||Against All Odds
||Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
||Matthew 2:1-9; Micah 5:2
It was the Methodist preacher Phillips Brooks who gave the world the Christmas hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” He was visiting the Holy Land, on road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, when inspiration struck. Bethlehem was where King David was born and where his descendant Jesus Christ would be born. Because of Micah’s prediction made 700 years before Jesus’ birth, four details were anticipated.
Connect Recap Notes: January 15, 2017
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem"
Text: Matthew 2:1-9; Micah 5:2
The Episcopal preacher Phillips Brooks gave the world the Christmas hymn "O Little Town of Bethlehem." He was visiting the Holy Land, on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, when inspiration struck. Bethlehem was where King David was born and where his descendant Jesus Christ would be born. Because of Micah's prediction made 700 years before Jesus' birth, four details were anticipated:
- The Place of Messiah
- The Person of Messiah
- The Purpose of Messiah
- The Preexistence of Messiah
- The original wise men were probably Zoroastrians, monotheists from the East (likely northeastern Iran).
- The Magi were most likely sent as a religious-political convoy to Bethlehem to inquire about the star, knowing the ancient texts found in Micah 5:2 and the prophecies of Daniel.
- In ancient Israel, there were two Bethlehems: one in Judah (south) and one northwest of Nazareth (north).
- What are the odds of Jesus being born in Bethlehem? To find the prophetic specificity of the place: the average population of the earth from the time of Micah to the present divided by the average population of Bethlehem during the same period = 2,000,000,000/7,150, or one chance in 2.8×105.
- Micah gave the prophecy 700 years before Jesus was born. Some doubt Micah 5:2 is an actual prophecy. Yet there was adequate time between the recording of the prophecies in the Old Testament and the recorded New Testament fulfillment (400 years). The New Testament accounts of Jesus were also accepted as fulfilled prophecy by Jews close to those events.
- Probe: Nothing happens that is not anticipated by a sovereign God. Discuss the interrelationship between God's foreknowledge (knowing something in advance) and His active participation (through miracles, fulfilled prophecy, etc.).
- The Jews had been expecting the Messiah for centuries. Some thought he'd be political—a conquering king. Others thought he'd be a prophet or a priest. All three offices—prophet, priest, and king— are found In Jesus.
- Anointed is the Greek translation of meshiach, the Messiah. The root of the word means to smear. In ancient times, kings were anointed with oil. It carries the idea of being a chosen one.
- There is one coming deliverer, who has been anointed above others (see Psalm 45:7).
- In Luke 4:18, Jesus referenced His anointing with a recitation of Isaiah 61. Woven throughout all the Old Testament prophecies are precise predictions concerning the Messiah. They are also found in various Jewish texts (the Talmud, Mishnah, etc.). Many didn't see the full nature of the Messiah, but through prophetic foreshortening (a single prophecy linking events that happen at separate times), the Messiah was being revealed in and through Jesus.
- Probe: Discuss how Jesus holds the munus triplex: prophet (see Luke 13:33), priest (see Hebrews 6:20), and king (see Revelation 1:5). How did Jesus fulfill all the offices, expanding our understanding of the Messiah's rule and reign?
- The Magi asked a loaded question when they inquired about the "King of the Jews" (Matthew 2:2).
- This was taken as a direct challenge to Caesar Augustus' rule and authority. Ancient writers such as Virgil depicted Augustus as a savior and king. The Roman Senate nominated Augustus and called him "King of the World."
- Likewise, Herod was called "King of the Jews." The Magi's phrase troubled (agitated, perturbed) Herod. He felt threatened.
- Herod was paranoid; he married ten wives and killed his first and second sons because they threatened his reign.
- Unlike Caesar, Christ will rule as righteous and shepherd His people.
- His first coming was as Savior; His second will be sovereign judge.
- Probe: Discuss the differences between Jesus' two comings. See Luke 2 (His birth) and Revelation 19-20 (Jesus' coming at the end of the tribulation).
- The scribes didn't quote the entire verse in Micah 2. They left out some of the text, particularly the word everlasting, a reference to the Messiah's eternal nature.
- Most ancient Jews expected that the Messiah would preexist before His coming and would rule over the world. In the Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim wrote:
Even in strictly Rabbinic documents, the premundane [existing before creation], if not the eternal existence of the Messiah appears as matter of common belief. Such is the view expressed in the Targum on Isaiah 9:6 and in that on Micah 5:2. But, the Midrash on Proverbs 8:9 expressly mentions the Messiah among the seven things created before the world…. The name of the Messiah is said to have been created before the world.
Connect Up: Jesus said when you see Him, you see the Father (see John 14:9). Jesus is both man and God, and though we can't completely comprehend this truth, we can apprehend what the Bible declares. How do Christ's two natures give us insight into the nature and love of God?
- Jesus was the fulfillment of this. He was the only person who lived before He was born (see John 1:1; John 1:15; Revelation 1:8; Colossians 1:17).
- Probe: As the second person of the Trinity, Jesus is both divine and human. Why is it important to keep the two in balance when discussing Christ's nature and work in the world?
Connect In: The body of Christ is the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. Discuss ways we can proclaim both Christ's humanity (in service to others) and His divinity (His salvation, love, second coming, etc.).
Connect Out: How can you use Christ's specific prophetic fulfillments to share with Jews? Share two points you found fitting.
