a king or ruler.  Hebrew kings of the Old Testament period were anointed (ceremonially rubbed with oil) before they became king, thus they were anointed ones or mashiyach.  Then they became rulers, but their rule was to be in submission to the heavenly rule of God, according to His laws.  In that sense a Hebrew king in the Old Testament was like the former Raj of South Asia.  The Raj ruled the British territories of South Asia, but was to do so under submission to the government in Britain, subject to its laws.

The Old Testament prophesied the coming of a specific mashiyach (with a definite article ’the’) who would be a unique king. When the Septuagint was translated in 250 BC, the translators chose a word in the Greek with a similar meaning, Χριστός (sounds like Christos), based from chrio, which meant to rub ceremonially with oil. So the Hebrew ‘mashiyach’ was translated by meaning (not transliterated by sound) to Χριστός (pronounced Christos) in the Greek Septuagint. The New Testament writers continued to use the word Christos to identify Jesus as this prophesied ‘mashiyach’.

But when we come to European languages, there was no obvious word with a similar meaning so the Greek ‘Christos’ was transliterated to ‘Christ’. The word ‘Christ’ is a very specific title with Old Testament roots, by translation from Hebrew to Greek, and then by transliteration from Greek to modern languages. The Hebrew Old Testament is translated directly into modern languages and translators have made different choices regarding the original Hebrew ‘mashiyach’.  Some Bibles transliterate ‘Mashiyach’ to variations of ‘Messiah’, others translate by meaning ‘Anointed One’, and others transliterate (by sound) into variations of ‘Christ’.  One Hindi word for Christ (मसीह) is transliterated from Arabic, which in turn was transliterated from the original Hebrew.  So its pronunciation ‘maseeh’ is close to the original Hebrew, while another word क्राइस्ट is transliterated from English ‘Christ’ and sounds like ‘Kraist’.  The Nepali word for Christ (ख्रीष्टको) is transliterated from the Greek Christos and so is pronounced Khrīṣṭakō.

Because we do not usually see the word ‘Christ’ in the Old Testament, the connection to the Old Testament is not always apparent. But from this study we know that the Biblical ‘Christ’=’Messiah’=’Anointed One’ and that it was a specific title.

The Christ anticipated in 1st Century

With this insight, let’s make some observations from the Gospel. Below is the reaction of King Herod when the Magi came looking for the King of the Jews, a well-known part of the Christmas story. Notice, ‘the’ precedes Christ, even though it is not referring specifically about Jesus.

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. (Matthew 2:3-4)

You can see that the idea of ‘the Christ’ was well understood between Herod and his  advisors – even before Jesus was born – and it is used here without referring specifically to Jesus. This shows ‘Christ’ comes from the Old Testament, commonly read by people in the 1st century (like Herod and his advisors) in the Greek Septuagint. ‘Christ’ was (and still is) a title, not a name, denoting a ruler or King. This is why Herod ‘was disturbed’ because he felt threatened at the possibility of another King.   We can dismiss the ridiculous notions that ‘Christ’ was a Christian invention or an invention by someone like Emperor Constantine of 300 AD . The title was in use hundreds of years before there were any Christians or before Constantine came to power.

Old Testment prophecies of ‘The Christ’

The title ‘Christ’ first appears in the Psalms, written by David ca 1000 BC – far before the birth of Jesus. Let’s look at these first occurrences.

The kings of the earth take their stand … against the LORD and against his Anointed One … The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them… saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will proclaim the decree of the LORD : He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. …Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:2-7)

Here is the same passage but based from the Greek translation Septuagint.

The kings of the earth take their stand … against the LORD and against his Christ … The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them… saying …, (Psalm 2)

You can now ‘see’ Christ in this passage like a reader of the 1st century would have. The Psalms continue with more references to this coming Christ.  I put the Hebrew-based passage side-by-side with a transliterated Greek one with ‘Christ’ in it so you can see it.

Psalm 132- From Hebrew Psalm 132 – From Greek Septuagint
O Lord, …10 For the sake of David your servant,
do not reject your anointed one.11 The Lord swore an oath to David,
a sure oath that he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants
I will place on your throne—
17 “Here I will make a horn grow for David
and set up a lamp for my anointed one.
18 I will clothe his enemies with shame,
but the crown on his head will be resplendent.”
O Lord, …10 For the sake of David your servant,
do not reject your Christ.11 The Lord swore an oath to David,
a sure oath that he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants
I will place on your throne—
17 “Here I will make a horn grow for David
and set up a lamp for my Christ.
18 I will clothe his enemies with shame,
but the crown on his head will be resplendent.”

