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We come now to our time for the study of the Word of God this morning on this Christmas Sunday. Our attention, of course, is drawn to Christmas. As I was thinking about what I might share with you, I was struck again with the dichotomy between Christmas for the Christian and Christmas for the world sitting in my office, and I was looking at two Christmas cards. One of them had a fat man with a white beard on it and a couple of little elves, and it said, “Ho, ho, ho.” The other one had a manger, with a star and a baby, and it said, “Thou shalt call His name Emmanuel.” And I began to think about the paradox of Christmas. What is Christmas?
For some, it is peace toward men of goodwill. For the world, it is mass confusion, furious rushing around, and a rising suicide rate. That lovely night 2,000 years ago, one star lit the heaven and marked the spot where the Christ was born, where God was made flesh. And today a million neon signs mark the spot where the sale begins, or where you can throw away your money buying what isn’t needed and doesn’t fit anyway.
The first Christmas was a poor one: a manger, a stable. Our Christmas is a dazzling display of wealth beyond belief as millions of people spend millions of dollars to ignore the true meaning of Christmas. Once wise men came to worship Jesus, and today fools have parties of wickedness, ignoring all that Jesus came to accomplish. The babe of Bethlehem was born a Savior to give men all they need. He has been replaced by a huckster named Santa Claus, who takes what’s valuable and gives tinsel in return. That’s the paradox to Christmas. Who does it belong to?
And as I thought further about the paradox of Christmas, I thought about the great paradox of Christmas who is Jesus Christ. And I begin to look at some of the prophecies and I begin to say now, “I wonder what prophecies might be exciting for us to study and look at the birth of Christ?” And I came across the idea of the paradoxical prophecies. Did you know that the Old Testament is loaded with apparently contradictory prophecies about Christ? Did you know that?
Did you know there is no way that Old Testament prophets could ever have understood the fullness of the coming Messiah just on the virtue of the apparent contradiction in their own prophecies? For example, a prophet would sit down, and the Holy Spirit would inspire him, and he would write that there was coming a conqueror who would rule the world, who would be the Savior and Deliverer of men. The same prophet would sit down later and write about a Man of Sorrow, who was lonely and rejected.
The prophet would write a King of glory, a King of heaven, the eternal Savior, the desire of all nations. And then a prophet would sit down and write that there was no beauty that men would desire Him; and that He was a servant, bloody, suffering, crucified, and dead. How do you resolve these things? The prophet would write that He would come in flaming fire to take vengeance on His enemies. The other prophet would write that He would come preaching peace. And so the prophets couldn’t even understand what they themselves wrote about Christmas. It was a paradox to them.
The last of all the Old Testament prophets was trapped in the paradox. His name was John the Baptist. In fact, John was so confused that when he was a prisoner, he sent some of his disciples to Jesus. And the record of that encounter is in the 11th chapter of the gospel of Matthew.
You see, everything that John had said about the Messiah, he received from God. Luke 3:2, regarding John, says, “The word of God came to John.” So when John proclaimed the Messiah, it wasn’t his opinion, it was revelation. And John was declaring the Messiah, and he was saying certain things about the Messiah.
You say, “Well, what was he saying about the Messiah?” Well, he was saying that the Messiah was going to be a judge; that when the Messiah came, terrible things would happen. And so John says, for example, in Luke 3:7, “O generation of snakes, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance.” This was his message. John says there’s coming a Messiah and He is going to be a terrifying judge.
In Matthew 3:7, he said the same thing. And in verse 10, he said, “The axe is laid to the root of the trees. And every tree which brings forth evil fruit” - or doesn’t bring forth good fruit – “is hewn down and cast into the fire.” Verse 12, “His fan is in His hand. He’ll thoroughly purge the floor, gather the wheat and the grainery, and burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
That was John’s message about the coming Messiah: foreboding, judgmental, damning. That’s the Messiah that John anticipated. And then Jesus came. And you know what He did? Mostly deeds of mercy. He healed the sick. He gave sight to the blind, and hearing to the deaf, and voices to the dumb, and life to the dead. And John didn’t understand it, because John didn’t understand that that was also a part of the prophecy; or he had forgotten. And so he sends his disciples from his prison to inquire of Jesus.
