Looking Forward, Looking Back
By Nathele Graham
Faith. That isn’t an easy thing to define, but the writer of Hebrews puts it this way. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1. The verses which follow this one name some of the people who heard God’s voice and by faith obeyed Him. We read of Abel who gave a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, Enoch whose faith pleased God, Noah who by faith built an Ark and was protected through God’s judgment, Abraham who left his home to go to the land God promised to him, and Sara who gave birth to Isaac even though she was well past her prime. There are more names on this list and the great things that were accomplished by faith are very impressive. These men and women are examples of how to live out our faith. They all looked forward to something greater that was ahead. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13. These men and women were pioneers on a road that would eventually lead to the birth of Jesus Christ.
Did those people know that God was more than a mere idol made of wood? Yes. Did they know of God’s plan of salvation? They looked forward to their redemption and were obedient to God. The writer of Hebrews tells us “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.” Hebrews 11:24-26. Moses was born to Hebrew parents but raised by Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to leave the riches of Egypt in order to live among his own people. Why? He esteemed “the reproach of Christ” greater than anything in Egypt, yet at his time of history the Messiah was a promise that had yet to be fulfilled. All those listed in the “Hall of Faith” looked forward to the Messiah’s appearing and believed the promise.
Another person who looked forward to the coming Redeemer was Job. Job is described as a man who was wealthy and loved his children. Job offered burnt sacrifices on their behalf in case they had cursed God. Suddenly Job’s fortunes took a turn for the worse. He lost his wealth, all of his children died, his wife turned on him, and he had boils from head to toe. He also had friends who gave him all kinds of bad advice. Job eventually tired of their advice and made this statement “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” Job 19:25-26. That’s quite a statement from a man who lived around 2000 BC. Job didn’t think or hope that his Redeemer lived, but he knew. He also knew that one day after he died that he would see God. That’s faith. How did Job know? He paid attention to the invisible things that are clearly seen. Paul wrote to the Romans “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” Romans 1:20. Though Job lived many centuries before Jesus was born, he had no doubt that his Redeemer lived and he looked forward to seeing God.
The Old Testament contains many prophecies. Some of these prophecies concern the birth, life, and crucifixion of the Messiah. Every one of them was fulfilled by Jesus. In a prophecy which God directed Isaiah to give to the very wicked King Ahaz, the virgin birth is foretold. “And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:13-14. This was told to King Ahaz but directed to the entire House of David. Looking forward we find the fulfillment of this when Mary was obedient to God. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” Matthew 1:18. A woman who became pregnant prior to marriage was to be stoned, and Joseph was understandably upset. “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.” Matthew 1:20-25. Joseph and Mary would eventually have children together, but until she gave birth to Jesus, she remained a virgin.
Bethlehem is where prophecy foretold that the Messiah would be born. There were two cities named Bethlehem but prophecy is specific as to which one would be the birthplace of our Lord. “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2. This was the City of David near Jerusalem. Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth, but both were descendants of King David. When Caesar Augustus decreed that all the world would be taxed everyone had to return to his own city. “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.” Luke 2:4-5. Because all of the inns were full, Joseph and Mary stayed in a stable and laid the newborn Saviour in a manger.
These are but a few of the prophecies regarding Jesus’ birth. There are many more that foretell that Joseph would take Him and Mary to Egypt, that there would be a massive murder of children because Herod wanted to kill the King of kings, that Messiah’s earthly lineage would be through the Tribe of Judah and specifically the line of King David. All of these prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus. The men and women listed Hebrews chapter 11 and the many prophets who were given prophecy from God all looked forward to the coming Messiah. The disciples followed Jesus and wrote eyewitness accounts of what they saw and learned from Him. Peter was a witness to the Transfiguration, which was an amazing thing to see and hear, but he writes that prophecy is more sure. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:19-21.
It would have been wonderful to be with Jesus when, after His resurrection, He joined two disciples on the road to Emmaus. As they discussed the events of His death and the empty tomb, Jesus joined them. They didn’t recognize Him, but He listened as they recounted the events of the past week and how they tried to make sense of it all. The thing they had forgotten to do was to look back into the prophecies that looked forward to the Messiah. The prophecies of His birth were fulfilled, so they should have known that those that foretold His death and resurrection would also be fulfilled. They needed to study the “pictures” God used to show the plan of salvation (the whole book of Ruth, the obedience of Abraham when he went to sacrifice his only son, and many more). They had looked forward to the Messiah, but couldn’t comprehend that prophecy had been fulfilled before their eyes. Are we any different? Today we see end time prophecies being fulfilled but cannot comprehend that we are living in times foretold. “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:” Luke 24:25. Prophecy is given to men in order to help us understand the future…or to understand the times in which we live. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27. What a Bible study that must have been! The thing is, it is available to us today. All we have to do is look back into Scripture and study. There is no excuse for not believing that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, our Redeemer, God incarnate. There is no excuse for being blind to the times in which we live.
“Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” John 1:45. Philip recognized Him because he had understood the Law and the prophets. Then he shared his discovery with Nathanael. Have you found Him? If so, share Him with others. Jesus’ words to His disciples just before He ascended need to be heeded by each Christian today. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8. We are His witnesses. It is up to each one of us to look back and study “Moses in the law, and the prophets” and tell others that we found Him. We also need to study prophecy and look forward to His calling us in the Rapture and warn those who reject Jesus what they will face, according to prophecy, during Daniel’s 70th week. Study that prophecy and Jesus’ words in the Olivet Discourse. Study the book of the Revelation and warn those who are lost. God does not want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to come to redemption through Jesus. There is no other way.
So, look back into prophecy in order to look forward and know what is soon to take place.
God bless you all,
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.
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