You can see that Psalm 132 speaks in the future tense (“…I will make a horn for David…”). This is important when understanding Christ. It is as clear as can be that the Old Testament makes future-looking predictions about ‘the Christ’.  Herod was aware of this.  He just needed his advisers for the specifics of these predictions. The Jews have always been known to be waiting for their Messiah (or Christ). The fact that they are still waiting has nothing to do with Jesus or the New Testament but rather has to do with these future-looking predictions and prophecies in the Old Testament.

This Christ (or Messiah or Anointed One) prophesied in the Old Testament was similar in one important respect to the former British Raj.  As the Raj ruled over the nations in British India, while still under the authority of the government in Britain, the Christ was prophesied to one day rule over ‘the nations’ (Psalm 2:1) within the authority of God.

If Jesus of Nazareth was this prophesied Christ as the New Testament declares, then there are also some important differences between the Raj and the ‘Christ’.  The Raj came in military power and enforced outward submission through greater might.  Jesus came in such humility and servanthood that the powers in his day, like Herod, were caught by surprise.  Jesus the Christ first meets our need for freedom from sin and death, and by loving us first, seeks, even still today, to win our loyalty inwardly from our hearts.  Only after he has won over people in this way to Himself from all nations will he establish his outward rule.  Jesus likened this to an invitation to a great wedding feast, and many with money and power had excuses to decline the invitation.  The poor, crippled, blind and lame would show up at this feast in great numbers (see Matthew 22).  Many of the wealthy, powerful and connected in this life will miss out on the benefits of His rule.  So the question of whether Jesus is this Old Testament Christ is important to consider.  Fortunately, the Old Testament can help us.

The Old Testament prophecies: Like a lock of a lock-n-key system

Since the Old Testament clearly predicts the future, it stands in very small company across the vast sea of human literature. It is like the lock of a door. A lock is designed with a certain shape so that only a specific ‘key’ that matches the shape can unlock it. In the same way the Old Testament is like a lock. The specifications of the ‘Christ’ are not just in these two Psalms we looked at above but also in Abraham’s sacrifice, Adam’s beginning, and Moses’ Passover.  But it is in the Prophets of the period 800-400 BC in the Old Testament that the specifications of the coming Christ become even more precise, allowing us to check whether Jesus really was this prophesied ‘Christ’ – which we do next.

Moses’ Blessings & Curses: Echoing still Today

Moses lived about 3500 years ago and he wrote the first five books of the Bible – the Pentateuch or the Torah. The fifth book, Deuteronomy, contains his last words written just before he died. These were his Blessings to the people of Israel – the Jews, but also his Curses.  Moses wrote that these Blessings & Curses would shape world history and should be noticed, not just by the Jews, but also by all other nations. These Blessings & Curses have affected history in India.  So this was written for us to reflect on. The complete Blessings and Curses are here.  The summary is below.

The Blessings of Moses

Moses began by describing the blessings that the Israelites would receive if they obeyed The Law, which included the Ten Commandments.  The blessings from God would be so great that all other nations would recognize His blessing. The outcome of these blessings would be:

Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. (Deuteronomy 28:10)

… and the Curses

However, if the Israelites failed to obey the Commandments then they would receive Curses that would match and mirror the Blessings. These Curses would be seen by the surrounding nations so that:

You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the LORD will drive you. (Deuteronomy 28:37)

And the Curses would extend through history.

They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. (Deuteronomy 28:46)

But God warned that the worst part of the Curses would come from other nations.

The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed … until you are ruined. They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land. (Deuteronomy 28:49-52)

It would go from bad to worse.

You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. … Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. (Deuteronomy 28:63-65)

These Blessings and Curses were established by formal agreement between God and the Israelites:

…to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am making this covenant, with its oath … also with those who are not here today. (Deuteronomy 29:12-15)

So this covenant would be binding on the children, or future generations. In fact this covenant was directed at future generations – both Israelites and foreigners.

Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the LORD has afflicted it. … nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. … All the nations will ask: “Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?” (Deuteronomy 29:22-24)

And the answer will be:

“It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt….Therefore the LORD’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. … the LORD uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.” (Deuteronomy 29:25-28)

Did The Blessings and Curses happen?

