In the Old Testament, there were over 400 specific predictions and prophecies about the Messiah, the Christ, that God’s people were to be looking for to identify who this coming Savior was to be. He had to fulfill all of them to be able to claim the title of this very special and specific identity. It was clear that God didn’t want some imposter to be able to have the ability to falsely claim that he was the promised Messiah, and thus add himself to the growing list of cute fairy tales that we tell our children to make them feel good.
See, it isn’t uncommon, when talking about your faith in Jesus these days to be confronted with the argument that Jesus was just a normal who thought he was God, or who claimed he was God, but was indeed incorrect in his assertions. It is common to hear Jesus placed in the metaphorical company of Santa, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy, as a fictional character that we tell kids about, but who has no serious relevance for today’s world or its issues.
And so, if we’re put on the spot about Jesus, it is difficult to come up with some kind of certainty that he was indeed the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, predicted hundreds of times over thousands of years. So we do one of two things, usually…we either stop putting a lot of stock in Jesus and what he says about how we should live, or we get defensive and angry with anyone who would challenge this belief we say we hold, but don’t know how to discuss with any level of clarity.
For lack of time, I am not going to review all 400+ predictions about the Messiah. But in the short moments we do have together as you’re reading this, I want to look at one of the specific prophecies that Jesus fulfilled out of the Old Testament. It’s kind of like finding 400 fingerprints in hundreds of different locations that only one person could match with precision.
Since it is the Christmas season, let’s take a look at a prophecy about the birth of Jesus found in Micah 5:2-5.
For some historical background, Micah lived between 750-686 BC when he was inspired by God to write this prophecy down. And in his prophecy, he predicts the birthplace of the coming Messiah…700 years before Jesus was actually born in the barn in Bethlehem!
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.”
So when the Magi, the 3 kings in “We Three Kings”, visited King Herod and asked where the Messiah King was to be born, Herod turned to the teachers of the OT Law and asked them what the prophets predicted about the birth of the Messiah, they responded with a sense of incredulity at the ease with which it took to answer this question. They were like, “Pssshhh…easy one, Herod…” In other words, “Herod, everyone who studies the OT knows that the Messiah has to be born in Bethlehem.”
Matthew 2:3-6 says, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
But there’s a problem in the Biblical narrative, at this point, if history was just allowed to run its course… Mary and Joseph weren’t living in Bethlehem. In fact, they were living in Nazareth, 98 miles from Bethlehem – which is a 32 hour walk if you don’t stop walking…with your very pregnant wife!
There was no way that Mary was going to give birth to this baby in Bethlehem if were up to her. But it just so happened in the divine plan of God that King Augustus, living thousands of miles away, demanded that everyone under his jurisdiction return to their hometowns to be counted and taxed. So even though Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth, they were forced to travel to Bethlehem…just as Mary was about to give birth to the baby Jesus. Thus, as unlikely as it was going to be, God ensured his Messiah Jesus was able to be born in Bethlehem, as he predicted in his Word 700 years earlier.
This prophecy, like this one found in Micah 5, matches the life of Jesus. That’s really solid identification! And Jesus fulfilled over 400 different and specific Messianic predictions from the Old Testament!
But, what does this mean to us today? Why do fulfilled Messianic prophecies even matter to you or to me?
So that you know you can believe what God says in his Word. So you can put your whole trust in his Son. And so you can be firm in your resolve to base your life completely on the Bible every single day.
Think about this: it could only be by the divine plan and working of God that Jesus would be able to fulfill every Messianic prophecy, including predictions about his death, burial, and resurrection that makes it possible for you to have a relationship with God. There’s no one else that it could have been and there’s no other way that it could have happened. God said it. God did it. And you can, then, put all of your trust in him. He is reliable and his Word is trustworthy…even in 2018!
