Prophesies of Christmas – VI Matthew 2:1, 2, 9, 10

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The story of the wise men traveling from the east to find “…He who has been born King of the Jews…” is very much a part of the Christmas story. Here is just some of that story from Matthew 2, verses 1 and 2, and verses 9 and 10:

     Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the 
     days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East 
     came to Jerusalem,  saying, “Where is He who has been 
     born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in 
     the East and have come to worship Him.”...behold, the 
     star which they had seen in the East went before them, 
     till it came and stood over where the young Child was.  
     When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly 
     great joy. 

I left out their meeting in Jerusalem with King Herod because I wanted to emphasize the star, often called The star of Bethlehem! Also, this installment of The Prophesies Of Christmas is posted four days after Christmas! It is fitting because the wise men didn’t show up at the stable to worship the newborn babe lying in the manger! They arrived up to two years after Jesus’ birth! More on this a bit later.

How did the wise men know to follow the star to Bethlehem? Although all the information is not directly given in Scripture, we can surmise their reasoning and put together the time line.

  • It goes back 14 centuries to when Israel was about to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. This was forty years after their Exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. In Numbers 22:1 we are told, “Then the children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab on the [eastern] side of the Jordan across from Jericho.The king of Moab, Balak, and all the Moabites were …exceedingly afraid of the people [of Israel] because they were many, and Moab was sick with dread….” After all, Israel had recently conquered two powerful kings and their kingdoms,…Sihon king of the Amorites…” (see Numbers 21:21-24), and “…Og king of Bashan…” (see Numbers 21:33-35). So King Balak sent an embassy to the city of Pethor in northern Mesopotamia to summon the renown prophet Balaam, telling him:
         Look, a people has come from Egypt. See, they cover 
         the face of the earth, and are settling next to me! 
         Therefore please come at once, curse this people for 
         me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall 
         be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, 
         for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he 
         whom you curse is cursed. (Numbers 22:5, 6).

But Balaam, who turned out to be a false prophet in the end, would not curse Israel, but blessed them instead three different times! So King Balak sent him packing back to Pethor! But before he departed, Balaam gave a prophesy concerning the future of Israel, Moab, and other kingdoms, including an amazing oracle recorded in Numbers 24:17:

     I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; 
     a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall arise 
     out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and des-
     troy all the sons of tumult.

This proved to be a prophesy of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ! And a Star was to be involved in His appearance!

  • Forward 800 years. Because of the sins of the split kingdoms of Israel and Judah, both were sent into captivity – Israel by Assyria (see II Kings 17:5, 6), and Judah by Babylon in three deportations (see II Kings 24:1-4; 10-16; 25:8-11). And when the Jews went, they carried their sacred writings, the Scriptures, with them – including the book of Numbers!
  • In the second deportation, we are told in II Kings 24:14 (Good News Bible):
         Nebuchadnezzar [king of Babylon] carried away as 
         prisoners the people of Jerusalem, all the royal 
         princes, and all the leading men, ten thousand in 
         all. He also deported all the skilled workers, in-
         cluding the blacksmiths, leaving only the poorest 
         of the people behind in Judah.

Most likely, Daniel and his three Hebrew fellows, were taken to Babylon at this time! We know that Daniel was elevated to the position of…ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.” (Daniel 2:48). Daniel was the chief Magi! Six hundred years later, the Magi (called “…wise men from the East…” in Matthew 2:1) came to worship the Jewish Messiah King!

  • The Bible record does not say the wise men were from Babylon. Our featured Scripture just tells us they were…from the East …” (Matthew 2:1).
  • The Magi (the word from which we get our words, ‘magic’ and ‘magician’), were not those who performed sleight of hand, nor where they given only to occult practices. They were astrologers/astron-omers who studied the events of history, as well as the events of the present, believing the realm of the heavenlies influenced what took place on earth! Their studies included the collected documents (clay tablets, parchments, etc.) of both current and ancient writings.
  • Daniel (given the Babylonian name Belteshazzar) and three other Jewish young men – Hananiah (Shadrach); Mishael (Meshach); and Azariah (Abed-Nego), were also deported with Daniel (see Daniel 1:6, 7). These four were promoted by King Nebuchadnezzar to be Magi! They would have known and taught the Hebrew Scriptures to the other Babylonians around them! Such knowledge was passed down through successive generations.
  • In their document libraries were copies of the Jewish Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament, also called ‘the books of Moses’); including Balaam’s prophesy in Numbers, chapter 24: …a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall arise out of Israel….
  • The cult of the Magi lasted for centuries, even to the time of the birth of Christ, when the Magi, the …wise men from the East came…saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?’ ” (Matthew 2:1, 2).

And so came the Magi! It does not say they were kings, nor does it say they were three. It just tells us in Matthew 2:11 that there were three royal gifts:…gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Apparently, the Magi did not tie together two important prophesies concerning the Messiah:

  • Balaam’s prophesy from Numbers 24:17, and…
  • Micah’s prophesy in Micah 5:2 (see Prophesies Of Christmas – V):
         But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little 
         among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall 
         come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose 
         goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.

