Four Christmas PropheciesMicah 5:2 • Dr. Andy Woods • December 25, 2016 • Christmas Sermons
SUGAR LAND BIBLE CHURCH
Four Old Testament Christmas Prophecies, Micah 5:2
December 25, 2016
Merry Christmas everybody. I’m looking out there in the audience and now I know who the elect are. Number 1 you showed up on Christmas day, and number 2 you showed up an hour early and that just doesn’t happen in Christianity these days so you guys must be the elect of God… Amen!
If we can take our Bibles and open them to the book of Genesis, chapter 3 and verse 15. The title of our message this morning is Four Old Testament Christmas Prophecies. And every time Christmas rolls around it’s always a struggle as a preacher to figure out what to talk about in this sense—you’ve heard Luke 2 ten million times and what could I say that you haven’t heard before. And I always try to maybe ask the Lord to give me something that has a little different nuance that applies to Christmas, getting us to think in a way that perhaps we’ve never thought before. And so this is what the Lord gave me, four Old Testament Christmas prophecies because what is Christmas? Of course it’s the birth of Christ but it’s the convergence, if you will, of four very specific prophecies, written (as I’ll be showing you today) hundreds and thousands of years in advance.
One of the things that’s very different about Jesus Christ is this: the history of Christ is revealed in the form of a script, if you will, before Jesus ever walked this planet. I know of no alleged holy book on planet earth that does this, that reveals the end from the beginning and the beginning from the end. And it’s one of the great proofs, if you will, that the Bible is unique as the Word of God.
I love how God doesn’t just tell us to believe something, He gives us evidence for what he tells us to believe in. And one of the great proofs of the Bible is Messianic prophecy, and nothing highlights the subject of Messianic prophecy better than studying Messianic prophecy on Christmas as it relates to Jesus Christ.
You might be shocked to learn that there are at least 109 prophecies given about Christ before He was ever born into our world… 109, that’s a lot, isn’t it! What’s the mathematical possibility of 109 prophecies being fulfilled in a person? I don’t know if I know the answer to that but there’s a mathematician that tried to figure out what’s the mathematical probability of just 8, forgot the 109, 8 prophecies being fulfilled in one person? Dr. Peter Stoner published a book called Science Speaks. Dr. Stoner was the chairman of the Department of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena College until 1953 when he became the Chairman of the Science Division at Westmont College. In other words, he was a capable mathematician. And in Science Speaks Dr. Stoner calculated the probability that any one man could fulfill just eight prophecies to be one in ten to the seventeenth power, meaning a one with seventeen zeros after it. [1,000,000,000,000,000,00]
To illustrate how unlikely a chance that would be Stoner gave this illustration, and I like this because he uses an illustration from our home state of Texas: cover the entire state of Texas with silver dollars to a level of two feet deep, the total number of silver dollars would need to be 10 to the 17th power. Now choose just one silver dollar, mark it and put it back, and then thoroughly stir it so all the silver dollars all over the state are two feet deep but randomly displaced. Now blindfold someone, tell them they can travel wherever they want to travel in Texas but they must pick up the identical silver dollar that’s marked. The chance of finding that one silver dollar that we marked in a pile two feet deep covering the state of Texas would be the chance that the prophets, the Old Testament prophets had, for just eight prophecies coming through in one man, the man, Jesus Christ.
That’s how improbable an unlikely it is that the specific history of Jesus Christ could be revealed hundreds and thousands of years in advance with eight specific prophecies. I’m not even talking about the 109 prophecies, just eight of them. And I will stack the Bible up against any holy book (alleged holy book) out there, the Quran, The Book of Mormon, you name it, and the Bible comes out way ahead. We’re not going to be looking at 109 prophecies today, we’re not going to be even looking at 8 prophecies today, I just want to show you 4 prophecies and the reason I bring these prophecies to your attention is they relate to specifically the birth of Jesus Christ.
The birth of Jesus Christ into our world was not a random event, it was not an accidental event, it was not a coincidental event, it was an event designed by an omniscient God as revealed in prophecy. And here are the four prophecies we’re going to be walking through today. But before we get to that the book of Galatians says this: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.” [Galatians 4:4]
The birth of Jesus Christ couldn’t just happen at any time in history; it had to happen at a specific time in history. In fact, just like you would kind of organize the pieces on a chess board prior to a big game of chess, the world stage had to be set up precisely by God so the specifics of His Word could be fulfilled. And since all of these prophecies are given in the Hebrew Bible Jesus expected the nation of Israel to recognize Him when He showed up.
In Matthew 16:1-3 Jesus says this: “The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.  But He replied to them, ‘When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’  And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?” I’m not going to give you any signs, Jesus says in this exchange with the religious leaders of the nation; you have all the evidence you need in your own Bible, Hebrew Bible.
And He rebukes them because they understand weather; you know, “red sky at in the morning,” what’s the rest of the statement, “sailor take warning.” You know how to figure out weather, you know how to figure out when it’s going to rain, you know how to figure out when it’s going to be a good fishing day or a bad fishing day. You know how to interpret the physical world. And there are people that are like this, they know how to interpret the stock market, they know how to interpret the economy, they can tell you everything you want to know about interest rates, but you see Jesus rebukes these people because they could interpret the physical world but they did not understand the Messianic times they were living in.
So “to whom much is given much is” what? “expected.” Jesus expected the Jewish people in the first century, the Hebrew nation, particularly the religious leaders, to understand exactly who He was because of at least a hundred and nine prophecies, four of which pertain to His birth.
