The following Old Testament texts either directly or indirectly point ahead in time to the coming of the promised Savior, the Messiah. These prophecies may refer to either His first coming or His second coming, or both. Reading and reflecting on these passages can greatly enrich your worship of the Savior at this Christmas season.
Genesis 3:15; 12:1-3; 22:1-18 (see Galatians 3:8); 49:10
Deuteronomy 18:15-19 (see Exodus 33:17-33)
2 Samuel 7:12-17
Psalm 2:1-12; 16:7-11; 22, 23; 110:1 (see Matthew 22:41-45); 118:22
Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-7; 52:13--53:12
Jeremiah 23:1-6; 32:37-40; 33:6-9, 14-18
Daniel 2:31-45; 7:13-14; 9:24-27
Zechariah 9:9; 13:7; 14:1-11
1. What do you learn about the promised “seed” or “Messiah” from these passages?
2. What do we learn about men and the Messiah from these passages?
3. What do we learn about God and the Messiah from these passages?
4. What do we learn about Israel and Messiah from these passages?
5. What do we learn about the future and Messiah from these passages?
6. What impact were the messianic prophecies and promises to have on the Israelite of old?
7. How did the birth of Jesus fulfill some of the promises above?
8. What promises remain to be fulfilled?
10. Read through the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke, and note which prophecies these gospel writers tell us were fulfilled.
11. From those passages about the first coming of the Messiah which were fulfilled, what can we learn (by inference) about the promises pertaining to the second coming of Messiah?
12. What was it that set apart or distinguished those who recognized Messiah as such, and those who did not? How could one fall down in worship to a baby, as the king?
13. What is it that the genealogy of Jesus is linked to the commencement of His ministry in Luke, but with His birth in Matthew?
14. What does the New Testament make of Jesus’ incarnation? What does Jesus make of it? Does He ever refer backward to His birth and/or childhood?
15. What’s wrong with the world is that sin was found in Satan, and then, through his tempting of Adam and Eve, sin was found in one man, and transmitted to his offspring. The problem of sin and of Satan must be solved.
In Genesis 3 we find:
1. God seeks out Adam, who has hidden from Him (3:8-10)
2. God sorts out and points out the sin and meets out consequences (3:11-19)
3. God provides a covering, to enable Adam to approach Him (3:21)
4. God promises to save Adam, through his seed (3:15)
In Genesis 4 it becomes immediately apparent that the sin of Adam is passing to and through his seed. One of his sons (Cain) kills his brother (Able), and not for any evil he had done, but rather because he had found acceptance with God. The one son of Adam and Eve who would seem to be the “seed” through whom salvation would come is killed! In Genesis 5 Lamech kills another for wounding him, and boasts about it (5:23-24). At the end of chapter 5, Seth is born, and because of him, men begin to “call on the name of the Lord” (5:25-26). Yet by the time we reach Genesis 6 we find that the whole world has become so totally corrupt, so that God must destroy all mankind.
Chapters 6-9 of Genesis are the story of God, Noah and his family, and the flood. God destroyed a world that was already too corrupt to allow to continue, but He spared Noah. There is still hope for the world. God starts all over in 8:20--9:17, making a covenant with Noah in these verses, and all appears to well. And yet in the very next verses (9:18-27) Noah became drunk and Ham, Noah’s son, and Canaan, Ham’s son were involved in sin which brought another curse on them and on their seed.
In Genesis 11 we come to the account of the tower of Babel. Men join together, in rebellion against God and against His command to disperse and to populate the whole earth. They plan to build a city, where they will dwell together, and to build a tower which reaches to heaven. God brought confusion and chaos to this plan by giving them different languages.
Things are looking very bleak for mankind. But, in Genesis chapter 12 God made a covenant with Abraham. In this covenant, called the Abrahamic Covenant, God specified that the salvation and blessings which He had promised Adam and Eve, which would be accomplished by their “seed”, would be fulfilled through the “seed” of Abram and Sarai, who were elderly and who had no children. We are sitting on pins and needles as we watch Abram and Sarai endanger this plan by her representing herself as an eligible bride, so that at least two pagan kings try to take her for their wife. If Sarai was to have a child, it was looking like the child would be the seed of someone other than Abram, and because of Abram’s request that she lie about her identity! And not only does Abram endanger the purity of his wife and their “seed”, he also attempts to raise up a seed through his wife’s servant, Hagar, at Sarai’s request!