Nothing neutral about them. The Blessings were delightful, and the Curses were dreadful, but the most important question we can ask is: ‘Did they happen?’  Much of the Old Testament is the record of the history of the Israelites so we know their history. Also we have historical records outside the Old Testament and many archeological monuments.  They all paint a consistent picture of Israelite or Jewish history.  This is given here through a timeline.  Read it and assess for yourself if the Curses of Moses came to pass.  This also answers why Jewish groups migrated into India starting 2700 years ago (eg. Bnei Menashe of Mizoram).  They were scattered to India as a result of Assyrian and Babylonian conquests followed by mass deportations – exactly as Moses had warned.

The Conclusion to Moses’ Blessings and Curses

Moses’ final words did not end with Curses.  Here is how Moses made his final pronouncement.

When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors (Deuteronomy 30:1-5)

After being exiled for thousands of years, in 1948 – in the lifetime of many alive today – the modern nation of Israel was re-born from a United Nations resolution and Jews started emigrating back to Israel from nations around the world – exactly as Moses’ predicted.  In India today, the thousand- year Jewish communities in Cochin, Andhra Pradesh and in Mizoram are dwindling rapidly as Jews depart to return to their ancestral land.  Only about 5000 Jews remain in India.  The Blessings of Moses are being fulfilled before our eyes, as certainly as the Curses shaped their history.

This has several implications for us.  First, The blessings & curses had their authority and power from the God of the Bible.  Moses was simply an enlightened messenger – a Rsi.  The fact that these curses and blessings reaches down thousands of years, across the nations of the globe, and affects billions of people (the return of Jews to Israel has created turmoil – regularly causing events to make global headlines) – is evidence that this God has the power and authority that the Bible (Veda Pusthakan) says He has.  In the same Torah He also promised ‘that all peoples on earth’ would be blessed.  ‘All peoples on earth’ would include you and me.  Then in the sacrifice of Abraham’s son, God reiterated that ‘all nations would be blessed’.  The striking location and details of that sacrifice are clues to help us know how to obtain this blessing.  The blessings being poured out now on the Jews returning from Mizoram, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala is a Sign that God wants to and can equally bless peoples in all the states of India and in the other nations around the world as He promised in His Word.  Like the Jews, we too are offered Blessings in the midst of our Curse.  Why not receive the gift of Blessing?

Jesus and the Sign in Moses Passover Festival

We had seen how Rsi Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac was a sign pointing to the sacrifice of Jesus.  After Abraham died, his descendants through this son Isaac, now called Israelites, had become a vast number of people but also had become slaves in Egypt.

The Passover Festival

So we now come to a very dramatic struggle that is centered through a man called Moses and which is recorded in the Hebrew Veda of Exodus in the Bible.  It is so named because it is the account of how Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt 500 years years after Abraham, about 1500 BC.  Moses had been commanded by The Creator God (Prajapati) to confront the Pharaoh (ruler) of Egypt and it resulted in a contest of wills between Moses and Pharaoh. This contest has also produced nine plagues or disasters against Egypt. But Pharaoh had not agreed to let the Israelites go free so God was going to bring about a 10th and final plague.  You can read the full account of the 10th Plague in Exodus through the link here since it will help you in following the explanation below.

This 10th plague decreed by God was that an Angel (Spirit) of Death would pass through every house in Egypt.  Every firstborn son in the entire land would die on that specific night except those that remained in houses where a lamb had been sacrificed and its blood painted on the doorposts of that house.  The destruction to Pharaoh, if he did not obey and paint lamb’s blood on his door, would be that his son and heir to the throne would die. And every house in Egypt would lose the firstborn son – if they did not sacrifice a lamb and paint its blood on the doorposts.  So Egypt faced a national disaster.

But in houses where a lamb had been sacrificed and its blood painted on the doorposts the promise was that everyone would be safe. The Angel of Death would pass over that house. So this day was called Passover (since death passed over all houses where lamb’s blood had been painted on the doors).

The Passover Sign

Now those who have heard this story assume that the blood on the doors was a sign for the Angel of Death.  But notice the curious detail taken from the account written 3500 years ago.

The LORD said to Moses … ” … I am the LORD. The blood [of the Passover lamb] will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. (Exodus 12:13)

Though God was looking for the blood on the door, and when He saw it Death would pass over, the blood was not a Sign for God.  It says quite clearly, that the blood was a ‘sign for you’ – the people. It is also a Sign for all of us who read this account. But how is it a sign?  An important clue is that after this event happened the LORD commanded them to:

Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for generations to come. When you enter the land … observe this ceremony… It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD’ (Exodus 12:27)

Jewish man with lamb at Passover

Jewish man with lamb at Passover

The Israelites were commanded to celebrate Passover on the same day every year. The Jewish calendar, being a lunar calendar, is a little different from the Western calendar, so the day in the year changes each year if you track it by the Western calendar. But to this day, still 3500 years later, Jewish people continue to celebrate Passover as a festival on the same date every year in memory of this event in obedience to that command given then.

