A CHRISTMAS TREASURY

The Promise of the Messiah

Jerry A. Collins

  • What does the Old Testament prophesy about Jesusí birth?
  • How did the New Testament writers interpret them?
  • What are the implications of the fulfillment of these prophecies?

Here is a cyber Psalm:

The Lord is my programmer, I shall not crash. He installed his software on the hard disk of my heart; all of His commands are user-friendly. His directory guides me to the right choices for His nameís sake. Even though I scroll through the problems of life, I will fear no bugs, for He is my backup. His passwords protect me. He prepares a menu before me in the presence of my enemies. His help is only a keystroke away. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and my file will be merged with His and saved forever. Amen.

Godís Word is a sure as His character. We can trust both are true and can be counted upon. Even those promises Godís word makes about the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Promises made hundreds of years before they were fulfilled. We will take a look at the promises that specify the birth of Jesus Christ and explain how each of them were intimately fulfilled.

A FORERUNNER

Isaiah 40:3 prophesies a voice calling Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Malachi 3:1 continues Behold I am going to send My messenger and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming. The reference to a voice is that of prophets who were voices for their messages from God. They were calling the nation to get back into a proper relationship with Him. Each gospel writer applied Isaiah 40:3 to John the Baptist (Matt 3:1-4; Mark 1:1-4; Luke 1:76-78; John 1:23). John the Baptist was a desert prophet who prepared the way for Jesus Christ, and who in the wilderness made a highway for him (cf Matt 3:3). At the time Isaiah is writing this prophesy, the nation of Israel was in a spiritual wilderness and each Israelite needed to get ready spiritually for the appearing of the Lord an d His glory. Johnís ministry would level and smooth out the nation, in other words call it to be righteous, so that the Lord could come to the nation and rule. It is equivalent today to rolling out the red carpet. About 500 years later Malachi directs the attention of the nation to the future as well. There will be a coming of a messenger he tells them to prepare the nation for the Messiah. Jesus explicitly identified this person as John the Baptist (Matt 11:7-10). The fact that this messenger will prepare the way harmonizes with Isaiah 40:3 (cf John 1:23). So this forerunner would open and prepare the hearts of the people for the Lord. Jesus first disciples were from followers of John the Baptist, John and Andrew (John 1:35-42). This was prophesied in the New testament by the angel Gabriel when he said to Johnís father, Zacharias, before Johnís birth, And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God...so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:16-17). Johnís ministry fulfilled this prophesy.

VIRGIN BIRTH

Isaiah 7:14 prophesies Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son and she will call His name Immanuel. King Ahaz and the nation of Judah are threatened by a coalition of Syria and Israel. When Ahaz heard of this coalition, he sought an alliance with the international power at the time, Assyria. Isaiah came to warn Ahaz that only the Lord could guarantee safety. Trust him. Ahaz refused to do so and eventually Assyria came and crushed the coalition and carried 200,000 people from Judah into captivity as well. The point being that God was able to prevent the northern coalition from invading if Ahaz would believe and God was willing to give a sign to guarantee it but since Ahaz did not believe God announced that there would be a glorious future for Davidís royal family, but the immediate generation and the present land would be devastated by the Assyrians and the Egyptians. Vss 13-14 records the sign God would give to show that Davidís family would have a glorious future on the throne in spite of Ahazs unbelief. The sign is an unexpected birth through a young woman or virgin. This woman, presumed to be a virgin, was to have a child and that child was to be the proof of the presence of God among His people signified by the name Immanuel Ďwith us-Godí. The whole sign would be proof that the Davidic household and the nation of Judah would indeed survive this threat of the surrounding enemies as well the Ahazs unbelief and have a glorious future. Of course this is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-35). It was during a time of warfare and political crisis that the virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus the Messiah as a sign that the line of David would continue, that Godís promised would be fulfilled. His supernatural birth is one major sign that signifies that Jesus is Immanuel--in the real and true sense and not just that God is in some way with His people. The incarnation teaches that God came in to this world and became flesh. Jesus is not a mere mortal. His words are the words of God and to be believed. At the end of His life is the other confirming sin, the resurrection. His birth is a sign of His supernatural origin. His resurrection is a sign of His supernatural nature. He is Immanuel indeed--God with us.

THE LOCATION

Micah 5:2-3 prophecies But as for you Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. Bethlehem is about five miles from Jerusalem. We know that David was born in Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:1, 18-19) as was His greatest descendent, Jesus Christ (Matthew 2:1). The Chief Priests and the teachers of the Law understood this prophecy in Micah to refer the Messiah (Matthew 2:3-6). That confused some of the people in Jesus day (John 7:42) for though He was born in Bethlehem He was raised in Nazareth, in Galilee.

The point is that the Messiah-Ruler, who will deliver His people, was born in an insignificant, small town where the clans of Judah lived. And God said this One who will minister on Gods behalf will be Israels Ruler. Again we see the possibilities of the identity of this Messiah narrow still further with particulars about his forrunner, his virgin birth and location of His birth spelled out for all to see and compare. Even though Jesus birth was in obscurity, for anyone seeking the truth would know that Christ was The One Israel hoped for.

CELESTIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Numbers 24:17 prophecies, A star shall come forth from Jacob and a scepter shall rise from Israel and shall crush through the forehead of Moab and tear down all the sons of Sheth. Matthew 2:1-2 says Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem saying ĎWhere is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him. The prophecy in Numbers is of Balaam who announces the coming of a great king in Israel. he says that he sees him but not now and he beholds him but not near (24:17). Balaams prediction concerns the rise of David and the Davidic kingdom. The Ďstarí refers to David who struck down Israelis enemies, the Moabites and others as prophesied that he would. Under David Israel prospered and the nations were defeated and paying tribute to Israel. But the prophecy cannot be exhausted at this point for David did not completely destroy the enemies of Israel. The ultimate ruler to come will destroy the enemies completely and the nation will become the strongest in the world. The reference of the Ďstarí is a way to link this One to the heavens, to God particularly. Jesus birth is connected with astral events (Matthew 2:2) as the Magi attempt to find the child because of the star in the East. Jesus also received the name of the bright and morning star (Luke 1:78-79; Rev 22:16) in connection with his descent from the line of David. Even the Magi had narrowed down the possibilities of the coming Messiah to this very one born at this verify time in this very city.

(1) These prophecies give us hope. Since all of these prophecies have already been fulfilled, we have every reason to believe that those remaining will be too.

(2) These prophecies assure our faith. Roughly half of the prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament are still awaiting fulfillment. The closing words of the New Testament look forward to Christís return as foretold in the Old Testament He who testifies to these things says Yes I am coming quickly Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Rev 22:20).

(3) Christianity is best gamble there is. We are not there yet so it is a gamble but one with reasonable evidence.