So let’s take a look at some of these prophecies, shall we. The first one is found in Genesis 3:15, sometimes called the protoevangelium because it’s the first proclamation of the gospel found anywhere in the Scripture. And Genesis chapter 3 and verse 15 reads as follows, this is a statement that God made to the serpent, or the devil, after the fall of man. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman,” the woman being Eve, “And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”
The fall of man has just happened in the Garden of Eden and immediately after the fall of man God begins to reveal, if you will, His plan for redeeming the fallen human race. And He makes a prediction about a seed or an individual, actually called “him” there at the end of the verse, a male, coming from the seed of the woman. In other words, this one is going to be a descendent of Eve, He will be not just fully God but fully man, and He will actually crush the serpent’s head. He will deal a death blow to the devil himself.
And as you study this there is absolutely no doubt that everybody who heard this prophecy understood it as a prophecy of the coming Messiah. Notice, if you will, one chapter to the right, Genesis 4:1, this is what Eve said as she’s about t give birth to her firstborn, Cain. It says, “Now the man” that would be Adam, “had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, I have begotten a manchild with the help of the LORD.” Now if you’re reading this, for example, out of the New American Standard Bible what you notice there is “with the help of” is in italics.
Now you look at that and you say well why is it in italics? And the reason it’s in italics is it’s not in the original Hebrew. The original Hebrew doesn’t have that phrase in it. What is it doing there then. Well, that’s the work of the translators. Many times the translator tries to kind of smooth over a translation to make it more understandable to a modern audience and 99% of the time translators do a very good job, but this is a case where I believe that the translators have obscured the meaning, because if you were simply to remove the expression “with the help of” from the text and read it according to what it says in the original Hebrew, what it says is this, as Eve now is pregnant with Cain she is saying this: “I have begotten a manchild, the Lord.” She felt that Cain was the Messiah. Now talk about parental disappointment! All of us have a tendency to put our kids, elevate them a little too high than what they belong, and she thought she had given birth to the Messiah. And he wasn’t the Messiah, she was mistaken, he was the world’s first murderer.
But what gave her the impression that she, out of her body, would come forth the Messiah. Obviously she had that expectation because she was standing there in Eden when Genesis 3:15 was uttered. Let me show you this again. Notice Genesis 5:29, this is a few generations later and this is something that Lamech says as Noah is about to be born. It says, “Now he called his name Noah, saying, ‘this one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the LORD has cursed.’” Now this word “cursed” here is very interesting. The only other place it’s used prior to this point in time is in Genesis 3:17 which is just a few verses after Genesis 3:15 where God pronounces a curse on the ground because of original sin. [Genesis 3:17, “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life.” Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”]
And so as Noah is being born his father, Lamech, thinks about Noah being born and he says this is the One that’s going to get rid of the curse; this is the One that’s going to ameliorate the curse. And so he, just like Eve, thought that Noah was the Messiah. Of course he was wrong in that regard as well, but what I’m trying to communicate is there was an obvious Messianic expectation that all of these early human beings had because they all took Genesis 3:15 the way it’s intended in its Messianic sense.
There is a very peculiar verse in the book of Daniel. We may get to this at some point in our study, assuming the rapture doesn’t happen first, we’re only in Daniel 2, but Daniel 11:37, of the antichrist that’s coming says this: “He” the antichrist, “will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the desire of women…” Now I’ve heard a lot of interesting sermons on that verse, the antichrist is going to be s homosexual, I’ve heard people say that, he won’t have “the desire for women,” but the fact of the matter is people misunderstand what “the desire of women” was. What was the desire of every Jewish woman? It was the same desire that Eve had. It was the same desire that no doubt Lamech’s wife had, to be the bearer, if you will, of the Messiah.
So when Daniel 11:37 says the antichrist will not have “the desire of women” he will have no desire for the Son of God, he will show no regard for the one that is coming that all Hebrew women wanted to give birth to. My point is simply this: everybody in the Old Testament times knew a Messiah was coming because they all took Genesis 3:15 for what it says.
Now having said all that, going back to Genesis 3:15, notice the language very carefully. It says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed” notice this expression, “and her seed;” now you look at that and you say wait a minute, I thought “the seed” or the sperm came from the man; the woman doesn’t have “seed” in and of herself, it must be implanted through human sexuality into her by a male. But this verse specifically says not “his seed” but “her seed.” It’s a very odd way of communicating unless you understand this: one of these days in this woman’s body God Himself will implant seed, independent of the father. And so what you have here, with this expression “her seed” is probably one of the earliest references in the Bible, in fact, it is the earliest reference in the Bible to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a Hebrew Christian scholar, puts it this way; “The fact that Moses traced this genealogy through the woman tells us that there will be something very different about the Messiah, something that necessitates tracing his ancestry through His mother and not His father. Moses gives no explanation here and none will be given for several centuries, until the prophet Isaiah, when he will prophesy about it in Isaiah 7, that the Messiah is to be born of a virgin and have no human father. Contrary to the biblical norm the Messiah would be reckoned after the seed of the woman. Why? Because He would have no human father, it would be a virgin conception and a virgin birth.”
How important is the doctrine of the virgin birth? If you don’t have the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, listen to me very carefully, you don’t have Christianity. Why is that? Because if Jesus had had an ordinary biological father what would have been transmitted to him? A sin nature. If the sin nature is transmitted to him he could not qualify to be our sacrifice. Why not? Because God only accepts, going back deep into Old Testament typology, an unblemished sacrifice. Jesus would have been blemished.
