November 18, 2020
One day a young Hebrew girl was minding her own business when an angel of the Lord appeared to her. What he told her changed all the plans she had for a life with her fiancé, Joseph. Young Mary found herself caught up in events foretold throughout the Hebrew scriptures. Learning her part, she responded with beautiful humility, “I am the Lord’s servant...May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).
In the season of Advent, we remember the Old Testament promises of a Savior who was revealed in the New Testament. Some of our traditions—decorating a Jesse Tree, for example—include looking back over these prophecies to see how God’s plan for redemption unfolded. Let’s look at a few of these as Mary heard them on that day.
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 1:22-23).
Joseph’s initial response to Mary’s news was to end the engagement quietly. The life he had planned with his future bride had been turned on its head. As he thought about quietly cutting ties with Mary, an angel appeared to him in a dream: “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 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” (Matthew 1:20-21). Joseph obeyed. Matthew points out that this occurred to fulfill the prophecy from Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Matthew translates Immanuel: “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
Joseph’s thoughts and words in response are not recorded, only that he got up and did as the angel commanded. His ready obedience suggests Joseph, like Mary, believed God and could see that Isaiah’s prophecy was being fulfilled through Mary and him.
“The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32b-33).
Both Mary and Joseph were descendants of King David. The significance of Gabriel’s statement was most likely not lost on them. The scriptures promised a Messiah who would reign on David’s throne forever and that he would come as a child, as a son.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Isaiah further prophesied, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1) and says how the Spirit of the Lord and his wisdom, counsel, and knowledge would “rest” on him (Isaiah 11:1-4). Joseph and Mary found themselves at the crossroads of promises given and promises fulfilled.
The news of Caesar’s census and the journey to Bethlehem—the birthplace of David—provided further confirmation for them. For this too had been foretold in the scriptures. “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 2:6, referencing Micah 5:2, 4). When the shepherds found them with the baby lying in a manger, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32).
After learning from Gabriel that she would conceive and give birth to a son, Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, an older woman also unexpectedly pregnant—her son would be John the Baptist, who would proclaim the Messiah. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the Holy Spirit filled her, and her words confirmed the angel’s announcement that the child would be the Son of God. “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43).
Monumental promises from the Old Testament were being realized. The fulfillment of these prophecies was unmistakable, yet it manifested in unexpected ways. The Son of God would be born to a humble girl rather than a queen in a palace. Angels would proclaim this amazing news to lowly shepherds, who would become some of the first witnesses to his meek majesty. The manger was a sign to them that this was the One (Luke 2:12); it was also a sign that foreshadowed his work, to humble himself and die on a cross for the sins of his people (Isaiah 53:5, Philippians 2:6-8).
Like any young engaged couple, Mary and Joseph had plans for their life together: to make a home, earn a living, and raise a family that worshipped God. A message from an angel changed their plans completely, setting their lives on a course that fulfilled God’s plans, faithfully promised long ago. After a long hard year, when we celebrate the coming Christ, let’s follow Mary’s example of true discipleship and thank God for promises fulfilled.
Oh Lord, we are your humble servants; let your word to us be fulfilled. In your Son’s name, Amen.
If you would like to take a walk through God’s Word to commemorate the Old Testament prophecies of a Savior, we invite you to subscribe to Today and receive our special devotional series and craft on the Jesse Tree. It includes a devotion and an ornament for your family to cut out and color each day of December, highlighting the scriptures and symbols that lead to the promised Messiah.
See God's love, power, presence, and purpose in your life every day!