Exploring ‘The Advent’
Study Guide, December 5, 2021
Pastor Clay Olsen
When we look at the Cosmos, or the ordered Universe, it’s like looking at the past, the present, and the future all at once. Plus, it’s really beautiful and amazing…even mesmerizing, right? Well, we say that to say this: It’s the same when we look at Christmas, because Christmas is also like looking at the past, the present, and the future all at once. What do we mean? Well, let’s explore.
One way we could do this is by using the Five Ws of journalism. We can look at the Who, What, When, Where, and Why? If we wanted to make it the Six Steps of Project Management, we would then also add one ‘H’ to it…the ‘How’. So, what do you think? Let’s try it. But let’s first start with the ‘When’, because when we think about the Christmas story, or the historical account of Christmas, as to ‘when’ it originated, it is far older than most people think. So let’s think about it.
In the message at Pentecost, the birth of the Church, the Apostle Peter gave an astounding revelation about God’s plan of redemption. Acts 2:22-24- “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know — this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” NASU By the way, don’t you love that part about it being impossible for Jesus to be held in the power of death? Of course it’s impossible because Jesus is the source of all life itself!
But Peter reveals that Jesus entire life and even the events of the Cross were all planned from eternity past! Christmas didn’t begin at a manger in a stable. No, it began long before anything that exists ever existed. Even before there was a Cosmos there was a plan for Christmas. Even before Creation became a physical reality, Christmas was already a planned reality. And just like all of our God’s amazing works, this shouldn’t surprise us, because remember, through the Apostle Paul’s teaching in Ephesians we have come to know that even before the creation of the world, God already had plans for your life and for my life and for all who would receive the Christ of Christmas as their Lord and Savior. Your life and my life and Christmas are all eternal plans that God is now working out in time.
But again, we should also look at some other ‘When’s’. What do we mean by that? What we mean is that we should look to all of the amazing prophecies about the ‘When’ of Jesus’ Advent’, or His coming to Earth. We often think of that announcement by Gabriel to Mary. Luke 1:30-33- “The angel said to her, “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.” NASU
We also think of that great prophecy of Isaiah – Isa 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.” NASU
One of the remarkable things about this prophecy is how Isaiah identifies just who this coming child actually is: He is also our Mighty God and our Eternal Father! Wow! Remember when Jesus said to Philip: “When you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” Right, the Triune God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Three in One! But, another thing is that this prophecy was given over 700 years before God the Son also became Jesus the human being. And remember: Bible prophecy always come to pass!
But now let’s go back even further, because we have a prophecy from Balaam, of all people, prophesying about the coming Ruler of all in Num 24:16-17- “The oracle of him who hears the words of God, And knows the knowledge of the Most High, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered. I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel…” NASU Don’t you love it? God even used a rebellious prophet to prophesy of the coming King Jesus a couple of thousand years before the First Advent.
But there’s even a prophecy of Jesus’ advent that’s earlier than this one. In fact, as God rebuked the Devil, God also told our first parents about this Child who was going to be born who would be the Deliverer, and He would conquer Satan himself. And only God can do that…which means this coming Child would also be God Himself. Gen 3:15- “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” NIV God was speaking of Jesus here, who would conquer both Satan and sin and would deliver all who believe.
God’s words to Satan here are called the proto-evangelium, “the first Gospel,” because this is the first announcement of the coming Redeemer found in the Bible. To Satan, this was God’s declaration of war, climaxing in his condemnation, and to Eve, it was the assurance that she and Adam were forgiven, and that God would use a woman to bring the Redeemer into the world. (from The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament © 2001-2004 by Warren W. Wiersbe.)
(Now, here’s the deal: We have only looked at a few of over 300 prophecies that were fulfilled in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.)
