The Great Birth Prophecy #1

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Title: The Great Birth Prophecy

Text: Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18-25

Date: November 4th, 2007

I New Testament Fulfillment

II Old Testament Prophecy

III God Controls the Past, Present, Future

We’re getting closer to Christmas 2007, eight Sundays until we celebrate the birth of Jesus. This year, rather than starting in December after Thanksgiving, I’d like to start the Christmas season earlier this year because there always seems to be a lot more I want to say about the birth of Jesus but can’t because there isn’t enough time. So this year I’ll be dealing with the Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus’ birth, working through each one step-by-step instead of rushing through them as I usually do each year around Christmas. I’ll start today and cover next week also the two great Christmas prophecies found in the prophet Isaiah, the Immanuel prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 and the “unto us a child is born” prophecy of Isaiah 9:6. Then, for the third week in November, I’ll talk about the famous Bethlehem prophecy of Micah 5:2. And then, finally, for the last week in November, I’ll speak about another prophecy concerning the Christ Child from the Old Testament. Once we get into December, I’ll start talking more specifically about the New Testament accounts of Christmas, and what that means to us today. So it should be a very interesting Christmas season because we’re starting it early at the church this year. Probably the most famous of all Old Testament prophecies concerning Christmas is Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will be child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Here is a direct reference to the virgin birth of Jesus as described in Matthew and Luke of the New Testament by the prophet Isaiah 700 years before it occurred. What an amazing thing, what an amazing prediction, what a phenomenal event to be prophesied to happen and then to happen! This proves the supernatural reality of our Christian faith. But if you happen to watch television, from time to time you may see a program that attempts to debunk the virgin birth of Jesus, attempting to argue against it ever happening. The History Channel runs documentaries around Christmas time doing this, but so also does ABC News, CNN, National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, A&E, and other secular networks. One of the points they try to make is that in the Old Testament in the original Hebrew language, the word used in the prophecy isn’t “virgin” but rather “young girl.” They also try to say that the Isaiah passage isn’t talking about a coming future Messiah but rather a present baby boy to be born soon as a sign of God’s favor. So skeptical tv documentaries try to dismiss the great Immanuel prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus, but I’d like to show how they are wrong because they overlook the miraculous nature of biblical prophecy. The prophecy shows that God is in control of the past, present, and future. Nothing takes God by surprise, and in that we can find confidence and security. Let’s turn to the Immanuel prophecy and see what it really says and means.

First, the New Testament fulfills it. Matthew 1:18-25 (22-23), “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel,’ which means ‘God with us.’” Jesus came into the world in a special way, which makes perfectly good sense because He was a special person, the most unique person in all of history. The prophecy speaks specifically about Christ’s deity or divinity. Jesus Christ was “God in the flesh,” just as the word Immanuel means, “God with us.” Now there are many other places in the New Testament that demonstrate that Jesus was in fact God in human flesh, but here is a prophecy 700 years earlier that speaks of God’s visitation to earth in the form of a baby boy, Jesus. It makes sense that if God were to visit his creation, the planet earth and the people living upon it, that he would make his entrance in an unusual way. There aren’t many babies who enter the world at birth in fulfillment of ancient prophecy, but Jesus was no ordinary baby, he was Immanuel or “God with us” in his birth. No other baby can fulfill that prophecy. When I was born way back in Ann Arbor, Michigan in December, 1959, there was no prophecy surrounding my birth. I can bet there wasn’t a prophecy for your birth either when you were born. Every birth is a miracle, every life is special, but some births are more special than others, and Jesus’ birth was more special than any other because he was God in human flesh come to die for our sins on the cross and provide us with eternal salvation as a result. His birth was special because his mission in life was special. The skeptics on television and in books (if you browse through the shelves of the religion section in most secular bookstores like Barns & Noble and Borders) will argue that the early Christians in the first century church created the virgin birth story in order to express their deep admiration for Jesus, but my question to these skeptics is how did the early church create the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy? How could the early Christians create the prophecy that tells of a virgin giving birth to a child called “God with us?” The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered last century and they contain documents dating back before the time of Christ and they include the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy. So early Christians couldn’t have made up that prophecy. No. The only reasonable explanation is that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy with his birth in Bethlehem to the virgin Mary. Only somebody who doesn’t believe in the possibility of miracles could doubt this supernatural event. Christmas is a time when we as Christians can celebrate this great event with full faith in God. God is a God of miracles. That’s the only way you can explain not only Christ’s miraculous birth but also his miraculous life as well.

