JESUS: BORN OF A VIRGIN
Series: The Messianic Prophecies of Jesus
by Ron Ritchie
The September 13 issue of Christianity Today had an interesting article
entitled "The New Unimproved Jesus." Scholars are piecing together
a new picture of the prophet, and the editor asked the question, "Will
Christians recognize their Lord?" One of these so-called scholars,
Bishop John Spong, in his book, Born of a Woman, said that Jesus
was not born of a virgin, since Mary had probably been raped. Another "scholar,"
A.N. Wilson, in his book entitled Jesus, wrote, "[Jesus her
son] ...was a good, Jewish lad with a brilliant flair for shrewd moral teaching
and he would have been horrified to think of a 'church' let alone people
worshipping him as if he were 'divine.' He certainly did not rise from the
dead; that was all a mistake." A Jewish rabbi named Jacob Neusner,
in his new book entitled A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, wanted to ask
Jesus, "Who do you think you are---God?"
As we approach another Christmas season, it is appropriate, based on these
statements by some religious critics, for us to look at some of the Messianic
prophecies which establish Jesus as the Son of God, not because we
say he is, but because the Scriptures have spoken, and the Scriptures are
the word of God. The Old Testament Scriptures contain several hundred references
to the actual Son and Servant of God, the true Prophet, Priest and King
who was to be the Messiah, God's Anointed. The One promised of God was to
be the great deliverer who would save mankind from Satan, sin and death,
and establish his kingdom of righteousness in the hearts of men and women
on earth. Out of those hundreds of Messianic prophecies I have selected
a few in which to answer Rabbi Neusner's question, "Jesus, who do you
think you are---God?" In order to do that we must go back to the beginning.
Messiah Will Be Born of a Woman
Why a Messiah? What is the need? In Genesis 3 we will see the most amazing
prophecy, that Messiah, God's anointed one, will be born of a woman. We
have in the early chapters of Genesis the foundational stories of our humanity,
our relationship with God. As most of us are aware from Genesis 1-3, God
created man and woman in his own image and then placed them in a garden,
providing everything they could possibly need physically forever. God told
Adam that he could eat of all the trees within the garden, including the
tree of life, but he was forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil, "...for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely
die" (Genesis 2:17). Only God can define good and evil as it relates
to his character; In his book, Understanding Man, Ray Stedman writes:
"that which is consistent with his [God's] character and his nature
is good; that which is inconsistent with it is evil...." This command
was designed by God to keep us in constant loving relationship with him.
After that God created woman and brought her to Adam. When we come to Genesis
3 we discover that not only were Adam and Eve living in the garden but also,
as the Scriptures would reveal later, a rebellious and fallen created angelic
being named Satan, who had been cast out of heaven, was found indwelling
a serpent there (Luke 10:18). This crafty creature tempted the couple to
rebel against God, resulting in a spiritual, emotional and finally physical
The serpent said to Eve, "God has told you that you can't eat out of
this tree, and it's because he's trying to restrict you from being like
him. If you really want to experience abundant life, have some of this fruit."
We all wish Eve and Adam, who was standing near by, would have consulted
God first. But the temptation was overwhelming, and the creature was not
only crafty, but beautiful and convincing. So there were terrible consequences,
as Adam and Eve hid from God.
God appeared in the garden and began to explain the deadly consequences
of Satan's actions---future humiliation and degradation---as well as the
equally deadly consequences of Adam's and Eve's sin. Genesis 3:14-15:
And the LORD God said to the serpent,
Suddenly we see the first indication of the nature of prophecy. In prophecy
God speaks directly to his created beings or indirectly through one of his
Spirit-filled prophets or prophetesses to inform an individual, his people
Israel, or the nations of his divine purposes of salvation and future glory.
Prophecy involves both future prediction (foretelling) and present proclamation
and exhortation of God's word (forth-telling). At times a prophet or prophetess
would speak on behalf of God to an immediate situation as well as to a future
event in the same message.
"Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more then every beast of the field;
On your belly shall you go,
And dust shall you eat
All the days of your life;
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise Him on the heel."
The spiritual war between God and Satan which began in heaven (Isaiah 14)
would now continue on earth, but not without spiritual consequences. "I
will put enmity between you and the woman..." From that day until the
final judgment of this fallen angelic being there would be hostility between
Eve and him. She would hate Satan because of the way she was tempted to
disobey God by believing in half-truths and false promises, and Satan would
hate her now because she had become the center of God's love, promise and
protection. But this hostility would continue beyond the time of Adam and
Eve, "between your seed and her seed," (between children of Satan
and children of God).
Who is Satan's seed? The apostle Paul would later write to the Roman Christians
in 56 A.D., "...just as through one man [Adam] sin entered into the
world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all
sinned...." (Romans 5:12). All of mankind since the beginning have
been born in Adam and have the rebellious seed of Satan within their hearts.
