As I listened to the two anthems for the upcoming service, what jumped out at me is how many references there were to prophecies about the Messiah in both sets of lyrics. The fact that He would be born of a virgin, come to save, be called Emmanuel, among others, were reminders that God had been planning this advent all along, and was unfolding a further revelation in the coming of His long-awaited Son.
The reason these prophecies were so vivid to me is because the past few months I’ve been studying Messianic prophecies, particularly relating to the events surrounding Good Friday, as I work on the 2019 Lenten devotional (tentatively titled Whispers of Redemption). The Old Testament is bursting with promises, hints, peeks, and declarations about the coming of the One who would save us, so we can look at them, see how exactly Jesus fits the profile, and confirm He is the Promised One, the Messiah, Our Savior.
Canon Dyson Hague said, “Who could draw a picture of a man not yet born? Surely God, and God alone. Nobody knew 500 years ago that Shakespeare was going to be born; or over 250 years ago that Napoleon was to be born. Yet here in the Bible we have the most unmistakable likeness of a man portrayed, not by one, but by twenty or twenty-five artists, none of whom had ever seen the Man they were painting.”
From as early as Genesis, not long after the Fall and when hope was at its lowest ebb, came the first promise, that the seed of a woman would come and set things right. Then, millennia later, came Mary, who “was found with child of the Holy Ghost:” (Matthew 1:18). Paul remind us that Jesus was that promised seed (Galatians 3:16, 19). What is unique about this Genesis prophecy is it is the only time the phrase “seed of a woman” is used in scriptures. Generally “seed” is used in terms of men, for obvious reasons, but this use of the phrase was a hint at the virgin birth.
Isaiah takes that hint to the level of a declaration when He says, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (Isaiah 7:14). The declaration became reality when Gabriel explains the process to Mary and she says, “Be it unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, see also vv. 23, 31, 34, 35).
Isaiah, Micah, and Hosea foretold things about His origins—that He would come from Jesse (tribe of Judah, house of David), He would be born in Bethlehem (City of David), and sojourn in Egypt. Even that He would be come out of Nazareth was foretold (Psalm 9:1, 25; Matthew 2:23). Who else in all of history fit each of these details?
Gabriel told Mary and Joseph to name the baby Jesus. Arthur Glass makes the fascinating statement that “every time the Old Testament uses the word SALVATION (especially with the Hebrew suffix “my,” “thy,” or “his”) with very few exceptions…it is identically the same word as YESHUA (Jesus). This is actually what the angel said to Joseph—They shall call His name YESHUA (salvation).” I don’t know about you, but that quote really opened my eyes, and gave me goose bumps! Jesus is hidden in plain sight throughout the scriptures, waiting to be looked for and discovered. When we look back and see all God has done to point to Him, we should be awed and grateful!
As our anthem so beautifully says, “Call His name Emmanuel.” God with us. This truth is jaw-dropping. That the God, against whom we have rebelled and have rejected, would want to be with us is astounding. That He would pay such a personal cost for that to happen is beyond fathoming. Emmanuel—He is with us—because He left all the glories and comforts of heaven and became one of us. He is with us because He has promised to never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6,8; Hebrews 13:5; Isaiah 41:10-13; Matthew 28:20). He is with us despite what He knows about us. He is with us faithfully. He is with us and in us as our hope of glory. That He is with us was a promise given more than 500 years before His birth.
There are volumes written on the prophecies about Christ in the Old Testament, and we only have the space for a few, but these handful are reminders of the faithfulness of God, displayed in the gift of His Son to us. We should rejoice, indeed, for God is with us! Let the wonder of that wash over you as you sing the lyrics of this song. Let it be the song in your heart each morning as you rise, going forth knowing He is with you. And let it be your peace as you lay down your head at night: Rejoice, Emmanuel!
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries