The Birth of Jesus Foretold in the Old Testament — Hope

Message: The Birth of Jesus Foretold in the Old Testament — Hope

Text: Matthew 1:18-2:6

Time: November 28th, 2004

We are now officially in the Christmas season (applaud!). Thanksgiving is over, all the turkey has been cooked and eaten, and now we await Christmas day which comes in about one month. We await the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ December 25th. But let’s think about what it was like to await the very birth of Jesus 2000 years ago. Did you know that the Jewish people, the nation of Israel was waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of Israel for many, many years? And they had real, concrete hope because their prophets had spoken about the Messiah many times, and these promises gave the people hope that no matter how hard things got — and things at times got real hard for the Jews — there was hope of the coming Messiah to save them. How bad did it get for the Jews? Imagine living in Jerusalem or in the nation of Israel and having your whole city and nation conquered and everyone shipped off to a foreign land to live in captivity there. That’s what happened to the Jewish people in exile. But even as they lost their land and lost their famous city of Jerusalem and their nation, they never lost hope in the coming of the Messiah, the Rescuer, the Savior. It was the hope of the Messiah that helped the Jews survive exile and eventually helped them stay unified as a people. Everyone needs hope; we need hope today. If you don’t have hope you really have nothing to live for, you have no reason for getting up in the morning. What is the hope? That tomorrow will be better than today, that things will work out, that dreams — at least some of them — will come true. We all hope for things. And one of the great things about the Christmas season is that it reminds us of the hope we have in Jesus for our lives and the lives of our loved ones. With Jesus, with the coming of Jesus born in Bethlehem, we are reminded again of the hope we share, hope for a better tomorrow in this life, and a hope for a better next life also. What the Christmas season brings is hope, every year, renews our hope for the coming New Year. It’s amazing what the birth of a little baby can do, the power of that special child. What I’d like to do today is look at the hope these ancient people had of the coming of the Savior, and how we can learn from them about believing and having faith.

First, the ancient people had hope because God gave them promises about the Savior’s coming. Scattered throughout the ancient writings were little hints that there was coming a Rescuer, a Messiah, and a Savior. Look at 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.” This passage describes a strange birth, a virgin would have a child, and his name would be Immanuel, which means when it’s translated, “God with us.” That’s strange. But that was a little clue, a hint about what was to come. Now we know that it came true when the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus 2000 years ago. But for those people way back in time it was only a hope. What does the Book of Proverbs say, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick?” Some of the Jews had lost hope of anyone coming to rescue them. 2000 years ago the Romans had conquered the land of Israel and ruled the land. In A.D. 70, the Romans actually tore down the Temple and removed all Jews from the city of Jerusalem. So the Jews were for centuries waiting for the Deliverer. They hung onto the clues, the hints and the promises the prophets had written down in Scripture. And that is what our hope is in as well – in the promises God has spoken through the prophets in scripture, the Bible. There are many promises that have already been fulfilled in the Bible, but also many that have yet to be fulfilled. We put our hope in the promises that have yet to be fulfilled. Things like the return of Jesus for a second time, eternal life with God, and things like that. We are confident of things in the future because of the things that have come true in the past. With the birth of Jesus the prophecies came true concerning Jesus’ first coming, now we look for his second coming with confidence. This gives us hope. Sadly, there are people today who have no hope. They just live day to day — trying to grab as much happiness as possible but without any real hope for anything better in the future. Some people give up altogether and drink or party or get high to kill the pain of hopelessness in their lives. But with the Christmas season there is every reason to have hope for the future, based on the fulfillment of the past.

Second, even though the people of the past had concrete promises for hope many still didn’t believe. Another major prophecy about the coming of Jesus is Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” It was even predicted where the Messiah would be born; and the people, the Jews, knew the prophecy and knew where it would occur; yet some still didn’t believe. Did you know that the majority of Jewish people never have accepted the fact that their long awaited Savior has come in Jesus Christ? It’s true. Even though all the prophecies of his coming have been fulfilled, they didn’t believe. Why? Because the hope they had wasn’t perfectly fulfilled in Jesus Christ. They were hoping for a political Savior, a military Messiah, and Jesus didn’t fit that bill, so they wrote him off. But the funny thing is that in a couple hundred years, the church that Jesus established would eventually conquer the political powers of the world and become the official religion of the Roman Empire. Emperors would bow before Jesus and the church. So, ironically, even the political and military aspects of what most of the Jews hoped for were fulfilled through the Christian faith in two or three hundred years. But that wasn’t the primary purpose of Jesus. His was to set people free from their sins, to free people from divine judgment and eternal separation from God. He did that on the cross. So what does all this teach us? That we need to hope, but we need to also make room for God to fulfill our hopes and dreams in ways we can’t imagine. In other words, don’t be too narrow in your hope. The Jews were too narrow-minded in their hope of a Messiah. They didn’t leave God with any room to fulfill things in his way, in his time. They boxed God in and consequently missed out in the joy of Christmas. This Christmas we are reminded of hope, but let’s keep in mind that we must keep an open mind to receiving from God in the form that He chooses to give to us. Jesus was the Savior, but he came as a baby. Ok, I accept that. Thank you God. Jesus came to rescue me from my sins, from judgment. But he did it through the death on a cross. Ok, I accept that also. God wants to do all kinds of things in your life, but you must be open minded enough to receive them in whatever form God wants to give you. What is it that you are hoping for today? What are you hoping for when you pray? Fine, but be open minded enough to receive what God gives you in the form and manner in which he gives it. Don’t make the mistake of the Jews.

Third, like the ancient people we must not give up hope even though we go through hard times. Think about the fact that between the last prophecy concerning the coming of the Savior, the Messiah, in the Old Testament prophet Malachi, and the coming of Jesus, there were hundreds and hundreds of years. In those years there were no prophets coming forward to encourage the people, there was just silence. What was God doing? Why didn’t he speak? Why didn’t he encourage the people? Finally, before Jesus started his ministry John the Baptist came and preached, “A voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him.” And then, suddenly, the prophet’s voice was heard again! The ministry of Jesus soon began. But between the last Old Testament prophet and John the Baptist there were hundreds of years of silence. And sometimes in our lives it seems as if God is silent, that he isn’t doing anything or saying anything to us. We go through dry times; difficult times were we don’t feel his presence very strongly. What are we to do then? How do we hang on to hope? We hold on to the promises of God by faith. That’s what faith is, holding on when we can’t see things or feel things. The Bible says, “We walk by faith and not by sight.” The ancient people, the Jews, kept the faith in the silent years by simply believing. They didn’t hear new revelation, but they clung to the old revelation. I’ve said over and over again that the Christian life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It’s not a 100 yard dash, it’s a 26 mile marathon. And it’s hard at times. It’s easy to drop out. It’s easy to give up or go back to the old life. Some of you have come out of the darkness and into the light, but you’ll face times when you are tempted to go back to the old ways because it’s easy, but resist that temptation. Fight through it and you’ll be rewarded by God. Don’t lose hope, cling to God’s promises. God promises if you trust and obey him you won’t be disappointed. Believe that. Christmas reminds us that if we cling to, believe and trust in God, he won’t disappoint. After hundreds of years the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah came true, they happened. In Bethlehem the Savior was born, the wait ended, the promises came true. Now as we wait for the fulfillment of all God has promised us in the future, we can wait in confidence too. We know God will come through at the right time, he did it before, and he’ll do it again.

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