Summary: Normally when we talk about the arrival of the messiah we’re talking about it in the context of Christmas season and we end with a very colored picture, seeing Jesus in the context of Christmas trees, bells, candy canes, and lights.
Normally when we talk about the arrival of the messiah we’re talking about it in the context of Christmas season and we end with a very colored picture, seeing Jesus in the context of Christmas trees, bells, candy canes, and lights. But today, I’d like to shift our perspective, and we shall try to see the coming of the messiah, in the context of the Old Testament history of Israel.
That’s what we’ve been studying the past few months, all the way from Genesis to Malachi.
What have we learned from Genesis and the fall to Esther and Nehemiah, and everything we’ve seen of Israel’s failure to follow God: We’ve learned that humanity struggles to properly follow God. One generation follows God, the next generation begins to turn away. The next generation doesn’t even remember that God exists.
But God’s plan is proceeding forward. Israel was formed. It was to be a nation that would be holy, special, a nation of priests. And it seems like the original plan was for the messiah to come, and lead the holy nation of priests to win the entire world of Gentiles to Christ. Obviously, it didn’t go quite as planned, but never-the-less here we are today, gentiles worshipping Jesus. So either way, God makes sure his plan moves forward.
The entire history of the world itself, turns on this moment. The entire purpose of this temporary human journey on this fallen Earth planet is for humanity to be brought back into right relationship with God.
But our sin was the big problem none of us could solve: We lie, we cheat, we steal, we manipulate others, we are selfish, lazy, and mean to others. We gossip, we kill, we mistreat and we fail to help those in need. Our sin is the great problem.
Adam and Eve sinned against God. And it began there. Today 6000 years later, sin is the problem. But 2000 years ago, a certain individual came into the world, to deal with the sin problem once and for all.
The entire Old Testament foreshadows and predicts the coming of a mysterious messiah figure, who would make everything. A messiah, a savior, someone who could become our hero, our savior, our friend, and our God.
After the events of Nehemiah and Ezra, we see a period of 400 years of silence in the Bible, before God speaks again. This is similar to when Israel was enslaved in Egypt. 400 years of silence. 400 years. And during this time, Israel is conquered by the Roman empire. The Roman empire at this point in history controls much of present day Europe, all the way across northern Africa, and the middle east, including Israel. The romans impose heavy taxes. Augustus is emperor of Rome at this time. And he orders a census. Fairly common, it’s a good way to find out how to tax people even more. This requires everyone to return to their own home town to register with the census.
During this cultural backdrop, we see a very strange thing happen one night. There is a new star in the night. A woman named Mary was told 9 months earlier, that she would carry the son of God in her belly. She would give birth to the son of God. Mary and her husband Joseph however are caught in the journey to return to their home town, Bethlehem, for the census.
They live in Nazareth. But they’re caught on the road, in Bethlehem, when Mary goes into labor. How often do we find ourselves in similar circumstances?
I would probably feel pretty upset. God is requiring us to do this, yet the Romans are forcing us to travel to our home town. We’re stuck on the road, with a pregnant wife, the road is dangerous, thieves can come and attack. And so it’s late at night, probably, and they finally arrive at Bethlehem, but they can’t find anywhere to stay. The hotels are all full up, probably from people traveling to their home towns to register for the census. Lots of people traveling. So they’re going from house to house. No one is answering. They got no room. Finally one person says, hey, you can go in my barn. At least you’ll have some shelter there. And the son of God, the king of the Earth is born in a manger. Crazy, right?
Given that Jesus is the messiah, the son of God, shouldn’t he be in a giant palace, the richest, the wealthiest, the wisest, with all the great scholars and wise men and women of the world right? Nope. That’s not how God does things. This world tends to want to ignore God, reject God, and even laugh at God. Our society is quite similar. Do you see the most influential people of Owosso in this church today? Or the wealthiest? Nope. Maybe in the past in America the rich and wealthy went to church to keep up appearances. But not really anymore. They prefer to ignore God or pretend God doesn’t exist. They pursue wealth and power. That’s the way of the world.