There are references to a ministry of teaching, healing, and miracles. This would be a man who would enjoy public favor, then finally be "despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief" (Isaiah 53:3). There are surprising references to crucifixion by a writer who had never witnessed such a thing (Psalm 22).

Isaiah would conclude, "He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed" (Isaiah 53:5). The people of Israel could hope for a better time, including forgiveness by the God they had abandoned. The coming king would prove that God had never abandoned them.

Most amazing of all was the coming Messiah's mission. God said, "You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth" (Isaiah 49:6).

Can you see the picture that emerges? It was as if many different artists had drawn strange squiggles on paper separately—only to find that when their fragments of art were combined on a single canvas, there was a beautiful portrait of a king we would come to know as Jesus Christ.

Nearly all of the more than three hundred prophecies have already come true (a few remain for our future). Jesus was all that had been foretold, and so much more. One mathematician determined that the odds of one person's fulfilling even sixty specific prophecies are 1 in 1 plus 157 zeroes.

Why the prophecies? They show us that even as Jesus was fully a human being like us, he was also "one whose origins are from the distant past." By reading the prophecies we see the entire mountain range in a breathtaking glance; we behold a magnificent God who works his purposes out through the march of time, patiently but faithfully, down to the smallest detail. We know that this is a God who can be trusted, and this is a Messiah who fulfills every hope in our hearts.

Discussion Questions

Does knowing that Jesus' birth fulfilled prophecies made hundreds of years beforehand affect your life? In what ways?

Which of the six specific prophecies mentioned in this chapter seems the most amazing to you? Why?

For further study: Read the following pairs of Scriptures to discover more prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus' first advent: Isaiah 9:7 and Luke 1:32-33; Isaiah 53:12 and Matthew 27:38; Zechariah 6:13 and Hebrews 7:24-25.

Question 2: Why Did God Become a Man?

In the beginning there was God. And, being God, he created.

The creations of God were magnificent. He made a universe of unbounded dimensions, measured out in stars and galaxies. Its size was matched by its vast complexity, in the intricate dance of atom and molecule. The range of his artistry—his color, his sound, his silence—reflected the wealth of his power and love.

But God wanted more than worlds, so he created life. He turned to his special world, the earth, and filled it with plants and animals, monstrous and microscopic—a kingdom of moving and breathing and even thinking creatures, all fashioned in wild variety. There were towering, brooding redwood trees that held court for twenty centuries, decorated by mayflies whose life began and ended within a single day.

But God wanted more than life; he wanted friendship, so he created mankind. This would be his crowning work: a manifestation of life that would reflect his own being. Rocks and trees, stars and whales—these were wonderful, but they were not his children. Men and women, as he made them, would be the close-knit family of an infinite God, clothed though they were in flesh and blood. An outrageous idea for communion it was: the perfect, infinite Spirit who is Lord of all, and the tiny, limited creature that calls itself human.

Yet there was love between them until the children of earth stumbled. That's a story for another day, but the truth is that God's children chose disobedience and fled in shame from his presence. Another name for the disobedience was sin, and it became an insurmountable barrier between the Creator and his creatures. Men and women knew God as one would regard a distant uncle who was never seen face-to-face.