About us & our Mission

Pathfinders Christian Fellowships is a Canadian registered religious charity, located in London, Ontario.

We are a group of believers who are committed to find new paths into the hearts of people so that we might share the love of Christ with them. Our mission is to discover and discuss the Christian faith in an informal, non-institutional setting.

We do this through winning, disciple-making and equipping people in simple fellowship settings … it might be in a home, in a business venue or among an affinity group of friends who enjoy sports or other activities together. Some call it ‘simple church’ or ‘organic church.’

We value the Word of God, because of its capacity to transform our lives. We believe it is the highest source of written authority for God’s plan for His people, revealing how to live out that plan, individually and corporately. We seek to keep our beliefs, practices and priorities anchored in clear biblical teaching.

Our mega goal is to promote inter-religious dialogue between the main world religions in an open and friendly and informed format.  With this in mind, we have developed our online educative resource in order to give Muslim people of the English language an opportunity to become better acquainted with the Bible (al Kitab) and its message (Injil).

Our new program for this year – 12 neighbors campaign – is about shooting and producing educational christian videos.

The holy month of Ramadan – How should I fast?

When Ramadan comes and it is time to fast I have discussions with friends on how to best fast. For example, if Ramadan occurs in the May-to-July period, and we live in Northern countries with almost 18 or more hours between sunrise and sunset the question of whether it is permissible to use some other daylight standard (such as based on the sunrise to sunset interval in Mecca) is asked. My friends follow different rulings by different scholars on this and similar kinds of questions on what is permissible and what is not as we live in complicated situations.

Important as these discussions are, we almost always forget the equally important question of how we should live so our fasting pleases Allah. The prophets had much to say about this and their message about living for proper fasting is as important for us today as it was when they lived.

The Prophet Isaiah (PBUH) lived in a time (see historical timeline) when the believers practiced their religious obligations (like prayers and fasting) strictly, so they were religious,

Historical Timeline of Prophet Isaiah (PBUH) with some other prophets in Zabur
Historical Timeline of Prophet Isaiah (PBUH) with some other prophets in Zabur

but it was also a time of great corruption.   (See article introducing Zabur for overview of this period). The people were full of fighting, corruption and disputes. That sounds like us today does it not? So this message is important for us too.

True Fasting

58 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. (Isaiah 58: 1-12)

Do not these promises for true living with fasting sound wonderful?  But the people in that time did not listen to them and other messages warning them of judgment if they did not repent (see here on what the prophet Yahya PBUH taught about repenting). So they were judged as Prophet Musa (PBUH) had prophesied in Taurat (here).  This message remains as a sign and warning to us since how the prophet described the way they were living while fasting sounds like us today.

We each have to decide if we will obey this message and repent from how we are living and treating each other. But it will be of no use to fast, with whatever fasting rules our imams permit, and still fail to please Allah by living in a way that displeases him.

Isa al Masih (PBUH) teaches on … entering paradise

Do you hope to enter heaven (paradise) one day? What is required for you and me to enter heaven? Isa al Masih (PBUH) was once asked this question by a Jewish ‘expert’ educated in the interpretation of all aspects of the sharia law of the prophet Musa (PBUH). Isa al Masih (PBUH) gave him an unexpected answer. Below is the conversation recorded in the Injil.  To appreciate the effect of Isa’s parable on this expert you must understand that ‘Samaritans’ were despised by the Jews in that day. They were considered unclean. In return the Samaritans hated the Jews. The hatred between Samaritans and Jews back then would be similar today to maybe that between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, or between Sunnis and Shiites, or supporters and opponents of Assad in Syria.

Parable of Eternal Life and the Good Neighbour

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  (Luke 10:25-37)

When the expert in the Law answered ‘Love the Lord your God’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ he was quoting from the Sharia Law of Musa (PBUH). Isa indicated that he had answered correctly but this raised the question of who was his neighbour. So Isa al Masih (PBUH) told the parable of the Good Neighbour.

In the parable we expect that the religious people (the priest and the Levite) would help the man who had been beaten, but they ignore him and leave him in his helpless state. Their religion has not made them Good Neighbours. Instead, the person we least expect, the one we assume is his enemy – he is the one who helps the man who had been beaten.

With this parable, Isa al Masih (PBUH) commands to “go and do likewise”. I do not know about you, but my first reaction to this parable was that I must have misunderstood it, and then I was tempted to just ignore it and pretend I never read it.

But think of all the fighting, killing, heartache and misery which is happening all around because the great majority of people do ignore this command. If we lived like this Samaritan then our cities and countries would be peaceful rather than full of fighting. And we would also have an assurance of entering paradise. As it stands, very few people have an assurance that they have eternal life – even if they live very religiously like the expert in the Law did who was talking with Isa (PBUH).

Do you have assurance of eternal life?

But is becoming this kind of Neighbour even possible? How can we do this? If we are honest with ourselves we have to admit that being a Neighbour like he commanded is too difficult to do.

And here we may see a glimmer of hope because when see that we cannot do it we become ‘poor in spirit’ – which Isa al Masih (PBUH) had also taught was necessary to enter the ‘Kingdom of God’

Perhaps instead of just ignoring this parable, or excusing it away, we should use it to examine ourselves and acknowledge that we cannot do it – it is too difficult. Then, in our helplessness, we can ask Allah for help. As Isa al Masih (PBUH) had promised in the Sermon on the Mount

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  (Matthew 7:7-11)

So we have the Masih’s permission to ask for help – and help is promised.  Perhaps pray to Allah something like this:

Father in Heaven. You have sent the prophets to teach us the straight way. Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught that I need to love and help even those who consider themselves my enemy, and without doing this I cannot get eternal life. But I find that this is impossible for me to do. Please help me and change me so that I can follow this path and get eternal life. Be Merciful to me who is a Sinner.

