Several years ago I helped teach a confirmation class at the church we then attended. My portion was the "Jesus" section of the class. No big deal, right? That was all I had to teach. Just Jesus. That's a little like saying, "The only thing you're responsible for is EVERYTHING!" Because, frankly, He's the whole ball of wax. I mean, we can talk about other things, but if you're in a class in which you're going to stand up in front of God and the whole congregation and profess to faith in Him, it doesn't much matter what else you know, because if you don't have Jesus right, you might as well have stayed home and watched the football game.
Anyway, in preparing to talk about Jesus, I did what I always do--I studied long and hard, and overprepared. There are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament about the Messiah, and I looked them all up. I wanted to be clear with these earnest (and pressured-to-be-there-by-their-parents) kids about who the Messiah was expected to be and how only one man--Jesus of Nazareth--could fulfill all 324+ of those prophecies. It was quite a study. Made me in awe of God and His master plan that was already taking shape before the ink was dry on his first words of creation. The students, I must admit, weren't nearly as impressed as I was. After all, they got the tiny-fonted three-page list I created before 9 AM on a Sunday morning. They weren't quite awake to what God had done.
And perhaps that's the case with most of us. We aren't quite awake to what God has done. Last week, while Beve's brother and wife were here, we were talking at one point about reading scripture, and Beve's brother said he doesn't often (ever? did he really say ever?) read the Old Testament. I know I was a little aghast at this, but the truth is that for many of us, the 'real' story of Jesus begins with Matthew. Or Luke.
But God was teaching His people about the coming Incarnate in no uncertain terms for hundreds--thousands!--of years before Jesus ever took a breath, before the first cells began to divide within Mary's womb. God was already on the move.
So this month, as we wait and watch and prepare to for His birth, I thought I'd spend some time with the words of the Old Testament that foretell of His coming. It would take almost a full year if I took a single prophecy a day to write about, and though an interesting idea, I'm probably not disciplined enough for that long a project. Instead, because Matthew is known as the Jewish gospel for its emphasis on the ways in which Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophesies, it seems right to 'merely' look at Old Testament words that find their fulfillment in the book of Matthew.
We'll see how this goes.
For today, I'll leave you with this thought: when God first cursed the serpent for how he had lied to, tricked and manipulated the woman, He said, "I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel." Genesis 3: 15
Right there is the first mention of the coming Messiah, the One who would crush the enemy's head. The enemy might hurt the One, but only the heel. Crushing the head means destruction. That's what Jesus did. Matthew1:21 says, "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."
It's very encouraging toknow that God was preparing all along for how He'd save us. He wasn't flying by the seat of His pants, trying this solution then that one. He always knew what it would take, and was always on the way to it. From the moment of the first sin, He was ready with the solution. Jesus Himself, the fulfillment.
Come, Emmanuel. Wake us up to what you've done. Prepare us again for your coming. Help us wait, expectantly. And help us recognize you when you arrive because you've been telling us all along who you are.