Allow me to give you some perspective…
Though not statistically impossible, the numerical probability of winning the recent Powerball Lottery was extremely slim – only 1/292,200,000. In your lifetime, there are a number of things you are more likely that you would do than to win the Powerball. For example, you are more likely to…
- have a baby born with teeth (1/2,500 odds)
- be injured by a toilet (1/10,000 odds)
- be struck by lightning (1/13,500 odds)
- win an Olympic gold medal (1/622,000 odds)
- die from flesh-eating bacteria (1/1,000,000 odds)
- die from a local meteorite, asteroid, or comet impact (1/1,600,000 odds)
- picking all “Sweet Sixteen” teams in the NCAA March Madness tournament (1/1,900,000 odds)
- be killed by a shark (1/3,748,067 odds)
- be hit by part of a plane falling from the sky (1/10,000,000 odds)
- die in a Grand Canyon flash flood (1/14,270,000 odds)
- give birth to identical quadruplets (1/15,000,000 odds)
- hit 3 consecutive hole-in-one’s in a game of golf (1/156,250,000 odds)
And to have won the recent Powerball Lottery, you had a 1/292,200,000 chance…if you even played. And this is far from the realm of impossibility.
Statistical impossibility for thermodynamic experiments is quoted at 1/100000000000000000000000 (that 1/1023). This is referred to as Avogadro’s number, the probability ratio considered acceptable by the scientific community to render something statistically impossible. So even the highly improbable even of winning a huge lottery drawing is well within boundaries of possibility.
Now, let’s consider the chances of a person fulfilling Messianic prophecies…
Mathematician Peter Stoner, in his classic book, Science Speaks, calculated the enormous improbabilities of Jesus fulfilling the 400+ prophecies that exist in the OT about the Messiah. In fact he said that the possibility of Jesus fulfilling even these 8 Messianic prophecies (born in Bethlehem, preceded by a messenger – John the Baptist, entered Jerusalem on a donkey, was betrayed by a friend who received thirty pieces of silver, was silent before his accusers, and died in the manner Romans used for criminals – crucifixion, during which they pierced his hands and feet)… the possibility of Jesus fulfilling even these 8 Messianic prophecies would be 1/10,000,000,000,000,000 (ten quadrillion). Insanely improbable, but still mathematically possible.
But then the possibility of Jesus fulfilling even 48 Messianic prophecies, according to mathematician Peter Stoner is said to rise to the staggering figure of 1/1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 (that’s 1/10157). This is just over 10% of all the prophecies made about the Messiah in the OT. And already, it is far beyond the realm of statistical possibility.
I want to propose to you that it is so improbable that anyone could or even would be able to fulfill all 400+ Messianic prophecies that in the extremely unlikely case that anyone did, it would only be possible by the divine working of a God who had meticulously planned the course of history just so that this one man – his perfect Son – could be the Messiah that thousands of years of prophets, priests, and kings had been looking for. It only ever could have been Jesus! And this should give you the confidence to believe EVERYTHING he says. He is the promised Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the World, the physical embodiment of the expression Immanuel – “God With Us”!
You can examine over 400 prophecies about the Messiah and discover that Jesus of Nazareth fulfills every single one of them. Just like the overwhelmingly specific precision that fingerprints provide in identifying people, these prophecies serve to give you an overwhelming confidence that the Messiah, promised thousands of years ago, is none other than Jesus, himself.
You don’t have to check your brain at the door in order follow Jesus. When you seriously consider the historical evidence and the overwhelming weight of fulfilled prophecies, it actually takes a lot of faith to believe anything else about Jesus. I love how Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias said it: “If you are an atheist, you are so for other than intellectual reasons.”
God’s Word, the Bible, can be trusted and believed and obeyed! It is very relevant for 2018 and the evidence is strong and clear!
So my encouragement to you today is this: Stand firm in your faith! You don’t need to be embarrassed about Jesus or constantly be backpedaling in your conversations about him. You can trust in the relevance and the reliability of the Bible!
Daily revere Jesus as Lord and King! Build your life on him and his Word. He is a solid rock, and his Word will keep you steady and sure during the storms of life. Put all of your hope in him, and watch as people ask you what your secret is!