Monday, December 24, 2007

For Unto Us a Child is Born

As Christmas approaches, the Bible has struck me in a new way when talking about Jesus. Christmas has always been an amazing time to think about how a baby in a manger is both God and man, and how that baby would grow up to live a sinless life and die a sin-filled death in order to make atonement for people who rejected him. He is most assuredly our savior. But, this Christmas, the Bible brought out another view of Jesus that I had only scarcely seen before.

Mostly because of Hebrew language courses, I have spent more time in the Old Testament this year than I usually do. It is amazing. For instance, in Deuteronomy, the LORD speaks to Moses and says, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him” (Deut 18:18). Now, fast forward to the Gospel of John. The priests and Levites were curious about John the baptizer and asked him, “Are you the Prophet?” (John 1:21). The priests and Levites knew their Old Testament. They were waiting for the Prophet the LORD had told Moses would come. At that point it had been 400 years since the last word of the Old Testament had been written, yet the Jews were still wondering who the Prophet might be. Here is the kicker: Jesus said, “I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment” (John 12:49). Jesus claimed to be the Prophet the Jews were waiting for.

When Jacob blessed his twelve sons in the first book of the Bible, he gave Judah a special blessing. He said, “Judah is a lion's cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him” (Gen 49:9). At the end of time, as described in the last book of the Bible, John, the beloved disciple, stood before the great throne and wept because no one was worthy to open the scroll sealed with seven seals. An elder said to him, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals” (Rev 5:5). Jacob’s blessing has been waiting for a long time for consummation.

Isaiah, in his famous chapter about the coming Messiah, wrote, “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa 53:11). Key in on a few words: he shall see and be satisfied. What does that mean? How will the coming Messiah be satisfied out of the anguish of his soul? Can satisfaction come from anguish? The rest of the verse shows this satisfaction is in the context of bearing their iniquities. I think the writer to the Hebrews picks up on this, when he writes “for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). Somehow, when Jesus looked before him toward the cross there was joy, dare I say satisfaction, in knowing what he would accomplish, namely, bearing our iniquities.

Again, Isaiah writes, “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted” (Isa 52:13). Paul declares the fulfillment of this prophesy when he writes, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11).

One final example, I think that good Jews during the day of Jesus knew their Old Testaments well. Therefore when the angel came to Mary his words must have been stunning: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30-33). Do you see how the angel’s words to Mary echo the prophesies of Jacob, Moses, and Isaiah? These were not throwaway words for Mary. They were jaw dropping words that had an immediate impact, “The Messiah will be my child? How can this be?”

The Abell family prayer for you this Christmas is that you would be in awe of the baby Jesus, for he is the culmination and fulfillment of the Old Testament. Merry Christmas!

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