As we continue in the journey of Advent this year, it is important to recall that waiting for the Messiah is not only something that happens in Advent today. Although, in a very particular way, today we await the second coming of Christ, which is one of the main themes of Advent, salvation history before the first coming of Christ was also filled with expectation and the awaiting of the messiah. Our waiting for the second coming of Christ parallels the same waiting with expectation that the people of Israel experienced in the many centuries leading up to that first nativity over 2,000 years ago.
As the birth of Christ approached, expectations in the Jewish world were very high for the coming Messiah. The Messiah (“Anointed One”) was to be the one who would establish God’s kingdom in Israel and in the world. Many Jews were expecting a political or military king and were not able to recognize Jesus as the true messiah. Nevertheless, Jesus the Messiah did come and establish his kingdom on earth (the Catholic Church) and bring blessing to the entire world. In journeying this Advent, let us delve into the expectation of the ancient Jewish world and look at the many prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah that would have inspired such expectation in the Jewish world.
Prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus were there from the beginning. As soon as sin entered the world through Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis, God made this promise: “And I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Gen 3:15) Already, from the beginning, the coming of the Messiah is foretold as the “Seed” of the woman (referring to Mary and her son, Jesus) who would have enmity for the devil and ultimately triumph over him. Jesus is referenced as a blessing to the entire world as the Son of Abraham: “In your [Abraham’s] seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 22:18) Jesus is the Star of Jacob: “A Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel…Out of Jacob One shall have dominion, and destroy the remains of the city.” (Num 24:17-19). He is of the tribe of Judah: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” (Gen 49:10) Jesus is referred to as a prophet like Moses: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear…” (Duet 18:15) and “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.” (Deut 18:18)
The prophets of the Old Testament also referred to the coming of the Messiah quite often. Jeremiah prophesied: “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgement and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’” (Jer 23:5-6) Isaiah prophecies Jesus’ virgin birth: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Is 7:14). Micah predicts his birth in Bethlehem: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” (Mic 5:2). His ministry in Galilee is referenced by Isaiah: “In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” (Is 9:1-2) The Messiah will perform miracles: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.” (Is 35:5-6) He will be a light to the Gentiles: “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.” (Is 11:10) and “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Is 49:6, 42:1) The Messiah will enter Jerusalem on a donkey: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zech 9:9) The prophet Daniel event predicted the time of his coming: “And in the days of these kings [the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” (Dan 2:44)
This is not an exhaustive list of prophecies and references to the coming Messiah in the Ancient world, but it shows that, since the beginning, the coming Messiah was expected as a promise of God Himself to Adam and Eve, and Jesus fulfilled all of these prophecies in his birth in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. As the Ancient Jews awaited with expectation for the first coming of the Messiah, let us, today, join in that experience of waiting and preparing, not for the first coming of Christ, which has already happened, but for the second coming of Christ. Wait with joy, knowing that God has already come to us as a baby in a manger and in preparation for his second coming at the end of time.