Monday, December 25, 2006

Introduction

.... The wonderful Christmas story, so familiar to us all, was actually many centuries in the making: for in speaking through the ancient prophets, God foretold how He would bring His beloved Son into the world. In all of prophetic history, only the death, burial and resurrection of Christ would receive more attention in detail.
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The birth of Jesus took place in an historical setting that the prophets foretold. The underlying story of His genealogy, in itself, was a Divine masterpiece of intrigue, suspense, and prophetic fulfillment. But the quiet events of that first Christmas morning, so long ago, have assumed a life of their own in our modern traditions. Wise men and shepherds are familiar Christmas symbols as they gather around the tender baby who lies in a manger, while a chorus of angels proclaim the Lord’s good will to mankind.
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But how did the prophets envision this story? What details can they add? And what is the significance of the birth of Jesus on that day? Let us begin with a comparison between the New Testament writers and their prophetic counterparts, as the story unfolds between them.
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Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Annunciations


.... In the fullness of time, God sent the angel Gabriel to Zacharias, a humble Levite priest, as he ministered before Him at the temple in Jerusalem. Appearing in a vision, the angel foretold the birth of John the Baptist who would be sent before the Messiah. And with this indirect mention, the first stirring of the Messiah’s own coming was announced:
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"And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:17)


.... "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD . . "
(Malachi 4:5 - 397 B.C.)
.... " . . The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God."
(Isaiah 40:3 - 712 B.C.)
.... In the sixth month the angel was sent again, this time to a young virgin named Mary, who was espoused to Joseph of the house of David. And as he greeted her, he spoke of the favor she had found with God: "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women!" (Luke 1:28)
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.... Through Mary's genealogy the seed of David had been preserved; and through Joseph’s genealogy the claim to David’s throne, though long ago fallen, had remained by way of entitlement. In the child she would bear, the two parts of God’s ancient covenant would come together again in one person at last:

.... "I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: 'Your seed I will establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations.'" Selah.
(Psalm 89:3-4 - 961 B.C.)
.... The angel told how the child would inherit the throne of David, his earthly forefather: "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1:32-33)
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.... "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 kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this."
(Isaiah 9:6-7 - 732 B.C.)

.... But Mary was confused by his proclamation. How could he speak of her giving birth while she was still a virgin? "How shall this be?" she asked. So the angel foretold the virgin birth:
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"The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you. Therefore, also, the Holy One who is to be born shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)

.... "For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth-- a woman shall encompass a man."
(Jeremiah 31:22 - 597 B.C.)
.... Mary was espoused to Joseph, who was heir to the house of David. Espousal was a stronger counterpart to our modern concept of an engagement, though it was less than an actual marriage. Because of this, Joseph had not yet known her intimately. For three months, Mary stayed with her cousin Elizabeth (to whom John would be born), and when she returned to Nazareth her pregnancy was beginning to show.
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Joseph, not understanding what had taked place, was naturally disturbed, and considered whether to divorce her. But being a just man and not willing to make her a public example, he was minded to do this quietly.
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But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." (Matthew 1:18-20)

.... "Hear now, O house of David! . . . the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel."
(Isaiah 7:13-14 - 732 B.C.)
.... "And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS . . ."

.... ". . . The LORD has called Me from the womb; from the matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name."
(Isaiah 49:1 - 712 B.C.)
.... ". . . for He will save His people from their sins."

.... " . . . the LORD . . . formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him . . ."
(Isaiah 49:5 - 712 B.C. )
.... Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her intimately until she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS (Matthew 1:24-25).
.... "Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit have sent Me."
(Isaiah 48:16 - 712 B.C.)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Birth of Jesus


.... And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed (Luke 2:1).

.... "There shall arise in his place one who imposes taxes on the glorious kingdom . . . "

(Daniel 11:20 - 537 B.C.)

.... So everyone went to be taxed, each to his own city; and Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem (for he was of the house and lineage of David), to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, who was great with child.
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... And so it was that, while they were in Bethlehem, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered (Luke 2:3-6):

.... "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 5:2 - 704 B.C.)

.... But no room was made for them at the inn, so Mary brought forth her firstborn Son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger. As it was spoken by the prophet:

.... "The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master's crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider."

(Isaiah 1:3 - 732 B.C.)

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Shepherds in the Field


.... And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid:

.... "Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you."

(Isaiah 60:1-2 - 712 B.C.)

.... And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
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And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:10-14).

.... "Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel."

(Isaiah 44:23 - 712 B.C.)

.... And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said one to another, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us." And they came with haste and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
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.... And when they had seen this, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all those who heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds; but Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:15-18).

.... "All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together to you, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall ascend with acceptance on My altar, and I will glorify the house of My glory."

(Isaiah 60:7 - 712 B.C.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Wise Men from the East


.... Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem:

.... "The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising."