The apostle John made this even more clear when he wrote to Christians living
in Ephesus, Turkey in 90 A.D., "By this the children of God and the
children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness
is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. For this is the
message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one
another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother...."
(1 John 3:10-12). Cain was Exhibit A, the first son out of the womb of Eve,
and later Jesus would call the Pharisees the "seed of the devil"
Who is the seed of Eve? According to John it is all those who practice righteousness
and love their brother. This lifestyle can only be accomplished when, as
sons of Adam, we come to God in faith and acknowledge our sin of rebellion
and then ask him for a new heart, and he fills us with his Holy Spirit,
which provides the power to walk with his righteousness and to love our
brothers and sisters. And God planned to accomplish this spiritual renewal
at this time when any one of the sons of Adam would place his faith in him
and eventually in the hope of the promised one, the Redeemer.
In Genesis 3:15 we find the first promise of a Redeemer. This prophecy was
that out of the seed of Eve would come a Redeemer, a Savior; one who was
powerful enough to defeat Satan, and able to deliver humanity from his power,
which led to sin, shame and death. God told Satan that a hatred would come
between his seed and the seed of the woman. We usually think of posterity
as coming through the "seed of man," but in this one case, a son
would be born of her seed and not man's seed. In Genesis 4 Eve gave birth
to a son she called Cain. "I have gotten a man-child with the help
of the LORD" (Genesis 4:1). She hoped that this son would be the one
who would "bruise the head of Satan." He turned out to be a seed
of Satan, but she continued to hope in the promise of God, as did every
godly mother after her, that she would be the mother of the Redeemer, that
her son would be the promised "seed" who would save the human
race from the power of Satan.
As the Scriptures unfold, we begin to see the spiritual line through which
the Redeemer, the seed of Eve, would come. Special importance is attached
to five men who will lead up to a single woman in this line: (1) Abraham,
to whom a promise of this glorious seed was given; (2) Isaac, a type of
Christ; (3) Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes; (4) Judah, whose tribe
was the chosen one from which the Messiah would be born; and (5) David,
through whom God promised an eternal kingdom, throne and King (2 Samuel
A thousand years after that promise to David, Mary gave birth to the God-Man
Jesus. Once the Messiah, God's Anointed One, was born, God's prophecy, "He
shall bruise you [Satan] on the head [a death blow], and you shall bruise
him [Christ] on the heel," would be fulfilled.
Let's look at this in reverse order. Satan's bruising Jesus on the heel
was seen in Jesus' humble birth in a rented stable; Herod's persecution
of the baby Jesus and his forced trip to Egypt; his temptation by Satan
on the mountain; the hatred toward him from the sons of Satan wrapped in
the robes of religion; his pain in the garden of Gethsemane; and the mocking,
whipping, cursing and blood-letting at his trial which finally led up to
the cross. The cross looked like the final defeat of our Lord Jesus, but
was it? No!
Jesus' bruising Satan on the head symbolizes a fatal blow to Satan by Jesus'
resurrection and his defeat over the last enemy, death. John tells us in
Revelation 20:10 of the final blow to Satan at the end of the thousand-year
reign of Christ on earth: "And the devil who deceived them (the nations)
was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the
false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever
The writer to the Hebrews tells us that the Messiah took on humanity "...that
through death [on the cross followed by his resurrection from the grave]
He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil;
and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery
all their lives." (Hebrews 2:14-15.)
This week I sat in a local restaurant and listened to the story of a man
who been a prisoner in the kingdom of darkness and a slave to sin and the
fear of death. But three years ago, while driving down highway 280, he cried
out to Jesus Christ to deliver him from this slavery and became a new creature
in Christ. Now he is eternally alive. He found out this summer that he has
contracted a serious form of cancer, but instead of feeling fear, he kept
telling me he is experiencing joy, rest and trust in our risen Lord Jesus,
and he said he couldn't wait to find out what Jesus was going to do next
in his life.
As we search the pages of God's redemptive history we see hints of the Promised
One who will come out of the seed of the woman. Those who lived in the time
of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David were all looking for God's Redeemer.
Peter tells us, "As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied
of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking
to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating
as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow."
(1 Peter 1:10-11.) But eventually, some 750 years before the birth of the
Messiah, God sent the prophet Isaiah to speak to King Ahaz of Judah, and
in that conversation the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel became
a little brighter....
Messiah Will Be Born of a Virgin Woman
Then the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, "Ask a sign
for yourself from the LORD your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven."
But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!" Then
he said, "Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for
you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God
as well? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin
will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
"He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse
evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil
and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken."
Ahaz was the thirteenth king of Judah of the line of David (742-725 B.C.).
