Sunday, December 5

Prophecy and the Birth of Christ

The first in a month-long group of entries taking a look at Christmas and its different aspects, this entry will discuss something remarkable: The Virgin Birth, what scripture tells us about this. 700 years before the birth of Christ, the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 7:14 gave the following prophecy: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel." (Which means, "God With Us.") Isaiah 9:6 says, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

From these two verses we can determine that there would be a child, born to a virgin, who was God, who was everlasting. But from what family? Isaiah 11:1-2, "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The [Holy] Spirit of the Lord will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord." This indicates that the child, the "shoot" would come from the bloodline of Jesse - the father of King David, second king of Israel. (2nd Samuel 2) Matthew 4:12-16 specifically links Isaiah 9:1-7 with Jesus Christ, the Messiah. But before we go to Christ, what else do we know about the birth of this boy? We know that a star would herald his birth, "a star... out of Jacob." (Numbers 24:17, 19, fulfilled in Matthew 2:1-2)

We can also determine where this child would be born. Micah 5:2 says, "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 old times." Out of Bethlehem will come God's chosen one. What have we determined thus far? A child, who is the everlasting God, would be born to a virgin, his birth heralded by a star, in the town of Bethlehem. He would be the Messiah; this would be the birth of the Messiah. Has this ever occurred? Yes - circa 4-2 BC. "This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit... an angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because of what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'" (Matthew 1:18, 20-21)

Matthew 1:22 continues, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.'" Luke also gives an account of Christ's birth. Luke 1:26-27, "In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary." Now we see a set of circumstances: over 700 years after the prophecy of Isaiah, among others, there is a virgin in a town in Galilee, pledged to be married to a descendant of King David himself. Yet we see that this is Nazareth, not Bethlehem. An angel appeared to Mary in Luke 1:31-33 and told her, "You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David."

Mary replied, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" - to which Gabriel replied, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will called the Son of God." (Luke 1:34-35) Now we have another set of circumstances: we see in the genealogies of the Gospel that both Joseph and Mary are from the line of King David, which shoots down what skeptics say about Joseph not being the true father. We also see that the virgin was just told she would give birth to a son - the Son of God, who is everlasting. (Luke 1:33) He would be born into the bloodline of King David, and would be a "shoot" of Jesse in this way. Yet Bethlehem is not involved in this child's birth - yet. Luke 2:1, 2 says, "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world... And everyone went to their own town to register." How does this involve Joseph and Mary?

Luke 1:4-7, "So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manager, because there was no guest room available for them." It is here where we find things have lined up. The child is born to a virgin, in the city of David, Bethlehem, into the bloodline of King David. But was there not also a star to herald his birth? Matthew 2:2 says, "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."

The wise men had said this to King Herod, so Herod went aside and asked his priests and teachers of the law where the Messiah was to be born. "'In Bethlehem in Judea,' they replied, 'for this is what the prophet has written:' 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'" (Matthew 2:5-6, quoting Micah 5:2, 4 - though the prophecy appears different due to the English translation - the Old testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, whereas the New was written in Greek.) After careful study, scholars understand that the wise men did not visit Christ directly after his birth - it may have been up to two years. It is believed that Joseph and Mary lived in Bethlehem for at least two months after his birth, up to two years, before fleeing to Egypt. This is backed up by the usage of  verse 11, "on coming to the house..." instead of the stable, where Christ was born. After Herod had heard what his teachers and priests said, "Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." (Matthew 2:7-8)

The wise men themselves fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 72:10, "May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores bring tribute to him. May the kings of Sheba and Seba present him gifts." Matthew 2:9-11 continues, "After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him." The wise men proceeded to fulfill Psalm 72:10, "Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route." After this, an angel told Joseph in a dream to take Mary and the child, Jesus, to Egypt - which fulfilled the prophecy found in Hosea 11:1, "Out of Egypt I called my son," just as Matthew states in Matthew 2:13-15.

The birth of this child fulfilled prophecy revealed over 700 years before. This child was Immanuel - Jesus. He did enter into the line of David, he was a "shoot" of Jesse, he is the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. He was born to a virgin named Mary, and he was born in Bethlehem in Judah. Jesus himself says after his death and resurrection in Luke 24:44, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."
Troy Hillman


  1. I wonder how you manage to write and express so well. The transparency I get in your writing has made me a regular visitor to your blog.

  2. Thank you, I certainly appreciate that. I hope the writing continues to be informative and somehow helpful. God bless you.