He was taken prisoner, you’ll remember, by King Herod Antipas, locked in the gloomy fortress of Machaerus, which is, oh, about 5 miles east to the Dead Sea, and 15 miles south of the northernmost tip. It’s in the most bleak and desolate place imaginable. It was originally constructed as a Herodian fortress. And there was John. And it didn’t seem to be going the way he had anticipated, because Messiah was to come and to judge and set up His kingdom. And there wasn’t any judgment, and there wasn’t any kingdom. And here he - the last of the great prophets and the greatest who ever lived, according to Matthew 11:11 - was imprisoned.
Verse 1 of Matthew 11: “It came to pass when Jesus had ceased commanding His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities. When John had head in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?” John says, “Are there two messiahs?” When John heard the things that Jesus did, he couldn’t justify those with that he had said Jesus would do. John was trapped in the paradox of prophecy. He was confused. His faith was growing thin. He failed to see how the resolution of such a conflict existed.
And notice the reply of Jesus to these messengers from John. Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and show John again those things which you do hear and see. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
Now, why did He do that? Why didn’t He give John some more specific answer? Why did He say, “You go remind him”? Now watch. Because in the words that He used in verse 5, they are really a paraphrase of Isaiah 35:5 and 6, and Isaiah 61:1. He’s saying, “You go back and remind John of some other prophecies I have to fulfill first. The problem that John had was the problem that all the Old Testament prophets had, they didn’t see anything distinction between the first coming and what? The second.
So He says to these messengers, “You tell him to hang in there, I’ve got some other things to do that are also recorded prophetic.” And the very words that He gave were just almost right out of Isaiah. And verse 6 is a gentle rebuke: “And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me,” - or shall not stumble because of what I am doing. What is He saying? “Hey, blessed is the man who trusts Me. You haven’t seen it all yet; trust Me.”
So you see, John had that problem. There is no way that an Old Testament prophet could ever understand all of the resolution of these things. The New Testament commentary makes sense out of all the paradox. One of the greatest verifications of the Christian faith, I think, are the diverse and apparently contradictory prophecies. You see, they could never be reproduced. They could never be counterfeited. They could never be falsified. Such amazing prophecies prevent wicked men or overzealous disciples from falsely fulfilling them.
Look at 1 Peter 1:10. It says there, “Of which salvation,” - and of course this is the salvation that Christ brought - “of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you, searching what person,” - you should write that in probably if it isn’t there - “searching what person or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ who was in them did signify when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.”
Now notice it says in verse 10, “the prophets enquired and the prophets searched diligently.” Says in verse 11, “The prophets searched.” What were they searching? They were searching the things they prophesied in verse 10 and the things they testified of in verse 11 from the Holy Spirit. They were searching their own writings to figure them out. The paradoxes were so obvious that even they couldn’t resolve the sufferings of Christ with the glory that should follow. They couldn’t figure out what person or what time these things could come together, what person could fulfill all this, and in what time could this be done.
And so they searched diligently for a clear understanding of the very things which they themselves had written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. You see, there is no way to falsify such things. One of the great proofs that they didn’t write their own minds, but that they wrote the mind of God, was the contradictions which they wrote. Men wouldn’t do that. God did it, because He knew the resolution would come in Christ. They couldn’t see that. Not even John understand it, and John thought there must be two messiahs.
In Matthew 13:17, Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things which you see and haven’t seen them, and to hear the things which you hear and haven’t heard them.” Backing to verse 16, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. Why, you have the benefit of knowing the things they desperately wanted to see resolved.”
Let’s look at some of the paradoxes. What are they? What are the paradoxes the prophets had a hard time with? The first one is the paradox of the God-man. Point one, the paradox of the God-man.
I want to show you two passages in Isaiah to begin with. Isaiah 7:14 is the first. Here’s the prophecy: “Therefore, the Lord Himself,” - I like that. That means of His volition, unasked - “the Lord Himself shall give you a sign.”