In 741 B.C. this wicked king was alarmed that Rezin, the king of Syria,
and Pekah, the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, had joined forces to invade
Judah and place their own king on the throne in Jerusalem. Ahaz refused
to trust God to provide protection; instead, he took some gold out of Solomon's
temple and sent it to the king of Assyria, hoping for his protection. It
was at this time that God told the prophet Isaiah ("The Lord Saves")
to go with his son Shear-jashub ("A Remnant Shall Remain") and
meet Ahaz in an attempt to ask him to trust God rather than Assyria, for
all three nations had already been scheduled to be destroyed by God within
the next sixty-five years (676 B.C.). (Assyria invaded Syria and Israel,
taking them into captivity in 721 B.C. [Isaiah 7:1-9].) "Ask a sign
for yourself from the LORD your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven"
Isaiah said to King Ahaz, "You are surrounded by the kings of Syria
and Israel, and you are placing your hope in Assyria to save Judah. I have
good news: God wants you to ask for a sign which he will accomplish based
on your faith in him on behalf of his people. Ahaz, you have a history of
God's actions in the past, from the redemption of the Jews from the land
of Egypt and the destruction of their army, to the crossing of the Red Sea
and the conquest of Canaan, to the establishment of the kingdom of David
and Solomon. So, Ahaz, think deeply, so that God's people will have their
faith in him restored and the surrounding nations will be drawn to him for
salvation, as they see how he delivered you from your enemies." But
Ahaz said, "I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!" The king
told Isaiah in so many words, and with a proud heart, "I don't need
God's help. I have already hired the Assyrian army to save us."
Isaiah responded: "Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a
thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience
of my God as well?" (Isaiah 7:13). Note at this point that Isaiah directed
his message away from King Ahaz and to the whole house of David. "Therefore
the LORD Himself will give you [plural] a sign: Behold, a virgin [or maiden
or young woman] will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His
name Immanuel [God with us]." (Isaiah 7:14)
Since Ahaz would not reach to the heavens for some supernatural sign in
order to experience redemption from their enemies, God himself would give
them, the house of David, a sign beyond their wildest imagination. He would
choose a young Jewish maiden (ha almah), a virgin ready for marriage
or just married. Further, in this context the Hebrew word almah takes
the literal meaning "virgin," and in Matthew 1:23 almah,
translated into the Greek parthenes, must take the literal meaning
"virgin." This virgin would have a son (no mention of a husband),
and she would call his name Immanuel. This young woman would not be out
of Ahaz' harem, nor was this the wife of the prophet, as some Jewish scholars
believe, for she already had one son (Isaiah 7:3), Shear-jashub ("A
Remnant Remains"), and was to give birth shortly after this confrontation
to a second son called Maher-shalal-hash-baz ("Swift Is the Booty,
Speedy Is the Prey") (Isaiah 8:3). This child of the virgin would be
a sign to the whole house of David, and as Isaiah was speaking for the Lord
he not only saw the Messiah who was to be born in Isaiah 7:14, but the Messiah
who was born in Isaiah 9:6 and the Messiah who would rule and reign over
the hearts of men and women in every generation, as well as over the world
in the final generation (Isaiah 9:6-7). This Messiah would be called Immanuel,
meaning that God will be with us in his deity and humanity. No one on earth,
including Isaiah, had any idea as to when Immanuel would be born, only that
he would be. And at this point there was no indication of the virgin conception
which would be accomplished by the Holy Spirit.
Isaiah then warned the disbelieving King Ahaz, saying, "Before my young
son here will eat the food of poverty and have the ability to choose between
good and evil, Syria and Israel will be destroyed by Assyria, and Judah
will be left desolate. But a remnant will return, as symbolized in my son
I just received a phone call from Dudley Weiner, the pastor of L'Egise Emmanuel
in Paris, and he was delighted to share the good news that three Parisians
had personally invited Immanuel into their hearts this week. God is with
the Parisians in his risen Son Jesus, and God is with us here in California.
God, through his risen Son Jesus, is willing to redeem all who are living
in the kingdom of Satan if they will but call out to him in faith. When
they do that, Christ Jesus not only forgives them of their sins, but breaks
the power of Satan over their lives, giving them a new life in him as well
as the gift of eternal life. And he gives them the person and power of the
Holy Spirit to live out their new life here and in eternity.
Rabbi Neusner wanted to ask Jesus, "Who do you think you are---God?"
According to Genesis 3:15 God had promised the world a Redeemer out of the
womb of a woman. And according to Isaiah 7:14 God had promised the world
a Redeemer out of the womb of a virgin woman and prophesied that
the male child would be named Immanuel---God with us. Now we are going to
discover that God continued to keep his word over thousands of human years.
