Today: Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Christmas - foretelling Jesus    (12/14/2008)

Predicting things is a tricky game. Even the professionals, who do it for a living, often get it wrong: weather forecasters, horse-racing tipsters, college tutors… and especially the financial analysts.

It tends to make us sceptical. Of course, some people try to discover what the future holds by doing what the Bible warns very strictly against: consulting palm-readers and psychics. (After all, if we believe in God, we put out faith in him and don't try to second-guess him using doubtful means.)

When God thinks we need to know what will happen, he tells us. The Old Testament prophets, people like Moses and Elijah, spoke on behalf of God to lead, warn and encourage. So if Jesus really is the son of God, and his arrival that first Christmas was such a big deal, why didn't God tell us in advance he was coming?

The answer is that he did. The Old Testament is the same as the Jewish scripture, and is full of references to the coming of the Messiah (the ‘chosen one'). It has been estimated that there are well over 300 predictions. For example:

•  Way back in Genesis we learn that he would come from the Jewish tribe of Judah.

•  Psalm 49 tells us he would be betrayed by a friend (it was by Judas, with whom he shared the bread at the last supper).

•  In Isaiah we learn that “…the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel”.

•  Isaiah 53 predicts that God wouldl come and perform miracles; that the Messiah would be rejected; would die for our sins; be silent before his accusers; be buried in a rich man's tomb; and be punished alongside sinners. All of these things happened.

•  Micah predicts Jesus would come from Bethlehem.

•  Zechariah predicts that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

•  Other chapters in Zechariah predict that Jesus would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver and would be crucified.

Some of the predictions are easier to work out ‘after the fact'—once you know what you're looking for. In fact, this proved useful: after many of the Jews had rejected Jesus, his followers were able to point to Jewish scripture to prove that these prophesies had been fulfilled. But still many refused to believe that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.

If these ancient, yet uncannily accurate, prophesies did indeed foretell Jesus, what are we to make about predictions of what is yet to come? About the ‘end times' and judgment day? There are passages in the books of Daniel, Matthew and Revelation, in particular, which tell us what God wants us to know about the future. Since the predictions about Jesus were so accurate, we should trust that God is pretty clear about our future, too.

But for now it's Christmas, a time to rejoice. For God so loved the world that not only did he give us his only Son (so that whoever believes in him will not die, but have eternal life), but it was such a big deal that he'd been planning it forever—and choosing to share those plans with mankind.

Pray: Father, this week help me to think about how involved you are with the world and the people in it. Help me to ponder the fact that, thousands of years ago, you chose to share some of your plans. Help me to accept your will for my own life, and to understand that I should believe what the Bible tells us is still to come. Amen.

Think about: This webpage tells you some of the best-known prophesies about Jesus from the Old Testament. Why not browse through some of them, and see how they were answered in the gospels -the accounts of Jesus' life, death and resurrection?

Challenge: Why do you think God would bother to tell the prophets, even thousands of years before Jesus' birth, that we should expect him?

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