They came to Jerusalem, not Bethlehem because, logically, Jerusalem was the capital of Judah where the king reigned. That was where they thought they would find…He who has been born King of the Jews…” (Matthew 2:2). Instead they found an aged, sick, and demented King Herod on the throne! But through Herod’s access to the chief priests and scribes (see Matthew 2:4), the Magi learned…

     ...where the Christ was to be born.... “In Bethlehem 
     of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: “But 
     you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least 
     among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a 
     Ruler who will shepherd My people Isreal.” (Matthew 
     2:6).

And so the Magi departed from King Herod.

     ...and behold, the star which they had seen in the East 
     went before them, till it came and stood over where the 
     young Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced 
     with exceedingly great joy.  And when they had come into 
     the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, 
     and fell down and worshiped Him. (Matthew 2:9-11).

Note: Earlier I made the comment: The Magi arrived up to two years after Jesus’ birth! This is deduced from several bits of Biblical evidence:

  • If the star of Bethlehem appeared when Jesus was born, it would have taken months for the Magi to research their many documents to discern the meaning of the star! If indeed the wise men were from Babylon, that city was 500 miles directly east of Jeruslem! But it was more than a 700 mile journey by caravan route! It would have taken many more months for preparation and travel!
  • Matthew 2:11 says that “…when they had come into the house…a house, not a stable!
  • Continuing with what Matthew 2:11, it tells us: “…they saw the young Child ….Thayer’s Greek Definitions describe young Child this way: “…a young child…a little boy, a little girl…,not necessarily an infant! Yet when Jesus was birthed, obviously He was a new-born infant!
  • In Matthew 2:16, King Herod (demented with age and infirmity) gave a command to…
         ...put to death all the male children who where in 
         Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years 
         old and under, according to the time which he de-
         termined from the wise men.

Why two years old and under? Two years before was the time the star appeared! And that was how long it took for the Magi to research the matter and to travel to Judea!

O come, let us worship and bow down [with the Magi];
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture,
and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you will hear His voice,
do not harden your hearts…
(Psalm 95:6-8)

Prophesies of Christmas – V Micah 5:2

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Oh, little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie….” We sing about it in this famous Christmas carol, but do you know why this insignificant town was the place of birth for the King of Kings?

Why Bethlehem? Both Joseph and Mary were residing comfortably in Nazareth, about 90 miles north of Bethlehem, and Mary was well into the ninth month of her miraculous pregnancy! Why? Because it was prophesied in Micah 5:2:

     But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little 
     among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall 
     come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose 
     goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.

First, before we start to look at the reasons ‘why’, consider the name of the town designated in Micah’s prophesy: …Bethlehem Ephrathah….There were two Bethlehems in Palestine in Jesus day:

  • Bethlehem in northern Palestine in Galilee, about 20 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.
  • Bethlehem in southern Palestine, about 5 miles south of Jerusalem. To distinguish it from the northern Bethlehem, it was known as Bethlehem Judah or Bethlehem Ephrathah (see Psalm 132:6), or Ephrath (see Genesis 35:19).
     Bethlehem means “house of bread” according to 
         Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary.

     Ephrath or Ephrathah means “fruitfulness” (ibid.).

The southern town of Bethlehem was the home of King David and his ancestors (see I Samuel 16:1, 13). It is written in Luke 2:1 through 5:

     And it came to pass in those days that a decree went 
     out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be 
     registered.  This census first took place while Qui-
     rinius was governing Syria. ...So all went to be reg-
     istered, everyone to his own city.  Joseph also went 
     up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into 
     Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethle-
     hem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 
     to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife....

Both Joseph and Mary were descended from David! Matthew 1:6 through 16 traces Joseph’s lineage to David through David’s son King Solomon. Luke 3:23 through 31 gives Mary’s lineage back to David through another son named Nathan. Since both Joseph and Mary were descended from David, and since their ancestral home of David’s family was Bethlehem Ephrathah, Caesar’s registration (census for the purpose of taxation) necessitated that they both travel the 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem!

Who cared that Mary was almost nine months pregnant? Certainly the distant emperor in Rome didn’t! The couple from Nazareth were not planning to birth Jesus elsewhere. But they had to obey the order from the emperor. So they precariously traveled to Bethlehem Ephrathah, where Mary gave birth. Jesus, …the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting…,was born in Bethlehem Ephrathah, in a stable, and laid in a manger!

God used the decree of a distant Roman emperor to fulfill a prophesy Micah had written seven and a half centuries before!

Prophesies of Christmas – IV Isaiah 9:6, 7

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Let’s continue to explore Isaiah 9:6 and 7:

     For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; 
     and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And 
     His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty 
     God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the 
     increase of His government and peace there will be 
     no end, upon the throne of David and over His king-
     dom, to order it and establish it with judgment and 
     justice from this time forward, even forever.  The 
     zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

…and His name will be called…” (verse 6)

  • …Wonderful Counselor…

Among the 17 Bible translations on e-Sword program, seven translations, including the King James Version and six others, place a comma between Wonderful and Counselor. Six other translations leave out the comma, making Wonderful Counselor a single name of the Messiah! I vote for the six, for indeed, He is a Wonderful Counselor!

This name in Hebrew is יעץ פּלא (reading right to left). According to Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, the words, pronounced “pel’-leh yah-ats’ ” and mean:

     ✡   (pel’-leh)  – “...a miracle...marvelous thing, 
         wonder....”

     ✡   (yah-ats’) – “...to advise...to deliberate or 
         resolve....”

So the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ governs mankind and the whole world with counsel that is so correct, true, and applicable that it is miraculous! Compare that to the best counsel we might receive here and now!