Passover Sign pointing to the Lord Jesus

And in tracking this festival through history we can note something quite extraordinary. You can notice this in the Gospel where it records the details of the arrest and trial of Jesus (1500 years after that First Passover plague):

“Then the Jews led Jesus … to the palace of the Roman governor [Pilate]… to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover” … [Pilate] said [to Jewish leaders] “…But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” They shouted back, “No not him…” (John 18:28, 39-40)

In other words, Jesus was arrested and sent for crucifixion right on the Passover day in the Jewish calendar. One of the titles given to Jesus was

The next day John (i.e. John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I meant when I said ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’”. (John 1:29-30)

Here we see how the Passover drama is a Sign to us. Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God’, was crucified (i.e. sacrificed) on the very same day of the year that all the Jews were sacrificing a lamb in memory of the first Passover that had occurred 1500 years before.  This explains the annual timing of two holidays that re-occurs every year – a parallel that so few of us notice and even fewer ask ‘Why?’  The Jewish Passover Festival occurs almost every year at the same time as the Christian Easter festival does – check a calendar.  (Every 19th year there is a divergence of a month due to the cycle of lunar-based leap years in the Jewish calendar). This is why Easter moves every year because it is based on Passover, and Passover is timed by the Jewish calendar which calculates the year differently than the Western Calendar.

Now think for a minute about what ‘signs’ do. You can see some signs below here.

Flag_of_India

A Sign of India

Signs

Commercial Signs to make us think of McDonalds and Nike

The flag is a sign or symbol of India.  We do not ‘see’ just a rectangle with an orange and a green band across it.  No, we think of India when we see the flag.  The sign of the ‘Golden Arches’ makes us think about McDonalds. The sign of the ‘√’ on tennis player Nadal’s headband is the sign for Nike. Nike wants us to think of them when we see this sign on Nadal. In other words, Signs are pointers in our minds to direct our thinking to the desired object.

The Passover account in the Hebrew Veda of Exodus explicitly said that the Sign was for the people, not for Creator God (though He would still look for the blood and pass over the house if he saw it).  As with any sign, what did He want our minds to think of when we look to Passover?  With the remarkable timing of lambs being sacrificed on the same day as Jesus, it must be a pointer to the sacrifice of Jesus.

It works in our minds like I have shown in the diagram below. The sign was there to point us to the sacrifice of Jesus.

passover-and-jesus

The exact timing of sacrifice of Jesus to Passover is a Sign

In that first Passover the lambs were sacrificed and the blood spread so the people could live.  And thus, this Sign pointing to Jesus is to tell us that he, ‘The Lamb of God’, was also given as a sacrifice to death and his blood spilt so we could receive life.

We saw in Sign of Abraham that the place where Abraham was tested with the sacrifice of his son was Mount Moriah.  A lamb died so Abraham’s son could live.  Mount Moriah was the

The Sign of Abraham was pointing to the location

The Sign of Abraham was pointing to the location

very same place where Jesus was sacrificed. That was a Sign to make us ‘see’ the meaning of his death by pointing to the place.  In the Passover we find another pointer to Jesus’ sacrifice – by pointing to the same day in the year.  A lamb sacrifice is once again used – showing that it is not just a coincidence of any event – to point to the sacrifice of Jesus.  In two different ways (through location and through timing) two of the most important festivals in the sacred Hebrew Vedas directly point to the sacrifice of Jesus.  I cannot think of any other person in history whose death is so foreshadowed by such parallels in such dramatic fashion.  Can you?

These signs are given so that we can have confidence that the sacrifice of Jesus really was planned and ordained by God.  This was to give an illustration that helps us visualize how the sacrifice of Jesus saves us from death and cleanses us from sin – the gift from God to all who will receive it.

The Sign of Rsi Abraham’s sacrifice

We have seen how Abraham was, so very long ago, given a promise of nations. Jews and Arabs today come from Abraham, so we know the promise came true and that he is an important person in history.  Because Abraham trusted this promise he was given righteousness – he achieved moksha not through rigorous merit but he received it as simply as one receives any free gift.

Some time after, Abraham did receive that long awaited son, Isaac (from whom the Jews today trace their ancestry).  Isaac grew into a young man.  But then God tested Abraham in a dramatic way.  You can read the complete account here and we will go over the key facts to unlock the meaning of this mysterious test – to help us understand how righteousness will be paid for.

