Our final prophecy in this Advent series comes from Isaiah 9:6-7.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
Once again, here are the three criteria that we are measuring this prophecy against
1. Jesus did not manipulate His situation to fulfill prophecy.
2. The Old Testament prophecies did in fact predate His fulfillment of them.
3. The fulfillment of these prophecies could not be mere coincidence.
This prophecy says that the child to be born would reign on the throne of David. This is consistent with the promise that God made to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-13:
“When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
The expectations from these passages was that the Messiah would come from the family of David, and this is exactly the lineage that Jesus came from. Matthew and Luke record the genealogies of Jesus in their Gospels, and both of them trace Jesus’ lineage to David. Matthew tracing the legal lineage of Jesus through his adoptive father Joseph, and Luke tracing the physical lineage through Jesus’ mother Mary. So, what we have are Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah coming from the lineage of David, and we have New Testament documentation that Jesus came through the lineage of David. Could it be that Jesus manipulated His situation to fulfill this prophecy? Well, no. Just as it would be difficult to manipulate the place of His own birth (Micah 5:2), it would also be difficult for Jesus to manipulate His ancestry. Thus Isaiah 9:6-7 meets the first of our three criteria.
The book of Isaiah was originally written around 740-700 B.C. However, we do not possess the original manuscript of Isaiah, or even a manuscript within 500 years of the original. So how do we know that this prophecy actually predated Jesus, and was not changed by followers of Jesus to make it look like He was the Messiah? The reason we can know this prophecy predated Jesus is found in the Great Isaiah Scroll which was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Great Isaiah Scroll dates to 125 B.C. and it contains almost the entire book of Isaiah. Within this manuscript we have the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6-7 (see it here) and we know that it was written down more than one hundred years before Jesus’ fulfilled it. Therefore, Isaiah 9:6-7 meets our second criteria.
But how can we know that Jesus’ fulfillment of these prophecies was not merely coincidental? In 1957, Professor Peter W. Stoner wrote a book entitledScience Speaks. (read it here) In chapter 3 of his book, Stoner looks at the probability of one man fulfilling eight of the prophecies from the Old Testament. His analysis shows that the probability of this would be 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (or 1017). Stoner gives a great illustration to explain how improbable this would be. Image the state of Texas covered with 1017 silver dollars. That amount of silver dollars would cover the entire state two-feet deep. Let’s say that one of the silver dollars was painted green on one side and then mixed in with all of the others. What are the odds that a blindfolded man could wander around Texas, stop and pick up a silver dollar only once, and have that silver dollar be the one painted green on one side? They are the same odds that one man could fulfill the eight prophecies that Stoner evaluates in his book. Those seem like astronomical odds to me. To strengthen our case, Jesus didn’t only fulfill eight prophecies, but instead somewhere between 300-350 prophecies. Considering this evidence, it is an impossibility for the prophecies fulfilled by Jesus to be coincidental.
As I write this blog I can see the Christmas tree in my living room and all of the twinkling lights on it. It reminds me that at His First Advent, Jesus came as the light of the world. He came to show us that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Not only did He come and say these things, but He came and fulfilled hundreds of prophecies so that we could have confidence in the things He was saying. God has left us with an abundance of evidence that Jesus is the promised Messiah. As you celebrate Christmas this week, and remember Christ’s First Advent, I hope that you will experience a deep sense of joy in knowing that your trust in Christ stands on such strong evidence.