The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,
as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way –
a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
Points to Ponder:
The prophets play a large role in the advent of Christ’s incarnate birth, but can be some of the most often-overlooked characters who factor into the far-reaching story of Christmas. In fact, they aren’t even physically there for the main event; we don’t find them kneeling by the manger or arriving at the stable or looking with wonder at the infant Jesus. In truth, these servants of the living God died centuries before Jesus’ birth yet their roles in the Greatest Story Ever Told are huge. And God uses them – as God is often known to do with past people and events – to remind His followers today that the story of Christmas is an integral part of the connection that makes up the much larger story of Scripture, the overarching account of God’s interaction with mankind.
Prophecies, which are of course the fore-tellings or forth-tellings of prophets, are statements made by God concerning the future and divinely revealed to the teller. In Old Testament days when a prophet spoke, he did so with his listeners’ general understanding that he spoke truthfully and under the direct authority of God. He furthermore regarded his calling with seriousness and responsibility; the weight and warning attached to prophecies was so great, after all, that the consequence for making a false prophecy was literal death Deuteronomy 18. Such weight and responsibility stemmed from the fact that all prophecy was rooted in one massive and overarching fact: God is a God of truth who cannot lie. In other words, our God does what He says He will do.
It’s no secret that prophecies pepper the Old Testament from the book of Genesis to the book of Malachi. The crimson thread or theme that binds the whole of Scripture – both Testaments – as it weaves its way through prophecy after prophecy, in fact, is the promise of a reigning Messiah – the anointed one who will redeem God’s people and restore all things.
These prophecies come in two main shapes. Some appear vague or even hazy and difficultfor the hearer to fathom. God’s promise to Abraham that “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” is one example of a promise that must have seemed terribly vague to the patriarch at the time it was made (see Genesis 12:1-3). While we now have the advantage of hindsight and can easily see that Christ would be born a descendent of Abraham and through His sacrifice at Calvary bless all nations indeed, Abraham has nothing to go on except unwavering faith that allows him to believe that God will do what He says He will do. Even when it isn’t clear how He’s going to do it.
The other type of prophecy brings increasing clarity to a given promise. Consider, for example, that:
- · The promised Messiah will be a descendant of King David (Jeremiah 23:5);
- · He will be born in the town of Bethlehem-Judah (Micah 5:2);
- · He will be born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14);
- · He will begin his earthly ministry in Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-2);
- · He will enter Jerusalem riding on the back of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9); and
- · He will be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13).
For the believer, it is this second type of prophecy – those that have already come to full fruition – that bolster and guide our faith as we peer expectantly through an oft-murky haze for resolution of God’s promises yet to come to pass. When the haze becomes especially murky for me amid so much evil in the world and a culture that seems increasingly bent away from the truths and morals of God, Isaiah 9:1-7 is a piece of go-to Scripture for me. Here are some of my favorite parts of it:
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned…. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
The passage reminds me of prophecies that Christ has already fulfilled while giving me unwavering confidence that I can then share with others who are struggling to see – or maybe just need to hear again – tha He who does not change will leave no promise unanswered yesterday, today or ever.
Even when it isn’t remotely clear to us how He’s going to do it.
– Copyright 2016, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All Rights Reserved.
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Focus for Reflection:
Do the Old Testament prophecies reshape or strengthen your faith in Jesus’ identity as the true Messiah? If so, in what ways?
Do the prophecies associated with today’s Scripture influence or shape your confidence that God will continue to fulfill the promises He has made? How so?
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