Whilst researching for Advent and Christmas services, I attempted to find all the prophecies in the Old Testament that place the traditional characters in the Nativity, including a few that do not get mentioned in the Gospels. Below is a list of all the Old Testament prophecies with the relevant verses from the New Testament. I have also included a rough date as to when the prophecies were written.
"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." - Micah 5:2 (742-687 BC)
"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 manger, because there was no guest room available for them." - Luke 2:4-7
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." - Isaiah 7:14 (740-681 BC)
"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. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” - Luke 1:26-28
"The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his." - Genesis 49:10 (Moses 1445 BC)
"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." - Isaiah 1:11
"The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land." - Jeremiah 23:5 (627-586 BC)
“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because 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 1:20-21
Joseph was a direct descendant of King David, whose father was Jesse, which is evidenced by the genealogy in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. If Mary had not married Joseph and married someone else, then the whole thing would fall apart. She had to marry someone of David's line, therefore, the two of them coming together could not have been by chance.
"The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand." - Isaiah 1:3
“Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. “I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch;
"And He will reign as king and act wisely
"And do justice and righteousness in the land.
“In His days Judah will be saved,
"And Israel will dwell securely;
"And this is His name by which He will be called,
"‘The LORD our righteousness.’" - Jeremiah 23:3-6
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night." - Luke 2:8
"The LORD is my shepherd..." - Psalm 23
See Luke 2:8
"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel." - Numbers 24:7 (Moses 1445 BC)
"The people who walk in darkness
"Will see a great light;
"Those who live in a dark land,
"The light will shine on them." - Isaiah 9:2
"We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." - Matthew 2:2
"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
"And the government will rest on His shoulders;
"And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
"Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6
"I called him out of Egypt..." Hosea 11:1 (753-715 BC)
The Holy Family fled to Egypt to escape to hide from Herod the Great who wanted to kill Jesus. When the king had died, God sent an angel to tell Joseph it was safe to bring his family out of Egypt.
"Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." Luke 2:11
"Let the kings of Tarshish and of the islands bring presents;
The kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts." - Psalm 72:10 (c.1000 BC)
"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 worshipped him. 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." - Matthew 2:9-12
The number of kings is not mentioned in the Bible, nor indeed that they were kings. Tradition has put three names as bearers of three gifts, principally because of Psalm 72:8-17. The names of the kings or magi are Melchior, who is often cited as coming from Arabia, Caspar, who is often cited as coming from Sheba or Turkey, and Balthasar, who is sited as coming from Egypt, Ethiopia or Yemen. Three kings, coming from the three known continents at that time is symbolic of the world coming to the Christ child. "People have seen a great light..." Isaiah 9:2-7
"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 they are no more.'" - Jeremiah 31:15
In this verse, Rachel is the wife of Jacob and the children are her descendants, the babies killed by Herod after Jesus' birth.
"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?" Matthew 2:1-2
John the Baptist
"I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty." - Malachi 3:1 (430 BC)
"Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” - Luke 1:13-17
The nativity that we enjoy today is based upon Luke and Matthew but it is also based upon many of the Old Testament prophets. The nativity shows the prophecies of the Old Testament coming into fulfilment. He HAD to come from Bethlehem. He HAD to be of David's line. There HAD to be a star. He HAD to come from a Virgin. He HAD to be called out of Egypt. There HAD to be shepherds. And to show that the whole world would worship him, there HAD to be the kings. Plus a lovely touch in Isaiah, which reminds us that the ox and the ass know their masters but the people of Israel do not. So, when we look at a simple Christmas card featuring the nativity, there is so much more to be said.
So far, so good. Fairly easy and straightforward. However, Luke provides a different genealogy to Matthew. In essence, Mary has also come from the line of David, but instead of it being Solomon's line, it is from one of David's other sons called Nathan. It is from this line that Luke traces Mary's right to come from the Line of David. So, Jesus was Mary's son, descended from Nathan. Both Mary and Joseph have that David link but from different forefathers. The reason this is important is that King Jechonias, called Coniah in Jeremiah 22:24-30, was so evil God cursed him and his decedents and wanted him known as being childless (1 Chronicles 3:17). If that is true, that clouds Joseph’s direct descent but to be honest, that is another sermon.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon