Christmas will be here soon and this time every year as I get ready for Christmas and listen to Christmas carols, there is something that occupies my thoughts. It is two Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah. I know what they mean. They are part of our Christmas tradition.
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.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
As I read the Old Testament I clearly see Jesus and my thoughts run to the Jews and I wonder why they don't see Him. I know Jesus is the Messiah. We are about to celebrate the birth of our Savior and our Lord! I am so joyful. Why do they not see it as I do?
About a decade ago I became very interested in Messianic Jews. They are people who have been raised Jewish who come to faith in Jesus as their Savior. They call Him "Yeshua." They see Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ. "Christ" is the Greek word for the Hebrew word for "Messiah."
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why these Jews would become Messianic Jews and why other Jews would not believe Jesus is the Messiah. Our Old Testament is the exact same text as the Jewish Scriptures. They are reading what I am reading.
First I tried to figure out how many prophecies there were. I have a reference book, Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps & Time Lines, Volume 1 (affiliate link) which lists 100 Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus. I remember chapter 10, The Fingerprint Evidence, of Lee Strobel's book The Case for Christ (affiliate link) and the section on Jesus fulfilling just 8 of the prophecies. The probability of Jesus fulfilling just 8 prophecies was one chance in one hundred million billion! Basically it is a mathematical impossibility. I remember reading a book by a Messianic Jew that claims there are about 300 prophecies of the Messiah to come. And then my women's group recently did a study that mentioned the Old Testament messianic prophecies and I seem to remember it saying there were over 150 of them. Anyways, I never could figure out exactly how many there were, but suffice it to say a lot!
Jesus fulfilled every single prophecy. Every. Single. One. The fact that He did is a profound miracle. It is a God thing. It proves He is the Messiah. The Savior. The Christ. Everything to where He would be born; He would be from the tribe of Judah; how He would die, and crucifixion wasn't even invented yet when they wrote His hands and feet would be pierced; born of a virgin; be despised and rejected; will come to Jerusalem riding on a donkey; be a new everlasting covenant (and Jesus claims this at The Last Supper); be the Passover sacrifice with no bone broken; be thirsty during His execution; be betrayed by a friend; be given gall and vinegar; did not defend Himself; pierced in the side; sold for thirty pieces of silver; be raised from the dead; be led as a lamb to the slaughter;...
I was a Christian before I read the Old Testament. I was a believer. But it was reading the Old Testament which wiped out any doubts I had. You cannot read the Old Testament - the exact text the Jews have - and not see Jesus as the Messiah. It was what made me "all in" this Christianity thing. It convinced me. It brought me profound joy. It made Christmas and Easter all the bigger celebrations for me! I saw the connections! I got it! I understood!
So if the Jews are reading what I am reading, how do they not see Jesus as the Messiah? I never could answer this in my mind. But I read an interview with a Messianic Jew and he said the Jews weren't encouraged to read their Scriptures. And they didn't really know what the New Testament says and why we know the New Testament text is reliable.
When people talk about Old Testament prophecies they usually point you to Isaiah 53. I do this when I teach Connecting the Dots of the Bible. (There are many prophecies of the Messiah in other Old Testament books. Many in the Psalms - some of which were written 1000 years before Jesus was born!) I know that the book of Isaiah was written 700 years before Jesus was born. Now we can't wrap our heads around how long that is. Or at least I can't. When I teach and I say things like the Jews were slaves of the Egyptians for about 400 years. Or the time period between the Old Testament and New Testament was about 400 years; I tell the students to stop for a second and think about that. Think how old the United States is. Think how long 400 years is. And now think about the messianic prophecies written in Isaiah were 700 years before Jesus was born!
The Jewish scholars had to sit around for 700 years and debate these prophecies. They were waiting for the Messiah. They were watching for Him. True, they thought the Messiah would come and overthrow the Romans and restore the nation of Israel. They were expecting a military leader; not a suffering servant who would forgive sins and restore man's relationship with God.
You can't think about Christmas and not think of the messianic prophecies or the genealogies of Jesus. Matthew begins his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah. It is written to the Jews to tell them Jesus is the legal heir to the throne of King David through His father Joseph. A key word in the Gospel of Matthew is "fulfilled." Matthew is telling the Jews, 'Do you not see it? Jesus is the Messiah! He is the One we have been waiting for and looking for!' (Read my blog An Excellent Way to Begin the New Testament - the Genealogy of Christ.)
And then we get to Luke's Gospel and his genealogy of Christ in chapter 3. This genealogy is showing Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne through His mother Mary. The virgin birth was necessary to fulfill Isaiah 7:14 and to avoid the curse on Jehoiachin. (Read my blog Any way you slice it, Jesus is King and The Curse is Solved by the Virgin Birth.)
I envision the Jewish scholars of old sitting around discussing how Isaiah 7:14 tells us God will give us a sign. A maiden will bear a son (maiden means she was a virgin) and His name will be "God with us" (what Immanuel means.) How will a virgin have a baby? They debate how a virgin can have a son. Over and over for 700 years.
Matthew tells the Jews in Matthew 1:21-23!
"She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
See that word "fulfill"? It is found sixteen times in the Gospel of Matthew!
I can't read Isaiah 9:6 and not think of Handel's Messiah. Oh listen to it now. Rejoice!
We know the initial believers in Jesus Christ were Jewish. But by A.D. 100 the majority of Jews had rejected Him. The Gospel spread like wildfire through the Gentiles - non-Jewish people. Why don't all Jewish people see their Savior in their Scriptures is Jesus Christ? I don't know. But I continue to think of them trying to figure it out for centuries and then when He does come, born in a manger, and Matthew and Luke point them right to it, they refuse to believe.
We though know that good news of great joy which will be for all the people! For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
I had Isaiah 9:6 engraved on this Lisa Leonard Christmas personalized ornament to give to some good friends. I got myself one too. Looking at it brings me great joy. It is the reason we are celebrating. Our Savior is born!