Beyond that, if Jesus had had a natural conception, as we all do, He would have had a beginning point. And yet what we discover in the Bible is Jesus has always existed and thus it was necessary for His abnormal (from the human point of view) entrance into our world. You see, what I want you to see is theology is a lot like knocking over dominos in a row; if you knock over one domino what happens to the rest? They all start to crumble. And this is why the devil himself has declared war on the virgin birth of Christ, because it’s such a critical piece of the theological jigsaw puzzle. If there is no virgin birth of Christ then there is no Christianity.
So if we stand for anything, any doctrine in the Bible, the first order of business is to stand for the virgin birth of Christ. That’s why I was so disheartened this week to learn of a pastor, I won’t give you his name, he’s very popular, pastors a church of about 30,000 people, telling individuals that the virgin birth of Christ is really not that big of a deal. It’s really not that critical that we promote this doctrine, defend this doctrine, and teach this doctrine. So what do we have in Genesis 3:15? You have your first Messianic prophecy that revealed the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me take you to a second prophecy and let’s go to the book of Numbers. These first two prophecies come from the writings of Moses, the Pentateuch, or Torah; the latter two prophecies I’ll share with you come from two pre-exilic prophets, first of all Isaiah and Micah.
But notice this second prophecy, found in the book of Numbers, chapter 24 and verse 17. Now Ed read the verses earlier from Matthew; did you listen as Ed was reading? I was. It says, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,  “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” What you have here, and this is on all of our Christmas cards, most people don’t even know why it’s there though and I’m going to try to explain the background.
We have these men from the east travelling at a particular time in history to Jerusalem and they happen to be fixated on something abnormal that is happening in the world of astronomy, a star of some kind, it grabs their attention, and they travel from the east and they connect it with the coming of the Messiah, and they make about a 350 mile voyage from the east to the city of Jerusalem to worship this Messiah that’s coming.
Let me talk for just a minute about “the east.” There’s a lot of confusion about what “the east” is. When you study the word “east” in the Scripture every case that I can think of it refers to Babylon, Babylon, of course, would be modern day Iraq. Babylon is sometimes called Mesopotamia; Meso means middle, potamia means rivers, it’s this area between the rivers. And which two rivers am I talking about? I’m talking about the Euphrates and the Tigris. The Hebrew name for that area is a land called Shinar and that’s where these magi came from following this specific star. That is the area the Scripture refers to over and over again as “the east.” According to Genesis 2:14 it’s probably the general area where the Garden of Eden once existed because Genesis 2:14 mentions the Tigris and the Euphrates in connection with the Garden of Eden. And Genesis 2:8 calls that garden as residing in the east. [Genesis 2:14, “The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” Genesis 2:10, “Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers.” Genesis 2:8, “The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.”]
It was also the general area where the tower of Babel once stood. Genesis 11:2 says this: “It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.” Shinar is the Hebrew word for Mesopotamia; Mesopotamia is the Greek word, it’s that general area of Babylon, modern day Iraq, between the rivers. And notice that the Garden of Eden, located in that area, is called the east; notice that the tower of Babel located in that area is called the east as well.
So this is where these magi are coming from and they’re fixated on this particular star. Now why do they care about a star? That’s why I had you turn to the book of Numbers, chapter 24 and verse 17. And what had happened as you study biblical history is the nation of Israel had been brought out of 400 years of Egyptian bondage; they were brought to a place called Sinai, sometimes it’s called Horeb, there at the bottom of the Sinai peninsula (at the very bottom of the screen) where they received the Law of God. And as the book of Numbers unfolds the nation of Israel is now traveling from Sinai, they (as we’ve studied in Sunday School) kind of wimped out there with the giants and God sentences them to wandering around forty years in the wilderness.
And so, by the time you get to Numbers 24 God is now beginning to work again with the nation; about forty years have passed and they are now traveling through what’s called the Transjordan, east of the Jordan, and they’re going to reside there momentarily and then ultimately they’re going to enter under Joshua into the land of Canaan, the promised land.
The problem though is as they’re making this journey the king of Moab doesn’t like what he is seeing; he does not like these Hebrews transgressing into his territory and so this king of Moab, named Balak, hires a prophet named Balaam. Balaam is what I like to call a prophet for profit, you pay the guy the right price and he’ll basically do anything you want. We’ve got a lot of people like that today and we shouldn’t be that way. He paid this guy off and he said here’s what I want you to do, as these Hebrews are coming through my territory I want you to curse them, and the price was right, and Balak gave Balaam the money and Balaam therefore articulates seven curses against the nation of Israel.
The problem is, Israel has a covenant from God and every time Balaam tried to curse Israel what came out of his mouth was a blessing to Israel. Isn’t that interesting that all of the people in history that come against the nation of Israel God comes against them and actually turns the curse that they have brought against Israel into a blessing. And this happens through seven oracles; these oracles are quoted in Numbers 23 and 24 and there’s a little clue that keeps happening over and over again in the text; it says, “He picked up his oracle and he said….” Every time it says that in Numbers 23 and 24 Balaam is giving a new oracle and he’s trying to curse Israel but what comes out of his mouth is a blessing.
