Series: Uncommon Prophecies Of A Coming Savior
PROPHECIES OF A COMING SAVIOR
Let’s begin by reading from Matthew 1:18-25—
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. (Matthew 1:18–25)
“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled…” With these words, Matthew begins to show us that Jesus was the coming Savior that the Old Testament prophecies had foretold.
This Christmas season, we’ve been looking at some of the uncommon—the lesser known—prophecies of the coming Savior. Briefly, let’s review those:
1. Genesis 49:10
10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh come; And unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Genesis 49:10)
Here we learned that the tribe of Judah would rise to become the most powerful of the twelve tribes of Israel (the “sceptre” is a symbol of ruling power). That is exactly what happened—and, except during the Babylonian exile—Judah retained that ruling power, even up until Roman times.
The verse says that Judah would have power until Shiloh came. Shiloh refers to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And, about when Jesus was 12, the Romans took away Judah’s right to execute capital punishment—which was the final straw in removing Judah’s ability to govern themselves. When Shiloh—Jesus— came, they lost their power to govern, just as the prophecy had said.
2. Numbers 24:17
The pagan prophet Balaam (the one with the donkey that talked to him) said:
17 I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: There shall come a Star out of Jacob, And a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, And shall smite the corners of Moab, And destroy all the children of Sheth. (Numbers 24:17)
The focus of this verse is the “Star.” Figuratively, it refers to a person. Jesus is called elsewhere, “the bright and morning star” (Revelation 22:16) and he called himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12).
But this verse also finds a literal fulfillment when the star of Bethlehem appeared to the wise men. They knew then that a king had been born in Israel (notice the use of “Sceptre” again to refer to a ruler).
3. Deuteronomy 18:15
Moses is speaking:
15 The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; (Deuteronomy 18:15)
Israel had many prophets between the time of Moses and Jesus—Samuel, Elijah, Jeremiah—but none would command the attention of the nation like Moses and Jesus. Jesus is the Prophet who is like Moses.
Those are the uncommon prophecies of the coming Savior. Here’s a couple more that are more familiar—
4. Isaiah 7:14
Seven hundred years before Christ, during the reign of King Ahaz of Judah, Ahaz refused the Lord’s own request to grant him a sign. When he refused, the Lord proceeded to give a sign for the house of David, one that was not limited to Ahaz or his time (Isaiah 7:10-13).
14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, And shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
This is a prophecy about Jesus’s birth, written 700 years before Jesus was born to Mary. Matthew records for us both the fulfillment and the significance of the name, Immanuel:
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matthew 1:22–23)
Jesus quite literally was Immanuel—God with us. He was God in the flesh and walked among us.
Another well-known prophecy of Jesus’s birth is in Micah…
5. Micah 5:2
This is a prophecy that foretells where Jesus would be born. Micah wrote around the same time as Isaiah, 700 years before Christ.
2 But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, Though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)
Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth, a small town 60 or 70 miles north of Bethlehem. How could Jesus have been born in Bethlehem—a journey of several days—when his parents were from Nazareth?
1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Beth-lehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1–7)
What’s really exciting to me is that, behind all this taxation stuff, is God’s providence. God could have told Joseph in a dream, “Go live in Bethlehem until the baby is born, for Micah 5:2 says that he is to be born there.”
But instead, to show that he is the God working behind the scenes to fulfill his plans and prophecies, he interferes in the affairs of the government of the greatest empire up to that time! This is a God who makes his prophecies come true!
Well, that’s brief survey of a few prophecies about the coming Savior—there are many more that we could look at. However, we must now move on to the important question:
CAN WE TRUST THESE PROPHECIES?
Let me say first that the reason any true Christian trusts what the Bible says is because God has done a work in their hearts. Christians are new creatures, with new minds that look at the Bible differently from an unbeliever. The apostle Paul says about the unbeliever—
14 But the natural man [i.e. the unbeliever] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
I had tried reading the Bible several times before I was a Christian. While, on one level, I could understand what it was saying, there was another level where it just wasn’t interesting or believable to me. That changed when I became a Christian. It’s difficult to explain, but the Bible suddenly had a sense of truth to it…a deep truth I had never encountered before. One of the reasons I went to Bible college is because I had to learn more about this Bible that had suddenly become very interesting to me.