  • …Mighty God…

In His glorified humanity, Jesus will rule world-wide from Jerusalem! He will not just represent the Mighty God! He is the Mighty God! He is as much God as is the Father. And God is Mighty! He destroyed the Egyptians and their gods with ten devas-tating plagues (see Exodus chapters 7-12), and He drowned their entire army in the Red Sea (see Exodus 14:21-31). Remember, Egypt was the most powerful nation in the world at that time! But the LORD is more powerful! He is Mighty! And He, with His power and might, is on the side of His children (Chrisitians) today!

  • “…Everlasting Father…”

Is this name, Father, applied to Jesus, the Son of God? Yes! Consider these New Testament Scriptures:

     John 8:24 (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible) – 
         “Therefore, I said to you that you will die in your 
         sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will 
         die in your sins.I AM is the name of the great 
         Jehovah God as He revealed Himself to Moses at the 
         burning bush in Exodus 3:13 through 15 (see also 
         John 8:28).

     John 10:30 – “I and the Father are one.John 14:9 – Jesus stated to Philip, “He who has 
         seen Me has seen the Father.John 17:21 – The Lord was praying in the Garden 
         of Gethsemane “...for those who...believe in Me
         ...that they may all be one, as You, Father, are 
         in Me, and I in You....Colossians 2:9 – “For in Him [Jesus] dwells all 
         the fulness of the Godhead bodily.Hebrews 1:1-3 – “God...has in these last days spo-
         ken to us by His Son...who [is]...the brightness 
         of His [the Father’s] glory and the express image 
         of His person....

So close are the Persons and ministry of the Holy Trinity, that the titles of Father and Son are here in Isaiah 9:6 transferable. And Jesus’ care for us is often parental, sometimes as a mother, sometimes as a father!

  • …Prince of Peace.

Jesus Christ brings peace!

     ✞   Peace within – “You will keep him in perfect peace, 
         whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in 
         You.” (Isaiah 26:3).

     ✞   Peace from the indwelling Holy Spirit – “...the 
         fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, 
         kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- 
         control....” (Galatians 5:22, 23 – English Standard 
         Version).

     ✞   Peaceful sleep – “I will both lie down in peace, 
         and sleep; for You, O LORD, make me dwell in safe-
         ty.” (Psalm 4:8).

     ✞   Peace in the midst of turmoil – “Peace I leave 
         with you, My peace I give to you; not as the 
         world gives do I give to you.  Let not your 
         heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” 
         (John 14:27).

     ✞   Peace between people – “When a man’s ways please 
         the LORD, He makes even his enemies shall be at 
         peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7).  However, if we 
         substitute nation in place of man, God will make 
         even that nation’s enemies be at peace with it!

     ✞   Peace within the land – 

         ➔   “The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear 
              Him, in those who hope in His mercy....He 
              makes peace in your borders, and fills you 
              with the finest wheat.” (Psalm 147:11, 14). 

         ➔   “If you walk in My statutes and keep My com-
              mandments...I will give peace in the land....”
              (Leviticus 26:3, 6)

         Although God’s promise was originally given to Israel, 
         the principle can be applied to any Godly people!

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end…” (verse 7).

Wherever Christ governs, there will be peace! And His kingdom will extend to the ends of the earth and beyond, lasting forever!

        Isaiah 2:4 (see also Micah 4:3) – “He shall judge 
         between the nations, And rebuke many people; they 
         shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their 
         spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift 
         up sword against nation, neither shall they learn 
         war anymore. Psalm 72:8 (see also Zechariah 9:10) – “He shall 
         have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the 
         River to the ends of the earth. Luke 1:33 – “And He shall reign over the house of 
         Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be 
         no end.Revelation 11:15 – “The kingdoms of this world are 
         become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; 
         and He shall reign forever and ever.

…upon the throne of David and over His kingdom…” (verse 7).

David’s kingdom was decimated by the Babylonians when the last king, Zachariah, was taken as a prisoner to Babylon. This happened seventeen generations removed from David. Thus “…the times of the gentiles…” (Luke 21:24) began, when non-Jews ruled over Israel for 2,600 years!

        God had told King David in II Samuel 7:16, “...and 
         your house and your kingdom shall be established for- 
         ever before you.  Your throne shall be established 
         forever.The apostle James quoted Amos 9:11 in Acts 15:15-18:

             ...as it is written: “After this I will 
             return and will rebuild the tabernacle 
             of David, which has fallen down; I will 
             rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; 
             so that the rest of mankind may seek the 
             Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called 
             by My name, says Lord who does all these 
             things.”

The angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:31 through 33: 

             ...you will conceive in your womb and bring 
             forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.  
             He will be great, and will be called the Son 
             of the Highest; and the Lord God will give 
             Him the throne of His father David.  And He 
             will reign over the house of Jacob forever, 
             and of His kingdom there will be no end. 

 As David ruled over Israel from Jerusalem, so Jesus 
         Christ will also govern His world-wide millennial 
         rule from Jerusalem!  For it is written in Jeremiah 
         3:17, “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The 
         Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be 
         gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusa-
         lem....

…to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from this time forward, even forever.” (verse 7).