And it’s the fourth oracle that is most interesting to us because in oracle number four Balaam starts to make prophecies about a Messiah that’s coming to the world through the Hebrew race. And notice, if you will, Numbers 24:17, notice what it says, Balaam says, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star” you see that, “A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, and he shall crush through the forehead of Moab, and tear down all the sons of Sheth.” There’s coming one from this Hebrew race, he is analogized to a star, he is holding a scepter, meaning he is a ruler of some sort, and he is coming from Jacob, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And he’s going to deal permanently with the Moab problem and he’s not going to just deal with the Moab problem, he’s going to deal with every rebellious nation that has ever come against Israel. And so what we would understand this as is this is a Messianic prophecy revealed about one thousand five hundred years before the birth of Christ.
Now let me ask you the $20.00 question: where did Balaam, who articulated this prophecy, where did he live? The answer is he resided in Mesopotamia. [Deuteronomy 23:4, “because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.”] Where is Mesopotamia? It’s between the rivers. It’s where the magi came from.
Now if you just connect the dots a little bit what you’ll discover is these magi, by the time of Christ, are following this star, they’re coming from Mesopotamia where Balaam resided who gave the prophecy concerning the ruler and the scepter coming forth from Jacob analogized to the star, and they had this tradition handed down to them, and so 1500 years before the time of Christ these magi are wising up. And by the time Christ rolls around they know that a Messiah is coming from Israel and they’re told to look for a star, and so when they see this abnormal occurrence of a star they say to themselves, that’s it! That’s Balaam’s prophecy that was given all the way back in the time of Moses and they start following this star. And there’s a reason why they’re following a star, as all of our Christmas cards reflect and it has to do with Balaam’s oracle given all the way back in the book of Numbers chapter 24 and verse 17.
Now let me throw one more detail on this if I could. About 800 years after this prophecy was given, Daniel (who we’re studying on Sunday morning) had another prophecy, and in this particular prophecy, and I don’t have time to defend it right now, but in Daniel 9:25, in the famous prophecy of the seventy weeks. [Daniel 9:25, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.”] Daniel is going to pinpoint the exact day, and when we get to it I’ll walk through it with you to show you how this works. He’s going to pinpoint the exact day that the Messiah is going to show up and present His Messianic credentials to the nation of Israel. And this is why there are very godly people early on in Luke’s Gospel who are waiting in the temple for the Messiah. They know Daniel’s time clock and they know the general time when the Messiah is going to arrive and present his credentials to the nation and so they’re able to kind of calculate backwards and try to figure out the general time when the Messiah is going to be born.
One of those persons is Simeon, Luke 2:25, who was” looking for the consolation of Israel.” [Luke 2:25, “And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”]
Another individual is Anna, Luke 2:36-38 who was looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. Why are they all looking for this Messiah? [Luke 2:36-38, “and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.  and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.  At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”]
Why are they all looking for this Messiah to come? Why are they all expecting this Messiah to come? Because they had, as Jews, Hebrews, access to Daniel 9:25, Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks. And what we discover in Matthew 2 is the Gentiles had this figured out as well. [Daniel 9:25, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.”]
And what we discover in Matthew 2 is the Gentiles have this figured out as well and they’re following a star and they’re interested in this star because it’s showing up at a particular time in history and I think these people, coming from the East to Jerusalem had access to Daniel’s prophecies as well. Now why would I say that? Where was Daniel when he was given this prophecy? He was in Babylon, Mesopotamia, called the land of Shinar if you want a reference for that, Daniel 1:2 indicates that the nation of Israel was taken in the seventy year captivity into this land called Shinar. [Daniel 1:2, “The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.”]
Daniel, of course after he successfully interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2, the chapter that we’re in on Sunday morning, what does Nebuchadnezzar do for Daniel? According to Daniel 2:48 Nebuchadnezzar promotes Daniel, promotes him where? Daniel 2:48 says this: “Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.” All the way back in the sixth century Daniel became the top, what we would call, magi.
So by the time the birth of Christ rolls around, as this tradition was handed down through the ranks of the magi, they had two prophecies. The first one they had is Balaam’s oracle, Numbers 24:17 which connects the coming of the Messiah to a star. The second thing they had was Daniel 9:25 which pinpoints the general time period when the Messiah would show up. [Numbers 24:17, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.”]
And these magi are putting two and two together. There’s a reason that they’re seeking this strange phenomenon in the sky and the reason that they’re interested in it at this particular time in history, they knew the Messianic times that they were living in. And this is a rebuke, if you will, to the Hebrew nation in the first century, because the Hebrew nation in the first century didn’t just have two prophecies, they had the whole Old Testament canon, and they wouldn’t discern the Messianic times they were in, and here are these Gentiles with a much smaller record, prophetically, to work from and they’re able to piece things together and they’re able to explain, they’re able to show up at the time that Jesus was born. And one of my favorite Christmas cards is this: Wise men still seek Him.
The Hebrews did not seek Him but those from modern day Iraq, or Babylon, did. The Hebrews had a fuller record; those from Babylon had a much smaller record but they were able to seek Him and understand the times they were living in, unlike God’s chosen people. And the application is which one are you? Are you like the Hebrews who had a full record and yet are not discerning the Messianic times or are you like the wise men, the Babylonians coming from infamous Babylon, with a more limited record, searching for a Messiah at a particular time in history.
See, it’s very interesting to me that when you study all of these details the Bible starts to fit into place; the pieces of the puzzle become understandable. They should have known of the virgin birth of Christ, Genesis 3:15. [Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”] They should have known the general time period when Jesus was born, Daniel 9:25. [Daniel 9:25, “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.”] And they also should have understood that the coming of the Messiah was to be connected with a strange event in the sky that the New Testament calls an abnormal star.
