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Monday, December 20, 2010

Bible Passages Foretell the Saviors' Birth

Bible Passages Foretell the Saviors’ Birth



God sent the mighty angel Gabriel to the little town of Nazareth to give a message to Mary. When the angel appeared before the astonished Mary, He announced that she would become pregnant and have a baby who would be the Son of God. “…the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke 1:26-27) Mary was startled and bowed before the angel. “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34) she asked.

“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 the Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’” (Luke 1:35)



The angel Gabriel is telling Mary that her baby would have no biological father but would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus would be the Son of God. Mary is the only virgin to ever become pregnant. Jesus could not have saved us from our sins if He had been just an ordinary man. He is the sinless Son of God and Son of man.



We took a trip to Israel recently and visited the town of Nazareth where the angel gave Gods’ message to Mary so many centuries ago. A large Catholic church, the Church of the Annunciation, stands in the center of town, in honor and memory of the event that took place there. Thousands of Christians from around the world visit Nazareth each year to see the town where Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel and given the message that she would be the mother of the Son of God.



Can you imagine how difficult it might have been for Mary to explain her pregnancy to her fiancĂ©, Joseph? As you might imagine, Joseph didn’t believe Mary when she told him that the mighty angel Gabriel had announced that she would become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. He decided to put her away quietly. But while Joseph was thinking about it an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said; “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1: 20b-21)



There were hundreds of ancient prophecies in the Old Testament foretelling the future life and reign of Jesus, the Son of God. The whole 53rd chapter of Isaiah graphically told of Jesus’ suffering and death hundreds of years before it came to pass. Many other scriptures foretold of His coming glory and His victory over sin. And still others just spoke about the details of His future birth. One of them, Isaiah 7:14 reads: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” The name ‘Immanuel’ means ‘God with us’. This prophetic sign was given to King Ahaz in around 700 B.C. to encourage him and his people during a difficult time in their history. King Ahaz and the Jewish people could look forward to a Son that would be given for them. We can also be comforted and hopeful in our times of trouble when we remember that God gave His Son for us: this is the Christmas message.



Old Testament scriptures foretold where Jesus would be born. “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.” (Micah 5:1-2) We all know that that prophecy was fulfilled since Jesus indeed was born in Bethlehem.



A passage in Jeremiah written around 620 B.C. foretells that the Lord of Righteousness will come from the line of David. “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 righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called, The Lord our Righteousness.” (Jeremiah 23:5) Jesus did come from the line of David as Scripture foretold. Matthew chapters 1 and 2 record His lineage.



When Jesus was born in Bethlehem the angels announced His birth to the frightened shepherds in the fields. The wise men followed the bright star that led them to His cradle. Along with the many Old Testament prophecies, there also were many signs and wonders surrounding Christ’s birth as well as healings and miracles accompanying His ministry. The proofs that Jesus had been sent from God were there for all to see. But some people didn’t want to see. Some didn’t want to believe the evidence.



The Bible tells us that when Jesus came to Nazareth, many of the citizens there didn’t want to believe in Him. The sad part is that most of these folks were Jesus’ family and relatives. In speaking about His experiences in Nazareth Jesus said; “…A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” (Mark 6:4) Even though Mary must have described the angel Gabriel’s visit many times to her family, they must not have taken her seriously. And even when both she and Joseph told the story of the angels’ visit again and again, the relatives must not have been listening. Maybe they didn’t want to believe.



Mary and Joseph and their family lived in Nazareth when Jesus was a boy. After Jesus grew up and began His ministry, He tried to visit Nazareth twice and twice His relatives and neighbors threw Him out of the town. Once the townspeople got so agitated that a group, wanting to kill Him, surrounded Jesus and drug Him to the top of a nearby cliff. They were planning to throw Him over the edge, but since it wasn’t His time to die, Jesus was able to get away.



The town of Nazareth is nestled in a bowl with hills and steep cliffs surrounding it.

When we visited Nazareth, our bus passed by the steep cliffs that were just outside the town. These cliffs were about a hundred feet high and it was humbling to remember that those cliffs were probably the place where Jesus’ relatives and neighbors tried to kill Him.



Scripture tells us that most of the citizens of Nazareth did not believe in Jesus. “And He (Jesus) marveled because of their unbelief. …” (Mark 6:6) The Bible says that Jesus came to the people in Nazareth to bring them life, but because of their unbelief He couldn’t do very much. “Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.” (Mark 6:6)



He had so much to give to His loved ones in Nazareth but their unbelief stopped all of that. They missed out on so much. Jesus comes to us too with His hands open and much to give. If we harbor unbelief we can stop His gifts and His mighty works in our lives. We have to do our part and believing is our part. Believing in Him makes it all happen. Let’s believe in Jesus.

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