Abraham’s Test

This test starts with God making a dramatic command:

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” (Genesis 22:2)

Abraham, in obedience to the command ‘got up early next morning’ and ‘after three days travel’ they reached the mountain.  Then

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. (Genesis 22:9-10)

Abraham was ready to obey the command.  But then something remarkable happened:

11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.  (Genesis 22:11-13)

At the last moment Isaac was saved from death and Abraham saw a male sheep and sacrificed it instead.  God had provided a ram and the ram took the place of Isaac.

The Sacrifice: looking to the future

Abraham then names that place.  Notice what he names it.

So Abraham called that place ‘The LORD Will Provide’. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:14)

Abraham named it ‘The LORD will provide’. Here is a question.  Is that name in the past tense, present tense or future tense? It is clearly in the future tense. And to be even more clear the comment which follows repeats “…it will be provided”. This is also in the future tense – thus also looking to the future. But this naming occurred after the sacrifice of the ram (a male sheep) in place of Isaac.  Many think that Abraham, when naming that place, was referring to that ram caught in the thicket and sacrificed in place of his son. But it was already sacrificed and burned at this point. If Abraham was thinking of the ram – already dead, sacrificed and burnt – he would have named the place ‘The LORD has provided’, i.e. in the past tense. And the comment would have stated ‘And to this day it is said “On the mountain of the LORD it was provided”’. But Abraham clearly named it in future tense and therefore was not thinking of that already dead and sacrificed ram. He was enlightened to something different. He had insight into something about the future. But what?

Where the sacrifice happened

Remember that the mountain where Abraham had been told to go for this sacrifice was:

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah….” (v.2)

So this happened in ‘Moriah’. Where is that? Though it was a wilderness area in Abraham’s day (2000 BC), a thousand years later (1000 BC) King David established the city of Jerusalem there, and his son Solomon built the First Temple there. We read later in the Old Testament historical books that:

Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David (2 Chronicles 3:1)

In other words, ‘Mount Moriah’ in the early Old Testament time of Abraham (4000 BC) was an isolated mountain top in the wilderness but 1000 years later through David and Solomon it became the central city of the Israelites where they built the Temple to the Creator. And to this very day it is a holy place for the Jewish people and the capital of Israel.

Jesus – Yeshu Satsang – and the Sacrifice of Abraham

Think now about the titles of Jesus in the New Testament.  Jesus had many titles associated with him. Perhaps the most well-known title is ‘Christ’. But he had another title given to him that is very important. We see this in the Gospel of John when John the Baptist says of him:

The next day John (i.e. John the Baptist) saw Jesus (i.e. Yeshu Satsang) coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I meant when I said ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’”. (John 1:29-30)

In other words, Jesus was known as ‘The Lamb of God’. Now consider the end of Jesus’ life. Where was he arrested and crucified? It was in Jerusalem (which as we saw = ‘Mount Moriah’). It is very clearly stated during his arrest that:

When he [Pilate] learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at the time.’ (Luke 23:7)

The arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus happened in Jerusalem (= Mount Moriah). The timeline shows the events that have happened at Mount Moriah.

mt moriah timeline

Major events of history at Mount Moriah from Old Testament to New Testament

Let us now think back to Abraham. Why did he name that place in the future tense ‘The LORD will provide’? How could he know that something would be ‘provided’ there in his future that would so precisely mirror what he enacted on Mount Moriah? Think about it – in his test  Isaac (his son) was saved from death at the last moment because a lamb was sacrificed in his place. Two thousand years later, Jesus is called ‘Lamb of God’ and is  sacrificed on the same spot!  How could Abraham have known this would be ‘the spot’? He could only have known and been able to predict something that remarkable if he had received enlightenment from Prajapati, from the Creator God himself.

A Divine Mind is Revealed

It is as though there is a Mind that connected these two events by location even as they are separated by 2000 years of history.

mt moriah thinking india

The sacrifice of Abraham was a Sign – pointing forward 2000 years – to make us think about the sacrifice of Jesus.

The figure illustrates how the earlier event (Abraham’s sacrifice) alludes to the later one (Jesus’ sacrifice) and was configured to remind us of this later event. This is evidence that this Mind (Creator God) is revealing Himself to us by coordinating events though separated by thousands of years. It is a Sign that God spoke through Abraham.

Good News for you and me

This account is also important to us for more personal reasons. To conclude, God declared to Abraham that

“…and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me” (Genesis 22:18)

Do you not belong to one of ‘all nations on earth’ – no matter what your language, religion, education, age, gender, or wealth?  Then this is a promise that is given specifically to you! And notice what the promise is – a ‘blessing’ from God himself! This was not something solely for the Jews, but for people all over the world.

How is this ‘blessing’ given? The word ‘offspring’ here is in the singular. It is not ‘offsprings’ as in many descendants or peoples, but in the singular as in a ‘he’.  It is not through many people or a group of people as in ‘they’. This parallels exactly the Promise given at the beginning of history when a ‘he’ would ‘strike the heel’ of the serpent as recorded in the Hebrew Vedas and also parallels the promise of the sacrifice of Purusa (a ‘he’) given in the Purusasukta. With this Sign the very place – Mount Moriah ( = Jerusalem) – is predicted giving further detail to these ancient promises. The details of the drama of Abraham’s sacrifice help us understand how this blessing is given, and how the price for righteousness would be paid.

How is the Blessing of God obtained?

Just like the ram saved Isaac from death by being sacrificed in his place, so the Lamb of God, by his sacrificial death, saves us from the power and penalty of death.  The Bible declares that

… the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)

This is another way of saying that the sins we do produce a karma that results in death.  But death was paid by the lamb substituting for Isaac. Abraham and Isaac simply had to accept it. He did not and could not merit it. But he could receive it as a gift.  This is exactly how he achieved moksha.

This shows the pattern we can follow.  Jesus was the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’.  This includes your own sin.  So Jesus, the Lamb, offers to ‘take away’ your sins since he made the payment.  You cannot merit this but you can receive it as a gift.  Call to Jesus, the Purusa, and ask him to take away your sins.  His sacrifice gives him that power.  We know this because it was foreshadowed beyond that of chance coincidences in the remarkable account of the sacrifice of Abraham’s son on Mount Moriah, the same spot where 2000 years later it ‘was provided’ by Jesus.

Abraham’s simple Way to achieve Moksha

As I write this today the world’s attention is focused on the FIFA World Cup draw. While this has many fans riveted, much of the rest of the world is focused on the riots and unrest in Thailand and Ukraine. Then there is always the civil war that is raging in Syria. And this just in … Nelson Mandela has passed away.

But probably by the time that you read this article these events will largely be forgotten. What the world takes great note of now will quickly be forgotten as we move on to other amusements, sporting championships or political crises. The focus one day quickly becomes forgotten history the next.

We saw in our previous article that this was true in the ancient time of Abraham. The important and spectacular contests, achievements and gossip that was the talk of the people living 4000 years ago are now totally forgotten, but a solemn promise spoken quietly to an individual, though totally overlooked by the world back then, is growing and unfolding before our eyes. I pointed out the obvious, but usually overlooked fact, that the promise given to Abraham about 4000 years ago has literally, historically and verifiably come true. This should give us reason to recognize that this Promise to Abraham indicates that God is just as revealed in the Bible (Veda Pusthakan) and is working to see that His Promises will be accomplished. This is not simply legend or some abstract metaphor.

The account of Abraham continues with two more key encounters with this Promise-Making God. Abraham (and we who follow his journey) learn much more – even to the point of seeing this promise move from the realm of history to that of achieving Moksha, but in a very different way – a simpler way – than we might expect. The story of Abraham is not a quickly forgotten event like today’s sports events; it is one of an unnoticed man setting a foundation to understand the gaining of eternity, so we’d be wise to take note.

Abraham’s Complaint

Several years have passed in Abraham’s life since the Promise recorded in Genesis 12 was spoken. Abraham had moved to Canaan (the Promised Land) in what is today Israel in obedience to that promise. Other events then occurred in his life except the very one that he wanted – the birth of the son through whom this promise would be fulfilled. So we pick up the account with Abraham’s complaint:

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.

I am your shield,

your very great reward.”

But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” (Genesis 15:1-3)

God’s Promise

Abraham had been camping out in the Land awaiting the start of the ‘Great Nation’ that had been promised him. But nothing had happened and by this time he was around 85 years old. He complained that God was not keeping that Promise given to him. Their conversation continued with:

Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:4-5)

In their exchange God renewed His Promise by declaring that Abraham would get a son that would become a people as uncountable as the stars in the sky – many for sure, but hard to number.

