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Making the Case for the Messiah


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When Dr. Michael Rydelnik was a high school junior, his Hebrew club hosted a Jewish graduate student, who argued that Jews should not believe in Jesus. Rydelnik was up next, challenging the speaker with verses from the Hebrew Bible to prove Jesus was the Messiah. But his brilliant opponent seemed to have a reasonable reply for everything.

“After 35 minutes I wanted to die,” Rydelnik recalls. “I felt like a failure. I had been so overconfident and thought I already knew all the answers, but I had not prepared or prayed about it.”

Since that humiliating day, Rydelnik has devoted his life to always being prepared to give a defense for the hope he has in Jesus as the Messiah. And as a Moody Bible Institute professor and Moody Radio host, he is equipping others to do the same.

And because of your support of Moody Bible Institute, more students are being prepared by professors like Dr. Rydelnik to defend their faith and share God’s love.

Rydelnik’s latest project is The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy (Moody Publishers, 2019), which he edited with Dr. Edwin Blum. This book includes contributions from eight Moody alumni and seven Moody faculty, who give clear and careful commentary on virtually every messianic passage in the Old Testament. It also provides insight on interpretive and theological issues related to messianic prophecy. The book is a great resource for pastors, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and informed laypeople.

“There really isn’t another comprehensive book that’s been written in modern times making the case for the Messiah from the Hebrew Bible,” Rydelnik says. “In fact, the whole idea of the Messiah in the Old Testament is falling out of favor with many evangelical scholars.”

So is it really crucial to believe that the messianic prophecies in the Old Testament point to Jesus?

Many Old Testament scholars today don’t read the Hebrew Bible with a messianic focus. “They think everything has to do with the prophet’s own day,” Rydelnik explains. “They really don’t see the prophet looking into the distant future.”

Rydelnik grew up with the same mindset—but it was Old Testament messianic prophecy that brought him to faith. The son of Holocaust survivors, Rydelnik was raised in an observant Jewish home and became furious when he found out his mother was a secret believer. His mom’s Bible study teacher challenged the young man to look at Old Testament messianic passages with her, including Isaiah 52:13–53:12. She asked him what he would do about his sin and the need for a sacrifice. She said, “Look, Yeshua is the sacrifice that God provided for us. He didn’t leave us without an atonement.”

Not long after that, Rydelnik attended his mom’s messianic congregation in Brooklyn to see a film. At the end, an invitation was given, and Rydelnik found himself raising his hand to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.

“That’s why I’m passionate about messianic prophecy,” says Rydelnik, who later attended Moody Bible Institute, where his professors added to his understanding of the Messiah. “We learned that the Old Testament says He’s coming and the New Testament says He came.”

For all Christ followers, it is important to understand how the Old Testament Scriptures point to Jesus as Messiah.

3 Benefits of Studying Old Testament Messianic Prophecy

  1. It will strengthen your faith. When John the Baptist was in jail and doubting whether Jesus was indeed the Promised One, Jesus assured him with two messianic promises from Isaiah 35:5–6 and 61:1. “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matt. 11:4–5).
  2. It will enable your testimony in a secular age. Knowing that the Messiah of the New Testament was foretold in the Old allows you to present the Bible as a supernatural book. The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy cites hundreds of verses that point to Jesus as the Messiah and predict His virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14), His sufferings (Psalms 22 and 69) and His resurrection (Psalm 16), to name just a few.
  3. It will help you communicate more effectively with Jewish people. “One of the reasons I think Jesus followers are reluctant to share the gospel with Jewish people is that they don’t know what to say,” Rydelnik says. “If you have messianic prophecy in your pocket, you’ll know what to say.” He adds that there is no method you must employ when sharing the gospel. “The key to effective communication with Jewish people—or all people—is to learn to listen better and hear what their needs are,” he says.

When meeting a Jewish person, for example, citing Scripture may not be the first tool you use. Instead, “you could talk about how your whole faith is in the Son of David—that your faith is in the Jewish Messiah, which makes you love His people,” says Rydelnik. “Your goal is not to win them in one encounter but rather to have them say, ‘Hmm, there is more to this message of the New Testament than I thought.’”

God is even able to bring good out of our failed evangelistic efforts. Years after that botched high school debate in Rydelnik’s Hebrew club, Rydelnik recognized his high school guitar teacher, Vince Salzman, at a messianic congregation. “How did you come to know the Lord, Vince?” Rydelnik asked.

Vince answered by recalling that day when ‘some kid’ in the school had debated an Ivy League Jewish speaker using messianic prophecy. “Nothing could stop this kid,” he told Rydelnik. “He was terrible, but he had a lot of verses.”

As a result the guitar teacher decided to get a Bible and read it for himself. After a year of reading it, he thought, That kid was right, and became a follower of Jesus.

“Do you know who that kid was?” Vince asked, followed by Rydelnik’s quick answer.

“As a matter of fact, I do.”


Reflect on the Heart of God This Christmas

In this season of giving, we’d like to encourage you with a classic book from A. W. Tozer. For a gift of any size to support Moody Bible Institute, we’d love to send you his compelling book, The Attributes of God. Based on one of his most powerful sermon series, Tozer’s book includes deep insights into the heart of God, along with a study guide for deeper reflection on God’s character.

The book is our way of saying thank you for your end-of-year gift, which will help support Moody students as they prepare to reach our world for Jesus.

Give Now


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