(Isaiah 60:3 - 712 B.C.)

.... And they came before Herod 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."

.... "I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel . . ."

(Numbers 24:17 - 1423 B.C.)

.... And when Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him (Matthew 2:1-3). And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Messiah, the Christ, would be born:

.... "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,‘ Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us’."

(Psalm 2:2-3 - 1014 B.C.)

.... Quoting from the prophet Micah, the chief priests and scribes told him that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. So Herod secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star had appeared, and sent them under a pretense, saying: "Go and search diligently for the young Child; and when you have found Him, bring back word to me that I may come and worship Him also." (Matthew 2:4-8). But his real intention was to slay Him:

.... "I have been afflicted and ready to die from My youth up."

(Psalm 88:15 - 961 B.C.)

.... When the wise men heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
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.... And coming into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:10-11) .

.... "The kings of Tarshish and of the isles will bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba will offer gifts. Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him. And He shall live; and the gold of Sheba will be given to Him; prayer also will be made for Him continually, and daily He shall be praised."

(Psalm 72:10-15 - 985 B.C.)

.... ". . . the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you. The multitude of camels shall cover your land, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall proclaim the praises of the LORD."

(Isaiah 60:5-6 - 712 B.C.)

.... Afterward, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, the wise men departed for their own country another way. And when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him."
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.... When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son." (Matthew 2:12-15)

.... "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My Son."

(Hosea 11:1 - 723 B.C,)

.... "His king shall be higher than Agag, and His kingdom shall be exalted. God brings Him out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox; He shall consume the nations, His enemies; He shall break their bones and pierce them with His arrows."

(Numbers 24:7-8 - 1423 B.C.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Christmas Legacy


.... In our modern understanding of Christmas, the birth of Jesus was a touching event with presents in the night and the shepherd’s secret knowledge of something wonderful. But from another direction the hunt for His life was on; for ultimately, God had sent Him into the world for this very purpose:


.... "Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name."
(John 12:27-28 - 30 A.D.)
.... Jesus was born through a virgin by the Spirit of God, making Him both the Son of God and the Son of Man, and this put Him in a completely unique position. Being fully human, He could be tempted in every way, just as we are; yet being fully Divine as well, He was able to overcome every temptation He faced (Isaiah 42:1,21; 53:9; Hebrews 4:15). In this way He passed every test that mankind has ever failed, which made Him our champion in a very special way.
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.... When we yield to temptation, sin follows, and the wages of our sin is death (Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23). But in all of His life Jesus never sinned -- yet He died anyway, suffering the brutal death of the cross as the prophets foretold of Him (Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10). Therefore, in giving His life, Jesus paid a price He did not owe. This allows Him to pay the price for others, who could not pay; He became our substitute, to redeem or ransom us from our own sins by giving His life in our place. Thus He became a spotless, pure sacrifice, well pleasing to the Lord, in fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial typology:

.... "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities."
(Isaiah 53:10-11 - 712 B.C.)
.... But the same passage issues a challenge to us all: "Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" (Isaiah 53:1). For God requires each of us to believe the testimony He has given of His Son, and to put our trust in Him (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).
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.... After Jesus died, He rose again on the third day as the prophets foretold of Him. Through His death He paid the price for our sins, and through His resurrection He brought newness of life that He would share with all those who would believe in Him:

.... "I have set the LORD always before Me; because He is at My right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore My heart is glad, and My glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave My soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show Me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
(Psalm 16:8-11 - 1014 B.C.)
.... His followers became witnesses that these prophecies were fulfilled, and they left us records of the life they shared with Him, His death and His resurrection, and what it all means to us. And those records have survived to this day. If you would like to read them, they may be found in the book called The New Testament.
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.... To respond to the Lord's great love for you and receive forgiveness of your sins, and to begin a new life with the Him today, you must express to God that you believe in His Son Jesus and that you have decided to place your complete trust in Him. You must also confess your sins to Him, and repent of them. Below is a suggested prayer that includes the basic information you will need to talk about. All you need do is discuss it with Him honestly:


.... God, I believe that Jesus came from You, and that You sent Him into the world. I believe You gave Him Your words, and that He spoke to us all that You commanded Him. I believe You have given all things into His hand; and I humble myself, confess Jesus as my Lord, and surrender my life to You according to Your purpose. I am putting my trust in You.
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.... I believe that Jesus gave Himself for my sins, and I believe in my heart that You have raised Him from the dead, just as the prophets foretold of Him. I confess my sins to You, and my need for You; I repent of my sins, and I ask for Your forgiveness through Jesus, that I may receive the new life that You have given through Him.
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.... And I thank You for Your love, which You have shown us in giving us Your only Son. Teach me and help me understand Your words so I can always please You, and help me become more like Jesus as I learn.
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.... I am eager to hear from You and to know You better. In Jesus’ name I pray ... Amen.