Does prophecy matter?

Prophecy is a concept that I’ve never really understood. When I was younger, I never really grasped its importance because to me, it just seemed superfluous. I didn’t really understand the significance of the phrase in Scripture that said something to the effect of, “This happened that prophecy might be fulfilled.”

What did that mean anyway?

To me, prophecy was just something someone a long time ago stated. And all you had to do to make it come true was to do the things that the prophets stated.

As a child I had always heard that Jesus had come to fulfill the prophecies made in the Old Testament. I also heard that because He fulfilled the prophecies in the Old Testament that it proved He was the Messiah. But how did fulfilling prophecies mean anything?

Well, as I have gotten older, the significance of those prophecies has begun to sink in a little. It isn’t the fact that someone said them a long time ago. It’s the substance of those prophecies that matters. Because not just anyone could have fulfilled the prophecies made in the Old Testament. These weren’t simple statements about what someone would say or how they would dress or where they would go. These were heavy, weighty proclamations that were both paradoxical and impossible, and only God Himself could have brought them to pass.

Besides that, there are hundreds of them. The Old Testament is full to overflowing with prophecies about the Messiah. Detailed information related hundreds of years before Jesus was born.

It’s fascinating to me because God still had to announce to the local Israelites that Jesus had been born and tell them where to find him. Anyone who had studied the Old Testament before the birth of Christ had all the information they needed to know how to find Him the night He was born, but personally I don’t think any of the locals were looking for him.

So it’s doubly interesting to me that the people who came looking for Christ of their own volition were foreigners.

The wise men weren’t Jewish. They were probably Persian. And there probably weren’t three of them. And the reason they knew how to find Jesus stemmed from the prophecies that Daniel wrote while he was alive in Babylon.

Think about that. Think about how complicated God’s plan is. Think about how it’s all connected.

The wise men would never have found Jesus if Daniel hadn’t written those prophecies. And Daniel would never have written those prophecies if he hadn’t been taken into captivity as a child.

But the prophecies about Jesus aren’t just in Daniel. No. They start in Genesis 3:15 and continue in every book of the Bible all the way through Malachi.

Today’s passage is Matthew 2:4-6. 4He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

 5“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

 6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
      are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
   for a ruler will come from you
      who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

This is Herod after the wise men have come to Jerusalem, looking for Jesus. Because the prophecies in Daniel didn’t say where Christ would be born. That prophecy is in the minor prophet book Micah (notice the prophet specifies Bethlehem in Judah because there were two Bethlehems). So since the wise men were looking for a King, they went to Jerusalem. But Christ wasn’t born as a King. He was born as a slave.

Herod was psycho. I’m just saying. He was a paranoid, wicked person, but even he knew that if he wanted information about where the Messiah would be born, he knew he had to go to the Old Testament.

Fast forward to 2011. The Christmas story has become a cute little figurine set people set up on their fire places and forget about. The wise men have become plastic lawn ornaments with fictional names. And nobody really talks about Herod and the slaughter he brought down on Bethlehem shortly after Jesus was born. And when anyone in American culture has a question about Jesus, we turn to the works and writings of historians or psychologists or sometimes even to the opinions of well-known religious leaders.

What about Scripture? I mean, if a black-hearted maniac like Herod knew to look to Scripture to find out about the Messiah, what’s our problem?

The Old Testament is full of prophecies about the Messiah. The New Testament is evidence that Jesus fulfilled all of those prophecies. He didn’t leave one unfulfilled. And no one but the Messiah could have done that.

That’s why prophecy matters. That’s why it’s important. Prophecy is a message from God explaining what is coming so we know what to look for.

So if we have questions about what’s coming — and there is something coming that will change everything — we need to look to Scripture and not to the opinion polls. The president doesn’t know. The news media doesn’t know. Congress doesn’t know. Your pastor doesn’t know. Your teachers and professors don’t know.

But God does. And what’s more, everything we need to know about what’s coming is in the Bible. We just have to read it.

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Golden

I don’t like tests.

I always enjoyed going to class (unless it was math or math-related), and I have always loved to learn. But taking tests to prove that I learned it? Not my favorite thing in the world.

Most of the time I would do all right on any test I was given, but usually I would miss silly little things. Easy questions that I really did know the answer to but that I just neglected to really think about in the middle of the test.

I never really thought about this, but that’s kind of like life. When I run into tests in life, I usually do all right. I know quite a few right answers, so I guess I usually score pretty high. But the answers I miss — the problems in life that really trip me up — are simple. They’re easy things. Like not worrying. Like not getting stressed out. Like not getting impatient with people. And I know how to handle those situations. But in the heat of the moment, in the middle of the test, I don’t think a situation through and I choose the wrong answer — like letting my impatience get the better of me or worrying myself into a pit of depression.

Tests will always come out better if you think about the answers you think are right.

The verse this morning truly encouraged me about this.

Job 23:10-11

 10 “But he knows where I am going.
      And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.
 11 For I have stayed on God’s paths;
      I have followed his ways and not turned aside.

 God knows where we’re going. I can’t even begin to explain how encouraging that is by itself. He knows where we’re going because He knows the future, and because He knows where we’re going, He knows how to help us get ready for what’s coming.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve wondered why God allows certain things to happen in my life. And then (usually about ten years later) after I’ve grown up a bit and gotten a little deeper into life, I can look back and see His hand leading me all they way. I can see the reasons why He let me experience things that at the time felt negative or stressful or overwhelming. He was testing me, getting me ready for something bigger and better that He had for me.

God has given us every resource we need to pass any test we face.

We have the Bible, which tells us how to live. We have the Holy Spirit in us, who prays for us and gives us direct access to God. We have God Himself who is on our side and who wants to help us every chance we let Him. If you’ve in a situation today that you don’t know what to do, pray about it. Read the Bible. Ask God to reveal the answers to you. The answers are in there. Maybe it’s cliched, but–seriously–what would Jesus do? Love God. Love people. I know that’s a general statement, but it’s true.

Do the right thing. Do what God says to do. Honor your parents. Don’t frustrate your children. Respect your husband. Love your wife. Obey your bosses. Pay your taxes. Live a life above reproach. Work as though you’re working for God and not for people. Do everything in your life like you’re doing it for God. Keep your perspective straight. There’s so much about how to live in the Bible, and many times people don’t even look for it.

God has set out a path for us to follow. He’s given us directions. He’s not only told us how to live but when Jesus was here, He showed us how to live too. He set down a path for us. So we should get on that path and stay on it. We need to follow Christ and not deviate. That’s what it means to be a Christian. Not being baptized or taking Communion or singing hymns or wearing special clothes or belonging to a church.

Stay on God’s path. Follow His ways. Don’t deviate. Then, when God allows life to test you, you’ll have the answers you need.

Then, you’ll be golden.