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12 Days of Christmas (8): The Promise – Genesis – Malachi

Sending Jesus into the world was not a “fly by the seat of the pants” project with the Godhead. Even before creation, God was planning for our salvation in Christ.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. – 1 Peter 1:18-21

Since our redemption in Christ was in the eternal plan of God (see Ephesians 3:8-12), we would expect to see promises, prophecies, and portents of His coming in the Old Covenant Scriptures. In this post, we will note but a few of these.

The Seed of the Woman

At the very beginning, just after the Fall from fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden, there was a promise of a coming victory over the serpent.

So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” – Genesis 3:14-15

God spoke of the “offspring” of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent. This does not speak of women being afraid of snakes. Rather, it speaks of one who would uniquely be the “offspring” of the woman who would strike a death blow to the serpent, even though He Himself would be wounded in the process.

We see a clearer picture of what this means in the words of Isaiah 7:14. This is a “double-barreled prophecy” of something that would happen in Isaiah’s own time, but with a more distant reference, in a different way, to the coming birth of the Savior. There is a natural understanding of these words as a sign to King Ahaz; there is a revealed understanding of these words as a reference to the virgin birth of Jesus (see Matthew 1:22-23).

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Because Jesus was born of a virgin, He is uniquely the “offspring” of the woman, a child “born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:13).

The Promise to Abraham

When God called Abra[ha]m, He gave him a three-fold promise:

I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. – Genesis 12:2-3

As Abraham responded to God’s call, the LORD amplified this promise, after Lot left him:

Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you. – Genesis 13:14-17

After Abraham “offered” Isaac on the altar at God’s command, God again promised:

I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me. – Genesis 22:16-18

The three-fold promise contained in these statements is that God would:

  1. Make Abraham the Father of many nations, one in particular, through Isaac.
  2. Give this special nation the land to which Abraham had migrated.
  3. Bless all nations through his offspring.

Peter (see Acts 3:25-26) and Paul (see Galatians 3:16) identified the “offspring” through whom all nations would be blessed as the Christ.

Lamb of God

One of the things Abraham said to Isaac, as they were going up the mountain to place Isaac on the altar, was “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Isaiah, perhaps, had something like this in mind when he wrote:

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. – Isaiah 53:7

Though he was the “lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29), he was also a wonderful child of promise. Note these magnificent words of promise penned by the prophet:

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 increase 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. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. – Isaiah 9:6-7

The entire Old Testament has His coming in view. That is why so many were waiting expectantly when He came, although others sought to kill Him.

The last chapter of the Old Testament closes these prophecies and promises of God:

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty…. See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hears of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse. – Malachi 4:1-3, 5

In these words, the prophet spoke of the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus – John, the “messenger, who will prepare the way before me” (see Malachi 3:1) and Jesus – “the Sun of righteousness… with healing in its wings.”

Thus God set the stage for the coming of His Son into the world. The entire Old Testament was movement toward this end. The prologue is over; it is time for the main event to begin.


PREVIOUS (7): INCARNATION – What Does It Mean?


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