By Masih’s encouragement and permission I pray to you God

(The specific words are not important – it is that we confess our need and ask for mercy)

The injil also records a time when Isa al Masih (PBUH) encountered a Samaritan. How would the prophet treat a person who was considered a hated enemy of his people (the jews)?  What happened in his encounter with the Samaritan, and what we may learn to help us become the kind of Neighbour we need to be, we will look at next.

Isa al Masih (PBUH) teaches – with Parables

We saw how Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught with unique authority. He also taught using stories that illustrated true principles. For example, we saw how he taught about the Kingdom of God using the story of a Great Banquet, and about forgiveness through the story of the Unmerciful Servant. These stories are called parables, and Isa al Masih (PBUH) is unique among prophets and teachers in how much he used parables to teach, and how striking his parables are.  His disciples asked him on one occasion why he taught by using parables. The Injil records his explanation:

10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” (Matthew 13:10-13)

His last sentence was a recitation of the prophet Isaiah (PBUH) who had warned against a hardening of our hearts. In other words, sometimes we do not understand something because we missed the explanation or it was too complex to comprehend. In such a situation a clear explanation dispels the confusion. But there are other times when we do not understand because deep down inside our hearts we do not want to. We may not admit this, so we keep asking questions as if a lack of mental comprehension is our block. But if the confusion is in our hearts and not in our minds then no explanation will be sufficient. The problem then is that we are unwilling to submit, not that we cannot mentally understand.

When the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught in parables, the effect on the crowd that he was teaching was dramatic. Those that could not understand with their minds would become curious from the story and inquire further, gaining understanding, while those who were unwilling to submit would treat the story with contempt and disinterest and they would get no further understanding. Using parables was a way for the master teacher to separate people as the farmer separates wheat from chaff by winnowing. Those who were willing to submit were separated from those who were not willing. Those people unwilling to submit would find the parable confusing since their hearts were unwilling to submit to its truth. Though seeing, they would not see the point.

Parable of the Sower and the Four Soils

When the disciples were asking the prophet Isa (PBUH) about his teaching in parables, he had been teaching a group of parables on the Kingdom of God and its effect on people. Here is the first:

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9)

So what did this parable mean? We do not have to guess, since those who had hearts willing to submit were intrigued by the parable and asked for its meaning, which he gave:

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:18-23)

We can see that there are four responses to the message about the Kingdom of God. The first has no ‘understanding’ and so the devil (Iblis) takes the message away from their hearts. The remaining three responses are all initially very positive and they receive the message with joy. But this message must grow in our hearts through difficult times. It is not just to be acknowledged in our minds to then continue living our lives as we want. So two of these responses did not allow the message to grow in their heart. Only the fourth heart, who ‘hears the word and understands it’ would truly submit in the way that Allah was looking for.

One point of this parable is to make us ask the question; ‘which of these soils am I?’  Only those who truly ‘understand’ will become a good crop. One way to strengthen understanding is to clearly see what the previous prophets, beginning with Adam, revealed about the plan of God through the Taurat and Zabur. This is why we began with these first prophets. Important Signs in the Taurat come from the promise to Ibrahim (PBUH) and his sacrifice, Musa (PBUH), the Ten Commandments, Harun (PBUH). In the Zabur, understanding the origin of ‘Masih’, and the revelations of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Daniel and Malachi will also prepare us to understand the ‘message of the Kingdom of God’.

The Parable of the Weeds

After the explanation of this parable the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught the parable about weeds.

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Here is the explanation he gave

36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast

The prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) also taught some very brief parables.

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about thirty kilograms of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

In other words, the Kingdom of God would start small and insignificant in this world but would then grow throughout the world like yeast working through the dough and like a small seed growing into a large plant. It does not happen by force, or all at once, its growth is invisible but everywhere and unstoppable.

Parables of the Hidden Treasure and Pearl of Great Value

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13: 44-46)

These parables focus on the value of the Kingdom of God. Think of a treasure which is hidden in a field. Since it is hidden everyone passing by the field thinks the field is of little value and thus they have no interest in it. But someone realizes there is a treasure there making the field very valuable – valuable enough to sell everything in order to buy it and get the treasure. So it is with the Kingdom of God – a value unnoticed by most, but the few that see its worth will gain great value.

The Parable of the Net

47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The Kingdom of God will separate people. This separation will be fully revealed on the Day of Judgment – when hearts are laid bare.

We can see that the Kingdom of God grows mysteriously, like yeast in dough, that it has great value which is hidden from most, and that it causes different responses among people. It also separates people between those that understand and those that do not. After teaching these parables the prophet Isa al Masih then asked his listeners an important question.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

“Yes,” they replied.

What about you?

The Masih Revealed – by Teaching with Authority

After Isa al Masih (PBUH) was tempted by Shaytan (Iblis) he started to minister as a prophet by teaching.  His longest teaching recorded in the Injil is called the Sermon on the Mountl. You can read the complete Sermon on the Mount here.  We give highlights below, and then we make a connection with the teaching of Isa al Masih to what the Prophet Musa predicted in the Taurat.

Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught the following:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

Adultery

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Divorce

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Oaths

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Eye for Eye

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:21-48)

The Masih and the Sermon on the Mount

You can see that Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught with the form “You have heard that it was said … But I tell you … ”. In this structure he quotes first from the Taurat, and then extends the scope of the command to motives, thoughts and words.  Isa al Masih taught by taking strict commands given through the Prophet Musa (PBUH) and made them even much more difficult to do!

But what is also remarkable is the way that he extends the commands of the Taurat. He does so based on his own authority. He says simply ‘But I tell you…’ and with that he increases the scope of the command. This is one thing that was very unique about the prophet’s teaching. As the Injil states when he had finished this Sermon

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matthew 7:28-29)

Indeed, Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught as one who had great authority. Most prophets were simply messengers that passed on a message from Allah, but here it was different. Why could Isa al Masih do this? As the ‘Masih’ which we saw here was a title given in the Zabur of a coming one, he had great authority. Psalm 2 of Zabur, where the Title of ‘Masih’ was first given described Allah speaking to the Masih in the following way

and I (Allah) will make the nations your (Masih’s) inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalm 2:8)

The Masih was given authority over the nations, even to the end of the earth. So as the Masih, Isa had the authority to teach in the way he did.

The Prophet and the Sermon on the Mount

In fact, as we saw here, in the Taurat, the prophet Musa (PBUH) had predicted the coming of ‘the Prophet’, who would be noted in the way he taught. Musa had written

I (Allah) will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that The Prophet speaks in my name. (Deuteronomy 18: 18-19)

In teaching the way he did, Isa was exercising his authority as the Masih and fulfilling the prophecy of Musa of the coming Prophet who would teach with great authority. He was both Masih AND The Prophet.

You & me and the Sermon on the Mount

If you study carefully this Sermon on the Mount to see how you should obey then you are probably confused. How can anyone live these kinds of commands that address our hearts and our motives? What was Isa al Masih’s intent with this Sermon?  We can see the answer from his concluding sentence.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

Notice that this is a command, not a suggestion. His requirement is that we be perfect! Why? Because God is perfect and if we are to be with Him in Paradise nothing less than perfect will do. We often think that perhaps simply more good than bad deeds – that will be sufficient. But if that were the case, and Allah let us enter his Paradise, we would destroy the perfection of Paradise and turn it into the mess that we have in this world. It is our lust, greed, anger that destroys our lives here today. If we go to Paradise still holding onto that lust, greed and anger than that Paradise will quickly become like this world – full of problems made by ourselves.

In fact, much of Isa al Masih’s teaching focused on our inner hearts rather than outward ceremony.  Consider how, in another teaching, he focuses on our inward hearts.

He (Isa) went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”  (Mark 7:20-23)

So purity inside us is very important and the required standard is perfection.  Allah will only let the ‘perfect’ into his perfect paradise. But though that may sound fine in theory it raises a huge problem: How will we get into this Paradise if we are not perfect? The utter impossibility of us being perfect enough could cause us to despair.

But that is what he wants! When we despair of ever being good enough, when we stop trusting in our own merits then we become ‘poor in spirit’. And Isa al Masih, in starting this whole Sermon, said:

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)

The beginning of wisdom for us is not to dismiss these teachings as not applying to us. They do! The standard is to ‘Be perfect’. As we let that standard sink into us, and realize that we are not capable of that, then we are starting down the Straight Way. We start down this Straight Way because, recognizing our inadequacy, we may be more ready to accept help than if we think we could do it by our own merits.

Should Christmas be ‘Merry’ for Muslims too?

merry christmas

“Merry Christmas!”  This is the greeting that is commonly used at Christmas and I extend it to you.  May you have a Merry Christmas !

Many people know that Christmas is the holiday when the birth of Jesus Christ – Isa al Masih (PBUH) – is remembered.  But, even so, why is this day especially ‘Merry’ or joyful?  After all, there are many prophets born on other days and though we remember them as well, it is the birth of Isa (Jesus – PBUH) that is called Merry.  Why?  And for whom is this merry? Knowing the answer to these questions will make your Christmas change from being a holiday for others to a day when you marvel at the mercy and goodness of Allah – it will make even the other days in the year much more merry.

The birth of Isa al Masih, born of a virgin and announced by Jibril

Many know that what was unique among all the births in human history, including the births of all the prophets, was that Isa al Masih was born of a virgin.  This birth was so important that it was announced to Mary (Mariam) by the archangel Gabriel (Jibril) who, as we know, is only sent with the very most important messages.  The Injil records it like this:

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.  (Luke 1:26-38)

(You will see that in this announcement by Gabriel (Jibril) he uses the peculiar title ‘Son of God’  Please see here on what this term means … and does not mean)

The birth of Isa al Masih – prophesied hundreds of years before

The Injil (Gospel) records the birth of Isa al Masih (‘Masih’ means Messiah =’Christ’) but the story did not start there because 700 years before the birth of Isa al Masih the prophet Isaiah of the Zabur had given the unique prophecy (explained fully here) that

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14, ca 700 BC)

The birth of Isa al Masih – prophesied at the beginning of human history

So this birth from the virgin was deliberately planned and announced by Allah hundreds of year beforehand.  There must be an important reason!  If we look further into the Holy Books we find even that at the very beginning of human history (!) this birth from a virgin was planned.  The Taurat, though addressing the Beginning, was written with the End in view. This can be seen in the Paradise of the Garden, at the beginning of human history, when Shaytan (Iblis) has successfully seduced Adam & Eve.  At that time Allah confronted Shaytan and spoke to him in a riddle:

“… and I (Allah) will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman and between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

This is a riddle – but it is understandable. Reading carefully you will see that there are five different characters mentioned AND that this is prophetic in that it is looking forward-in-time (seen by the repeated use of ‘will’ as in future tense). The characters are:

  1. God (or Allah)
  2. Shaytan (or Iblis)
  3. The woman
  4. The offspring of the woman
  5. The offspring of Satan

And the riddle maps out how these characters will relate to each other in the future. This is shown below:

The characters and their relationships in the Promise of Allah given in Paradise
The characters and their relationships in the Promise of Allah given in Paradise

Allah will arrange that both Shaytan and the woman have an ‘offspring’. There will be ‘enmity’ or hatred between these offspring and between the woman and Shaytan. Shaytan will ‘strike the heel’ of the offspring of the woman while the offspring of the woman will ‘crush the head’ of Shaytan.

Now let us think about this.  Because the ‘offspring’ of the woman is referred to as a ‘he’ and a ‘his’ we know that it is a single male human. This means that as a ‘he’ the offspring is not a ‘they’ (i.e. it is not plural). Thus the offspring is NOT a group of people whether that refers to a nation or those of a certain religion as in Jews, Christians or Muslims. As a ‘he’ the offspring is not an ‘it’ (the offspring is a person). This eliminates the interpretation that the offspring is a particular philosophy or teaching or religion. So the offspring is NOT (for example) Christianity or Islam because the offspring would then be referred to as an ‘it’.

Notice also what is NOT said. Allah does not promise the man an offspring like he promises the woman. This is quite extraordinary especially given the emphasis of sons coming through fathers through the Taurat, Zabur & Injil (the Bible or al kitab). But in this case it is different – there is no promise of an offspring (a ‘he’) coming from a man. It says only that there will be an offspring coming from the woman, without mentioning a man.

So here we see the first prophecy of the Books, in the form of a riddle to Shaytan, of the coming Virgin Birth because with that perspective, if you read the riddle it all falls into place. Jesus (Isa – PBUH) is the offspring from a woman who is born without the seed of a man – born of a virgin.  He will ‘crush the head’ of Shaytan.  But who is his enemy, the offspring of Satan? The later prophets speak of a ‘Son of Destruction’, ‘Son of Satan’ and other titles that predict a coming ruler who will oppose ‘the Christ’ (Masih). These prophets speak of a coming clash between this ‘Anti-Christ’ and the Christ (or Masih), resulting in the victory of the Masih.

Isa al Masih – save us from our sins

So great themes of the prophets begin here, and even more can be gleaned in this Sign of Adam, but why should this be Merry for you and me?  Since Isa al Masih (PBUH) was not conceived by a man, he was conceived by the power of Allah, and as the Injil records how Gabriel (Jibril) explained this to Joseph, the fiance of Mary (Mariam) when he learned she was pregnant.

Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her (Mary) to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  (Matthew 1:19-21)

Isa al Masih (PBUH) has the power to save us from our sins!  We all sin, sometimes in small ways and sometimes in large ways.  And we know that there is a Judgment Day coming when we will all give an account.  Isa al Masih (PBUH) has the power to save you and me from our sins.  Understanding this will certainly make your Christmas, the day we remember his virgin birth, Merry.  And it will also make all the other days of your year Merry as well.

Merry Christmas – Allah’s gift for you

It is a tradition at Christmas that people give gifts to each other.  Why?  This was done in memory of what Isa al Masih (PBUH) did for us because the Injil declares that he will save us from our sins solely as a gift to us.  As the Injil declares.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

This saving from sin is a gift from God – all because of what happened that day when Isa al Masih (PBUH) was born.  But like any gift it must be received before it can benefit you.  Consider.  ‘Knowing’ about a gift, ‘believing’ in the existence of a gift, even ‘looking’ at a gift will not benefit you in any way unless you also receive it.  This is why the Injil also declares that:

Yet to all who did receive him (Isa al Masih), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)

Merry Christmas to you

You probably have many good questions. What does ‘Masih’ mean? How does Isa save us from our sins? What does it mean to receive this gift? Is the Injil reliable? This website is my gift to you to help answer these and other worthwhile questions that you have. I hope you explore and understand more about the good news from the Taurat, Zabur and Injil.

My hope is that you, just as I discovered, may also experience a very Merry Christmas.

The Masih tested by Shaytan

We have seen how the prophet Yahya (PBUH) came to prepare the people for the coming of the Masih. His simple but powerful message was that everyone needed to repent. The Injil goes on to recount that the prophet Isa (PBUH) was then baptized by Yahya (PBUH). This declared that the public ministry of Isa (PBUH) as the Masih was to start. But before it could start the prophet Isa (PBUH) had to first be tested and tempted by the great enemy of us all – by Shaytan (or Satan or devil or Iblis) himself.

The Injil describes this testing in some detail by telling of three specific temptations that Shaytan brought to Isa (PBUH). Let us look at each in turn. (In the temptations you will notice that Shaytan addresses Isa with that difficult title ‘Son of God’. To understand what that means please see my article here).

The Temptation of bread

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:1-4)

Here we see a parallel to when Shaytan tempted Adam and Eve in Paradise. You may recall that in that temptation the forbidden fruit was ‘… good for food…’ and that was one reason why it was so tempting. In this case, with Isa (PBUH) having fasted (and this fast had no stop – no iftar – or breaking of the fast each evening) for such a long period the thought of bread was understandably tempting. But this outcome was different from Adam since the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) resisted the temptation while Adam did not.