Let me take you to the third Old Testament prophecy, if I can. Let’s go now to Isaiah 7:13-14, keeping in mind how far in advance these prophecies are given. Genesis 3:15 was given all the way back in the Garden of Eden. Numbers 24:17 was given all the way back in the time of Moses, 1,500 years before Christ walked this earth. Daniel 9:25 was given a full six centuries before the birth of Christ. Notice if you will this third prophecy, it comes from the book of Isaiah, chapter 7 and verses 13-14, this is another favorite on all our Christmas cards, and what does Isaiah 1:13-14 say? It says this, “Then he said, ‘Listen now, O house of David!” as Isaiah is prophesying, “Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well?  Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”
A very interesting prophecy (you’ll notice the word “virgin” there), of the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, 700 years in advance. How long is 700 years? That’s the United States of America times two plus another couple hundred years; that’s how far in advance God is revealing these prophecies. And He makes a very specific prophecy to the prophet Isaiah that when the Messiah shows up, He will be born, He will have no biological father, rather He will be born of a virgin.
Now when you watch A&E, The History Channel, Mysteries of the Bible, what you’ll be exposed to is a bunch of scholars with their PhD’s from Harvard, coming on the air with no conservative opportunity to respond to their arguments, making fun of people who believe that this is some kind of prophecy about the virgin birth of Christ. In fact, an extremely well-known talk show host, whose politics I agree with consistently, who was of Jewish origin, I heard him on the air one time making fun of evangelical Bible believing Christians that actually believed that this is a prophecy here in Isaiah about the virgin birth of Christ. And so what I want to do is I want to equip you for the three arguments that you’re going to hear by people that try to dismiss this as a Messianic prophecy about the virgin birth of Christ.
Argument number one is as follows: It doesn’t say virgin in Isaiah 7:14, the Hebrew word Almah is used. [Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”] Almah is just a word in Hebrew that means a young woman of marriageable age, a maiden. It doesn’t necessarily mean virgin. And if Isaiah was really trying to communicate something about the virgin birth of Christ He would have used an entirely different word, and the word that they think means virgin is not Almah, but Betulah. If Isaiah wanted to communicate the virgin birth of Christ he wouldn’t use Almah, which means a young woman of marriageable age; he would use this other word, Betulah.
And let me tell you why that argument doesn’t work. In Joel 1:8 Betulah is used but it doesn’t mean virgin, it means a widow. What’s the point I’m trying to get at? The Hebrews, the Hebrew language has no word for virgin; it’s not a specific language, like Greek is, where there was a specific word that they could use for virgin. So that argument just doesn’t work.
The second argument is the Hebrew word Almah doesn’t mean virgin. People say look it up in a dictionary, Almah doesn’t mean virgin, it just means a young woman of marriageable age. Once again, Almah had to be used because the Hebrew language has no vocabulary word for virgin. What’s very interesting is this word Almah is used in the Hebrew Bible seven times; six other times outside of Isaiah 7:14 and as you look through those usages what you’ll discover is it could easily apply, in every single context, to a virgin. For example, in Genesis 24:43, Almah is used of Rebecca who was obviously a virgin at the time of her marriage to Isaac. [Genesis 24:43, behold, I am standing by the spring, and may it be that the maiden who comes out to draw, and to whom I say, ‘Please let me drink a little water from your jar;’”]
In Exodus 2:8 Almah is used in reference to Moses’ sister, Miriam, who at that time was a virgin. [Exodus 2:8, “Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Go ahead.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother.”]
Psalm 68:25 uses the word Almah but it’s used in reference to a royal procession of virgins. [Psalm 68:25, “The singers went on, the musicians after them, In the midst of the maidens beating tambourines.”] Since the king, in this context is God Himself, absolute virginity is required; it is unthinkable that God would allow unchaste, unmarried women into his procession.
In the Song of Solomon, chapter 1 and verse 3 the context there is purity of marriage, which is obviously speaking of virginity. [Solomon 1:3, “Your oils have a pleasing fragrance, Your name is like purified oil; Therefore the maidens love you.”]
The word is also used in the Song of Solomon, chapter 6 and verse 8; the word is used here in contrast to wives and concubines who obviously would be non-virgins. [Solomon 6:8, “There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, And maidens without number;”]
Proverbs 30:18-19 the word is used in verse 19 in contrast to an adulteress in verse 20, so obviously when the word is used in contrast to the adulteress, verse 20, it’s speaking there of a virgin. “There are three things which are too wonderful for me, Four which I do not understand:  The way of an eagle in the sky, The way of a serpent on a rock, The way of a ship in the middle of the sea, And the way of a man with a maid.  This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth, And says, “I have done no wrong.”]
What am I trying to say? Every other time in Hebrew Bible where Almah is used it is easily applicable to a virgin.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum, the great Hebrew Christian scholar, asked this: Since all of these above six verses mean virgin, what reason is there for making Isaiah 7:14 the only exception to the rule? I don’t think there was a clearer linguistic way, in my humble opinion, for Isaiah to communicate virginity other than how he did it; there’s no other tool in his arsenal which he could have used to communicate that idea.