Unbelievers might complain that this is an unscientific approach—it doesn’t prove that the Bible is true. But Christians trust the Bible because we trust the God behind it. It’s the same as if you were deeply in love with someone who wrote letters to you every week from where they live—hundreds of miles away. You would trust the content of those letters because you trust your lover. This is the case with Christians—we love and trust God and his Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore we trust what he has written.
Nevertheless, there is a place for external evidence (like archaeological discoveries) and human reasoning. These human reasonings can help us bolster our faith in God’s Word and in God himself.
It’s would be like if you found a suspicious comment in one of those letters from your lover. Perhaps one that made it seem as if they had been unfaithful. But then, with some thinking, an explanation comes to mind that explains the behavior in a perfectly rational way…a way that makes the temporary disbelief seem silly or irrational! As Christians, we are not called to check our brains at the door.
So here are a few rational evidences and explanations that we can look to for help in bolstering our faith in God’s prophecies:
(1) Can we be sure that the prophecies weren’t modified to fit the life of Jesus? The Old Testament prophecies that we looked at were really written hundreds of years before Christ.
One massive bit of evidence you can research for yourself are the Dead Sea Scrolls. These were discovered in 1948, and they were dated to a hundred years before Christ. One of the scrolls is that of the book of Isaiah. So the prophecies of Christ found in Isaiah (like 7:14 and chapter 53 regarding his substitutionary atonement) have physical evidence that they were written before the events they prophesy, and not after the fact.
(2) What about the other way? What if Matthew and Luke invented some of the events of Jesus’s life to fit the prophecies?
Here are two reasons to think that they did not:
First, at the time that Matthew and Luke wrote (about AD 60), Christians were facing death because of their faith. They were being persecuted, tortured, and killed. Why would Matthew and Luke make the account of Jesus more unbelievable (by adding a virgin birth, for example) in the light of persecution? Why would they make life even more difficult for themselves by inventing a religion that they would have to die for? It’s more likely, because of the persecution, that they wrote the truth as they had experienced it.
Second, Matthew and Luke can be trusted because they told a narrative that contradicted the popular understanding of what the Messiah would be. The typical Jew thought that the Messiah would be a conquering hero that would free them from the oppression of Rome. If you wanted people to believe your story, you would fill it with what they wanted to hear.
But Matthew and Luke hardly even hint at Jesus being a conquering hero. Instead, the first picture they give of him is that of a baby in a manger. Then Matthew describes how the reigning king, Herod the Great, runs him and his parents off to Egypt (fulfilling prophecies found Hosea 11:1 and Jeremiah 31:15; cf. Matthew 2:13-18).
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus never encourages people to gather behind him and fight the governing authorities. Instead he says things like: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Hardly conquering hero talk!
Then, of course, Matthew and Luke report that the Messiah dies on a cross like a criminal. This both blasted the popular idea of what the conquering Messiah would be like and it offended Jews because it meant that God had died on a cross like a criminal. This was blasphemous to them!
Why would Matthew and Luke write such things if they weren’t telling the truth? The answer: they wouldn’t.
There’s more we could say about all this: There are more prophecies we could examine. There are more evidences and reasons that we could share. But hopefully this is enough to show you, if you are a doubter, that Christianity deserves to be explored. It’s based on real historical evidence and sound reasoning. If you want to dig deeper, let me know, and I can direct you to more resources.
We live in a culture that recognizes Christianity, but doesn’t necessarily believe it. Many people will attend midnight Masses, sing Christmas carols, and put manger scenes on their lawns and angels on their trees—not out of belief, but because of sentimentality and tradition.
But this going through the motions isn’t real Christianity…it’s a religion. There’s a black and white, night and day, difference between having a real relationship with Jesus Christ and going through the motions of a religion.
If you want a real relationship with Jesus Christ, then you have to recognize that your religious activities are not going to save you. Only having faith in Jesus Christ and the sacrifice that he made for you on the cross can save you. If the Lord is doing business with you in your heart right now, then it is up to you to respond.
Admit that you have been a sinner, someone who has pursued your own way, not God’s way. Understand that is a crime against your Creator that carries the death penalty (Romans 6:23). But the Good News is that Christ has paid the penalty. All you need to do is believe!
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)