But why was he not allowed to eat during these 40 days? The injil does not tell us specifically, but the Zabur had predicted that the coming Servant would be a representative for the Jewish nation of Israel. The nation of Israel, under the prophet Musa (PBUH), had wandered for 40 years in the desert eating only food (called manna) from heaven. The 40 days of fasting and meditating on the Word of God as spiritual food was a symbolic re-enactment of that time in the desert as the promised Servant.

The Temptation to Test God.

The second temptation was equally difficult. The Injil tells us that

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4: 5-7)

Here Shaytan quotes from the Zabur to tempt Isa (PBUH). It is obvious therefore that in his opposition to Allah, he has studied the sacred writings so he could devise ways to oppose them. He knows the books very well and is an expert on twisting them.

I reproduce the complete passage of the Zabur from which Shaytan had quoted only a small part. (I underlined the part he quotes).

10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. (Psalm 91:10-14)

You can see that here in Zabur it is about a ‘he’, which Shaytan believed referred to the Masih. But this passage does not say directly ‘The Masih’ or ‘Christ’, so how did Shaytan know this?

You will notice the ‘he’ will ‘trample’ the ‘great lion’ and ‘the serpent’ (v.13 – I put it in red). The ‘lion’ is a reference to the tribe of Judah of the Israelites since the prophet Yakub (PBUH) had prophesied in the Taurat that:

9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah;you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down,like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?

10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. (Genesis 49:8-10)

Yakub (PBUH) as a prophet, had stated long ago in the Taurat (i.e. about 1700 BC) that the tribe of Judah was like a lion from which a ‘he’ would come that ‘he’ would rule. The Zabur  continued this prophecy.  By declaring that ‘he’ would trample the ‘lion’, the Zabur said this ‘he’ would be the ruler of Judah.

The passage of the Zabur that Shaytan spoke from also stated that the ‘he’ would ‘trample the serpent’. This is a direct reference to the First Promise made by Allah in the Sign of Adam that the ‘offspring of the woman’ would crush the serpent. Here it is again with the diagram explaining the characters and the actions in this First Promise:

So the Lord God said to the serpent…

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

the offspring diagram for temptation of isa

This promise had been first given in Sign of Adam, but the details were not clear then.  Now we know that ‘The Woman’ is Mary because she is the only person who had an offspring without a man – she was a virgin.  And therefore her offspring, the ‘he’ that was promised we now know to be Isa al Masih (PBUH).  So I have included these names in this diagram.  As you can see in this diagram, the ancient promise had said that Isa al Masih (the ‘he’) would crush the serpent.  The prophecy in Zabur that Shaytan quoted had reiterated this when it said

“you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” (v13)

So Shaytan quoted from the Zabur which in turn referred to these two earlier prophecies from the Taurat that a ‘he’ was coming that would command obedience and crush Shaytan (the serpent).  So Shaytan knew that the verses he quoted in the Zabur referred to the Masih even though they did not say ‘Masih’.  Shaytan’s temptation was to try to fulfill this in the wrong way.  These prophecies from Zabur and Taurat would be fulfilled, but not by Isa (PBUH) jumping off the temple to draw attention to himself, but by following the plan, without deviation, revealed in the Taurat and Zabur by Allah.

The Temptation to Worship

Shaytan then tempted Isa with everything he had – all the kingdoms of the world. The Injil states that:

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:8-11)

‘Masih’ means ‘anointed’ to rule so Masih had a right to rule. Shaytan tempted Isa (PBUH) with what was rightfully his, but Shaytan tempted him to take a wrong shortcut to his rule, and he was tempting Isa (PBUH) to worship him to get it – which is shirk. Isa resisted Shaytan’s temptation, by (once again) quoting from the Taurat. Isa al Masih (PBUH) saw the Taurat as a very important book and obviously knew it very well and trusted it.

Isa – someone who understands us

This period of temptation of Isa (PBUH) is very important for us. The injil states about Isa:

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)

And

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4: 15-16)

Remember Harun (PBUH) as High Priest brought sacrifices so the Israelites could receive forgiveness. Now Isa (PBUH) in a similar way is considered a High Priest that can sympathize and understand us – even helping us in our temptations, precisely because he himself was tempted – yet without sin.  And so we can have confidence before Allah with Isa (PBUH) acting as our High Priest because he underwent the most difficult temptations but he never gave in and sinned. He is someone who understands us and can help us with our own temptations and sins. The question is: Will we let him?

The Prophet Yahya (PBUH) Prepares the Way

We previously saw that the Zabur was completed and closed by the Prophet Malachi (PBUH) who prophesied that someone would come to ‘prepare the way’ (Malachi 3:1).  We then saw how the Injil opened with the announcement by the angel Jibril (Gabriel) of the births of the prophet Yahya (PBUH) and of the Masih (and he from a virgin).

The Prophet Yahya (PBUH) – in the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah

The Injil (Gospel) then records that after his birth Yahya (also known as John the Baptist – PBUH):

And the child [i.e. Yahya or John the Baptist] grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel. (Luke 1:80)

While he lived in solitude in the wilderness the Gospel records that:

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4)

Yahya’s (PBUH) strong spirit led him to dress in a rugged manner and eat wild food out of the wilderness.  But this not just because of his spirit – it was also an important sign.  We saw at the close of the Zabur that the Preparer who was promised to come would come in the ‘spirit of Elijah’.  Elijah had been an early prophet of the Zabur who also had lived and ate in the wilderness and had been dressed with a:

garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.” (2 Kings 1:8)

So when Yahha (PBUH) lived and dressed in the way that he did, it was to point out that he was the coming Preparer who had been prophesied to come in the Spirit of Elijah.  His dress, and his living and eating in the wilderness were signs to show that he came in the plan foretold by Allah.