How we sigh with relief when we find that God has protected this couple from their own efforts, and when that boy child, Isaac, is born. How puzzling it is when we read that God commanded Abram to sacrifice this child (Genesis 22). How can God’s promise be realized through the death of this promised “seed”? Fortunately, God stopped Abraham from killing his son, and He provided a ram to die in Isaac’s place. At last, we think, the plan of God is finally under way.
But the “seed” of Abraham prove to be a sinful lot. Isaac bore two sons, and he did everything he could to reverse God’s choice of Jacob over Esau. Jacob was a deceiver and a rascal. One wonders how he even survived. By God’s grace, Jacob did survive, and due to his grasping way of life, he ended up with twelve sons, by different wives. These sons were not only willing to kill one another (as they were intending to do to Joseph), they were also willing to intermingle with the Canaanites, as Judah, the designated “seed” through whom the Savior will come (Genesis 49:8-12) is reported to have done in Genesis 38. Were this group of Abraham’s “seed” left to themselves, they would have either killed each other off, or they would have intermingled with the heathen so that there was no distinct “seed” of Abraham, through whom God’s salvation would be accomplished.
And so God worked out a plan (which He had previously revealed to Abraham in Genesis 15:12-17) whereby He would send His chosen “seed” into captivity in Egypt. There, in Egypt, not because of their own piety or purity but because of the racial prejudice and harsh oversight of the Egyptians, God protects His “seed” from themselves and from the corruption of the Canaanites. After 400 years of slavery, the nation has grown great and strong, so strong that the Egyptians fear and oppress them. God delivered this nation from their slavery and began to bring them into the land He had promised Abraham.
Well, at last! Its about time. God’s promise to Abraham seems to be coming to pass. But this nation began to grumble and to rebel against God’s rule. They even wanted to overthrow Moses, and to go back to Egypt. While Moses was on the holy mountain, receiving God’s laws for them, they persuaded Aaron to make an idol for them to worship. With the fire and smoke billowing from that mountain behind them, they made and worshipped this golden calf, and acted immorally as they did.
For a moment, it appears to be all over. It looked as if God were going to wipe out this whole nation, this “seed” and start out all over. It was Moses who reminded God (not that He needed reminding) that God had made a covenant, and that His character and reputation necessitated His keeping it, in spite of the sin of His “seed”, Israel. And so God gave this people His law, a promised to go with them, and with Moses.
That first generation of Israelites never made it into the land, because of their rebellion and unbelief. They thought that the people inhabiting the land of Canaan were too strong, and that God was not able or willing to deliver them over to His people, and so they rebelled. It was necessary for another 40 years to pass, and for this generation to die off, so that they next generation of Abraham’s “seed” could possess the land of promise.
Once in the land, all did not go well, however. The people of Israel were only as godly and obedient as their leaders, the judges. With judges like Samson, things did not look all that promising for the nation. Israel, by God’s grace, did survive, but they wanted to have kings, not judges, just like the nations around them (1 Samuel 8). Their first king, Saul, was Israel’s kind of king. He was, as it were, tall, dark, and handsome. But he was not a man after God’s heart. And this king had to be removed. Then God appointed David, not as promising from outward appearances, but a man after God’s heart. God made a covenant with David, promising him an eternal throne, and indicating that it was through his “seed” and his dynastic line that Messiah would come (2 Samuel 7:5-17). In spite of this David sinned greatly, taking the wife of one of his men, and then the life of Uriah, to try to cover his sin (2 Samuel 11). God disciplined David, but forgave his sin and reiterated His covenant with him. The “seed” of Adam, and of Abram, and of Judah, and now of David, would be both the Savior of the world, and its King.
The kings who followed David did not offer much assurance, for many of these kings were wicked men, who led the Israelites into idolatry and other sin. Things went well when good kings reigned, but they went badly when wicked kings ruled, and the wicked kings outnumbered the good ones. To make matters worse, David’s son, Solomon, who seemed to offer such promise, was not at wise at the end of his life as he was at first. By his own foolishness, Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, split the one united kingdom of Israel into two kingdoms. There were never again to be reunited in the history of Israel.