Now, mark it, friends. The Lord is going to do something unusual. When it says the Lord is going to give you a sign, that’s going to be something supernatural, right? It has to be. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a sign from God. If the Lord said, “I’m going to show you a sign it’s going to rain tomorrow.” Well, that may or may not be. You could say, “Well, I mean maybe the Lord’s got a better view of the cloud structure.” But if the Lord says, “I’m going to give you a sign,” it’s going to be something supernatural. So watch.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive.” Now, friends, you don’t have to know much to know that’s supernatural. A child born without a father, “A virgin shall conceive.”
You say, “Almah can mean young woman.” And some of the liberal translations translate it that way. No, almah may mean young woman, yes. In the Old Testament, almah is always used a virgin. The Septuagint uses it a virgin. The New Testament comment is quoting this; uses the word “virgin.” And could you imagine that it says this: “The Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a woman will have a baby.” That isn’t a sign, that’s going on all the time.
The very language indicates the supernatural. “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son,” - now here is the amazing - “and His name shall be called Immanuel.” You say, “What’s so important about that? I know somebody named Immanuel.” I’ll tell you what’s important about that. That only became a name because of that verse. El, those two letters, E-L, that’s God. El Shaddai, El Meqadishkem, El Elyon. Bethel is the house of God. Those two letters mean “God.” Immanuel means “God with us.” Notice you have a paradox: a son who is God. Now, wait a minute, how can that be? A child born of a woman who is God?
Look at Isaiah 9. And you know Isaiah had problems with this. Isaiah 9:6: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” I can handle that. “The government shall be upon His shoulder. His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The Father of Eternity, the Prince of Peace.”
How could a child be born who is The Mighty God? There’s the paradox. How could be a child be in time who is the Father of Eternity? The paradox is clear. There’s a child; He is human; He is God. A woman will bring forth a son who made the woman who brought forth the Son. Could it be? If Scripture is true, it better be.
I draw you to Luke chapter 1, verse 30. “And the angel said to her, ‘Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son, and shall call His name Jesus. He shall be great, shall be called the Son of the Highest.” There’s none higher. “And the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David; and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.’”
And Mary had the same problem the prophets did. “Then said Mary unto the angel, ‘How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? Never had a relationship with a man, how could I have a baby?’ The angel answered and said unto her, ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.’”
Now, you see, the prophecy was, “Mary, you’ll have a baby, but it won’t be just an ordinary baby,. it will be a holy thing.” Is any baby ever born into the world holy? No. This is unusual. And the Son of God - son, not in the sense of offspring; son in the sense of incarnate servitude. He is God; He is man. “And the Word became flesh and dwell among us.” Listen, Jesus the man is the Jehovah God of the Old Testament.
I was reading a book this week that just clearly outlined that. Just to compare a couple of things that were most fascinating, Isaiah 6:3. You remember the vision that Isaiah had? “In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.” And the word “Lord” all through here is Jehovah. You can always tell the word Lord is Jehovah, it is capitalized. In verse 3, “Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts.”
Now, here Isaiah is having a vision of Jehovah - God. Now I want you to notice John 12:39, listen. Here quoting from Isaiah is our Lord. “Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said he’s blinded their eyes, hardened their hearts. They should not see with their eyes, understand with their heart, and be converted. And I should heal them.” These things said Isaiah when he saw His glory and spoke of Him. Of whom? Of Christ. Notice the antecedent to “His” and the antecedent to “Him” in 41 is Christ. Now what does that say? The passage Isaiah 6, “I saw Jehovah,” is referred to Christ in John 12. Jesus is Jehovah. In Isaiah 40, you have amazing prediction regarding the work of John the Baptist. And I want to show you just this illustration.
Verse 1, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, her iniquity is pardoned. She hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, ‘Prepare ye the way the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” Hmm, Prepare ye the way of the Lord - capital letters again - Jehovah. “Prepare ye the way of Jehovah.”