Oh, how we long for just and righteous leadership over the nations of the world! However, we will not see such leadership until the Lord Jesus reigns! The first five verses of Isaiah 11 give this prophesy of the coming Messiah:

     There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and 
     a Branch shall grow out of his roots.  The Spirit of the 
     Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and under-
     standing, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of 
     knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.  His delight is in 
     the fear of the Lord, and He shall not judge by the sight 
     of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but 
     with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide 
     with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike 
     the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath 
     of His lips He shall slay the wicked.  Righteousness shall 
     be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His 
     waist. 

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (verse 7).

This is how The 1965 Bible in Basic English translates this phrase: “By the fixed purpose of the Lord of armies this will be done.All that is prophesied of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6 and 7 will come to pass! And nothing can hinder the fixed purpose of the Lord of armies!

Prophesies of Christmas – III Isaiah 9:6, 7

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Isaiah 9:6 and 7 is the most beloved Old Testament Christmas prophesy there is!

     For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and 
     the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name 
     will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlast-
     ing Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His gov-
     ernment and peace there will be no end, upon the throne 
     of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish 
     it with judgment and justice from this time forward, even 
     forever.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah’s prophesy tells so much about the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, who would make His appearance 700 years later as a baby born in a manger! What can we know from this Old Testament passage of just two verses?

For unto us a Child is born…” (verse 6).

     This tells us that the Messiah will appear as a 
         child, a baby born into this world just like any 
         normal human baby would be born.......except that 
         He would be born in a humble stable and laid in a 
         manger!  Why was He manifested in this way?  

         ➔   He could have come with a world-wide an-
              nouncement made by the mighty voice of God 
              Himself!  But that wouldn’t work!  For in 
              John 12:28 and 29 this is recorded:   

                 [Jesus cried out,] “Father, glorify 
                 Your name.” Then a voice came from 
                 heaven, saying, “I have both glori-
                 fied it, and will glorify it again.”  
                 Therefore the people who stood by  
                 and heard it said that it had thun-
                 dered.  Others said, “An angel has 
                 spoken to Him.” He could have appeared in glorious form, as 
              he did to the apostle John on the Isle of 
              Patmos in Revelation 1:12 through 16:

                 I saw...One like the Son of Man, 
                 clothed with a garment down to the 
                 feet and girded about the chest 
                 with a golden band. His head and 
                 hair were white like wool, as white 
                 as snow, and His eyes like a flame 
                 of fire; His feet were like fine 
                 brass, as if refined in a furnace, 
                 and His voice as the sound of many 
                 waters; He had in His right hand 
                 seven stars, out of His mouth went 
                 a sharp two-edged sword, and His 
                 countenance was like the sun shin-
                 ing in its strength. 

But John’s reaction is recorded in verse 17: “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.” The aged apostle was just bowled over in a dead faint when confronted with such glory!

So how could we identify with Him if Jesus came in such glory? We would also be knocked flat as was John! And how could we ever respond to His invitation in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Would not we want to run and hide?

         ➔   Even though Jesus was born as a baby, why 
              not make His appearance in a king’s palace 
              surrounded by the trappings of luxury? Was 
              He not ...born King of the Jews...” as the 
              wise men said of Him in Matthew 2:2? But if 
              Jesus had been born into such earthly royal-
              ty and wealth, then maybe the wealthiest one 
              percent might have identified with Him......
              but what about the other 99%?!

     ✞   Don’t miss that little two-letter word, us!...unto 
         us a child is born...! This brings it home to us! You 
         and I are included – He’s your Savior and Lord! He’s 
         my Savior and Lord!

…unto us a Son is given…” (verse 6).

     A Son...whose Son?  

         ➔   Yes, He was the son of Mary, and the step-
              son of Joseph.  But notice I didn’t capital-
              ize ‘son’ in this identification. For Jesus 
              being the son of Mary means He is fully a 
              human being – someOne with whom we can iden-
              tify! ThisSonis none other than the incarnate 
              Son of God, God the Son, the second Person 
              of the Almighty Trinity!  He came...to seek 
              and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10).  
              He came to pay for our rebellion against God!  
              As Jesus said in 18:37, “...for this cause I 
              have come into the world...,to die for our 
              sins, to raise from the dead, to live forever, 
              so we could be forgiven, escape hell, and gain 
              eternal life with Him!

…and the government will be upon His shoulder…” (verse 6).

     ✞   The two advents of the Lord are in view here – Jesus’ 
         first and second coming!  In the Old Testament they are 
         often seen as one advent – and it presents great diffi-
         culty to try to reconcile the prophesies of the suffer-
         ing Servant with those of the victorious King!

         ➔   Isaiah 53 the Messiah is presented as the 
              suffering Servant.

         ➔   Isaiah chapters 60 through 62 show forth Him 
              as the reigning King, and describe His mani-
              fold blessings upon Israel and the world!

Some have even speculated that there had to be two Messiahs!

It is in the New Testament that this is explained much more fully. The Messiah will appear in two advents, separated by the Church age! This is why the Jews had/have such a hard time seeing Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. They only hold the Old Testament as Scripture.

     ✞   When Jesus Christ returns in glory asKING OF 
         KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16), He 
         will rule from Jerusalem over...the nations
         ...with a rod of iron...” (Revelation 19:15 – 
         see also Psalm 2:9; Revelation 12:5).  He will 
         head the only government!  He will be the su-
         preme Ruler!

     You might say, He will shoulder all the respon-
         sibility of righteously governing the world!