Second, the Old Testament predicts it. Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Now once in a while in addition to watching a skeptical television program on the birth of Jesus or reading a doubt-filled book about the virgin birth, you may run into a Jewish person who doesn’t believe in Jesus as the Savior and who will try to argue that the Hebrew word in the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy isn’t “virgin” but rather “young woman.” They will then go on to try to explain to you that it doesn’t say that a virgin shall bear a son called Immanuel, but rather that a young woman will bear a son, nothing supernatural or miraculous. They may also try to argue that the child was to be an encouragement for the Jews at that time only, not some messianic prophecy for the future. But both of these points are mistaken. Number one, in the 3rd century B.C. the Old Testament Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek for the many Jews who lived outside of the Promised Land and who didn’t understand Hebrew but understood Greek. This Greek Old Testament was widely used by Jews centuries before Christ and they – the translators of this Old Testament Greek Bible – used the word “parthenos” or virgin, not the Greek word for young woman, in their translation. So these ancient Jews, the translators from Hebrew into Greek, must have thought it was talking about a virgin and not just a young woman. Now the original Hebrew word “alma” means generally “young woman” but can also mean “virgin” — although it doesn’t specifically mean that. But the point is, the old Jewish translators thought the word meant “virgin” because that’s how they translated in the Greek Old Testament Bible called the Septuagint. So if a Jew argues that Isaiah isn’t talking about a virgin, then he’s really arguing against his own people because the ancient Jews were the ones who translated from the Hebrew into the Greek the word “virgin” in this passage in the Septuagint. The point is that there is no problem with the word “virgin” in the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy. Number two, prophecy can have two meanings or a double meaning. The prophet Isaiah, known as one of, if not the greatest, prophets of the Old Testament, could have made a direct and an indirect prophecy, a present and a future prophecy. That often happens in prophetic writings. Isaiah can address both the people of his time and also people in a future time as well. Why? Because the point isn’t the prophet himself, the point is the God behind the prophet speaking to people words of revelation. Why can’t God encourage the people of Isaiah’s time and also prophecy to another age as well? That is exactly what indeed happened. Isaiah’s immediate prophecy was fulfilled, but his future prophecy in the same passage took 700 years to fulfill. Anybody who argues against it just doesn’t understand the very nature of prophecy; they haven’t studied other prophets either, because this kind of thing happens again and again. God is the God of the past, present, and future. A God for all times.

Third, God controls the Past, Present, and Future. Matthew 1:18-25 (22-23), “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel,’ which means ‘God with us.’” What does it mean to say that God controls the past, present, and future? It means that we don’t ever have to worry or fear or be anxious about the future because we know that God is in control. We don’t ever have to worry that things will go out of control on earth or in our lives, because we know that God is in control. Think about people who don’t know or believe that God is in control. Think about how anxious they must be about the present and future condition of the world. Maybe some of you remember how anxious and worried you used to be before you placed your trust in God to love and care for you. On television recently, they’ve been running programs about disasters and potential disasters that could come upon the planet earth. Some of the threats to our planet come from outer space, like asteroids crashing into the earth, or deadly energy bursts coming from exploding stars, or other such dangers from space. Then there are the dangers that lurk upon the planet itself. Right now, climate change, global warming is being talked about a lot, but there are also dangers from volcanoes, earthquakes, and gas leaks. Then of course, there are man-made dangers such as some super virus that wipes out humans or the biggest fear going back decades, nuclear war that wipes out the planet. How are we to react to these worries? Well, we can consider the fact that God is in control, that nothing surprises God, that he knows the beginning and the end, that everything is in his hands including us. The Isaiah 7:14 prophecy shows that God knows the past, present, and future. It shows that nothing that he purposes can be prevented. As soon as Isaiah the prophet spoke the 7:14 passage it was a done deal, it was a guaranteed truth. No one, nothing could stop it. Herod thought he could stop another prophecy concerning the birth of the messiah in Bethlehem, so he tried to kill all the male babies in that city around the time of the bright star in order to end the prophecy, but he failed. Did he really think he could thwart the plan and prophecy of God? Nothing can stop God when he has his mind made up to do something. That should give us comfort about our lives as we look ahead to the future. Will there be a nuclear war? Will terrorists use biological weapons or weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons? What will happen to the United States? What will happen to me, to you? What will happen to our friends and family in the coming years ahead? We don’t the know future, but we know the one who holds the future in his hands – God. He will work all things together for good, as Romans 8:28 tells us, for those his children. The Isaiah 7:14 prophecy reminds us of this.

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