Matthew chapter 3, here came John fulfilling the prophecy, preaching. Verse 3, Matthew 3: “For this is He.” And he’s preaching about Christ. “This is He that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord.’” Who is the Lord that is the Jehovah of Isaiah 40? It is the Jesus of the gospels. Jesus is Jehovah.
Leviticus 19:3, “Keep My Sabbaths. I am the Jehovah, your God.” Matthew 12:8, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is Jehovah of the Sabbath.” He is the Jehovah, the Old Testament. Joel 2:32, “It shall come to come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved, on the name of Jehovah.” Romans 10:13, Paul points to Jesus and says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” And he applies that passage to Jesus. He is Jehovah. There is the paradox. He is God, He is man.
Think about it. Think about what the prophets wrote. Genesis 3:15, the Messiah would be the seed to the woman. Daniel 7:13, He would be the Son of Man. Psalm 2:7, He would be the Son of God. Genesis 22:18, the seed of Abraham. How could one person be all of that: the seed of the woman, the Son of man, the Son of God, the Son of Abraham, or the Son of David? The amazing complex of paradoxical prophecies. How can God be man and man be God, and yet be the Son of Man and the Son of God? How can one be the Son of Man, and yet have no human father, and be born the seed of a woman when a woman has no seed and be the Creator of that woman at the same time? No wonder the prophets wondered.
God did it so there couldn’t be a counterfeit. Jesus was all of these. He was God and He was man, the Word made flesh. He was the seed of the woman, virgin born without a human father. Galatians 4:4 says, “He was born of a woman.” He was the Son of Man. He said Himself in Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” He is the Son of God. Read Hebrews 1, verse 2 and verse 5. Matthew 1:1 said, “He is the seed of Abraham and the seed of David.” He was everything and all the paradox resolves in Him. Boy, when you start getting into the nature of Jesus Christ and His person, it becomes the most amazing, complex of fulfilled prophecy imaginable.
Listen to Matthew 22. Jesus absolutely nailed the Pharisees to the wall in this particular passage. Matthew 22:41, the Pharisees were always asking Him questions, and so He thought He’d ask them one. “While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them” - Matthew 22:41 - “saying, ‘What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He?’” People have come to me many times, said, “I don’t understand how Christ can be God and the Son of God.” Don’t worry about it. I don’t understand it either, I just believe it.
But you know what? No one really understands it and Christ knew it was a difficult problem. And He posed it here. “Whose son is He?” They said, “The Son of David.” “He said unto them, ‘How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying in Psalm 110, “The Lord said unto my Lord, ‘Sit thou at My right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.’”? If He is the Son of David, how come David calls Him his Lord in Psalm 110? If David call Him Lord, how is He his son?’ Jesus said.” You know what their reaction was? “And no man was able to answer Him a word, neither dared any man from that day forth ask Him anymore questions.”
How can He be the Son of David and the God of David He is? That passage proves that Jesus is saying He is both Son of David, human; He is God of David, divine. It is absolute satanic blasphemy to say that Jesus is anything less.
And Paul prayed in Colossians 2:2 and 3 that Christians would have all the riches of a full assurance and understanding of the mystery. What was the mystery of God? even the Father, and Christ. How can God be both, and yet He is? I don’t know how He’s both, I don’t care how He is, I just believe He is. He can solve that problem, I can’t handle it.
But I know Jesus said this: John 14:9, “He that hath seen Me” - what? - “has seen the Father.” That’s a paradox, friends. That’s the paradox of Christmas. The babe was God.
Let me give you another one. The paradox of the line of Judah. This is fascinating. Go back to Genesis 49:10, the paradox of the line of Judah. As far back as Genesis, the prophet Moses makes the statement that the Messiah will come from the tribe of Judah. That’s a problem, as we’ll see.
Genesis 49:10 - there’s 50 chapters, so it’s near the end. “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah.” The sceptre was the symbol of a king, the right to rule. “The sceptre will not depart from Judah,” - in other words, there will be no king outside the line of Judah - “nor a lawgiver from between his feet” - very vivid picture of progeny there - “until Shiloh come;” - Shiloh means the one to whom it belongs or the one whose right it is - “and unto Him shall all the gathering of the people be.”
Now watch. Whoever this king is, he’s going to come from what tribe? Judah. And no other tribe is going to have a king. Now, he took the twelve tribes of Israel and narrowed it down to one tribe and said He’ll come from Judah. Shiloh means the one whose right it is, the coming king, the ruler. So you say, “What’s so paradoxical about that? I mean, Moses wrote that down.” Well, listen, Moses wrote a few other things too that must have confused him.
Go back to chapter 38 and I’ll show you one of the most interesting incidents in Genesis. Judah - now remember, the Messiah is going to come from Judah’s line. Judah was an evil man, and he found that he was going along there, thinking probably evil thoughts. And his son had died and left him a daughter-in-law. His daughter-in-law covered herself up, went out where Judah was going to come, and apparently he was in a market for a prostitute and she played the part. She seduced by harlotry Judah into committing relationships with her. And apparently he never took her veil off to see who she was.
And so Judah, through whom was to come the godly line, David and Christ, had committed adultery with his own daughter-in-law. Look what happens in chapter 38, verse 24. But he didn’t know it. “It came to pass after three months,” - that’s about how long it takes to tell whether anything’s resulted from the relationship - “and it was told Judah, saying, ‘Tamar thy daughter-in-law hath played the harlot. And also, behold, she is with child by harlotry.’ - these are bastard children, illegitimate - “And Judah said, ‘Bring her forth and let her be burned.’” Oh, that self-righteous pride, and double standard. According to Deuteronomy 22, you stoned people for that. Burning is mentioned in Leviticus 20:14 and 21:9 only in cases of excessive crime. He was really playing self-righteous.
“And when she was brought forth, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, ‘By the man whose these are am I with child.’ And she said, ‘Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet and bracelets and staff?’” And when she seduced him, she took those things from him in order that she might come back at him with them.
“Whose are these, Judah?” And it dawned on him. Horrible. “Judah acknowledged them and said, ‘She hath been more righteous than I, because that I gave her not to Shelah my son.’” You see, when a Jewish son died, if there was an eligible son left, his wife was handed over to that eligible son. He didn’t do that. “And he knew her again no more.” He ceased from the sin.
“It came to pass in the time of her travail” - twins were in her womb - “came to pass when she travailed, that the one put out his hand.” This is interesting. “The midwife took and bound on his hand a scarlet thread, saying, ‘This came out first.’ He started to come out and she wrapped that thing around, but he pulled his hand back. And his brother came out,” - 29. Must have been a little hassle in there. “What are you doing here?” You see? “The breach is upon you.”
“And his name was called Pharez.” And afterward came out his brother that had the scarlet thread upon his hand. His name was called Zarah.”
So out of Judah’s sin were born twins, Pharez and Zarah. You say, “What’s so significant about this? Moses wrote that.” Moses wrote that Judah, by harlotry, had illegitimate children. Moses also wrote that the Messiah’s line would not cease from the tribe of Judah. But Moses also wrote this, Deuteronomy 23:2, “A bastard shall not enter the congregation of the Lord. He shall not” - again he says in verse 2 - “enter the congregation of the Lord.” Twice in one verse.
If the offspring of Judah is an illegitimate, cursed line, how could David ever reign? And if David never reigned, Messiah could never be the Son of the king. He could never inherit David’s throne. Well, Moses must have scratched his head and said, “How can it be in Judah, when Judah is an illegitimate offspring? And how can Messiah come from such illegitimacy?”
Ah, but Moses also wrote this in Deuteronomy 23:2, “A bastard shall not enter the congregation of the Lord, even to the tenth generation” - up to the tenth generation. At the tenth generation, the curse was removed. I draw your attention to Matthew chapter 1, and I want to show you something. It’s fantastic - verse 3.
You say, “Are there anything in these genealogies of interest?” Oh, fabulous. “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat Judah and his brother.” And how we come to Judah in verse 3? “And Judah illegitimately begat Phares and Zara of Tamar.” Now notice this: “Phares begat Esrom.” Now that’s two. “Esrom begat Aram” - three. “Aram begat Aminadab” - four. “Aminadab begat Naasson” - five. “Naasson, Solomon” - six. “Solomon, Boaz” - seven. “Boaz, Obed” - eight. Obed, Jesse” - nine. “Jesse begat David.” How many? The curse was removed at David.
You see, God does things exactly and precisely according to His Word, so that when David was born as the tenth generation from the sin, the curse was what? Eliminated. And David had every right to enter the congregation of the Lord, and the messianic line was purified. That’s how accurate God’s Word is. The prophet could never have known that. When he wrote, David wasn’t born. Ten generations later, clean and pure.
I want you to notice that God’s a forgiving God. Did you know there are only four women mentioned in this genealogy up to Mary? Four women: three prostitutes and an idolatress. That’s right. Don’t tell me God isn’t a God of grace when He includes three prostitutes and an idol worshipper in His messianic line. People say, “There’s no grace in the Old Testament.” Don’t you believe it. Rahab the harlot became actually the wife of Solomon and begat Boaz. Boaz married the idolatress Ruth, and she was the grandmother of David. And ten generations after that seductress Thamar, the purification of the line took place. God is a God of grace. Paradox is resolved in Christ.
Let me give you another one. Thirdly, the paradox of Messiah’s home. Micah 5:2 - don’t look it up - says, “Though thou be little among the sons of Judah, Bethlehem Ephratah, out of thee shall He come forth who is to be ruler over My people.” Where was Jesus to come from, said Micah? Bethlehem. Bethlehem.
Hosea came along and said in Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt have I called My Son.” The prophet must have scratched his head and said, “Micah says Bethlehem. Hosea says Egypt.” But just to make it worse, Isaiah said something. What did Isaiah say? Chapter 11, verse 1, only his was a veiled statement. “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse. And a natsar shall grow out of his roots. Natsar means “sprout.” That’s interesting, because there was a town in the New Testament known as Nazareth, sprout town. That’s what it means. There will be a shoot out of Sprout Town, sort of like a hick from Hicksville.
So the prophet says Bethlehem. The prophet again says Egypt. And a third says sprout town, Nazareth. Well, how can they resolve these things? Again I say to you, men didn’t write the Bible, or they never would have written that.
Look at Matthew 2. Watch. Absolute fulfillment. Matthew 2:1, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east.” And why did they come? Verse 5, “Because they said in Bethlehem of Judea, ‘For thus it is written by the prophet: “Thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah, art the least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall come a Governor that shall rule My people Israel.”’” He was born in Bethlehem, because that’s what the prophets said.
So what about Egypt? Oh, what about Egypt? Look at verse 13. “And when they were departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, said, ‘Arise and take the young child and His mother and flee into” - what? - “Egypt. And be thou there until I bring thee word, for Herod will seek the young child to destroy Him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, departed to Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled, which is spoken by the Lord to the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt have I called My Son.’” There’s Hosea 11:1 fulfilled.
Isn’t it amazing that God even orders the political situation of the Herods to force the issues to fulfill prophecy. He makes the wrath of men to praise Him. You say, “What about Nazareth?” Well, that’s in verse 23. “He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets. He shall be called a Nazarene,” or a sprout.
Why didn’t He settle in Judah? Why did He settle in Nazareth? I’ll tell you why. In a fit of anger, Herod, who was always changing his will - he had a problem with his will, he was always changing it. In a fit of anger, he changed his will shortly before his death, had put Archelaus, the worst of all of his living sons, in charge of Judea. And he moved Antipas to rule in Galilee and Perea. When he did that, he imposed upon Judea the worst possible ruler. In fact, Archelaus had slaughtered 3,000 Jews at one time in a particular execution.
And you know why Joseph didn’t go there? Verse 21 says, “He arose, took the young child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard Archelaus did reign in Judea in the place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.” If Archelaus doesn’t take over Judea, Joseph goes there and Jesus is not from Nazareth. Do you get it? God has ordered every event in history to fulfill His prophecies. There is no way that Isaiah knew what was going to go on hundreds of years later. And by some whim, Herod changes his will and orders what he orders, and it fulfills absolutely the Word of God. All the paradoxes are beautifully resolved.