Oh, what we have to look forward to as Christians!

These two verses in Isaiah 9 are so packed with prophetic truth, this Gem must be split in two! We will continue next Tuesday.

Prophesies of Christmas – II Isaiah 7:14

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Let’s focus in on one of the six featured Scriptures of the last Gem, Prophesies of Christmas – I: 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 7:14). Seven hundred years later, this prophesy was fulfilled! The angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, a young virgin in Nazareth:

     Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for 
     you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will con-
     ceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call 
     His name Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the 
     Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the 
     throne of His father David. And He shall reign over the 
     house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be 
     no end.”

     Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I 
     know not a man?”

     And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit 
     will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will 
     overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to 
     be born will be called the Son of God....”

     Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let 
     it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:30-33, 38).

There are other stories and traditions of virgin births:

  • Herbert Spencer, in his book The Principles of Sociology, (Volume I), published in 1898, quotes an archeological inscription from Babylon:
         I am Nabu-kuder-usur …. the first-born son of 
         Nebu-pal-sur, King of Babylon. The god Bel him-
         self created me, the god Marduk engendered me, 
         and deposited himself the germ of my life in 
         the womb of my mother.

     Nabu-kuder-usur is very close to the Akkadian name for 
     Nebuchnezzar II, son of Nabopolassar (which is close to 
     the Akkadian name Nebu-pal-sur), the Babylonian king of 
     the Bible who carried away the Jews to a 70 year captiv-
     ity in Babylon!  In the above inscription, the king is 
     claiming to be virgin born!
  • Tammuz, Babylonian god of fertility, was said to be the only begotten son of the god Ea. His mother/lover Ishtar was a virgin!
  • Horus, the sky god in ancient Egyptian mythology, was born of the virgin Isis, also called Meri, who had ‘sexual relations’ with the god Osiris.
  • The heros in Greco/Roman mythology, were often thought of as having been conceived by the gods.
  • Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) was said to be the result of his mother being impregnated by one of the thunderbolts of the god Zeus!
  • The first Roman emperor Augustus (62 BC-14 AD) claimed he was the son of the god Apollo!

So Mary wasn’t the first (so say some secular ‘experts’). The theory is that Christianity borrowed the idea of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ from these earlier pagan religions. But other virgin birth claims are unsubstantiated or just mythology!

Mary was the first to give virgin birth, and the only one in human existence to be so blessed! Why do I make this statement?

  • As said above, Isaiah 7:14 records that exact prophesy seven hundred years before!

Hebrew scholars who criticize the idea of the virgin birth tell us that the Hebrew word translated virgin in many translations of the Bible is עלמה (pronounced ‛al’-mah, and meaning “virgin, young woman…of marriagable age…maid newly married ” — Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions). “So,” they say, “…it means a young woman, and not necessarily a virgin.

But Isaiah 7:14 is beautifully fulfilled in Luke 1:26 through 38! Mary, a young virgin, was impregnated by the Holy Spirit (in my opinion) the moment she told the angel Gabriel,Behold, the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). So if Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled by the virgin conception and birth, then in Isaiah 7:14 the word ‘al’-mah must mean a virgin!

  • Why was the virgin birth necessary?

First, God said in Leviticus 17:11, “…the life of the flesh is in the blood….But life was corrupted by Adam, recorded in Genesis 3:6:

         So when the woman [Eve] saw that the tree was good 
         for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a 
         tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its 
         fruit and ate.  She also gave to her husband [Adam]
         with her, and he ate.

So sin entered into the human race! And it was passed to every mother’s child through Adam, according to Romans 5:12: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned….

Why is just Adam blamed? Didn’t Eve start it all? Why blame just him?” Paul tells us in I Timothy 2:14 (Jubilee Bible), “…Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived in the rebellion….” In other words, Eve was tricked by Satan (the devil incarnate in the form of a serpent), but Adam participated with his eyes wide open, fully knowing that he was breaking God’s command to…not eat…of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…! (Genesis 2:17).

Now, let’s get into a medical fact! This is from the website, “Cells for Life: Canada’s Cord Blood & Tissue Experts

Placenta Physiology

     The umbilical cord connects to the baby’s abdomen from 
     the placenta, which in turn is connected to the mother’s 
     uterus. The placenta is responsible for producing preg-
     nancy hormones, as well as hosting important nutritional 
     exchanges between the mother and baby’s blood supply.

     Small blood vessels carry the fetal blood through the 
     placenta, which is filled with maternal blood. Nutrients 
     and oxygen are passed from the mother’s blood to the 
     fetal blood and waste is passed back to the maternal 
     blood – all without any mixing between the two blood 
     supplies. (emphasis mine). 

If Adam corrupted life, and “…the life of the flesh is in the blood…,” and if it is “…through one man [Adam, that] sin entered into the world…,” then it stands to reason that sin is passed through the father, not the mother!

This is one reason why Jesus was virgin-born! He was born free from the corrupting effects of sin!

The other reason
is what we are told in John, chapter 1, and verses 1, 2, and 14:

     In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with 
     God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning 
     with God....And the Word became flesh and dwelt among 
     us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only 
     begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus Christ is fully man as well as fully God! As we are told in Colossians 2:9, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

  • Why did God have to become a human being?

It is written in I Timothy 6:15 that in His glory, God …alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see….” When Moses asked God, “Please, show me Your glory.” The LORD told him, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me and live.” (Exodus 33:18, 20). So God only revealed His back to Moses (see Exodus 33:19-34:7). But if Christ is fully God manifested fully in human flesh, then we can experience what Jesus told Philip in John 14:9, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father….” And according to II Corinthians 4:6:

     ...it is God who commanded the light to shine out of 
     darkness who has shone in our hearts, to give the light 
     of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of 
     Jesus Christ.

He appeared in the flesh so He could totally identify with us, and so we could identify with Him! (See Hebrews 4:14-16). We can only know God, we can only approach God through the Lord Jesus Christ!

And we can approach Him, for He said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me…,” and in John 6:37, “…the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

Through the virgin birth, He came to you!

Now YOU…….Come to HIM!

Prophesies of Christmas – I

Genesis 3:15; Genesis 22:18; Genesis 49:10; Isaiah 11:1, 2; Jeremiah 23:5, 6; Isaiah 7:14

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Yes, there are six featured Scriptures for this one Gem! But each one is a prophecy of the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ! And they are progressive.

Genesis 3:15:

Adam and Eve had sinned! They disobeyed God’s specific command: “…of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17). They immediately died spiritually, separated from their Creator! Physical death came later – but it came! And our first parents passed that death to all their progeny – US! (See Romans 5:12).

In Genesis 3:15, this is what the LORD told Satan (in the person of the serpent): “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.

It was at the cross that Jesus’ heel was bruised as the nail was driven in, His heel would have pounded against the rough wood of the cross. But the devil’s head was crushed, a death blow, at the resurrection! For the resurrection proved that the Father accepted the sacrifice of the Son to pay for the sins of all humanity!

What has this to do with prophesies of Christmas? The One who bruised the head of Satan was to be born of Eve’s seed – Deity wrapped in humanity!

Genesis 22:18:

God’s angel was sent to stop Abraham from killing his son Isaac as a burnt offering to the LORD. He stopped the patriarch at the last moment as “Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.” (Genesis 22:10). God, as a test of Abraham’s devotion to the LORD, had told the aged father in Genesis 22:2:

     Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, 
     and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a 
     burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall 
     tell you.

When Abraham obeyed fully, it was then that the angel stepped in and halted the sacrifice! Because of his obedience, God told him:

     By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have 
     done this thing,and have not withheld your son, your on-
     ly son, in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying 
     I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the hea-
     ven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your 
     descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.  
     (Genesis 22:16, 17).

Abraham’s willingness to give up his son, even to a cruel death, is a preview picture of what God did for us, giving up Jesus to die on the cross!

But let’s get to the prophesy of Christmas in Genesis 22:18: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.How is this a prophesy of Christmas? It tells us that Jesus Christ will not only come from the human race, He will also be descended from the patriarch Abraham!

Genesis 49:10:

It was the end of Jacob’s life. Abraham’s grandson, on his deathbed, prophesied the future of his twelve sons, progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. Judah, third born of Jacob from his wife Leah, was to be favored – not just with blessings of this life. Here is what Jacob said of Judah in Genesis 49:10: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.The scepter and the lawgiver both refer to a king – and not just to any king, but to the KING OF KINGS! (See Revelation 19:16).

…until Shiloh comes….” What does this mean? Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible says this about Shiloh:That Shiloh should be of this tribe [Judah] – his seed, that promised seed, in whom the earth should be blessed: that peaceable and prosperous One, or the Savior.

Keil & Delizsch Commentary on the Old Testament gives this interpretation:

     Shiloh was ordinarily the name of a city....But just as 
     many other names of cities are also name of persons,...  
     Enoch (Gen. 4:17), and Shechem (Gen. 34:2); so Shiloh 
     might also be a personal name, and denote not merely the 
     place of rest, but the man, or bearer, of rest.  We re-
     gard Shiloh, therefore, as a title of the Messiah....

So we might then read Genesis 49:10 this way:

     The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver 
     from between his feet, until the Man comes who is the 
     bearer of rest and peace; and to Him shall be the obe-
     dience of the people.

So the third refinement of the geneology of the promised Messiah is in Genesis 49:10: He shall be of the tribe of Judah!

Isaiah 11:1 and 2:

     There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, 
     And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.  The Spirit 
     of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom 
     and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, 
     The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. 

The fourth refinement of Jesus’ lineage narrows down from the tribe of Judah to the family of Jesse of Bethlehem! Elijah the prophet was sent to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to succeed Saul as king over Israel. Saul had lost the kingship because of his self-will and disobedience. “…Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The LORD has not chosen these.’” Only the eighth was left…

So far the narrowing has gone from all humanity to Abraham, to Jacob, to Judah, and now to Jesse the Bethlehemite. The next narrowing is found in…

Jeremiah 23:5 and 6:

…and the eighth son of Jesse the Bethlehemite was David! Six hundred years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, God spoke through Jeremiah the prophet:

     “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “that I 
     will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King 
     shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and right- 
     eousness in the earth.  In His days Judah [the southern 
     kingdom] will be saved, and Israel [the northern king-
     dom] will dwell safely; now this is His name by which 
     He will be called:  THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

God fulfilled this prophesy of Christmas in a marvelous miraculous way! It was first announced in Isaiah 7:14…

Isaiah 7:14:

This sixth (and final) refinement of the lineage from which came Jesus Christ was prophesied 700 or so years before by the prophet Isaiah. It was given to King Ahaz of Judah, a wicked ruler. Two kings in alliance – Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria had invaded Judah and came against Jerusalem to overthrow the Davidic dynasty and set a new king on the throne. But Isaiah told Ahaz it wouldn’t happen, and God was willing to give a sign to that outcome. But Ahaz would not request a sign of God, so the prophet told the king in 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.It was a sign to be fulfilled centuries hence, but also to signify the invaders would be defeated, and David’s dynasty would stand!

