W-5; The Messiah Cut Off – Daniel 9:26

 
When Judy and I were still in Canada, we sometimes watched a television news magazine called “W-5.” It was on the same line as “60 Minutes,” “Dateline,” and “20/20” here in the States. I’m not thinking about the 6:00 or the 10:00 news, but the supposed “in-depth” news programs. These are the shows professing to find the story behind the story – filled with detailed interviews and abundant editorial comment. Why was that Canadian program called “W-5?” “W-5” refers to the five most important questions that any news article should answer. “Who,” “what,” “where,” “when” and “why.”

The police detective, the newspaper reporter and anyone who is interested in the truth usually needs to begin with this standard set of five “W’s.” We should also add the person who wants to understand his Bible – anyone interested in the truth. As we read a few minutes ago, the Ethiopian ruler was reading the Book of Isaiah, chapter 53. He was astonished by what the prophet had said, and it was quite mysterious to him. “The eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of WHOM speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?” That Ethiopian started with “W-1” – “Who.” I am convinced that before he was finished, Philip had taken him through the other four “W’s.”

This morning, I’m going to jump ahead in our text, in order to come to the heart of this divine revelation. The heart of Daniel 9 is not the seventy weeks, as important as they are. The heart of Daniel 9 is not the angel Gabriel, nor is it the Antichrist – the prince of the people that shall come and destroy the city and the sanctuary. The hinge upon which all this prophesy swings is the person of the Messiah. The hinge upon which all eternity swings is the Messiah – and that He has been cut off. We will come back to some of these other things later, but for the moment let’s begin at the beginning – the middle – the central point.

“After threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself.” Saving our last point for a later message, let’s apply four of the five “W’s” to the cutting off the Messiah.

WHO is this “Messiah?”
You may think that this is a silly question, but it isn’t. Remember that the Ethiopian didn’t know who the Messiah was, even though he appears to have been a Jewish proselyte. The Jews had already been struggling for years to deny the obvious in regard to many of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. It’s not that the more fundamental groups within Israel didn’t, or don’t, yearn for the coming of the Messiah. Their unbelief hinges on the fact that they refuse to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is that Messiah. Even when Isaiah 53 so clearly describes the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, and when so many Psalms graphically paints a picture of the crucifixion, they turn backward somersaults trying to deny the obvious. And when Daniel 9 appears to pinpoint the cutting off of the Messiah as the time when Jesus was crucified, their unbelief can’t stand the thought.

And so when John Gill begins to comment on this verse, he refers to some of the Jewish commentators with whom he was so familiar, and who so often help us to understand Old Testament scriptures. He says, this Messiah is “not Onias the high priest, as a late writer would have it, an upright person, and of great holiness, taken off by an unjust death; since he was dead years before the expiration of these weeks. Nor Hyrcanus the high priest, slain by Herod, as Eusebius thinks; in whom the succession of the ancient priests terminated, and with whom the priestly unction perished.” One by one Gill eliminates various Jewish candidates for this Messiah.

But the Christian says, “Wait a minute, why is this necessary. Everyone knows that JESUS is the Messiah.” But herein is the problem – obviously not everyone knows that. The Messiah of Daniel 9 is identified as “the prince,” but not as “Jesus.” And the word which is translated “Messiah” here is nearly twenty times as often translated “anointed.” “Messiah” means “anointed.” There are dozens of people in the Bible who were anointed – there have probably been thousands. David was anointed as the future king, then anointed again by Judah, and again as king of all Israel. “These be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the ANOINTED of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel.” Under the simple definition of the word, David was “a messiah” – someone anointed. King Saul too was a “messiah” in the sense that the was anointed. Then came dozens of high priests and hundreds of other priests as well. Any priest, or king, and even some princes could make the legitimate claim that they were the “messiah.” And this leaves the door open for the unbelief of the Jews when it came to the Lord Jesus.

However, there should be no doubt amongst us that Jesus Christ is the one to whom Gabriel refers. Part of the problem that modern Bible readers might have is that the word “messiah” cannot be found in the New Testament. To the lazy-minded man this might be unfortunate, but there is no such thing as “unfortunate” with our God. We just have to keep in mind that the Old Testament was written primarily in Hebrew while the New Testament was written in Greek. In the New Testament there is another word which means “anointed” just as “messiah” does in the Old. The Greek word “christos” means “anointed,” but it is transliterated “Christ” rather than translated. It is never given to us any other way than as “Christ.” In other words “Christ” and “Messiah” are synonyms. I almost said “perfect synonyms,” but that would have been a mistake. Because the “Christ” of the New Testament is never any other person than the Lord Jesus. There is never any other “anointed” in the New Testament than Christ, so its not a perfect synonym. Clearly, as far as I am concerned, the “Messiah” Daniel 9:26 is the Lord Jesus Christ.

When Jesus stood before the High Priest before being turned over to Pilate, that unbelieving man demanded: “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God.” The Lord Jesus refused to affirm or deny, but only implied, “You’ll have the proof soon enough.” In Matthew 16 Jesus asked His disciples what and whom they believed Him to be, and Peter said, “Thou art the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of the living God.” The Lord didn’t correct him or rebuke him, rather…. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. But after that Christ did ask them all to keep this temporarily under their hats.