The Injil – placed firmly in history

Then the Injil tells us that:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.  (Luke 3:1-2)

This statement commences the prophetic ministry of Yahya (PBUH) and it is very important since it marks the start of his ministry by placing it next to many well-known rulers in history.  Notice this extensive reference to rulers of that time.  This allows us to historically check much of the accuracy of the accounts in the Gospels.   If you do so, you will find that Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, Annas and Caiaphas are all people who are known from secular Roman and Jewish historians.  Even the different titles that are given to the different rulers (eg. ‘governor’ for Pontius Pilate, ‘tetrarch’ for Herod, etc.) have been verified as historically correct and accurate.  This allows us to make the assessment that from a purely historical point-of-view this was reliably recorded.

Tiberius Caesar ascended the throne of the Roman Empire in 14 AD.  So this being the 15th year of his reign means that Yahya received messages starting in the year 29 AD.

The message of Yahya – Repent and Confess

So what was his message?  Like his life-style, his message was simple, but direct and powerful.  The Injil says that:

John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:1-2)

So part of his message was the pronouncement of a fact – that the Kingdom of Heaven was ‘near’.  We have seen how the prophets of the Zabur had long before prophesied the coming of the ‘Kingdom of God’.  Yahya (PBUH) was now saying that it was ‘near’ at hand.

But the people would not be prepared for the Kingdom unless they ‘repented’.  In fact, if they did not ‘repent’ they would miss this Kingdom.  Repent comes from the Greek word “metanoeo” which means “to change your mind; reconsider; or, to think differently.”  But what were they to think differently about?  By looking at two responses of the people to Yahya’s (PBUH) message we can learn what it was that he was commanding that they should repent from.  The Injil records that the people responded to his message by:

Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. (Matthew 3:6)

You may remember in the Books for the Sign of Adam, how after they ate the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve:

‘hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.’ Genesis 3:8

Ever since, this tendency to hide our sins and pretend that we have not done them is very natural to us.  Confessing and repenting of our sins is almost impossible for us to do.  We saw in the Sign of the Virgin’s Son that Dawud (PBUH) and Muhammad (PBUH) would confess their sins.  This is very difficult for us to do because it exposes us to guilt and shame – we would prefer to do anything else but this.   But this is what Yahya (PBUH) preached that the people needed to do to prepare themselves for the coming Kingdom of God.

Warning to the religious leaders who would not repent

And some did indeed do this, but not all honestly admitted and confessed their sins.  The Injil says that:

But when he [Yahya] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”  (Matthew 3: 7-10)

The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the teachers of the Law of Musa.  They were the most religious and worked hard at keeping all the observances (prayers, fasting, sacrifices etc.) commanded by the Law.  Everyone thought that these leaders, with all their religious learning and effort were the ones who for sure were approved by Allah.  But the prophet Yahya (PBUH) called them a ‘brood of vipers’ and warned them about the coming Judgment of fire!  Why?  Because by not ‘producing fruit in keeping with repentance’ this showed that they had not really repented.  They had not confessed their sin but were using their religious observances to hide their sins.  And their religious heritage from the prophet Ibrahim (PBUH), good though it was, had made them proud rather than repent.

Dawud’s confession as our example

So we can see from the warnings of Yahya that repentance and confession of sin is vitally important.  In fact without it we will not enter the Kingdom of God.  And from those warnings to the Pharisees and Sadducees of that day we can see how easy and natural it is to hide our sin in religion.  So what about you and me?  This is recorded here as a warning for us that we also do not stubbornly refuse to repent.  Instead of making excuses for our sins, pretending that we do not commit sins, or hiding them we should follow the example of Dawud (PBUH) who when he was confronted with his sin prayed in the Zabur the following confession:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  (Psalm 51: 1-12)

Fruit of Repentance

With confession and repentance came an expectation of living differently.  The people asked Yahya (PBUH) how they should demonstrate the fruit of their repentance and this is how the Injil records this discussion:

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:10-14)

Was Yahya the Masih?

Because of the strength of his message, many people wondered if he was also the Masih.  This is how the Injil records this discussion:

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.  (Luke 3:15-18)

Conclusion

The Prophet Yahya (PBUH) came to prepare people so that they would be ready for the Kingdom of God.  But he did not prepare them by giving them more Law, but rather by calling them to repent from their sins and to confess their sins.  In fact this is harder to do than to follow more guidelines since it exposes our shame and guilt.  And it was the religious leaders of that day who could not bring themselves to repent and confess their sins.  Instead they used their religion to hide their sins.  But because of the choice they made they were unprepared to receive the Masih and understand the Kingdom of God when he came with his message.  This warning of Yahya (PBUH) is just as relevant to us today.  He demands that we repent from our sins and confess them.  Will we?