To help keep Israel and her kings walking as God commanded, God sent prophets to the nation (and, after the division, to both kingdoms, Israel and Judah), to remind them of His law, and of what it meant. They also spoke of a future day of restoration, when God would first chasten His people and bring them to repentance and faith, and judge the nations and peoples of the earth. They spoke of a coming Messiah, Who would both bear the sins of the people, and who would rule as God’s mighty king, on the throne of His father, David.
These prophets were not received with open hearts and open arms. They were persistently rejected, persecuted, and all to often put to death. Israel did not wish to hear what God had to say.
The whole of the Old Testament can be summed up by saying that men were persistently messing up what God had provided. It became more and more forcefully clear that if salvation was going to come, if Satan were to be defeated and if sin were to be overcome and eradicated, it would not be by men, or by their efforts. To sum it all up, if God were to bring about Israel’s salvation and blessings, along with those of the world, it would have to come about through a very special “seed”, because the seed always multiplied the sins of their fathers. Things only got worse. The answer was that the “seed” through whom God would save the world was to be a true man, but also true God, God incarnate, who would dwell among men, show Himself the sinless Son of God, and then die for their sins. Israel’s hope was in a man, but in a very special man, a very special seed. And that “seed” was to be the Lord Jesus, the Christ.
When we look at all of the different epochs or stages in the history of man and in the history of Israel, there are several consistent features which appear in every age. Let us conclude by focusing our attention on them:
Man’s persistence in sin and rebellion against God contrasted against:
These four elements of God’s presence, His promise, His provision and protection, and His preparation are evident throughout the Old Testament, virtually every time He makes a covenant with men.
[Perhaps these four elements can be further reduced to two: (1) God’s preservation of His people, and (2) God promise of a salvation yet to come.]
The covenants or promises which should receive our attention are these:
The one thing which the Old Testament made absolutely clear was the sinfulness of men--all men--and thus the impossibility of overthrowing sin and Satan by an mere man. The law did not remedy the problem of sin, but merely restrained and removed sinners. And sin was such that the Law sometimes was perverted to become an excuse, even a mandate, for sin. This becomes very clear when the teachings and practices of the scribes and Pharisees, which they thought were based on the law, became their excuse for sin, and even for the rejection and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.
Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘AND TO SEEDS,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘AND TO YOUR SEED,’ that is Christ (Galatians 3:15-16).
Progressive revelation--growing detail about the promised seed.
The sinfulness of men--consciously or unconsciously opposing or resisting the coming of the promised Savior.
A strong sense of danger, or even of doubt, that God’s plan and promises would come to pass, based on man’s sin.
The faithfulness of God, to keep His promises, in spite of our sin
The power of God--He is unstoppable
The creativity/freedom of God--to accomplish His purposes in ways we would never predict, expect, or believe.
A Mysteriousness. The promised seed came in a way which completely fulfilled all the promises, but in a way that we never expected.
A merging--of the two comings. The first coming was never separated, in prophecy, in fulfillment, or in response to His birth.
A contrast, between first and second comings. First coming, Jesus seems vulnerable, and He is gentle, approachable by sinners, not condemning. Second coming in splendour, power, and unapproachable. Comes to judge, to overtake enemies, and to reign.
We tend to focus on the commencement (the birth of Messiah), rather than on the consummation (second coming). Is this the way the Old and New Testament writers saw it? Both the prophecies of the Bible, and the accounts of recognition and response to Jesus point to the emphasis on His ultimate destiny and work. How many biographies spend a great deal of time focusing in on the birth of great men? No, but they rather focus in on the great work of these men. And so with the New Testament. How much do the apostles make of the birth of Jesus? Are we ever commanded to commemorate His birth?
We focus on the first coming of the Christ because it is warm and fuzzy, reassuring and comforting. We like to keep Jesus in that manger, helpless, dependent on us. But the Bible never leaves Him there. Indeed, there is very little time or emphasis placed on the early years of Jesus, in terms of biblical proportions.
The “seed” is the “servant” in Isaiah. There is an inter-weaving of the servant as Israel, as individual men, and as Messiah. The Lord became the “seed” and the “servant” because no other seed or servant could do what had to be done.
Note the progressive revelation in the life of Jesus as to who He was. He was not introduced, at His birth, as the “little lamb of God,” but rather at the commencement of His public ministry, by John.