Now for the ‘Where’, as in where Christmas was to be? Naturally we think of Bethlehem. How many have been to Bethlehem? I understand that it is harder to visit Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity now that this area is under Palestinian territorial control. To visit Bethlehem as a tourist, you have to go to an exchange point located outside the city, leave the Israeli bus and board a Palestinian bus or taxi, which takes you into the city. The Palestinians have even changed the name of the city to ‘Bayt Lahm’, which means ‘house of meat’. In Hebrew ‘Bethlehem’ means ‘house of bread’. But no one can change the fact that 700 years before Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem the Prophet Micah also prophesied this: Mic 5:2- “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” NASU Ephrathah is an ancient title of Bethlehem which can be found in the accounts of Jacob and Rachael. You recall that Rachael died in childbirth with Benjamin. And even today, you can still see her burial site just outside of the city. I remember driving by it and feeling like I was transported back four thousand years! It’s overwhelming to travel through the lands of the Bible. But now, Boaz and Ruth also came to Bethlehem, and there gave birth to the most well know ancestor of Jesus, that is, King David. Plus, the Jews knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and would be from the line of David.
But Micah revealed something else that is often overlooked in this prophecy. He said that this coming ruler in Israel had His origins from “long ago, from the days of eternity.” Micah here declares the eternality of the Messiah here! The Christ stepped out of eternity and into time and into the human body of Jesus in a little village about 5 miles outside of Jerusalem to be mankind’s Redeemer; our Savior. Actually, Micah was putting the world on notice about all of this!
As Warren Wiersbe put it: “Whenever a prophet foretold the future, it was to awaken the people to their responsibilities in the present. Bible prophecy isn’t entertainment for the curious; it’s encouragement for the serious.”
Now, here is another wondrous thing about the ‘Where’ of Christmas. We talked a bit about it awhile back, but it is an astounding part of the Christmas account that often goes unnoticed. Just before Micah gave the prophecy about Bethlehem, he revealed another prophecy about a Tower near Bethlehem, which, again, has only been partially alluded to through the ages of Christmas tradition. And what is that? Well, look at the passage: Mic 4:8 – “As for you, tower of the flock, Hill of the daughter of Zion, To you it will come — Even the former dominion will come, The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.” NASU
What was this ‘tower of the flock’? Again, we first see it recorded in connection with the burial of Rachael in Gen 35:19-22- “So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Jacob set up a stone monument over Rachel’s grave, and it can be seen there to this day. Then Jacob traveled on and camped beyond Migdal-eder.” ‘Migdal-eder’ is the Hebrew for ‘Tower of the flock’. As time passed this area became the area that Shepherds would watch over and care for flocks of sheep, out of which some would be selected for Temple sacrifice. The tower was like a ‘watchtower’, which also had a room designated for the delivery and protection of these special lambs. This was a manger for lambs that were marked for sacrifice for the atonement of sins at the temple in nearby Jerusalem.
Perhaps some of you have read the great historical book by Alfred Edersheim, called “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”. Alfred Edersheim was a completed Messianic Jew and Bible historian, and he records that this ‘Migdal Eder’ was not the watchtower for ordinary flocks which pastured on these lands. Even in the Jewish writings of the Mishnah it is recorded that these lambs were destined for Temple-sacrifices, and that the shepherds who watched over them were not ordinary shepherds, but were Temple Shepherds, ‘priestly Shepherds’. And it was to these Temple Shepherds that this announcement was given: Luke 2:8-12- “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” NKJV
These Shepherds also knew their Scriptures. Because they knew that the ‘city of David’ was the town of Bethlehem. And near the town of Bethlehem was the ‘Migdal Eder’, the Tower of the flock. And on the ground floor there was room for the delivery and protection of these special lambs. So that’s where the Shepherds went, for that’s what Micah had foretold: “As for you, tower of the flock, Hill of the daughter of Zion, To you it will come —Even the former dominion will come, The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.”
The sign that the Angel told them about was not concerning what Jesus was wearing, the swaddling clothes. No, the sign was about ‘where Jesus would be lying’. They would find the promised Messiah in the very place where a sacrificial lamb would be placed. In the place where a lamb that was designated for the atoning sacrifices for sins would usually be, they would now find the Christ child, who would atone for the sins of all, once and for all. They would find ‘The Lamb of God’, who as John the Baptist said: ‘He is the One who takes away the sins of the world.’
The more we uncover of the wondrous works of God, the more we are in awe of God’s ways and God’s plan to save as many as will receive the Lamb of God as their own personal Savior and sacrifice for their sins.
We’ll continue exploring more of the other questions of ‘Who, What, and Why’…maybe even ‘How’ in our next study on Christmas.
thechristianweb.org Migdal Eder: Tower of the Flock, Dr. Charlie Dyer, The Land and the Book Radio (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, pp. 186-187)