Zabur Closes – with Promise of the Coming Preparer

The coming of the Prophet Yahya (PBUH) Foretold

We saw in the Sign of the Servant that the Servant was promised to come. But the whole promise of his coming balanced on an important question. Isaiah 53 began with the question:

Who has believed our message …? (Isaiah 53:1a)

Isaiah (PBUH) was predicting that this Servant would not be readily believed, and the problem was not with the message or the Signs of the Servant because they would be precise in timing by cycles of ‘Sevens’ as well as by name and specifying that he would be ‘cut off’. The problem was not that there were not enough signs. No, the problem was that the hearts of people were hard. So someone needed to come before the Servant came to prepare people for his coming. Therefore the prophet Isaiah (PBUH) gave this message about the one who would prepare the way for the Servant. He wrote this message in his book of the Zabur in the following way

A voice of one calling:

“In the wilderness prepare

the way for the LORD;

make straight in the desert

a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be raised up,

every mountain and hill made low;

the rough ground shall become level,

the rugged places a plain.

And the glory of the LORD will be revealed” Isaiah 40:3-5

Isaiah (PBUH) wrote about someone who would come ‘In the wilderness’ to ‘prepare the way for the LORD’. This person would smooth out the obstacles so that the ‘glory of the LORD will be revealed’. But Isaiah did not specify in what way this would be done.

The Prophet Malachi – Last Prophet of Zabur

The Prophets Isaiah, Malachi and Elijah (PBUT) shown in historical timeline
The Prophets Isaiah, Malachi and Elijah (PBUT) shown in historical timeline

About 300 years after Isaiah came Malachi (PBUH) who wrote the last book of the Zabur. In this last book Malachi (PBUH) elaborates on what Isaiah had said about a coming Preparer. He wrote:

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:1)

Here again the messenger who would ‘prepare the way’ is predicted. After this Preparer comes then ‘the messenger of the covenant’ will come. What covenant is Malachi (PBUH) referring to? Remember that the prophet Jeremiah (PBUH) had predicted that Allah would make a new covenant by writing it in our hearts. Only then would we be able to quench our thirst which always leads us to sin. This is the same covenant that Malachi (PBUH) is referring to. The giving of that covenant will be signaled by the coming of the Preparer.

Malachi (PBUH) then closes the entire Zabur with the last paragraph of his book. In that last paragraph he again looks to the future and writes:

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” Malachi 4:5-6

What did Malachi (PBUH) mean by ‘Elijah’ would come before the great day of the LORD? Who was Elijah? He was another prophet whom we have not looked at (we cannot look at all prophets of Zabur since it would make this too long but see him in timeline above). Elijah (PBUH) lived around 850 BC. He was famous for living in the wilderness and wearing garments of animal hair and eating wild food. He probably looked quite peculiar. Malachi (PBUH) wrote that in some way The Preparer who comes before the New Covenant will be like Elijah (PBUH).

And with that statement, the Zabur was completed. This is the last message in the Zabur and was written about 450 BC. The Taurat and the Zabur were full of promises of things to come. Let us review some.

Reviewing the Promises of Taurat & Zabur that were still unfulfilled

So with the close of the Zabur in 450 BC the Jewish people lived in anticipation of the fulfillment of these wonderful promises. And they kept waiting and waiting. One generation replaced another and then still others would come – with no fulfillment of these promises.

What happened after the Zabur was completed

As we saw in the History of the Israelites, Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world in 330 BC and from these conquests the peoples and civilizations of the world adopted the Greek language. As English today has become a universal language for business, education and literature, in that time Greek was similarly dominant. Jewish teachers translated the Taurat and Zabur from Hebrew into Greek around 250 BC. This translation was called the Septuagint. As we saw here, this is where the word ‘Christ’ comes from and we saw here that this was where the name ‘Jesus’ also comes from.

The Prophets Isaiah, Malachi and Elijah (PBUT) shown in historical timeline
The Prophets Isaiah, Malachi and Elijah (PBUT) shown in historical timeline

During this time (300 – 100 BC which is the blue period shown in the timeline) there was an ongoing military rivalry between Egypt and Syria and with the Israelites dwelling right between these two empires they were regularly caught up in the battles. Some specific Syrian kings sought to impose the Greek religion (a religion of idol worship) on the Israelites and to eradicate their worship of One God. Certain Jewish leaders led an uprising to defend their monotheism and restore the purity of worship instituted by the Prophet Musa (PBUH). Were these religious leaders the fulfillments of these promises that the Jews awaited? These men, though faithful followers of worship as instructed in the Taurat and Zabur, did not fit the Prophetic Signs. In fact they themselves did not even claim to be prophets, just pious Jews defending their worship against idolatry.

Historical books about this period, describing these struggles that preserved the purity of worship were written. These books provide historical and religious insight and are very valuable. But the Jewish people did not regard them as being written by prophets and so these books were not included in the Zabur. They were good books, written by religious men, but they were not written by prophets. These books were known as the Apocrypha.

But because these books were useful they were often included alongside the Taurat and Zabur to give a complete history of the Jewish people. After the Injil and the message of Isa al Masih (PBUH) was written the books of Taurat, Zabur and Injil were combined into one book – al kitab or Bible. Some Bibles today will even include these books of Apocrypha, though they are not part of Taurat, Zabur or Injil.

But the promises given in Taurat and Zabur were still fulfillment. Following the Greek influences the powerful Roman Empire expanded and replaced the Greeks to rule over the Jews (this is the yellow period that comes after the blue in the timeline above). The Romans ruled efficiently but harshly. Taxes were high and the Romans tolerated no dissent. The Jewish people longed ever more for the fulfillment of the promises given in Taurat and Zabur, though in their long wait their worship became very rigid and they developed many extra rules not from the prophets but from traditions. These extra ‘commands’ seemed like good ideas when they were first suggested but they quickly replaced the original commands of the Taurat and Zabur in the hearts and minds of the Jewish teachers.

