Prophecies about the First Coming of the Messiah are among what I would call “the basics of Bible prophecy.” And each year at Christmas, I am reminded of the remarkable prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus and how they substantiate His deity and the faithfulness of God.
The Place of the Birth
Probably the best known of those prophecies is the one which was given to the prophet Micah about 700 years before the birth of Jesus. Micah wrote: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel…” (Micah 5:2 NASB).
Have you ever wondered what the term, “Ephrathah,” means in this passage? It is a geographical designation to indicate precisely which Bethlehem is being identified. It’s like differentiating between Springfield, Missouri and Springfield, Illinois.
The point is that there was another Bethlehem in the land of Israel in the area to the north near the Sea of Galilee. It had been allotted to the tribe of Zebulun. By specifying the area of Ephrathah, the prophecy of Micah made it clear that the Bethlehem that would host the birth of the Messiah would be the one in the south of Israel near Jerusalem. In fulfillment of this very precise prophecy, Matthew tells us that “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea” (Matthew 2:1).
The Nature of the Child
There is a very important portion of Micah’s prophecy that is often overlooked. It is the latter part of verse 2. It reads “His [the Messiah’s] goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” These crucial words signified that He would be an eternal person, and therefore, He would be God in the flesh.
This vital truth that the special child born in Bethlehem would be both human and divine was also contained in other prophecies. Daniel emphasized the Messiah’s humanity when he referred to Him as “the Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13). Isaiah stressed His divinity when He said that the Messiah would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
His divine nature was also indicated in the first Messianic prophecy in the Bible, spoken by God Himself in the Garden of Eden when He told Satan that he would one day be defeated by the One who would be born of “the seed of woman” (Genesis 3:15). This was an indication that the Messiah would be born miraculously through a virgin. Thousands of years later Isaiah specifically prophesied that the birth would occur in this manner: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child and bear a son…” (Isaiah 7:14).
It was further foretold by Isaiah that the Messiah would be given a name that would signify His divinity. He will be called “Immanuel,” said Isaiah, which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7: 14). Six hundred years later when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that she would be the mother of the Messiah, he specified that she was to name the baby Yeshua (Luke 1:31). That name in Hebrew means “God’s Salvation” (Matthew 1:21).
The Significance of the Birth Prophecies
The fulfillment of all these prophecies and many others in the life of one person, Jesus of Nazareth, is proof positive that He was who He said He was, namely, the Messiah of God (Mark 14:62 and Luke 22:70). God’s faithfulness in fulfilling each of these prophecies in detail is also significant because it gives us assurance that He will likewise faithfully fulfill all the prophecies He has given to Christians regarding the soon return of Jesus.
Let’s rejoice that the fulfillment of the Bethlehem prophecy assures us that the prophecies concerning the Messiah’s Second Coming will also be fulfilled.