Abraham’s Response: Like a Puja with Permanent affect

The ball was now back in Abraham’s court. How would he respond to this renewed Promise? What follows is treated by the Bible as one of its most important sentences (since this sentence is quoted several times later on). It lays the foundation to understand an unalterable truth. It says:

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

It is probably easier to understand this sentence if we replace the pronouns with names, thus it would read:

Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD credited it to Abram as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

It is such a small and inconspicuous sentence. It comes and goes with no news headline fanfare and so we are apt to miss it. But it is truly significant – and it contains the seeds of The Everlasting. Why? Because in this little sentence Abraham gets ‘righteousness’. This is like a getting the merits of a puja that will never degrade or be lost. Righteousness is the one – and the only one – quality that we need to get right standing before God.

Reviewing our Problem: Corruption

From God’s point-of-view, though we were made in the image of God something happened that corrupted that image. Now the verdict is that

The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:2-3)

Instinctively we sense this corruption. This is why festivals, such as the Kumbh Mela festival, are so well attended because we sense our sin and our need for cleansing. The Prartha Snana (or Pratasana) mantram also expresses this view that we have about ourselves:

I am a sinner. I am the result of sin. I am born in sin. My soul is under sin. I am the worst of sinners. O Lord who has the beautiful eyes, Save me, O Lord of the Sacrifice.

The end result of our corruption is that we find ourselves separated from a Righteous God because we have no righteousness ourselves. Our corruption has seen our negative karma grow – reaping futility and death in its wake. If you doubt that just scan some news headlines and see what people have been up to the last 24 hours.  We are separated from the Maker of Life and so the words of Rsi Isaiah of the Veda Pusthakan (Bible) come true

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6, written ca. 750 BC)

Abraham and Righteousness

But here in the conversation between Abraham and God we find, slipped in so quietly that we can almost miss it, the declaration that Abraham had gained ‘righteousness’ – the kind that God accepts. So what did Abraham ‘do’  to get this righteousness? Once again, so discreetly that we are in danger of missing the point, it simply says of Abraham that he ‘believed’. That’s it?! We have this insurmountable problem of being corrupt and so our the natural tendency  down the ages is to look for sophisticated and difficult religions, efforts, pujas, ethics, ascetic disciplines, teachings etc. – to gain righteousness. But this man, Abraham, gained that prized righteousness simply by ‘believing’.  It was so simple we can almost miss it.

Abraham did not ‘earn’ righteousness; it was ‘credited’ to him. So what is the difference? Well, if something is ‘earned’ you worked for it – you deserve it. It is like receiving wages for the work you do. But when something is credited to you, it is given to you. Like any gift freely given it is not earned or merited, but simply received.

This account of Abraham overturns the common understanding that we have about righteousness either by thinking that it comes by a belief in God’s existence, or that righteousness is obtained by doing enough sufficiently good or religious activities. This is not the way Abraham took. He simply chose to believe the promise extended to him, and then he was credited, or given, righteousness.

The rest of the Bible treats this encounter as a Sign for us.  Abraham’s belief in the promise from God, and the ensuing credit of righteousness, is a pattern for us to follow. The whole of the Gospel is founded on promises that God gives to each and every one of us.

But then who pays for or earns righteousness? We take it up in our next article.

The Rescue Plan for Enlightenment: Through the Blessings of Abraham

We saw in our last post that mankind had corrupted the worship of the Creator Prajapati into worshiping stars and planets. Because of this Prajapati scattered the descendants of the three sons of Manu/Noah (who had survived the flood) by separating their languages. This is why there are the many nations separated by language today. Echoes of mankind’s common past can be seen in the 7-day calendars used throughout the world today and in the diverse memories of that great flood.

Prajapati had promised at the beginning of history that through the sacrifice of a Perfect Man ‘sages would gain immortality’. This sacrifice would function like a puja to clean us on the inside instead of just on our outside. However, with the worship of the Creator being corrupted, the newly scattered nations were forgetting this early promise. It is only remembered today in a handful of sources including the ancient Rg Veda and the Veda Pusthakan – The Bible.

So Prajapati made a plan. This plan was not something that you and I would expect because it would seem (to us) far too small and insignificant to change things. But this was the plan that He chose. This plan involved calling a man and his family around 2000 BC (ie 4000 years ago) and promising to bless him and his descendants if he chose to receive the blessing. Here is how the the Bible gives the account.

The Promise to Abraham

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there….

7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

Many of us today wonder if there is a personal God who cares enough to directly intervene in our troubled lives to give us hope. Through this account we can test this idea because in it a personal promise is made to a specific person, parts of which we can verify. This account records that The LORD directly promised Abraham that ‘I will make your name great’. We live in the 21st century – 4000 years later – and the name of Abraham/Abram is one of the most globally recognized names in history. This promise has literally, historically, and verifiably come true.

