The Child Who Was Promised: Seven Reasons for the Season
When I moved here, I was not able to read the Bible. Every time I tried, so many questions would pop into my mind that it was too frustrating to continue. For a while now, I’ve wanted to write about the reason I’ve started believing more fully then ever before that the Bible is true.
If you’ve ever had doubts about the Christmas story, please take time to search with the wise men for the One who was predicted to come. It’s the most exciting journey ever! I am amazed at the way Jesus’ life fulfilled hundreds of years of ancient Jewish writings and rituals.
The journey begins in the Garden of Eden. God created a perfect world, but people messed it up. God kicked them out of Perfection, and the world was plunged into a downward, destructive spiral of sin. Setting aside questions of whether the Garden was figurative or literal, or whether it was thousands or billions of years ago, it is impossible to deny that the world is messed up, and that people carry the responsibility.
When Adam and Eve are kicked out, God gives the first indication that there is hope, and it will come through a person:
I will put enmity between you [the tempter, or “snake”] and the woman, and between your offspring [“seed“] and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:15)
“He” – a man – would crush the head of the source of evil, but not without receiving wounds himself.
Much more happened after Adam and Eve were kicked out – Noah’s ark, the tower of Babel, etc. But the main event was God choosing a people to be His own.
He chose Abraham, promising that Abraham’s descendents would be like the stars – too many to count. He also said, “…through your offspring [“seed“] all nations on earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 22:18)
Abraham had a son Isaac. Isaac had a son Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons. They became the twelve tribes of Israel.
When Jacob died, he blessed his twelve sons. The blessing on one of the sons – Judah – was different from the others:
The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs, and the obedience of the nations is his. (Genesis 49:10)
Again, a man was expected to come, and the scepter – the authority to rule – would belong to him. (Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, who received this blessing.)
Jumping ahead to King David (who killed Goliath)…
David was from the line of Judah, and he was a great ruler. The scepter prophecies could have been about him – and in an immediate sense, they may have been.
But David also wrote prophecies throughout Psalms. Psalm 110 is one of them:
The LORD [God, in all capitals] said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion [Jerusalem]. (Psalm 110:1-2)
David was speaking of someone who was his Lord – but it wasn’t the LORD God, in the usual sense. There was another ruler coming, and the king’s scepter (promised to Judah) belonged to him.
There is much more in that Psalm. David says about this Lord, “You will be a priest forever.” The king-priest is a whole other post, and a very exciting one!
In another Psalm, David says, “You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” (Psalm 16) King David did see decay; he died and presumably is decomposed. There was a Holy One coming, and His body would not decay.
The next prophecy is included in Handel’s Messiah.
This was a sad time for the twelve tribes. The glorious, victorious kings like David were gone. The tribes were being destroyed by the Assyrians and then the Babylonians. The people were scattered from the Promised Land, and their temple would be leveled. Within a few years, most of the Israelites were wiped out, with only a remnant left, mostly from the tribe of Judah.
Where was God now? It is during this time that the Bible explodes with prophecies – like this one:
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. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
There are so many promises here about the One who will come:
– He will be a child, born as a human.
– He will be God (Mighty God).
– His reign will never end; it will be eternal.
– He will reign on David’s throne (from the line of Judah).
A pattern begins to emerge in these prophecies. There is someone coming from Judah who will rule and make things right. There will be peace.
Daniel (from the lion’s den) had been taken captive in Babylon. Daniel’s prophecies of future historical events are remarkably accurate, but there is debate about whether the book was written before or after the historical events took place.
But even the latest possible date of authorship is a century and a half before Jesus’ arrival.
Daniel predicts Jesus’ arrival and death here:
From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem [the book of Nehemiah documents the rebuilding] until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. (Daniel 9:25b-26a)
The “sevens” here (and in surrounding chapters) accurately predict historical events before Jesus came. They also predict Jesus’ coming and death. They even go on to predict the timing of the destruction of the (rebuilt) temple by the Romans in 70 AD.
It’s a very fascinating but disturbing book, if you have at least an NIV Study Bible to guide you through the historical events.
Taking a break from the sad state of the twelve tribes…
…and moving on to a book that’s all about suffering.
The book of Job may be the oldest book in the Bible, but its authorship and date are not known for sure.
Job is suffering intense loss, and his friends try to “console” him, as only “friends” can do. In the end God shows up and says that no one can understand His ways. Job’s friends meekly apologize, Job acknowledges God’s sovereignty, and God restores to Job much more than he ever had before.
But in the middle of his suffering, Job says:
I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)
Job says a Redeemer will come who will stand on the earth and who can be seen with fleshly eyes.
There are allusions to death and resurrection all over this verse, but they are fuzzy.
Why would there be any question whether the Redeemer lives? And why is He called a “Redeemer?” What does He redeem, and how?
Back to Isaiah… to possibly the most remarkable prophecy yet.
The prophets agree that there is a man who is coming. The scepter of Judah belongs to him, and he will rule the nations with peace.
But he will also be hurt: His enemy will “strike” his “heel.” There will be some question about whether he’s alive or might see decay. In fact, he’ll be put to death. And yet he’ll reign forever.
Why will all of this happen?
…he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5-6)
He will take our sins on himself, which required His death – a death penalty.
…he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death, [Jesus’ dead body was taken by a rich man, who put Jesus in his tomb – Mark 15:43-46] (Isaiah 53:8-9)
People have hurt each other in terrible ways; we have hurt and been hurt. A Judge can’t stand by and watch without intervening.
The God who made a perfect world demands perfection, and we’re hopelessly imperfect. No amount of self-help can to turn us back into what God envisioned for us. We might get a little better, but it’s like saying we’re getting a little closer to being able to jump across the Grand Canyon. All our attempts – no matter how much “better” we get – will fall fatally short of the goal.
So God stood on the earth Himself and bridged the chasm.
When God picked Abraham to be the father of many nations, Abraham had to believe God’s promise.
Abra[ha]m believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)
This is the theme through the biblical stories. God’s requirement was to believe in what He would do – believe it, trust in it, and give up all other options.
If that had been the end – God entering our world and dying so we wouldn’t be guilty anymore – would it be worth it?
But there is more to come.
After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied…
because he poured out his life unto death.
A victory over death itself was predicted, both for the Anointed One and, in the future, for us.
There are countless more prophecies – enough to make a clear case that God planned from the beginning to send Jesus for us. As Christmas approaches, focus on seeing this active, involved God, who cares enough to enter our world and take our suffering on Himself. He can take care of our sins, emptiness, and questions, and reconnect us with Him – but we need to believe Him.
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, appx 700 BC)