Friday, October 8, 2010

Messianic Prophecies in Matthew 2

1. List the three fulfilled prophecies found in chapter two and their significance.

The first prophecy listed it from Mic 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." (NIV). It is interesting to note that those who reported to Herod didn’t use the very last part of the verse that speaks of the origins of the predicted Messiah. His origins reveal that this verse applies to the Messiah and not to an ordinary man who would become King.

It is significant in that after hundreds of years of prophecies, the first one to be publicly fulfilled had finally occurred and only foreigner and shepherds knew it had happened. The last book written in the Old Testament was some 400 years earlier. This means that the nation of Israel had not heard from God through a prophet for a very long time. They had been waiting and looking for just this event. When it finally happened, they should have been overjoyed and all ran to Bethlehem to worship Jesus. Instead, only some foreigners and shepherds knew it and went to worship. You would also think that if they knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, they would have kept a watch on the town and every boy born there.

However, I think they had become apathetic about their Messiah. The predictions were so long ago that they didn’t really expect them to come true. The same has happened with many in the Christian faith. Take these words for example. John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (NIV) Acts 1:11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." (NIV) It has been almost 2,000 years since they were spoken and many Christians do not really expect Jesus to return. They may say they do, but they don’t keep watch. They act as if Jesus were not really going to return. They are like the Jews who knew the Scripture prophecies but could care less. It has gotten so bad that many denominations have “spiritualized” His return denying that He will physically retrun.

Where are you at? Are you watching (living your life as if He is going to show up any second) and praying that today will be the day of Jesus’ return? Or do you look at the prophecies and consider the length of time since they were given and conclude that the probability is that it won’t be today or even in your life time? Does this cause you to be lax in your commitment to Him? If you are not watching and being ready, then you are being disobedient. Jesus said, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." Luke 12:38 (NIV).

The second prophecy was from Hos 11:1. "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son." (NIV) Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, this is another prophecy that would be hard to identify as a Messianic prophecy. Matthew and others wouldn’t have been able to understand that this applied to the Messiah. It is significant in that God had to make sure that Jesus was taken to Egypt before the disaster came upon Bethlehem. It was so important that the angel of the Lord had to tell Joseph specifically what to do. He could have fled to many places so the destination was made clear. In obedience, Joseph did what he was told and another prophecy came true.

The third prophecy is from Jer 31:15. This is what the Lord says: "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more." (NIV) This is even harder to understand as a Messianic prophecy. Historically, this happened when the Babylonians captured Jerusalem and decimated the population of Judah. At first reading, this is all about the tribe of Benjamin. Ramah was a city near Bethlehem belonging to the tribe of Benjamin. Rachel was Benjamin’s mother. What is the connection to the Messiah?

This prophecy was fulfilled because of the cruelness and wickedness of Herod. He was so obsessed with protecting his own power and throne that he set out to make sure that no boy anywhere near the age of Jesus would live. To do this, he not only killed all the children in Bethlehem (including his own son) but also those in the vicinity and that included many from the tribe of Benjamin, thus fulfilling the prophecy.

This massacre shows the extent to which evil man, inspired by Satan, will go to try to stop God’s plan. If Herod had succeeded in killing Jesus, then the salvation of all mankind would have been at risk. It would have proved that God was not capable of foretelling the future, that He was not capable of controlling circumstances to protect His plan, and it would have left God with no other plan to save us.

However, Herod failed in two ways. First, he didn’t take into account God’s sovereignty and His ability to protect Jesus. The Magi’s gifts gave Joseph and Mary the needed funds to flee and safely live in Egypt. God’s ability to speak to the Magi in their dreams ensured that they didn’t report back to Herod and gave Joseph enough time to escape. Second, by killing all the boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding towns, there was no one able to claim that he was the Messiah other than Jesus. He is the only survivor of those born in Bethlehem when the star appeared.

If God can predict these details hundreds of years in advance, then shouldn’t we be able to trust Him? Rom 8:28-29 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (NIV)

There is also a final fourth prophecy regarding Jesus. It is that He will be called a Nazarene. It is not in reference to any specific prophecy of the Old Testament. One thing is clear, the people of Nazareth were despised. Nathanael’s asked if anything good could come from Nazareth in John 1:46. In Isaiah 53:3, within the greatest prophecies about Jesus, we see that it is predicted that Jesus would be despised. By settling in Nazareth, Joseph ensured that Jesus would be despised even before He had a chance to prove who He was.

Even today, people automatically despise Jesus. They want nothing to do with Him even though they really don’t know anything about Him. A lot of people will say that they love God but don’t want to have anything to do with Jesus. However, Jesus made it clear. John 5:23b He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. (NIV) John 15:23 He who hates me hates my Father as well. (NIV) What do you think? Can someone who has proved his hatred of God by despising Jesus possible expect to have eternal life? There is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus, the Messiah.

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