God's Miracle Baby
On July 25, 1978, a baby was born in Oldham, England, whose birth made sensational headlines around the world. The cover of Newsweek showed a picture of the baby, with the caption: That Baby! The cover of Time depicted symbolic hands outstretched, with the caption: The Test-Tube Baby, and the subtitle, Birth Watch in Britain.
According to one report, test-tube baby Louise Brown "brought the world's press to her door, made a fortune for her parents, and started a major debate on the medical, ethical, religious, and social aspects of conception" outside the mother's body.
However, the births of many babies who have affected human history much more directly and much more drastically than Louise Brown have been unheralded and unheeded. The world has often mistakenly focused its attention on people and events seemingly more important at the moment.
Let me cite an excellent example. Years ago, when I was under contract with Moody Institute of Science in Whittier, CA, as one of their Producer-Writer's, a colleague attended Chuck Swindoll's church in Fullerton. He gave me a bulletin insert in which Swindoll listed some of leading lights of world history born in the year 1809. It so intrigued me that I went to a local library and began researching the matter further--and with astounding results!
Imagine that the epitome of reliable television news reporting, Walter Cronkite, had been broadcasting in 1809. His evening news would doubtless have focused on Austria and headlined the campaigns of the diminutive dictator from France, who was rampaging across the hapless hamlets of Austria, cutting a swath through History! Napoleon was the cynosure of all eyes. His name was on all lips. When he spoke, the world listened; when he moved, the earth trembled. By the middle of 1809 he had brought the completely exhausted Austrians to their knees. That year nothing seemed more important that the fall of Austria.
However, somebody should have paid attention to the crop of babies being born that year, for it was a vintage year! But while bloody battles are being fought and history is being forged, who is interested in babies and bottles? Yet the thinkers and statesmen who first drew breath that year in America and Britain and Germany and Russia and even France were a veritable Who's Who that between them drastically reshaped history!
That year WILLIAM GLADSTONE, who emerged as the dominant personality of Britain's Liberal Party, serving twice as Chancellor of the Exchequer and four times as Prime Minister, was born in Liverpool.
That year ALFRED TENNYSON, who became Britain's Poet Laureate, the highest honor that an English poet can achieve, and remained so for forty-two years, began his life in Somerset, Lincolnshire.
That year OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, an eminent doctor who also wrote many humorous poems and essays and became known, first, as an apostle of good humor and, later as the first American psychological novelist, drew his first breath in Cambridge, Mass.
That year EDGAR ALAN POE, poet, short-story writer, and literary critic, began his brief and tragic but brilliant life in Boston.
That year FELIX MENDELSSOHN first wiggled the fingers that would play so skillfully his oratorio, Elijah, or the Overture of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which he wrote when he was only 17, and all his other compositions that have thrilled music lovers ever since.
And there were others. NIKOLAI VASILYEVICH GOGOL, the masterful Russian author and dramatist. BRUNO BAUER, the German philosopher who was one of the fathers of "scientific socialism." BARON GEORGES EUGENE HAUSSMANN, the one largely responsible for the layout of "the world's most romantic city." What would Paris be without his series of rond points from which broad, straight avenues radiate?
That year in Caupvray, France, LOUIS BRAILLE first opened his eyes that would be permanently blinded at the age of 3 by a leather-working awl in his father's saddle making shop and would lead him to invent the widely used touch system of reading and writing for the blind, which, ironically, used an awl-like stylus to punch marks in paper which could be felt.
That year a physician and his wife named Darwin, christened their infant son, CHARLES ROBERT, a child who showed little promise, was lazy, and a poor student, but who very early became an avid collector of bugs, shells, and coins, etc.
And that year in Hardin County, Kentucky, a rugged log cabin owned by an illiterate wandering laborer reverberated to the healthy screams of a hearty newborn boy named ABRAHAM LINCOLN!
What a gallery of greatness! Think of how the combined contributions of these men sculptured history, shaping and sizing it to many of the dimensions of today's living. Yet not one of their births made headlines, not one of their births caused more than a ripple of joy among parents and friends.
And eighteen centuries before that the whole civilized world had been caught napping at the most important birth of all time. Those who bestirred themselves had their eyes riveted on Rome and all her splendor. Their attention was focused on a cynical Caesar named Augustus, who had decreed that a census should be taken so that he could enlarge his tax base. In all the dislocation and upheaval his decree caused, who was interested in an insignificant couple from an obscure village making a ninety-mile trip to be registered along with hordes of other hustling people? Yet, from the perspective of history-and prophecy-where was the future of mankind being reshaped? The mighty emperor Augustus was merely a pawn in the hand of Jehovah, a piece of lint on the pages of history, a speck of dust on the lens of time, a footnote in the chronicle of prophecy!
Battered in succession by Alexander the Great, Herod the Great, Augustus the Great, the world overlooked Jesus the Baby, God's Miracle Baby, the Hinge of Human History! While Rome was busy making history, God arrived in human flesh and utterly revolutionized human history. Yet the birth heralded by angels was largely unheeded by men. It caused hardly a ripple!