Now you’ll notice there on the screen I’ve got this Roman numeral, the LXX. What does that add up to? That’s seventy. That refers to what’s called the Septuagint. Why is it called the Septuagint? Because it’s a translation of Hebrew Bible into Greek a couple of hundred years before the time of Christ by seventy scholars in seventy days. According to tradition these scholars took Hebrew Bible, which was in existence at that time, and they translated it into Greek and they did it a full two centuries before Christ ever showed up. Well, why did they want a Greek translation of the Old Testament? Because Alexander the Great, in the intertestamental period had made the Greek language the known language of the day. And so if you wanted to read the Bible in your own language you had a Greek translation.
And so it’s considered a very high level of translation that these scholars embraced as they did this great work. And when they got to Isaiah 7:14 how did they translate Isaiah 7:14? They used the Greek word παρθένος (parthenos). You say well what difference does it make? It makes a world of difference because in the Greek language parthenos, without exception, always means virgin. And what you have to understand about the Greek language is it’s probably the most precise, specific language the world has ever had.
For example, in English we have one word for love; you might be shocked to learn that in Greek there are actually four words for love, describing different phases of love. So the Greeks had linguistic tools in their arsenal that the Hebrew language does not necessarily allow. And when these great scholars got to Isaiah 7:14 they all believed that it was a reference to the virgin birth of the Messiah, and that’s why they put into the LXX, the Septuagint, the Greek word parthenos.
Nos if that is not convincing enough, in Matthew 1:23, as Matthew is translating Isaiah 7:14 what word does Matthew use as he’s guided by the power of the Holy Spirit. He says, “Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” When Matthew got down to translating that word he also used, under divine inspiration, the word parthenos. I’m very comfortable that Isaiah 7:14 is talking about the virgin birth of Christ because that’s the same conclusion of the Septuagint translators and it’s also the same conclusion of the first writer of the New Testament, Matthew.
The third argument that people use to dismiss that Isaiah 7:13-14, they say this can’t be a Messianic prophecy, and the third argument they use is how could this be a prophecy 700 years in advance? That prophecy needs to relate to Isaiah’s day in some way. So take your Bible and look at Isaiah 7 for just a minute; Isaiah 7:1-2, this can’t be a prophecy that’s going to be fulfilled in a Messiah 700 years down the line, how would that relate to the immediate struggle that Isaiah is in. That’s the argument.
Notice Isaiah 7:1-2, “Now it came about in the days of Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not conquer it.” Verse 2, “When it was reported to the house of David, saying, ‘The Arameans have camped in Ephraim,’ his heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.” People say well how could this prophecy about a virgin birth of a Messiah seven hundred years down the line, how could that relate to the immediate problem that’s described there in Isaiah 7:1-2. And let me see if I can answer that.
First of all, the book of Isaiah makes Messianic prophecies all of the time, does it not? Have you read Isaiah 53 lately; that’s an in-depth prophecy about a coming Messiah. How did that relate to the crisis of the times? It didn’t necessarily relate to it at all, but God is very good at disclosing the future because He wants people to know that in the end everything is going to be all right.
Beyond that, Isaiah 7:14, notice what it says, verse 14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:” What’s a sign? A sign is a miracle, a sign is something that’s so miraculous it’s abnormal. And the reason I bring that up is because people all of the time will say this: well, the prophecy about Isaiah 7 was fulfilled in Isaiah 8 because in Isaiah 8 Isaiah has a son. And so they say it’s not a prophecy about Jesus, it’s a prophecy that was fulfilled about his own son in Isaiah’s day.
Okay, let me ask you a question? How would that be a miracle? How would that be a sign? A normal birth of a child is not a sign; a sign or a miracle is someone born down the road of a virgin. And when you stack up what Isaiah 7 is saying about the son that Isaiah is predicting is going to come and you compare it to Isaiah 8 you’ll see massive differences. Isaiah 7 was never fulfilled in Isaiah 8; Isaiah 7 is a distant prophecy that will be fulfilled with the coming of the Messiah 700 years later. And beyond that what’s very important to understand in Isaiah 7 is there are two crises that are happening. One is the immediate crisis to Isaiah’s day, to a king named Ahaz, who’s very afraid of armies coming against him, and there’s a reference to that in Isaiah 7:1.
But there’s a second crisis; it’s crisis number 2 that people fail to consider. Isaiah 7:2 says, “When it was reported to the house of” what? “David,” what’s “the house of David?” It’s the line that’s going to lead to the birth of the Messiah. You’ve got two crises happening here as this invasion is occurring. Number 1, there’s the immediate crisis to King Ahaz, and the second crisis is there is a crisis in the line leading to the Messiah. And what I want you to see is Isaiah skillfully deals with both crises. For example, in Isaiah 7:3, notice what Isaiah 7:3 says, “Then the LORD said to Isaiah, ‘Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub,’” Isaiah says I want you to take your existing son and I want you to go meet Ahaz. The son’s name is Shear-jashub; do you know what Shear-jashub means in Hebrew? A remnant will return. In other words, the presence of that son as Isaiah was talking to Ahaz was the evidence given to Ahaz himself, but don’t worry Ahaz, everything is going to be all right, a remnant is actually going to return.
But then as you move through the chapter Isaiah shifts and he begins to deal with the crisis to who? The Davidic line, because there’s two crises happening here: there’s the crisis to Ahaz, that’s dealt with, with the existence of Shear-jashub. And then there’s the crisis of the Davidic line and once you get to Isaiah 7:13-14 Isaiah is no longer dealing with crisis A, he’s dealing with crisis B. He’s no longer dealing with the crisis to Ahaz, he’s already dealt with that through the presence of Shear-jashub, now the Holy Spirit directs him to deal with the second crisis, the crisis to the Davidic line.
