The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
Mark 1:1-3 ESV
The easiest characters to miss in the story of Christmas is the characters who are not physically there: the prophets.
Although they had all died centuries before Jesus’ birth, God uses them to remind us that the story of Christmas is part of the much larger story of scripture, the story of God’s interaction with humanity.
Simply put, prophecies are statements God makes about the future.
When a prophet spoke in the Old Testament, he was claiming to speak with God’s authority. The weight and warning attached to prophecies was so great that the consequence for making a false prophecy was death (Deuteronomy 18).
This was because all prophecy was rooted in this one overwhelming fact: God does what He says He will do.
Prophecies are found throughout the Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi.
One theme that threads it’s way through many of these prophecies is the hope of a promised Messiah—an “anointed one” who will redeem God’s people and restore all things.
Some of the Messianic prophecies seem relatively vague, like when God promises the Hebrew patriarch Abraham, in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. Abraham has faith and believes God will do what He says He will do, but it’s not clear how.
Other prophecies concerning the Messiah bring increasing clarity:
- He will be a descendant of King David (Jeremiah 23:5).
- He will be born in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
- He will be born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).
- He will begin his ministry in Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-2).
- He will enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).
- He will be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:4).
Here’s an excerpt of one of the prophecies from Isaiah 9:1-7:
1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan– 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned….6 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. 7 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. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
According to Peter Stone in his book “Science Speaks” the chances of one person fulfilling eight of the Messianic prophecies is one in 10 to the 17th power, or one in 100,000,000,000,000,000 (one hundred million billion).
This would be the equivalent of covering the state of Texas to the depth of 2 ft with silver dollars, paint one red, and then send a blindfolded man in to find the right one.
How do the Old Testament prophecies influence your confidence that Jesus truly is the Messiah? How do the prophecies impact your belief that God will fulfill every promise He makes?