The earliest existing copy of the Bible is from the Dead Sea Scrolls which date to 200-100 B.C. This means that this promise has, at the very latest, been put down in writing since at least that time. But even at 200 BC the person and name of Abraham was still not yet well-known – being known only to a small minority of Jews. So we can verify that the fulfillment has come about only after the latest time it was written down. This is not a case of a promise being ‘fulfilled’ by writing it down after it happened.

… by means of his great nation

What is equally astonishing is that Abraham really did nothing noteworthy in his life – the kind of thing that normally makes one’s name ‘great’. He did not write anything extraordinary (like Vyasa who wrote the Mahabharata), he did not build anything noteworthy (like Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal), he did not lead an army with impressive military skill (like Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita), nor did he lead politically (like Mahatma Gandhi did). He did not even rule a kingdom like a raja. He did nothing really except camp and pray in the wilderness and then have a son.

If you were predicting in his day who would be most remembered thousands of years later, you would have bet on the kings, generals, warriors, or court poets living back then to become great in history. But their names are all forgotten – while the man who just barely managed to have a family in the wilderness is a household name around the world. His name is great only because the nation(s) that he sired kept the record of his account – and then individuals and nations that came from him became great. This is exactly how it was promised at this time long ago (“I will make you into a great nation … I will make your name great”). I can think of no one else in all history so well-known who is so only because of descendants coming from him rather than from great accomplishments in his own life.

…Through the Will of the Promise-Maker

And the people today who descended from Abraham – the Jews – were never really a nation which we typically associate with greatness. They did not build great architectural structures like the pyramids of the Egyptians – and certainly nothing like the Taj Mahal, they did not write philosophy like the Greeks, or administer over far-flung regions like the British did. All of these nations did so in the context of world-power empires that stretched their extensive borders through extraordinary military power – something the Jews never had. The Jewish people’s greatness is mostly due to the Law and Book (Veda Pusthakan or Bible) which they birthed; from some remarkable individuals that came from their nation; and that they have survived for these thousands of years as a distinct and somewhat different people group. Their greatness is not really due to anything they did, but rather what was done to and through them.

Now look to the Cause that was going to drive this promise forward. There, in black-and-white, it says repeatedly that “I will …”. The unique way their greatness has played out in history fits once again in a remarkable way to this declaration that it was going to be the Creator who would make this happen rather than some innate ability, conquest or power of this ‘great nation’. The media attention paid around the world today to events in Israel, the modern Jewish nation, is a case in point. Do you regularly hear of news events in Hungary, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, or the Central African Republic – all similarly sized countries around the world? But Israel, a tiny nation of 6 million, is constantly and regularly in the news.

There is nothing innate in history or human events that would cause the unfolding of this ancient promise exactly as it was declared to this ancient man who, because he trusted this promise chose a special path. Think how likely it was for this promise to have failed in some way. But instead it has unfolded, and is continuing to unfold, as it was declared those thousands of years ago. The case is strong indeed that it is solely on the power and authority of the Promise-Maker that it has been fulfilled.

The Pilgrimage that still shakes the World

This map shows the route of Abraham's Journey

This map shows the route of Abraham’s pilgrimage

The Bible records that “So Abram left as the LORD had told him” (v. 4). He set out on a pilgrimage, shown on the map that is still making history.

Blessings to us

But it does not end there since there is something else promised as well. The blessing was not only for Abraham because it also says that

“all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (v. 4).

This should make you and I take note. Whether we are Aryan, Dravidian, Tamil, Nepali, or even something else; no matter what our caste is; no matter what our religion, be it Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Sikh or Christian; no matter whether we are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick; educated or not – the ‘all peoples on earth’ has to include you, as well as me. The scope of this promise for a blessing includes everybody alive from back then until today – which means you. How? When? What kind of blessing? This is not clearly stated just here but this is the birth of something that affects you as well me.

We have just verified historically and literally that the first part of the Promise to Abraham has come true. Do we not then have a good reason to trust that the part of the Promise to you and to me will not also come true? Because it is universal and unchanging this Promise is Satya. But we need to unlock it – to understand Satya of this Promise. We need enlightenment so we understand how this Promise can ‘touch’ us. And we find this enlightenment in continuing to follow the pilgrimage of Abraham. The key to moksha, which so many around the world are working so hard to obtain, is revealed for all of us as we continue to follow the account of this remarkable man.