Christmas Prophecies: Finding Jesus' Birth in the Old Testament
One of my favourite things to do when reading the Old Testament is “Jesus Spotting”.
What is “Jesus Spotting”? Shaneen, this is a bit awkward, but you know Jesus doesn’t come on the scene until the New Testament, right?
Alright, yes, Jesus, in human form, was not born until the New Testament. But even so, Jesus is still what makes the Old Testament so great. Jesus may not be called by name, but he is there, 100%.
The Old Testament is full of prophecies, messages that pointed to Jesus. Some are blatant Messiah prophecies, and some are a little bit sneakier. A passage seems like it’s talking about one thing and all of a sudden, hey, that sounds like somebody I know! WHAM. Jesus Spotting.
Prophecies About Jesus
Over 300 prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus’ life. That’s not a thing that just accidentally happens. These include prophecies that he was coming, prophecies about who he would be, circumstances surrounding his birth, and what he would do during his life. That is a lot of prophecies.
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
– Luke 24:44 NIV
These are some of Jesus’ last words recorded by Luke. Jesus clearly states that the Old Testament prophecies were about him, and were necessary to be fulfilled to prove that he was who he said he was. Not only that, but these prophecies are from a bunch of different books written by a bunch of different authors. These prophecies didn’t just come from one earthly source. People had been talking about Jesus for centuries before he even came to earth.
“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 NIV
This verse is sometimes referred to as the first Messianic prophecy (the first prophecy about Jesus, the Messiah, our Saviour). The enemy had just come in and pushed Adam and Eve towards making quite the fateful decision. Sin had just entered the world, and God already had a plan in place to deal with it. (And I’m thinking that’s not exactly the kind of plan you whip up off the cuff – God knew right from the beginning of creation.) The enemy may have screwed things up for a little while, but Jesus was coming to stomp on his head.
Quite a few of the prophecies about Jesus are about the circumstances surrounding his birth. Let’s take a look at some Christmas prophecies!
I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” – Genesis 22:17-18 NIV
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham.
– Matthew 1:1 NIV
At first glance, this prophecy doesn’t really seem to be about Jesus. It’s quite a well known promise – God’s promise to Abraham that he would have a huge family with countless descendants. But there’s that one little part: “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed”. I think this prophecy has multiple layers, and we won’t get into all of them now, but I think one meaning we can take from this is that Jesus, who was sent to save the whole world (I’d call that a blessing!), was coming from Abraham’s line. And so he did.
King, in the Line of David
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
“‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.
In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’
For this is what the Lord says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Israel. – Jeremiah 33:14-17 NIV
“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.” – Luke 1:32-33 NIV
Here we have a promise to David that his descendants will always be on the throne of Israel. Well, as far as an earthly king goes, David’s royal line did end. But “The Lord Our Righteous Savior”, the King of kings, reigns eternally in the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. – Isaiah 7:14 NIV
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her 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.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). – Matthew 1:18-23 NIV
Here we have a prophecy and fulfillment laid right out for us – Matthew does not want us to miss this one. A virgin birth is a pretty big, unlikely sign, but that’s just the kind God likes. The virgin birth isn’t just a nice, cute part of the Christmas story. It is proof that Jesus was the One God was sending.
Born in Bethlehem
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” – Micah 5:2 NIV
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod... – Matthew 2:1a NIV
I like this one because even Jesus, the greatest person to ever be on earth, came from a small beginning. As we discussed earlier, Jesus came to be a King, to rule over Israel and the world. And his origins definitely were old: the line of David, a descendant of Abraham, and coming from, ya know, God. But he still came from little Bethlehem.
Sacrifice for Sins
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. – Isaiah 53:10 NIV
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8 NIV
I know this doesn’t really seem like a Christmas prophecy. What happened to the cute little manger scene? Silent Night and all that? But I think this is the greatest fulfilled prophecy of all. What makes Christmas so great is the reason why it happened at all.
Jesus was born so that he could save me from my sins. That makes Christmas worth celebrating.
The Greatest Prophecy Fulfilled
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” – Luke 2:10-11 NIV
This is best news in the world causing the greatest joy of all time. Jesus came, fulfilling hundreds of prophecies, proving he was exactly who he said he was – our Saviour.
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