A few Christmases ago, we decided to forgo traditional gifts and instead do one big family gift in the form of a trip to Yellowstone National Park the following summer. In the coming months, we sat in the tension between the promise of the upcoming trip and the angst of knowing it was still several LONG months away.
One dilemma I faced related to this time gap was whether or not to go ahead and show our daughters the many websites and pictures that capture the amazingness of Yellowstone, or to hold off so that they would experience the wonders of Yellowstone firsthand with fresh eyes. I landed somewhere in-between these two extremes.
Over those long months, when I sensed they were having a hard day, I would open my laptop, pull them in tight on the couch, and give them insight into what was ahead for us at Yellowstone. These occasional glimpses of what was to come would lift their minds and hearts off their difficulties and redirect them toward a place of delight, helping them see the promise of better days ahead.
Throughout the Old Testament, we see God acting similarly when giving prophetic messages of good news promises to his chosen people of Israel.
Prophecy is understood to be the gift of communicating God’s revealed truth, with prophets being those human vessels appointed to both possess the gift and communicate the revealed truth to the people (Jeremiah 23:18-22).
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:21
Theologian Matthew Henry (1662-1714) noted that God’s timing in giving prophetic instruction to his people always came during times of despair and loss, highlighting the reality that “divine comforts most delight the soul when under the pressure of perplexed thoughts.”
We see throughout Scripture that God desires to reveal his love to his people, and he often accomplished this aim through prophecy. There are more than 300 prophecies found in the Old Testament, each serving to communicate God-ordained good news to a people in desperate need of good news.
The prophecies that contained the best news were those concerning the promise of a coming Messiah. These prophecies acted as megaphones for God’s loving voice, revealing His plans and promises for their deliverance.
Not only did these Messianic prophecies foretell a coming Savior, but they also foretold that:
- The Messiah would be in the ancestral line of Abraham and the tribe of Judah. (Genesis 12:3; 17:19; Numbers 24:17; Genesis 49:10; Matthew 1:1-16)
- The place of his birth would be Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4-7)
- He would be miraculously born of a virgin. (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:27)
- His name would be Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23)
Every detail of these remarkable Messianic prophecies was fulfilled in the person of Jesus at his birth. We need to hear the Good News and God’s promises for our lives like the Israelites.
Almost everyone reading this article is likely navigating strife. Perhaps it’s a financial challenge, relationship struggle, battle with depression, anxiety, or sickness. Just like the Israelites, our daily experiences demonstrate the brokenness of this world and reveal our desperate need to hear the voice of God. Thanks be to God that he has given us his Holy Word full of prophetic promises of what’s to come that far surpass our temporary suffering.
One that I’m clinging to this Christmas season is God’s prophetic promise to one day wipe every tear from every eye and put to death, death. (Revelation 21:4) Another is God’s promise that, through his divine power and mystery, he will, “work all things for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
My prayer for you and me is that we will allow the prophetic promises of God to wash over our souls and redirect our minds and hearts this Christmas. Just as the hearts and minds of my daughters were shifted toward delight by those small glimpses of Yellowstone, let’s allow the prophetic promises of God to redirect our hearts to delight as we glimpse the majesty of Jesus.