- The village of Bethlehem is the most famous town in the world
- The place of Jesus' birth
- Most people are disappointed when they go there
- The Messiah was predicted to be born in Bethlehem (see Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-9)
- Two basic things to discover
- Nothing happens that is not anticipated by a sovereign God
- God arranges events against all odds to show His power and that He has a plan
- Wise men from the east went to see Jesus
- Magos = wise men, magi
- They were not kings
- Spiritual advisors
- There were not three of them
- We think there were three because of the three gifts mentioned
- It is more likely there was an entire entourage
- They did not come from the Orient
- They came from Parthia
- Ancient northeastern Iran
- A monotheistic religion
- Their god is Ahura Mazda
- The words magic and magician come from the word magi
- The word magistrate also comes from the word magi
- They were very involved in the political field
- Worked in the courts of ancient kings like Nebuchadnezzar
- Daniel became the chief of the wise men of Babylon (see Daniel 2:2-48)
- The Place of Messiah
- Bethlehem in the land of Judah
- Bethlehem Ephrathah in Micah 5:2
- Ephrathath is an ancient term for Bethlehem
- There is a town next to Bethlehem called Ephrath
- There were two Bethlehems in Israel
- Bethlehem in the north, six miles from Nazareth
- Bethlehem in the south, in the land of Judah
- The odds
- One chance in 100,000 that a person would be born in Bethlehem
- The margin narrows as more details are layered on
- Born in Bethlehem
- Of the lineage of King David
- Would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey
- Would be traded for thirty pieces of silver
- The prophet Micah made this prediction 700 years before it happened
- Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, ninety-two miles from Bethlehem Ephrathah
- We serve a sovereign God who likes to play chess
- We are all pawns (see Proverbs 21:1)
- God calls the shots
- God compelled Caesar Augustus to send out a decree stating everyone had to return to their hometown to register (see Luke 2:1-5)
- Caesar may have been ruling, but God was overruling
- These were actual prophecies
- Some people think the prophecies were written after Jesus fulfilled them
- If this is the case, the Bible is a fraudulent document
- There had to be adequate time between the date of writing and the date of fulfillment
- 400-year gap between the last Old Testament prophecy and Jesus' birth
- During those years, the canon of the Old Testament was codified
- Books of the Old Testament were systematized
- Regarded as Scripture
- By the time Jesus was born, the books that contained the prophecies about Him were already Jewish Scripture
- The Dead Sea Scrolls
- Written 200 years before Jesus' birth
- Preserved in caves in Israel
- It's obvious the Jewish leaders expected the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:5)
- The New Testament events had to have been accepted as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy by those who were closest to those events
- The Person of Messiah
- Herod referred to Jesus as the Christ
- Christ is an English word from the Greek word Christos, which is from the Hebrew word mashiach, which means anointed one
- Original meaning of Messiah, or anointed one, is to smear with oil
- A priest, prophet, or king who was chosen would be poured over with oil
- The Old Testament kept pointing to a Deliverer, Messiah, and Anointed One who would come (see Psalm 45:7)
- Jesus claimed to be the Christ when He taught in the synagogue (see Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18-29)
- His disciples recognized that He was the Christ (see Matthew 16:13-16; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20)
- It was the common belief that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (see John 7:41-42)
- Jewish Talmud, Mishnah, Midrash, Targums, and Gemara
- Translations, interpretations, paraphrases, commentary, and traditions of rabbis about the Scriptures
- Help us understand what Jewish people thought of Old Testament texts
- The Jews expected:
- A Messiah, a Deliverer
- A Messiah born in Bethlehem
- A Messiah from the line of King David
- Although the Jews expected Jesus, many did not and do not accept Him as their Messiah
- Many of the prophecies also predicted that when the Messiah came, He would set up a kingdom and rule the entire world
- The prophecies were not given in chronological order
- Prophetic foreshortening
- From a distance, it appears the happenings of the Messiah will all occur at the same time
- There is a difference between His first and second comings
- The Purpose of Messiah
- The magi called the Messiah the King of the Jews
- This got King Herod's attention
- Caesar was the king of the entire Roman Empire at the time
- To say there was another king was a direct competition to Caesar
- Caesar was seen as the savior of the world
- Caesar and the Roman Senate gave Herod the title "King of the Jews"
- Herod was paranoid
- Killed one of his wives and two sons because he thought they were going to take his kingdom
- The Messiah would be a ruler who would shepherd His people
- A gentle rule
- David was a shepherd; Jesus is the Good Shepherd (see Psalm 23:1; John 10:11)
- Jesus came the first time to be our Savior; He will come the second time to be our sovereign King
- The Preexistence of Messiah
- The chief priests and scribes left out one important detail of Micah's prophecy: the deity of Christ
- Modern Jewish people expect the Messiah to be a mere man
- This is not what Judaism always believed
- Messiah would be an eternally existing being
- The Jews expected the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem, preexist, and rule over the world
- This is exactly how Jesus presented Himself (see John 1:1-3, 15; Colossians 1:17)
- Jesus is the only person who lived before He was born
- The scribes were able to tell Herod immediately where the Christ would be born, but they did not go check to see if it was true
- Some people have just enough religion to keep them immune to the truth
- The wise men showed up
- Some people won't dig deep enough to find out the truth about Jesus
: Caesar Augustus, Alfred Edersheim, Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurcanus, Virgil
: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
, "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "We Three Kings of Orient Are"
: Christos, magos, mashiach
Psalm 23:1; 45:7; Proverbs 21:1; Isaiah 61:1; Daniel 2:2-48; Matthew 16:13-16; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 2:1-5; 4:18-29; 9:18-20; John 1:1-3, 15; 7:41-42; 10:11; Colossians 1:17
Keywords: Bethlehem, Jesus' birth, magi, wise men, Zoroastrians, prophet, prophecy, canon, Dead Sea Scrolls, Messiah, Talmud, Mishnah, Midrash, Targums, Gemara, kingdom, prophetic foreshortening, shepherd, preexistence