Centuries later, a young virgin in Nazareth named Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel. “Then the angel said to her…

     Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with 
     God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and 
     bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He 
     will be great, and will be called the Son of the High-
     est; and the Lord God will give the throne of His 
     father David.  And He shall reign over the house of 
     Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.

Mary was to bear the Messiah!

Why Mary? She was favored by God, a young woman dedicated to Him, and living to please Him. She was also of royal descent! She was descended from King David through his son Nathan. And she was pledged to be married to Joseph, also descended from David through King Solomon. Both of their families had long ago lost the trappings of royalty, both now from common working-class Nazareth families. But Mary’s Son Jesus would be given …the throne of His father David. And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.

From humanity in general, to Abraham! From Abraham to Jacob! From Jacob to Judah! From Judah to Jesse of Bethlehem! From Jesse to David! From David to Mary!

Oh, yes, there is one more step of narrowing:

From the Son of Mary, Jesus the Son of God, to YOU and ME!

Mandy

Ecclesiastes 11:1, 2, 6

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The featured Scripture I have chosen for today is from Ecclesiastes 11:1, 2, and 6:

     Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it 
     after many days. Give a serving to seven, and also to 
     eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the
     earth....In the morning sow your seed, and in the eve-
     ning do not withhold your hand; for you do not know 
     which will prosper, either this or that, or whether 
     both alike will be good. 

What is the best thing you can give to someone? And I am not just referring to the upcoming Christmas celebration. I think there are three ‘best things’:

  • Acceptance – sincerely welcoming someone into your life.
  • Love – the kind of love that accepts a person as they are, and treats them with genuine care and respect.
  • The gospel This is the most important thing you can give another human being! Why is it the most important thing you can give? Here is the gospel in a brief presentation called the Roman Road:
     ✞   The human problem in Romans 3:10 and 23:  “As it 
         is written: ‘There is none righteous, no not one’
         ....for all have sinned and fall short of the glory 
         of God.✞   Consequences of the human problem in Romans 6:23 
         (first part):  “For the wages of sin is death....     ✞   The hope for sinners in Romans 6:23 (second part):  
         “...but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus 
         Christ our Lord.✞   The sinner’s response in Romans 10:9, 10, and 13: 

             ...if you confess with your mouth the Lord 
             Jesus and believe in your heart that God has 
             raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  
             For with the heart one believes unto right-
             eousness, and with the mouth confession is 
             made unto salvation....For “whoever calls on 
             the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 

     ✞   The result of believing in Jesus Christ in Romans 
         5:1 and 2, and 8:1:  

             Therefore, having been justified by faith, we 
             have peace with God through our Lord Jesus 
             Christ,  through whom also we have access by 
             faith into this grace in which we stand, and 
             rejoice in hope of the glory of God....There 
             is therefore now no condemnation to those who 
             are in Christ Jesus....

Giving someone the gospel gives them the opportunity to gain eternal life and the possibility of abundant life! (See John 10:10). Eternal life…

     ✞   ...starts the moment you receives Jesus Christ as 
         Savior! (See John 5:24).

     ✞   ...means you have the Lord Jesus as your constant 
         companion! (See Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20).

     ✞   ...also means that He will be with you in the dif-
         ficult times as well as good times! (See Matthew 
         11:28-30; John 16:33).

     ✞   ...is extended forever in heaven! (See I Thessalo-
         nians 4:16, 17; Revelation  22:1-6).

     ✞   ...means you escape from eternal hell! (See Psalm 
         86:13 (KJV); Matthew 25:41; Revelation 14:11). 

So what has all this to do with Mandy, and Ecclesiastes 11:1, 2, and 6?

About a week ago, I received a call from the office of the church to which my wife and I belong. On their office phone a woman had left a message and her Pennsylvania phone number. I did not recognize the name of the number, nor did my wife. But Hope said, “Call her and find out! ” I did, and Miranda answered! Here is what she told me:

Thirty-six years ago I was a mixed-up 16 year old. My parents were hard-core drug addicts. I walked to church one Sunday, the Baptist Church, and you were the pastor. You welcomed me, and I told you my name was Mandy. I started coming every Sunday, walking to church because my parents wouldn’t go or take me. At one point the church people were to choose prayer partners. You chose ME! I think you were trying to protect me.

My life hasn’t been easy. I fought drug addiction myself, and my first marriage failed. But I have been clean and sober for years now. I haven’t missed church, and I even have a ministry for the last ten years – helping drug addicts to get and stay clean. My daughter is clean for a year now from serious addiction, and is healing.

God laid it on my heart to contact you and tell you what you meant to a mixed-up 16 year old girl. I searched the internet and tracked you down. Thank you, and stay in touch.

I don’t remember the exact words, but there was a lot of back-and-forth conversation between us, and what is recorded above captures the gist of it.

Now what about Ecclesiastes 11:1, 2, and 6?

