~written by Randy Bushey, December 17, 2016
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.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:21-23).
What comes to your mind when you hear this word in isolation: if?
If you love literature, you may be moved to recall the beloved Rudyard Kipling poem exhibiting Victorian-era stoicism:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.
If your vintage is similar to mine, you might remember the pop music tune by David Gates and Bread entitled “If” from 1971, (incidentally, forever entrenched in the Top 10 Shortest Title song list).
But mostly the term is more mundane, simply used in common speech, and often as a grammatical conjunction of condition: Wear your coat if it snows. Join the game if you want to. I’ll attend if you will.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. But don’t miss this point: for Christians, it’s much more than the birth of a baby; it’s the massively historic juncture where God takes on humanity, the enfleshment of Deity.
But if became a question of authenticity.
Of all those in Hebrew history claiming to be the Messiah, how would the spiritually vigilant people in Israel identify Him? Know the authentic from the counterfeit? Know the genuine from frequent imposters?
God, in the Old Testament, provided a bullet-proof scheme.
Precise predictions. Markers of identity.
If He fits the prophecies, He’s the One.
Like a postage address.
When my sister lived in Japan, the population of Tokyo was approximately 9 million. We could confidently send her a letter or parcel, if we had a very few key pieces of information: her name and street address.
Of those millions of people, the envelope label identified a single street; of the thousands on her street, a single building, a single floor, and a single apartment. Of those in that unit, only she bore the correct name.
If included, those critical data pieces ensured correct identification.
If she fulfilled each piece, she was the one.
Jesus of Nazareth was the most predicted Person in history. And each prophecy built on the others to confirm His identity to those who knew the word of the prophets of God.
If He fits the prediction, He’s the long-awaited One.
When one of our grandchildren was born, several friends and family started a “baby pool”. The game was simple – the winner was the one who most closely guessed the baby’s arrival date…and gender…and birthweight…and…
You get the picture. With each element added to the guess, the mathematical probability of being correct on all became less likely. Some got the date correct, but the wrong gender. Or got the first 2 right, only to be out by 2 or 3 pounds on predicting the birthweight.
In his gospel directed to a Jewish audience, Matthew alludes to – or quotes – 25 Messianic predictions from the Jewish Bible, our Old Testament. The chance of an individual fulfilling one or two was possible; but with each additional prediction, the probability factor diminished significantly.
Do you remember silver dollars coins?
It has been calculated that the chance of 1 person fulfilling even 8 biblical predictive indicators would be 1 in 1017.
That would be analogous to pouring silver dollars over the province of Alberta – filling it to its borders to a depth of 2 feet. Then to illustrate probability, sending a blindfolded person wading into the pile, and hoping to find the single coin marked with an X on her first try. (Based on calculations by Peter Stoner, Professor Emeritus of Science at Westmont College – California).
And that’s only 8. Bible scholars have identified 60 major prophecies, with another 270 ramifications.
The biblical account reveals that at the time of Jesus’ birth, Jewish experts in the Scriptures understood the signs, but failed to vigilantly investigate their fulfilment.
Herod the Great heard the rumor of the birth of the King of the Jews and was deeply disturbed.
Matthew tells us, When [Herod] had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel’ (Matthew 2:4-6 NIV).
Takeaway: Those religious leaders understood predictive prophesy – but they missed the if factor. It was – and is – an if/then equation. If He fits the predictions – of location, family line, virgin birth, and many others including restoring sight to the blind, and David’s prediction (Psalm 22:16) of having His hands and feet pierced 800 years before Roman crucifixion invented – then He is unmistakably the One.
The Messiah. Emmanuel.