Let me give you another one. Four, the paradox of the right to the throne. The Messiah was to be a king. It was clear in the prophecies. That’s what the word Messiah means: the Anointed One. He was to inherit David’s throne. He was to take the scepter that He really had the right to.
Now, in the New Testament genealogy - if you’re looking at Matthew 1, you’re in the right spot - the legal right to the throne is passed through Solomon to Joseph. I want you to notice, if there was a king in Israel - and there wasn’t a legitimate king - if there was a legitimate ruling king in Israel, it would have been Joseph, the father of Jesus, because he came in the kingly line.
Now, David had many descendants. Mark it. David had many descendants. But which descendant received the kingly right? The firstborn. So it was through Solomon that the kingly right came. The other descendants of David had royal blood and there was a royal line, but the kingly right went to the firstborn. So from the firstborn came the kingly line.
Now, notice, here we go, in verse 6 of Matthew 1: “Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;” - Bathsheba. “Solomon begat” - here comes all the list of the kings of Judah: “Roboam; Roboam begat Abia; Abia begat Asa; Asa begat Josaphat; Josaphat begat Joram; Joram begat Ozias; Ozias begat Joatham; Joatham begat Achaz; Achaz begat Ezekias; Ezekias begat Manasses; Manasses begat Amon; Amon begat Josias; Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren about the time they were carried away to Babylon.”
Now note, Jechonias is the last king. There has never been a king in Israel since Jechonias, never. Jechonias’ son tried and failed. The Babylonian captivity ended the ruling of Israel’s own kings. “And after they were brought to Babylon, then Jechonias begat Salathiel; Salathiel begat Zorobabel; Zorobabel begat Abiud; Abiud begat Eliakim,” and on and on it goes. But no kings, no kings.
But still the kingly line, but nobody reigns, just the kingly line. Because this time it’s the times of the Gentiles, right? After the Babylonian captivity, the Gentiles took over the land and they were ruling. “But Jacob” - verse 16 - “begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
You see, the right to become king came through Joseph. Mary didn’t descend from Jechonias’ line, no. Mary didn’t come through Solomon. You can read Luke 3. Mary’s line came through Nathan, another son of David. She was royal and she was David’s line. And she had to be, right, to be the mother of Messiah; had to be a son of David. But if He had only been born of the son of Mary, He couldn’t have inherited the kingly right, because that had to come through Joseph. There was only one man in all Israel who had to be His father, a man named Joseph, the only man who could be, the firstborn of Jacob who had the right to rule. But he couldn’t exercise the right. There weren’t any kings in those times.
You say, “Well, why couldn’t there a king?” Go back to Jeremiah 22, I’ll show you fascinating prophecy. Now just imagine, here’s the prophet saying, “Messiah will be king. Messiah will be king. Messiah will be the seed of David. Messiah will be the seed of David. He will reign.”
Now watch. Imagine saying that over and over again, and then prophesying this. Jeremiah 22, verse 29 - well, 30. Let’s look at 30. “Thus saith the Lord, ‘Write this man childless’” What man? Verse 28: Coniah. Now that’s Jechonias, same man - sometimes called Jehoiachin; others, Jechonias, Coniah; same person. And you can study the passage, it’s definitely the same man.
“Thus saith the Lord, ‘Write this man childless.’” Now, that doesn’t mean he’ll never have children. It means that “A man shall not prosper in his days. No man of his seed shall prosper sitting upon the throne of David and ruling any more in Judah.”
Now watch this. Here is a prophet saying, “Messiah will be a king, He will come from Judah, He will come through the line of David.” You go down the line of David, you come to Jechonias. The prophet says, “No offspring of Jechonias will ever rule.” Now, how in the world can you resolve the prophecies for a king through David and the prophecy that no son of Jechonias will ever rule?