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (see I Kings 4:31), tells us in verse 2 to invest our riches, even spreading our wealth “…to seven, and also to eight…” places. And in verse 6 he says…

     In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not 
     withhold your hand; for you do not know which will pros-
     per, either this or that, or whether both alike will be 
     good. 

I posed the question above: What is the best thing you can give to someone? And the very best thing to give is the gospel! That’s what I gave Mandy! I didn’t know how her life would turn out. I lost contact for 36 years. But back then I tried to give a confused teenager not only the gospel, but also the other two gifts mentioned, acceptance and love! And look what happened!

Solomon reminds us that “…you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good.So we give! We give out the gospel with acceptance and love, not knowing how things will turn out! But sometimes you do get to see the return…and the return is great!

Thank you, Mandy!

Reaching Out To Jesus – II

Luke 6:6-10

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Here again is Luke 6:6 through 10:

     Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered 
     the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right 
     hand was withered.  So the scribes and Pharisees watched 
     Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that 
     they might find an accusation against Him.  But He knew 
     their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered 
     hand, "Arise and stand here." And he arose and stood.  
     Then Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one thing: Is it 
     lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save 
     life or to destroy?"  And when He had looked around at 
     them all, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." 
     And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the 
     other.

In the last Gem we saw that…

  • …it was the right hand that was withered – the hand of power! This put the man at a distinct social disadvantage. Ninety percent of people are right-handed and, as my left-handed wife says, “The world is made for right-handed people!” That is, a lot of things – the way doors open, some kitchen utensils, and tools generally, etc. – are set up for righties!

If this man in Luke 6 was naturally right-handed, and especially if the paralysis of his hand happened later in life, he would have had a hard time making a living and coping in society! Also, such affliction would be seen as punishment from God for his sin!

  • …the left hand was considered unclean, used for toilet issues, touching anything considered unclean, and never used to eat, to greet another person, to give or receive a present, or for any part of worship!
  • …this incident happened on the Sabbath, the day of rest! And the Jewish legalists over the years had laid so many ‘can’ts’ and ‘don’ts’ to God’s revealed word, that one could hardly do anything but sit and meditate on the Sabbath!
  • …the scribes and Pharisees watched…[Jesus] closely whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him.
  • …the Lord never touched the man! So the Jewish leaders could not find accusation against Him!

What can we learn from this, to apply it to our own lives?

  • We are all crippled before God!
     We were originally created in the perfect image of 
         God (see Genesis 1:27), designed to live forever and 
         reflect His glory.

     ✞   Sin entered in, and with it, death, disease, and 
         destruction! (See Genesis 3:16-19).  Our first par-
         ents were separated from their holy Creator and from 
         His paradise on the earth now cursed.  They now had 
         a sin nature in rebellion against God, and they passed 
         that sin nature on to all of us! (See Romans 5:12).

     
     ✞   Every mothers’ child is now under the condemnation 
         of God (see John 3:18. 19, 36; Romans 3:10, 23)... 
         .....unless we are confronted by Jesus and something 
         miraculous happens!
  • The man could not reach his hand out to Jesus! It was withered and immovable! Many people feel they cannot respond to Jesus’ invitation: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).
     They feel that they are too sinful for God to ever 
         accept them.

     They are angry at Him for allowing some disaster 
         to strike their lives.

     They have pushed away His invitation to come for 
         so long, they no longer have the power to respond.

     They have their own religion (or no religion) that 
         they rely on to see them through life.
  • But Jesus said, “Stretch out your hand.And He never tells anyone to do something without giving them the power to do it! As Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
     ✞   The man stretched out his hand, and as he did what 
         the Lord commanded, “...his hand was restored as 
         whole as the other.✞   The Lord Jesus Christ calls YOU to reach out to Him!  
         Just obey, and see the miracles that will happen!
  • Others may not appreciate Him or the miracles He will do in repentant sinners’ lives. They may ridicule you for believing He can so simply save and restore you.
     ✞   But Jesus died to do just that!  As it tells us in 
         I Peter 2:24 (God’s Word to the Nations), “Christ 
         carried our sins in His body on the cross so that 
         freed from our sins, we could live a life that has 
         God's approval.  His wounds have healed you.✞   And He forever lives to receive those who come to 
         Him believing! (See Hebrews 7:25).

     For those who would oppose you for believing in 
         such a ‘fantasy’ as salvation through Jesus Christ  
         by faith in Him, the Lord Himself told us in John 
         15:18 through 21:

              If the world hates you, you know that it 
              hated Me before it hated you.  If you were 
              of the world, the world would love its own.  
              Yet because you are not of the world, but 
              I chose you out of the world, therefore the 
              world hates you.  Remember the word that I 
              said to you, “A servant is not greater than 
              his master.  If they persecuted Me, they 
              will also persecute you. If they kept My 
              word, they will keep yours also.  But all 
              these things they will do to you for My 
              name’s sake, because they do not know Him 
              who sent Me.

The man…whose right hand was withered reached out to Jesus…….and his life was forever changed! He can do the same for you!

Just reach out to Him!

To my readers of Gems For Living:

When I attempted to write the Gem for Tuesday (today, December 1), my computer notified me that ‘Microsoft’ had locked it, due to a breach. It was not Microsoft! It was a scam! The computer is now being debugged and I will have it back in a couple of days.

Thank you for bearing with me.

Chip Norton