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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

The Gospel according to the Old Testament.


Mustard Seed Evangelical church
2nd December 2015

Traditionally at Christmastime we tend to focus on the prophesies concerning the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. That of course is a vitally important thing to do but there are many other prophesies fulfilled by His birth that often are looked over. Tonight we will consider the way that the gospel is preached through the words of the prophets. It is important at Christmas to remember that our faith is more than the birth of a baby, Jesus was promised to come for a purpose which was to die for the forgiveness for the sins of His people. Jesus was born, He lived a perfectly sinless life, He died and was raised from the dead as was promised in the scriptures; 1 Corinthians 15: 1-4.

It is therefore important at Christmas for us to consider the full ministry of the Lord Jesus. As somebody prayed on Sunday it is not all about trees and tinsel which is what Christmas has been relegated to in Britain today. It is also more than simply about the miraculous birth of a son to an unmarried mother. Christmas is all about God's grace being remarkably extended to His people in sending His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for them.

In the light of this let us therefore consider a few prophesies:

  1. Micah 5:2 “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel,whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”
A simple look at the meaning of the place names is helpful here. Bethlehem means house of bread and Ephrathah means fruitful. Bethlehem was of course the city where David was born and where he was anointed to be king of Israel. Micah prophesies that even though it be a small city that had already produced Israel's great king David it was ordained to be the birthplace of One who is infinitely greater than David. Bethlehem is the place that the Bread of life would be born. The fruit of His ministry is eternal life for all who will believe on Him!

What does it say of the one to be born?

  • One shall come forth for God! This King is doing a work for God, sent by Him to work for Him.
  • He will be King in Israel; that is the King of the Jews but even greater He is King of kings.
  • He is from before time: Consider John 1:1-4 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The promised One of God is none other than the eternal God the Son who is co-equal with God the Father.
  • He is from ancient days: Daniel 7:9: “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.” Daniel 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.” The Ancient of days is clearly God the Father, Jesus the Son of Man who will one day return with the clouds from heaven!

2. Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Isaiah 8:1-4 Often in scripture there are 2 fulfilments to prophesy, the one will always be incomplete and the other total in accuracy. Isaiah's wife or maiden as the word for virgin could be translated conceived and gave birth to a son, his name was significant in that it spoke of what the Assyrians would do when they invaded Israel. They took Syria, Israel and Judah into exile. They were quick to plunder and swift to spoil which is what Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz means. What a name to give a baby!
But

The greater fulfilment was realised many years later in a stable in Bethlehem where Immanuel was born. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He was, is and always will be Immanuel which means: God with us.
Many today discount the virgin birth on account of the linguistics of this verse and the possibility that the word translated as virgin can mean either maiden/wife or virgin. From the context of the passage it is obvious that the prophet was speaking of someone infinitely greater than his own son. The signpost of which would be a virgin being pregnant which could be nothing less than a miracle of God's good grace. The baby born will be a Son who is God with us. How important this is at our Christmas season when He is devalued to a doll in a crib and worse still a man in a false beard and a ridiculous red outfit who we are led to believe loves his children more than Immanuel does!

3: Jeremiah 31:15 Thus says the Lord: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children,because they are no more.”
This prophesy is recorded by Matthew as being fulfilled when Herod murdered the boys under the age of 2 years in the region of Bethlehem.
But where is Ramah?

  • Ramah is the place where Rachel died whilst giving birth on her way to Bethlehem Ephrathah. She died whilst giving birth to her second son Benjamin. Even the best attempts of the midwives to console her by telling her that she had a son failed. Benjamin was the cause of her weeping but prophetically his birth was also a pointer that the through suffering of another son there would be hope for the future.
  • Ramah was also the place where Samuel went after he had anointed David to be king in Bethlehem.
  • In Jeremiah's day it was from Ramah that captive Jews were being deported into exile by the Babylonian occupiers.
  • In Matthew's day Rachel is found weeping once more this time over the slaughter of the children in Bethlehem. There is no comfort found until the death of Herod when Jesus and His family returned to Judea. The nation did not realise it but the Hope of the nations was alive and was growing up.
  • Ramah was a place of disappointment and a place of grief and yet it is a place that is fruitful because the King was anointed from there through tears.

The Christmas story must always be balanced by gospel truth. If we remain at the birth narratives then we are in danger of falling into sentimentality. Christ's purpose for coming was always about sacrifice. No matter how remarkable His birth is and no matter how grateful we are to His condescending to become human there is no room for a baby Saviour! Jesus was born to die a sacrificial death and so we unashamedly move on to the fulfilment of another prophecy which was made concerning a descendant of Eve.

In Genesis 3:15 God tells Satan that one day the offspring of another woman will be injured by a son of Satan but that through Him Satan will be finally dealt with by Him. That son of Satan referred to was Judas Iscariot spoken of in Psalm 41:9 “Even a close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” John 13:18 records this as being fulfilled by Judas who betrayed Jesus.

Judas is further spoken of by the prophet Zechariah chapter 11:12-13. Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter. This was fulfilled when Judas returned his “blood money” to the priests who bought a potters land with it! Matthew 27:9-10. Jesus was arrested after Judas led the Chief Priests etc to Him, he was tried in their kangaroo court, convicted and crucified. For his efforts Judas was paid the PRINCELY sum of thirty pieces of silver which after the trial of Jesus He returned to the chief priests. They refused it and so Judas threw it down in the temple. The chief priests ironically saw keeping the money as unlawful and so they bought a field from a potter which would be a burial ground. Prophecy is even accurate down to the minute detail. The gospel can be found through the words of the Old Testament prophets because that is the point of God's revelation ever since the fall. There has always been hope for repentant sinners by faith in the gracious gift of God who is Immanuel or God with us!

Psalm 22 is a prophesy about Jesus' crucifixion and death which he took to Himself as he was dying alone and separated from God the Father. The Psalm begins with “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” of which many interpret to mean that Jesus was doubting God on the cross and wondering why He was left alone in His darkest hour. There could be nothing further from the truth. Jesus was using the opening statement of Psalm 22 to declare to all around Him that the Psalm was being acted out in front of their very eyes. He was the One who was so graphically described within the Psalm. The sin which He took to Himself had separated Him from God. The creator God was now guilty of the most gross sins and yet He had done no wrong. He suffered and died alone, how marvellous, how wonderful is my Saviours love for me! The baby born in Bethlehem is the same Jesus who died a sacrificial death on the cross and the two must never be separated, to do so either causes us to be sentimental or morbid. It is a lovely story that a bay is born, we must never leave Jesus in a crib. To only have a Jesus who suffered is morbid and gives us the impression that He was specially equipped as God the Son to suffer as He did. At Christmas we need to keep the cross in view in order to keep a true perspective as to the mission that Jesus willingly and happily came into the world to accomplish. In the manger He was God the Son let us not be sentimental about the truth. On the other hand when it comes to Easter we need to keep an eye on His birth otherwise it is tempting to forget that He was fully Human.

The purpose?

See Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”

Jesus, God with us had to die in order that a spirit of grace and mercy might be poured out from God to His people who despite being guilty of killing Him can come to Him for salvation!

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