Old Testament prophecy announcing Jesus’ birth

This segment of our look at Advent focuses on Old Testament prophecy announcing Jesus’ birth. We’ve seen prophecy about Jesus, but this is specifically about announcing His birth. As we progress through the series on the first Advent, we get more and more granular. It’s truly amazing that prophecies, written by various people, and across thousands of years, all combine together to bring us the person so many people were waiting for two thousand years ago. Jesus Christ, the Messiah and savior for all who believe in Him.

Old Testament prophecy announcing Jesus' birth is article #4 in the series: Advent. Click button to view titles for entire series
Old Testament prophecy announcing Jesus' birth

It’s pretty much impossible to find an image that shows what Jesus’ birth was really like. This one shows Jesus with Mary and Joseph. Also some animals and one angel. But the image is far more picturesque than the real birthplace was.

In the same way, people’s expectations were probably beyond what the real birthplace was. The passages we normally use announcing Jesus’ birth are also probably visualized as being more “civilized” than the reality of where Jesus was born.

So, I’m going to use a passage that isn’t normally used as Old Testament prophecy announcing Jesus’ birth. And I’m going to use a person you don’t normally hear about in that light either.

To that end, we’ll start with a passage from Nelson’s Topical Index again. It’s from Luke. But then we’ll take a drastic and likely unexpected turn to get to the Old Testament from that passage in Luke.

So, without further adieu, here we go.

Where are we in the Advent study?

Lets’ start with the topic table. The grayed-out portions are from the previous articles.

1st or 2nd Advent Prophecy subject Verses
First Advent:    
  Prophesied Deut. 18:18;
Isa. 7:14
  Came as man Phil. 2:5–8
  Announced Luke 2:10-14

Once again, we have a problem with the reference verse from Nelson’s Topical Index. As discussed in the previous segment, Old Testament prophecy cannot come from the New Testament. So, as we did before, we must look at Luke 2:10-14, then go backwards to find an Old Testament prophecy related to it. With that in mind, here is Luke 2:10-14 in context.

A quick look at the Luke Passage

The Shepherds and the Angels

Lk 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Lk 2:13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
Lk 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Lk 2:15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
Lk 2:16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Much of what’s in this passage was in previous segments. Since I don’t want to repeat too much, verses 8-10 are the focus for today’s study on Old Testament prophecy announcing Jesus’ birth.

Why choose Abram/Abraham for Old Testament prophecy announcing Jesus’ birth?

The later verses in the passage appear much more obvious than my choice of verses. So why pick something on Abram/Abraham. Let’s start with a synopsis of his life from All the Men in the Bible. Going through the information on Abraham’s shows why I chose the verses on Him as my example of announcing Jesus’ birth. Of course, we must also take into account everything from the earlier segments that also, because they describe Jesus’ birth, are a kind of announcement.

ABRAM, ABRAHAM [A’bram,A’braham]—THE FATHER OF A MULTITUDE. The original name of the youngest son of Terah was Abram, meaning “father of height.” Abraham was given to him when the promise of a numerous progeny was renewed to him by God (Gen. 11:26; 17:5, 9).

Please see What religion was Abraham? for a look at Abraham’s life from a different point of view. It looks at whether or not Abraham really was the father of three religions.

The Man Who Was God’s Friend

Abraham’s place in the Bible’s portrait gallery is altogether unique and unapproachable. He stands out as a landmark in the spiritual history of the world. Chosen of God to become the father of a new spiritual race, the file leader of a mighty host, the revelation of God found in him one of its most important epochs. In himself, there was not much to make him worthy of such a distinction. His choice was all of grace.

As you read that last paragraph, did it remind you of anyone else? Let’s see what I mean.

He stands out as a landmark in the spiritual history of the world.

Arguably, no one stands out as more of a spiritual landmark in spiritual history than Jesus.

Chosen of God to become the father of a new spiritual race.

Pay special attention to the underlined verses.

The Ministry of Reconciliation

2Co 5:11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

2Co 5:16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2Co 6:1 As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

As Paul wrote, Jesus was not “just” a new race, but those who believe in Him are a new creation. Jesus was the one chosen by God the Father to be to reconcile us to Him.

the revelation of God found in him one of its most important epochs.

What is more important than eternal salvation?

John 3:16

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

When Jesus was born, the Jewish people were split on their beliefs about eternal life. The Pharisees said yes. But the Sadducees said no. Jesus, the means of that eternal salvation, sent by God Himself, said yes. And in this short, but often not truly understood passage, Jesus gave us the path to be saved.

Yes, I did say often misunderstood. Believe doesn’t mean the same thing today as it did back then. Not the actual word used in the original gospel records nor within the context of what Jesus said throughout His life. For more on that, I encourage you to read Are we supposed to Believe God, Believe in God or Follow God?

In himself, there was not much to make him worthy of such a distinction.

In himself, there was not much to make him worthy of such a distinction. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? And yet, that’s what the Bible says about both Abraham and Jesus.

First of all, if you read the previous segment, you may remember the verses below.