Messiah Will Be Born of the Virgin Mary
Luke 1:30-35; Matthew 1:18-23
Some 750 years after the prophet Isaiah spoke to the house of David about
the coming of Messiah through a young Jewish virgin, God began the fulfillment
of that prophecy by sending his angel in dreams to a young Jewish couple
from within the house of David.
In Luke 1:30-35 the angel Gabriel appeared before the virgin Mary and said,
"...Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with
God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you
shall name Him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the
Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;
and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will
have no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since
I am a virgin?" And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy
Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow
you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God."
Matthew 1:18-23 says,
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother
Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found
to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous
man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly.
But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to
him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to
take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the
Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus,
for it is He who will save His people from their sins." Now all this
took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be
fulfilled, saying, "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL
BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated
means "GOD WITH US."
The eternal Son of the eternal God had existed as one with the Father from
all eternity. The One who by his power had created the universe would come
into human flesh through Mary's womb. Jesus, the Messiah of God, the Eternal
One, reached out through his birth and took to himself a complete humanity,
uniting that with true deity into one person. Such was the revelation given
to Joseph. He was hearing the fact that in this male child all the fullness
of the Godhead would be manifested in human flesh. The apostle John would
later record, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we
beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of
grace and truth" (John 1:14).
The apostle Paul would write some thirty years after Jesus' life on earth,
"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who,
although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God
a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant,
and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as
a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even
death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8.)
Paul would then add in a letter to the Colossians, "For in Him all
the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." (Colossians 2:9.)
And finally, in a letter to his disciple Titus, Paul wrote: "For the
grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men...our great God
and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem
us..." (Titus 2:11, 13).
What is the meaning of the virgin birth? The virgin birth was necessary
in order to preserve Jesus' deity. The language of the Spirit's coming upon
Mary and "overshadowing" her revealed that this baby would be
a special creation whose father would be God himself. That Jesus was born
apart from human fatherhood points to his divine nature as the Son of God
(R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith).
The virgin birth was necessary in order to preserve Jesus' humanity. This
birth was designed by God so that his eternal Son could take on the body
of flesh without the tainted human nature, the inward desire to sin, that
we all have inherited from Adam. He became the second Adam, man as God desired
man to be before he sinned. "Therefore, He had to be made like His
brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high
priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of
the people" (Hebrews 2:17). "For we do not have a high priest
who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted
in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). "He
[God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we
might become the righteousness of God in Him [Jesus Christ]." (2 Corinthians
5:21) When we place our faith in him as our sin-bearer He is willing to
take our sins on himself, and then imparts to us his righteousness.
The virgin birth was necessary in order to deal with the sin of humanity.
The issue that breaks the relationship between God and man is sin, as we
witnessed in the Garden of Eden. Adam was told that if he sinned before
God he would surely die. The only way man can come back into a relationship
with God is to have his sins forgiven. In the Old Testament days a sinner
would come before God with a perfect and innocent lamb and offer its life
blood up to God as an atonement for his sin. This was a symbolic act which
looked forward to God's perfect Lamb who would take away the sin of the
world and would deliver "his seed" from the power of Satan and
render him powerless. The virgin birth, which perfectly preserved Jesus'
deity and his humanity, provided that perfect Lamb - a lamb without blemishes
Recently, I was invited to speak at a most unique ministry designed by Jeff
Farrar and his staff at Central Peninsula Church in Foster City. It included
many different "recovery groups," most of which acknowledge their
need of a higher power to overcome their addictions. At the meeting I attended,
they had some great modern music, and then they invited me to speak of my
relationship with my higher power. I am sure it goes without saying that
I told them about Jesus! Then men and women from every walk of life shared
their struggles and how they were trying to reach out to their higher power,
as well as to their friends, for courage, strength and support in order
to get through one more day without failing. The evening ended with a tribute
to one of their friends, Eric, who died last week of AIDS, and how he had
found that his higher power was Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the only one
who could forgive his sins and deliver him into heaven.
Rabbi Neusner wanted to ask Jesus, "Who do you think you are---God?"
The answer for all eternity is that Jesus does not think he is God---he
knows he is God. And this one and only living God was willing, as
soon as Adam and Eve rebelled against him, to set in motion a plan to become
the necessary and perfect Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the
God placed that hope in the heart of Eve when he said her seed would bruise
Satan on the head. (Genesis 3:15)
God renewed the hope of a coming Redeemer by the prophet Isaiah when he
spoke to the house of David, "...Behold, a virgin will be with child
and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel [God with us]."
God fulfilled the hope of a coming Redeemer when Mary was told by the angel,
"And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you
shall name Him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the
Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David"...And
Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I am a virgin?' And the
angel answered... 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of
the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring
shall be called the Son of God...'" For nothing is impossible with
Thank God Jesus says, "Yes."
Rabbi: "Jesus! Who do you think you are---God?"
Catalog No. 4383
November 21, 1993
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