And then finally when it looked like perhaps the promises were long forgotten by Allah, the mighty angel Gabriel (Jabril) came to announce the long awaited birth of the Preparer.  We know him today as the Prophet Yahya (or John the Baptist – PBUH) . But that is the beginning of the Injil, which we look at next.

Sign of the Coming Servant

In our last post we had seen that the prophet Daniel had predicted that the Masih would be ‘cut off’.  This seemed to contradict other prophets who wrote that the Masih would rule.  But the contradiction is resolved when we realize that the prophets were looking at two different comings of the Masih.  One coming to be ‘cut off’ and the other to ‘rule’.  The Jewish nation, by and large, missed this because they did not know all the scriptures.  This should be taken as a warning for us that we do not do the same.

We come to the close of our journey through the Zabur.  But we have a little more to learn.  The Prophet Isaiah (see him in the timeline below) had prophesied

When Isaiah lived
Historical Timeline of Prophet Isaiah (PBUH) with some other prophets in Zabur

about the coming Masih usng the image of a Branch.  But he also wrote about a coming person whom he called the Servant.  He wrote a long passage about this coming Servant.  Who was this ‘Servant’?  What was he going to do?  We look at the passage in detail.  I reproduce it exactly and in full here below, insert some comments to explain.

The Coming Servant predicted by the Prophet Isaiah.  The complete passage from Isaiah 52:13-53:12)

See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.

We know that this Servant will be a human man because Isaiah refers as a ‘he’, ‘him’, ‘his’.  When Harun (PBUH) would give his sacrifice for the Israelites he would sprinkle the people with the blood – and then their sins were covered and would not be held against them.  When it says that the Servant will ‘sprinkle’ the prophet Isaiah means that in a similar way this Servant will sprinkle people of their sins like Harun (PBUH) did for the Israelites when he made the sacrifices.

But the Servant will sprinkle ‘many nations’.  So the Servant is not coming for the Jews only.  This reminds us of the promises to Ibrahim (PBUH) when Allah said (Sign 1 and Sign 3) that ‘all nations’ would be blessed through his offspring.  But in doing this sprinkling the ‘appearance’ and ‘form’ of the Servant will be ‘disfigured’ and ‘marred’. Though it is not clear what the Servant will do to be disfigured like this, one day the nations ‘will understand

53 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He [The Servant] grew up before him [The LORD] 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.

For some reason, though the Servant would sprinkle many nations, he would also be ‘despised’ and ‘rejected’, full of ‘suffering’ and ‘familiar with pain’.

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.

The Servant will take ‘our’ pain.  This Servant will also be ‘pierced’ and ‘crushed’ in ‘punishment’.  This punishment will bring us (those in the many nations) ‘peace’ and make us ‘healed’.

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.

We saw in the Sign of our Thirst, how easily we go to our own ‘broken wells’ to satisfy our thirst instead of turning to Allah.  We have ‘gone astray’ each of us ‘turned to our own way’.  This is sin (= iniquity).

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

With the prophets Abel, Noah, Ibrahim, Musa and Harun (PBUT) they brought lambs to be given in sacrifice.  But The Servant himself will be like a lamb going to the ‘slaughter’.  But he will not protest or even ‘open his mouth’.

.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.

This Servant was ‘cut off’ from the ‘land of the living’.  Is this what the prophet Daniel meant when he said that the Masih would be ‘cut off’?  The exact same words are used!  What does it mean to be ‘cut off from the land of the living’ except that one will die?

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.

If he was assigned ‘a grave’ this Servant must have died.  He died condemned as a ‘wicked’ man even though ‘he had done no violence’ and no ‘deceit was in his mouth’

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 whole cruel death was not some terrible accident or misfortune. It was explicitly ‘the LORD’s will’ to ‘crush him’.  But why?  Just like Harun’s sacrifice was an ‘offering for sin’ so that the person giving the sacrifice could be held blameless, here the ‘life’ of this Servant is also an ‘offering for sin’.  For whose sin?  Well considering that ‘many nations’ would be ‘sprinkled’ (from above) it must be the sin of the peoples in the ‘many nations’.

.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.

Though the prophecy of the Servant is gruesome here it changes tone and become very optimistic and even triumphant.  After this terrible ‘suffering’ (of being ‘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 giving ‘righteousness’.  Remember that to get ‘Righteousness’ from the Law of Musa one had to keep ALL the commands ALL the time.  But the prophet Ibrahim (Sign 2) was ‘credited’ or given ‘righteousness’.  It was given to him simply because of his trust.  In a similar way this Servant will justify, or credit righteousness to ‘many’.  Is righteousness not something that we both want and need?

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.

This Servant will be among ‘the great’ because he volunteered (‘poured’) out his life ‘unto death’.  And he died as one who was numbered as a ‘transgressor’, that is as a ‘sinner’.  Because the Servant did this he can make ‘intercession’ on behalf of the ‘transgressors’.  An intercessor is an intermediary between two parties,  The two parties here must be the ‘many people’ and ‘the LORD’.  This “servant’ is sufficiently worthy to interceded or plead on our behalf to Allah himself!

Who is this Servant?  How would all these things happen?  Can and will he ‘intercede’ on behalf of ‘many’ from different ‘nations’ to Allah himself?  We conclude the Zabur by looking at the last prophecy and then we go to the Injil itself.