And I want you to see something that’s happening in this text in Hebrew. English won’t allow you to see it; you only see it with a knowledge of Hebrew. And here is the distinction. The second person pronoun “you” is singular in Isaiah 7:9 through verse 12. And then you get to Isaiah 7:13-14 and suddenly the pronoun shifts from the singular to the plural. And then once you get beyond verse 14 Isaiah goes back to the crisis with Ahaz and the pronoun shifts from the plural back to the singular.
So here’s how it reads: “and the head of Ephraim is Samaria and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you” singular “will not believe, you” singular “surely shall not last.”  Then the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying,  Ask a sign for yourself” singular, later on down in verse… go through verse 12, singular, singular, you get to verse 13, “Then he said, ‘Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you” now it’s plural, “to try the patience of men, that you” plural “will try the patience of my God as well?” You go to verse 14, it says “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you” plural, “a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child [and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”] And you get beyond Isaiah 7:14 and it goes right back to the singular.
It’s a distinction that’s very important because what you see is in verses 13-14 Isaiah, as he’s directed by the Holy Spirit, is no longer dealing with the immediate circumstance that Ahaz was facing. He begins to deal collectively with the nation. And what he is saying here is this army that’s coming against you, and any army for that matter, will never stifle, will never thwart, will never disrupt the lineage leading to Jesus Christ. And in the process he makes a profound statement concerning the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it fits so nicely with the rest of the book of Isaiah, which frequently makes reference to a coming Messiah; Isaiah 9:6 makes that reference, [Isaiah 9:6, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 11:1-5 makes that reference as well. Isaiah 11:1-5, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.  And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;  But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.  Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist.”]
The three arguments are: number 1, the Hebrews should have used a different word for virgin; we’ve dismissed that argument. Argument number 2, almah does not mean virgin, it’s true you look up the word almah in the Hebrew dictionary, it doesn’t mean virgin but it can apply to virgins in all of its other six usages. And number 3, how could you make this a prophecy about the virgin birth of Christ, don’t you understand that this should be a prophecy related to King Ahaz and the fact of the matter is that argument doesn’t work either. And the reason that argument doesn’t work either is because there’s two crises happening in Isaiah 7. Most of Isaiah 7 is dealing with Ahaz but then there’s a shift to the plural where he makes a prophecy about the coming birth of Jesus Christ.
One more and we’re done; you guys have enough energy for one more? Don’t worry, those Christmas presents will still be there. Let’s go to Micah 5:2, I can do this fairly fast. The fourth prophecy relating to the birth of Jesus Christ is Micah 5:2, another prophecy that’s on all of our Christmas cards. What does that prophecy say. It says, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” There’s very little doubt that this is talking about the Messiah because it’s talking about one who’s goings forth are from the days of eternity.
The Hebrew word for eternity is the Hebrew word, olam, which means forever and that is a word used primarily of God Himself. For example, in Psalm 90:2 pf God it says, “Even from everlasting” that’s olam, “to everlasting, You are God.” Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes this: “As regards to His human origin He is to be born in Bethlehem but according to His divine origin He is said to be from long ago, from days of eternity. The Hebrew words for “from long ago” “from the days of eternity” are the strongest Hebrew words ever used for eternity past. They are used of God the Father in Psalm 90:2. What is true of God the Father is also true of this One who is to be born in Bethlehem. The word “forever” or eternity clearly identifies this coming one as God Himself.”
Now keep in mind, Micah, just like Isaiah, is predicting these things seven hundred years in advance. In fact, Micah is a contemporary of Isaiah. Now notice what Micah says seven hundred years in advance. Number 1, he predicts the nation that the Messiah is going to come from because he says “one will go forth for Me to be ruler” over who? “Israel.” Did you all know that Jesus is not a Palestinian? Why do I say that? I visited Bethlehem recently; Bethlehem is controlled by what’s called the Palestinian authority and they put out all of these propaganda pieces that the birth place of Christ was really in a land called Palestine. And so they have this picture of Jesus there, wearing the same kind of head garb that you see in the late Yasser Arafat. It’s a propaganda tool to dismiss the Hebrew lineage of Christ. This is what you hear constantly when you actually get into this subject and study it.
Micah is saying Jesus is not Palestinian, He wasn’t even American, He wasn’t even a Texan, He is to be ruler in Israel. He’s going to come into the world through the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Now this was revealed seven hundred years in advance. And then Micah says let me throw another fact at you, He is going to come from the tribe of who? Judah. Now you probably know that the nation of Israel was divided into twelve tribes. Micah is very clear that the tribe that Jesus will come from will come from the tribe of Judah.
Well why is Judah such a big deal? According to Genesis 49:10, according to Messianic prophecy given by Jacob, the Messiah must come from the lineage of Judah. That’s why Jesus, in the New Testament, is called “the lion of the tribe of” what? “Judah, Revelation 5:5. [Genesis 49:10, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Revelation 5:5, “and one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.’”]
See what Micah is doing seven hundred years in advance is he’s not just giving the nation that the Messiah is going to be born from; he’s also giving the exact part of the nation that the Messiah was going to be born from, from the tribe of Judah. Now would that be specific enough? I think that would be specific enough for me, but Micah says let me take it a step further, I’ll give you the city He’s going to be born from. He’s going to be born in a little town called Bethlehem.