The “who” in Gabriel’s statement is the Lord Jesus Christ. “After threescore and two weeks shall (Christ Jesus, the) Messiah but cut off, but not for himself.”

Now what about the WHAT?
He shall be “cut off.” This is an interesting, common word in the Old Testament. In nearly half of its nearly 300 occurrences, it is translated exactly the way that it is here – “cut off.” And in many cases, it means nothing more than something like cutting a slice off a loaf of bread. But it also refers to death. For example, because of God’s revelation, Joseph collected food for years prior to a long famine. “And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land PERISH not through the famine.” The word “perish” is this same “cutting off.” The word is also translated “to destroy.” But it is most commonly used when God tells Israel that if someone sins, he shall be “cut off.” “Whatsoever soul it be that eateth any manner of blood, even that soul shall be cut off from his people.” And “seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.” What Daniel is told here in chapter 9 is that the Messiah is going to be “cut off” – “destroyed,” “killed.” And more importantly, He will be “cut off” in the same way as the wicked sinner is cut off from God. But as we shall see – it will not be for himself that he is cut off.

Now here is something that excited me when I discovered it. This same Hebrew word is also used in another way – in the establishing of a covenant. Abraham “cut off” a covenant with Ahimelech at Beersheba. The context tells us that there was the offering a sacrifice and then the sharing of a meal together. “And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them MADE a covenant.” Literally translated, Abraham “cut off” a covenant with Ahimelech. In Genesis 21, and 26 and again in 31 we have this word used in this way. “Now therefore come thou, let us MAKE (cut off) a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.” Over a dozen times in the Old Testament the Word refers to “making” (cutting off) a covenant. And several times the covenant is being made between God and His people. Ezekiel 37:26 – “Moreover I will (CUT OFF) a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.”

Could it be that Daniel was told by God’s Archangel that in the cutting off of the Messiah, there was the establishing of a covenant between God and man? I can’t tell you that was Gabriel’s message. But I can tell you that in the cutting off of the Messiah during the days of the gospel, a beautiful bow was placed on God’s covenant of salvation. This “cutting off” speaks of the crucifixion of Christ for salvation of His elect.

WHERE is our third “W” question.
I won’t chase this rabbit very far, because this particular bunny is slow and easily caught. Verse 24 – “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon THY HOLY CITY, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build JERUSALEM unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the CITY and the SANCTUARY; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the SACRIFICE and the OBLATION to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

There should be no question about this, since the context of this prophecy is Jerusalem, the Holy City – the Messiah will be cut off in that place. There is also no doubt about the fact that within a few years of the crucifixion, Jerusalem and Herod’s Temple in that city were desecrated and destroyed by the armies of Rome. Christ Jesus was condemned in Jerusalem and crucified just outside that city’s walls.

This leaves us with one more question for this morning – WHY?
Gabriel doesn’t deal with this question, except in a limited and negative sort of way. “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself.” What could those last four words mean – “but not for himself”? Grammatically, they are not very difficult to understand. But I’m not sure that with his limited perspective, Daniel could have grasped their full impact.

When we move to the New Testament, the message becomes obvious. This One who was anointed of God – this prince – this descendent of David and Son of God – was no ordinary man. His mother was a virgin, as it was prophesied and as the Biblical history declares. Luke 1:35 – “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Jesus had no human father, despite having a lineage taking him back to David, Jacob and Abraham. Since he had no father, neither did he carry in his blood the sins of an earthly father. Furthermore, Jesus didn’t have the human weakness toward sin that the rest of us carry. Never did he ever sin. Jesus challenged those who hated Him, to prove that He had committed any sin; they didn’t even try. Peter, who was one of Christ’s closest disciples, said that he was a lamb without blemish or spot. “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.” The apostle Paul may not have known Christ Jesus during the days of His earthly ministry, but he knew Him very, very well, afterwards. In Hebrews 4:15 he said that Jesus was “without sin.” And in Hebrews 7:26 he said that Christ Jesus, our high priest, “is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.”

Despite neither committing nor carrying any sin in himself, Jesus was cut off for sin – for the sin of others. The prophet Isaiah, in chapter 53, puts it as well as any New Testament writer ever could. This was the message which so disturbed and confused the Ethiopian as he went home from Jerusalem. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”

In the New Testament we read – “Christ hath redeemed US from the curse of the law, being made a curse FOR US: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just FOR THE UNJUST, that he might bring us to God…” “Who his own self bare OUR SINS in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

Why was the Messiah cut off? It was because there is no other way for sinners to be reconciled unto God. If it wasn’t for the sacrifice of the sinless son of God, you and I would have to bear our own sins for all eternity. But in those few hours that Jesus hung on the cross, about 540 years after Daniel had been told about it, ad exactly 473 years after the command to rebuild Jerusalem, Christ Jesus bore the sins of many.

The only thing that the Lord requires of us is to believe Him – to trust him. He commands us to hate our sins as much as He does. Now, He orders us to repent and to put our faith for deliverance from our sin in the Messiah – in the Lord Jesus.