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The Progressive Nature of Prophecy and the Birth of Jesus (Part Four)

Posted on December 24, 2012 at 6:13 PM Comments comments (95)
Texts: Luke 1:28-35; 2:8-14

As we are now in the Christmas week, I’ll continue my discussion on the birth of the Seed promised in Genesis 3:15.  Note too that the fall of man caused God to focus on a mission in order to restore man to his original sinless state in His Paradise. The Latin phrase:”Mission Dei” (meaning: Mission of God), I believe this phrase found its root in the fall of man.  However, this was a Latin Christian theological term coined in 1934 by a German missiologist, Karl Hartenstein in response to Karl Barth.

Last week, I focused on the birthplace of the Messiah and the rejection of the government in His day. This rejection was also God’s redemptive plan for the world mainly to every believer in Christ. God’s mission must pass through a crisis to victory.

Sadly, many Christians prefer the victory.  But honestly, a victory without a story or scar is no victory at all. In my analyses of Isaiah 9:6, I stressed the echo of Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, and the incomprehensibility of the name God.  I love the definition of faith – believing in the existence of something that you do not see (Heb 11:1). Intellectualism or postmodernism would say: I need to understand in order to believe.  Regrettably, this was the position of St. Thomas Aquinas, who died at age 49 in A.D. 1274.  However, a famous quote of St. Augustine of Hippo (born A. D. 354) was: “I believe in order to understand.”[1]  And centuries later, St. Anselm of Canterbury, echoed this statement in similar fashion:”I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand.”[2] These great Christian thinkers understood that reason must be preceded by faith in the proper object.  Not faith in ourselves or science, but faith in God and most importantly that God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ. This is beyond understanding!

How can the natural man comprehend the message in this week’s Journal? I’ll discuss two major points in my final series for Christmas: (1)The blessing of the Virgin Mary with the Promised Seed, and (2) the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem of Judah. Now, let’s begin with:

First, the blessing of the Virgin Mary with the Promised Seed: In God’s opportune time, the angel Gabriel was sent to announce the conception of the Promised Seed to Mary: “…, God sent Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David…. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you’” (Lk 1:26-28). Mary was shocked by such unusual greetings.  But the angel continued, “…, Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with a child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end’” (Lk 1:30-33). There are a few words and phrases in this text that require explanation:

a. Favor: There were many virgins in Israel but God favored Mary. The Greek word, favor translated here is charain, which means grace, gift, mercy, kindness, etc. She was favored because Mary was a virgin pledged to be married to Joseph who was in the family line of David. God also favored the line of David from which a king would sit on David’s throne forever.  David was favored among his siblings to become king of Israel. So, favor indicates choice. But God’s favor does not necessarily imply holiness in the person favored. It is His gracious act to redeem mankind.

b. Nazareth, a town in Galilee: It was one of the Roman’s provinces of Galilee, the home of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. Always small and isolated, Nazareth is not mentioned in the OT, the Apocrypha, intertestamental Jewish writings, or the histories of Josephus.

c. A virgin pledged to be married: In Israel, a virgin betrothed to a man was not to have any sexual contact with her betroth until the marriage was completed. Today’s generation may not understand this language because of increased sexual promiscuity in many countries. The Complete Word Dictionary maintains, "When a woman was designated (Ex. 21:8, 9) by the head of her family as the future wife of another man, the prospective bridegroom paid a certain sum of money (or service as in the case of Jacob). A contract, which was inviolable, was then entered into (Gen. 34:12; Ex. 22:17). Until the time of the actual marriage, the bride–to–be remained in her own family. It was not permissible to betroth her to any other man except by action amounting to divorce, and any violation of the rights established by the betrothal was as serious as if the two persons had been ceremonially married (Deut. 22:23, 24)."[3]

d. Joseph, a descendant of David: Living in a communal community is quite different from any individualistic society.  In communalism, the family’s head is like a king. A member of such community could have his wife and children, but in reality that family is owned by the head of the community. For example, before the death of Jacob, he claimed Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh as his own children (Gn 48:5). This action places the children into the family of the Patriarch Jacob. At the death of Jacob, the Scepter of the kingship was passed on to Judah (Gn. 49:10). David hailed from the tribe of Judah.  Hence, the King of Kings must be the son of David in order to sit on his throne forever.

e. Give Him the name Jesus:  The angel Gabriel told Mary to name her son Jesus.  This is the affirmation of Isaiah 7:14 which predicted that a virgin would have a son. The Gospel According to St. Matthew was specific in referring to the same prophecy, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, ‘God with us’" (Mt 1:23). Having discussed the gracious act of God upon Mary, the child was born in Bethlehem as was prophesied in Micah 5:2.

Second, the Messiah was born in Bethlehem of Judah: The Gospel According to St Luke reports that when Mary gave birth to her son in Bethlehem, “And angel of the Lord appeared to them [shepherds], and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’” (Lk 2:9-12)  Luke continues, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Lk 2:13-14).  The shepherds immediately left and went to Bethlehem and saw Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger. They went back spreading the word and what God had told them about this child. Because of limited space, I would like to summarize my thoughts on Bethlehem, savior, peace, and favor:

a. Bethlehem Ephratah (of Judah). This was the birth place of David.  The Prophet Samuel first anointed David to be king over Israel in this city (1 Sam 16:13). Bethlehem is also called the town of David. The Messiah, who is the son of David, was born in this very city.

b. The Savior of the world is Christ the Lord.  He is God the Son.  Micah calls Him “Mighty God” (Mi 5:2).

c. Peace: In praising God the angel and other heavenly host give glory to God and on earth peace to men.  Micah had prophesied many years before the birth of Christ that this son would be “Prince of Peace” (5:5).

d. Favor. Here the word favor is reiterated.  In the angelic song, they glorified God for peace through Christ whom His favor (that is His mercy, grace, kindness, and gift) rests. Salvation is the gift of God not for anything that we have done (Eph 2:8).

The progressive nature of prophecy regarding the coming of the Messiah commenced in the Garden of Eden embedded in the curse on Eve and the serpent (Gn 3:15). The Promised Seed would crush the serpent’s head and the serpent would bruise His heel. The lineage of the Seed began with Seth, the third son of Adam to Shem, one of Noah’s son, and specifically through Abraham (Gn 22:18), and through King David who hailed from the tribe of Judah. Isaiah 7:14 talks about the virgin birth of this child, and Isaiah 9:6 defined the role of this Seed: He was God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Because of this mission, the government was on his shoulder – mission in crisis. At God’s opportune time, the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to be the bearer of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. This child was born in Bethlehem of Judah according to the Word of the Lord to Micah (5:2).  Luke reports that the shepherds came and saw what they were told and praised God.  Matthew also reports that three wise men from the east saw his star and came to worship Him (2:1ff). They brought Him gifts.  God has given us Himself as a gift.  Have you in appreciation given gifts to someone in this Christmas’ season?  Hopefully, you are sharing the joy of knowing Christ during this Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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[2] M. Water. Hard questions about Christianity made easy. The Made Easy Series. Alresford ( Hampshire: John Hunt Publishing, 2000), 47.
[3] S. Zodhiates. The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.) ( Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).