How can it be? Go back to Matthew 1. Look at verse 16. “And Jacob begat Joseph,” - now watch - “the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus.” Did you know that it says, “And so and so begat, and so and so begat, and so and so begat, and so and so begat, and Jacob begat Joseph, and Joseph begat Jesus.” Is that what it said? Oh, no. Because if Joseph had begotten Jesus, Jesus would have inherited the curse of Jechonias and never been able to reign. Though He had the right, He would have inherited the physical curse. So watch.
“Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom” - in the Greek, beloved, that is a feminine construction, feminine - watch this - singular. Isn’t that something? Feminines, you don’t have children in the singular - feminine singular, of whom was born Jesus. Jesus had to be born of David’s line. He was born of Mary. He had to inherit the right to the throne without the curse; so Joseph had to be His legal father, but couldn’t be His earthly father. Do you see it? Absolute fulfillment. Jesus has the right to reign through Joseph without the curse of Jechonias passed on.
Listen, beloved, when God writes history, He writes it right. So the paradox of God-man, the paradox of the line of Judah, the paradox of the Messiah’s home, and the paradox of the right to rule. Let me give you a last one: paradox of the stone.
When you think about Christmas, you think about a baby. Drop that, would you, for a minute, and think about a stone, think about a rock. Nothing could be further to the opposite end of things, but think of it that way, because the Old Testament presents the coming Messiah as a stone. And interestingly enough, in Isaiah you have two views of the stone. Isaiah 8:14, “And He shall be for a sanctuary. But” - watch this - “for a stone of stumbling, for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” Now, here is coming of Messiah. He’s going to be a stumbling stone and a rock of offense. Not a very inviting picture.
Later on Isaiah says this, 28:16, “Behold, I lay in Zion a foundation, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation.” Now, Isaiah must be scratching his head, saying, “I don’t understand, God. He is a stumbling stone. He is a rock of offense. And then all of a sudden He is precious. How could a stumbling stone and a rock of offense be a precious cornerstone?”
Psalm 118:22 says, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.” And there you have the idea of the cornerstone. How could one person be stumbling stone, rock of offense, cornerstone, precious stone, tested stone, sure foundation - and then Daniel throws in, just to make it extremely difficult - a smiting stone? How could one be all of those? Jesus was.
Listen to 1 Peter chapter 2, verse 6. And here Peter quotes Isaiah 8, Isaiah 28, and Psalm 118 - the three I just read. He quotes them all in one passage. “Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect and precious. He that believes on Him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore who believe He is precious, unto them who are disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner. And a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to them who stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto they were appointed.” Notice Peter says, “Yes, He is all of these stones. The difference is this: He is precious to you who” - what? - “who believe. He is offensive to you who do not.”
Listen, Christmas is not a good place to play tokenism with God. The birth of Christ was either the most glorious event in the world or it is the damnation of a man’s life and his destiny. You don’t play around with the birth of Christ. You can celebrate it with joy only if you believe and that stone is precious; because if you do not, Christ is a stumbling stone. He is a rock of offense. And the word “offense” in the Greek is skandalon. It is the crooked stick that is used in a trap. The bait is placed. When the bait is grabbed, the sticks snaps the trap and kills the victim. That’s Jesus Christ. He is deadly or He is precious. But tokenism in the middle is a disaster. The rock of offense, the word petris pictures a huge rock bed against which men smash themselves.
What is this Christ to you this Christmas? Is He precious? Is the cornerstone on which you build your life? Is He a sure foundation? Or is He a stumbling stone, a rock of offense, set to ensnare and trap you? Don’t let Satan hustle you into believing that you can pay “tokenist homage” to Jesus and get by. He is either, to you, precious; or He is a smiting, crushing stone. Let’s pray.
Father, we know that the resolution of Isaiah’s paradox of the stone is simply faith, that we who believe in You as Lord and Savior, to us Thou art precious indeed, a precious cornerstone upon which to build our lives. And for those who do not, Father, we pray the convicting work of the Holy Spirit would draw them to Christ, even this day, that they might believe, commit their life to that belief, we pray in His wonderful name. Amen.