Now what I would have thought, if I were God (and I’m not) is that the Messiah would be born in Jerusalem. I mean, Jerusalem is the main act; Jerusalem is the city that commands the most attention as you go through the pages of the Old Testament. But Micah says you know what, He’s not going to be born in Jerusalem, He’s going to be born in this little tiny city about two miles to the south of Jerusalem, named Bethlehem. That is a very specific prophecy that He is giving here.
And would that be enough? That would be enough for me. But Micah says let me take it a step further. “But as for you, Bethlehem” what? “Ephrathah,” most people don’t know this but in the land of Israel there’s two Bethlehem’s; there’s one up north in the Galilee area and there’s another one about two miles south of Jerusalem. And Micah is so specific in this prophecy he says oh by the way, it’s not going to be the Bethlehem up north, it’s going to be this little one down south.
Now we recognize this because in the United States of America we often have cities with the same name. I was looking at Wikipedia, did you know there are 41 cities in America named Springfield, 25 named Madison, 21 named Salem. And it was sort of like that in the land of Israel; you have different cities with the same name. There’s another Bethlehem up north in the Galilee area. There’s another Bethlehem down south near the city of Jerusalem. And Micah says it’s not going to be up north; it’s going to be down south. And he is revealing this 700 years in advance. It is an astonishing thing that the Holy Spirit has done here through this prophecy.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes this: “Messiah is to be born, not in Jerusalem as one might have expected, but in Bethlehem. This is Bethlehem Ephrathah, as to be distinguished from Bethlehem in Galilee. This Bethlehem is the Bethlehem of David, and of Judah, situated south of Jerusalem.”
Let’s say I wanted to identify somebody. I could be very general and give you what hemisphere they’re living in, then I could get more specific and say well, within the western hemisphere let me give you the country, The United States of America. If I wanted to be more specific, since America has 50 states I could identify the state that they’re living in, the state of Texas of course. But within each state there’s multiple counties, and I named the county. And then within counties there’s multiple cities so I name the city. And then within a city there’s multiple zip codes so I name the zip code. And then within a zip code there are multiple street names so I give you the exact street name. And on any street there are multiple addresses, so I give you the exact address, the house. And then with any house there are multiple people residing in that house so I give you the name of the person that’s residing in that house.
So the prophecies start off very generally and as the Holy Spirit guides Micah they get more detailed, they get more detailed, they get more detailed, they get more specific, to the point where Micah 700 years in advance is revealing the nation, the tribe, the city, the specific city, and people say I just don’t see any proof for Christianity. Compare this to the prophecies of Nostradamus, to the prophecies of Jeane Dixon which are so general and so generic it’s almost like anything could fit. The prophecies of the Bible are at such a different level in terms of their detail and their specificity. And in fact, these prophecies are so specific that when Herod asked his wise men in the land of Israel, where’s the Messiah going to be born, they all identified Bethlehem. They knew exactly where He was going to be born because they were students of Messianic prophecy.
This is the Christmas message folks; Christmas message is about a God who loves you so much that He has brought His own Son, God the Son, Jesus Christ, into our world on an exact schedule, on an exact timetable, with exact details because when He came into this world He had someone on His mind. Do you know who He was thinking about? He was thinking about you, not just generically but specifically. And I believe this, that if you were the only person on planet earth God would have still moved heaven and earth the way He did to bring His Son into our world to accomplish His mission.
And how can a person understand this detail, look at Jesus Christ, and say I’m not interested? I’m too busy. My schedule is too full. What an insult to an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God who orchestrated all of these events. And perhaps you’re here today and you don’t know this God personally. He wants to be personal with you; this information reveals it. Genesis 3:15, the virgin birth of Christ.” [Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”]
Numbers 24:17, He’s coming from the line of Jacob. He’s connected to a star. [Numbers 12:17, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.”]
Isaiah 7:13-14 reveal 700 years in advance He’s going to be born of a virgin. [Isaiah 7:13, “Then he said, ‘Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well?  Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”]
Micah 5:2 gives you the exact little insignificant dinky town in a large nation that He’s coming from. [Micah 5:2, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”’]
And He came into the world and He died on a cross and He rose from the dead and as He rose from the dead He authenticated who He was and He leaves humanity with a very simple message: you in your sin and your depravity cannot fix yourself. No amount of religion, no amount of trying harder, no amount of New Year’s resolutions can help you be made right before a holy God. I will come into the world and I will do the whole thing for you and all you do is receive, as a gift, by faith, what’s been done.
And our exhortation to you is if the Holy Spirit is placing you under conviction to respond to that convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit and to receive on Christmas morning what Jesus has accomplished in your place. It’s not something you have to raise a hand to do, join a church to do, walk an aisle to do, it’s a moment of privacy between you and the Lord where the Spirit convicts you and you respond to Him by faith and simply receive as a free gift what the Lord has accomplished. If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk. It’s something you can do right now even in the quietness and the privacy of your own heart and mind as the Holy Spirit convicts. Shall we pray.
Father, we are overwhelmed at what You’ve done for us; we’re overwhelmed at the detail in Your Word. Help us to not be calloused to these things that you have accomplished. Help us to learn these things and value You even more as we walk with You this week and share Your gospel with others. And we’re so grateful, Father, to be gathered this morning, celebrating the birth of Your Son which you orchestrated so perfectly. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We lift these things up in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said Amen.