The Suffering and Glory of the Servant

Isa 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isa 53:4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

Isa 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

That description goes even beyond the description of Abraham. And by the way, we need to lose that image many westerners have of Jesus as a nicely groomed white man with brown hair. Jesus was middle-eastern. And they didn’t have fancy hair salons like we do today. And, do we really think a traveling teacher had time to keep up that kind of appearance?

There’s also a comment from those who knew Jesus.

A Prophet Without Honor

13:54-58 pp — Mk 6:1-6

Mt 13:53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. 54 Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”

Mt 13:58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Of course, this wasn’t anything physical. But Jesus was rejected by those in his hometown.

The final piece of this isn’t about Jesus’ birth, but it is about His death, and it is relevant to these verses in Isaiah taking Jesus beyond the description of Abraham. The following two passages show this. No elaboration is needed. Just read and you can imagine the rejection of and disdain for Jesus.

Jesus Before Pilate – Mark

15:2-15 pp — Mt 27:11-26; Lk 23:2, 3, 18-25; Jn 18:29-19:16

Mk 15:1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

Mk 15:2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.

Mk 15:3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

Mk 15:5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Mk 15:6 Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

Mk 15:9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

Mk 15:12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

Mk 15:13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.

Mk 15:14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Mk 15:15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

and also

The Soldiers Mock Jesus – Mark

15:16-20 pp — Mt 27:27-31

Mk 15:16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

A sheep master

Abraham’s life is given us in detail, and we know him as we know few men of the Bible. He was from the great and populous city of Ur, and therefore a Gentile although he became the first Hebrew. He was a rough, simple, venerable Bedouin-like sheep master.  [1]Herbert Lockyer, D.D., D.Litt.; Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Michigan; A Division of HarperCollins Publishers

Abraham as a rich sheep master. Jesus as a poor shepherd. And yet, Jesus’ “herd” was so much more valuable.

Lord of the Sabbath – Matthew

12:1-8 pp — Mk 2:23-28; Lk 6:1-5
12:9-14 pp — Mk 3:1-6; Lk 6:6-11

Mt 12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

Mt 12:3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Mt 12:9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

Mt 12:11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Mt 12:13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

As Jesus said – How much more valuable is a man than a sheep!

Why choose Abram/Abraham?

I chose Abraham because of all the comparisons. There are many instances where someone in the Old Testament foreshadows someone in the New Testament. In Jesus’ case, there are lots of comparisons. However, for the verse we’re working with from Nelson’s Topical Index, Abraham is my choice.

The key verses

Once again, here are the key verses for today’s topic – Old Testament prophecy announcing Jesus’ birth,

Lk 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

No, they aren’t directly the verses from Nelson’s. But they are part of the passage. And they’re the lead-in to the Nelson’s verses. Besides, this is part of my “artisanal” Bible Study category. It’s not the normal you-always-hear-them verses. It changes things up a bit. But still makes the point.

Here’s a final passage to tie it all together. The Law to redemption through Jesus. Faith and faith. From Abraham to us through Jesus.

Faith or Observance of the Law

Gal 3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

Gal 3:6 Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Gal 3:10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Conclusion – Old Testament prophecy announcing Jesus’ birth

You might be wondering what this has to do with announcing Jesus’ birth. Well, here’s the thing about that. None of these things could have happened without the birth of Jesus.

That’s true, but still, why take this approach? Remember that in Isaiah, there was a suffering servant and a conquering hero. While some, maybe many, Jewish people expected this to be two different people, it turned out to be one. Jesus.

The Messiah the Jews waited for in the first Advent was actually both of them. Yes, Jesus dies on the cross. And his “movement” seemed doomed when He did. But then Jesus rose from the dead. Hope. And then Jesus ascended to Heaven. More hope, because Jesus proved that resurrection and going to Heaven was possible. Finally, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus’ disciples. And “The Way”, now known as Christianity, took off and has been going strong ever since.

When Jesus returns, the second Advent period we are now in while waiting for that event, He will truly in every way be the conquering hero.

But here, in the prophecy about the first Advent, I’ve chosen to show that through people and events in the Old Testament, God proved ahead of time that He could fulfill the promises made about the Messiah. A messiah that, as we saw in an earlier article, was promised way back in the Garden of Eden.

So what I chose to do was take the life of Abraham to show something of what God did with him. To show that God really did have plans for His people. And that He can and did make them happen. And the reality that the Jewish people were anxiously awaiting their Messiah proves that they did believe God’s promises would be fulfilled.

In that light, remember, we started with these reference verses:

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Lk 2:13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
Lk 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

And we ended with:

Gal 3:10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

What could be of greater joy for all the people beyond knowing that we can all be redeemed/saved by faith in Jesus?

And we saw above how Abraham was a key figure in God making this come about.

Hope to see you next time when we look at Old Testament prophecy about the timing of Jesus’ birth.


Image by Ich wünsche allen eine besinnliche Advents- und from Pixabay


Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Herbert Lockyer, D.D., D.Litt.; Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Michigan; A Division of HarperCollins Publishers

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