However, the story of God's "good news" of salvation for mankind in the New Testament begins with "that Baby" and "that birth." Quite apart from the supernatural elements in the story itself, I wonder if you have truly grasped the magnitude and magnificence of the miracle of the babe of Bethlehem, God's Miracle Baby? This One, born in the fullness of time-i.e., the propitious moment in human history-is the only Jew who ever lived who could possibly lay claim to the throne of Israel in fulfillment of the unconditional promise originally given to David that one of his male heirs would occupy it forever. God had placed a lock on the throne of David, and only Christ, who holds the key of David, could open it.
The unconditional promise was given to David when he wanted to build the temple. God affirmed the rightness and goodness of his thought but stipulated that not he but his son should build the temple. Through the prophet Nathan God gave David this remarkable promise:
"And it shall be, when your days are fulfilled, when you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up your seed after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son; and I will not take My mercy away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. And I will establish him in My house and in My kingdom forever; and his throne shall be established forever." - 1 Chron. 17:11-14, NKJV
In 2 Samuel 7:14 God specifically pledges that sin would not break this promise. Sin would be duly disciplined, but the promise of an everlasting kingdom was to be conveyed through David's progeny unconditionally.
The primary and immediate application of this promise was to Solomon. Both David and Solomon so understood it. David in his solemn charge to Solomon referred specifically to this promise, applying it to Solomon (1 Chron. 22:8-11). Then, later, in one of his last official acts he convened a general assembly of all his officials and officers and in addressing them referred again to this promise and applied it to Solomon (1 Chron. 28:6,7). For his part Solomon, as he began to make preparations to build the temple, construed it to himself ( 1 Kings 5:5). Then at the impressive dedication ceremony, while addressing the huge crowd assembled, he alluded to the promise, suggesting that it was being fulfilled that very day ( 1 Kings 8:20).
Obviously, however, neither Solomon's temple nor his dynasty endured forever. So there must be a secondary and final fulfillment of this unconditional promise in Christ, David's Greater Son. The Scripture bears this out. That David himself recognized the Messiah, the Anointed One, as the promised Son seems clear from Psalm 2:7. That this reference should be properly interpreted as a reference to Christ is categorically clear from Hebrews, where the writer under inspiration applies it to Christ (1:5). In the first sermon of the new Pentecostal or Church Age, Peter affirms David's "knowing" and "foreseeing" that the promise referred to Christ ( Acts 2:30,31).
The Pharisees, who prided themselves on the accuracy of their interpretations of the Old Testament, identified Christ the Messiah as the promised Son of David. It was precisely at this point that our Lord tripped them up with His pointed question, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him 'Lord'?" (Matt.22:41-46) quoting from Psalm 110:1. Our Lord was pressing home the point that the promised Messiah would come in fulfillment of a promise given to David, as David's Greater Son.
Finally, to the troubled Mary the mighty archangel Gabriel quoted almost the very words given centuries previously to David, applying them directly to the child that should be miraculously conceived by her: "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end" - Lk. 1:30-33, NKJV
So the promise channeled initially through Solomon is culminated in Christ. How God preserved the Davidic line and held the throne open in perpetuity for the promised Christ is an incredible story of intrigue and suspense chronicled through the pages of Old Testament history and climaxed in the Gospel narratives.
Soon after the unconditional promise was given to David, he became embroiled in the sad, sinful episode with Bathsheba and came under the judgment of God. Unwittingly, he pronounced his own judgment, saying self-righteously, "The man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold" ( 1 Sam.12:5,6). The prophet Nathan replied scathingly, "You are the man!" and in pronouncing God's judgment upon David, stated that the sword would not depart from his household.
God graciously pardoned David and restored him, but as predicted the sword hung heavy over his house. Four sons died as a result of Uriah's murder: the tiny son born to Bathsheba; Amnon, who was murdered by Absalom because he had seduced his beautiful sister Tamar; Absalom himself, who was killed in the coup he so cunningly and callously instigated; and Adonijah, whom Solomon executed when he requested that Abishag the Shunammite be given to him as his wife. But despite these deaths, David's line seemed secure. After all he had many wives and left a prolific progeny. Surely his line would never lack a son to sit upon the throne!
Then some 138 years after David's death, the sword struck with bloody and brutal force. The prophet Elisha sent a young student to anoint surreptitiously as king a general of the army named Jehu. Almost the first thing that Jehu did was to slay both the king of Israel and the king of Judah. Then he disposed unceremoniously of Jezebel, the dowager queen-mother, having her thrown out of an upstairs window. Next he set about exterminating the whole house of Ahab in a ferocious putsch. The strange story is told in 2 Kings, chapter 10.
Seventy sons of the royal house of Ahab were being raised in Samaria by duly-appointed guardians. Jehu had their heads sent to him in baskets; none survived. Later, on his way to Samaria, he met some relatives of Ahaziah, king of Judah, and had all forty-two of them slaughtered by a well; again there were no survivors. When he finally arrived in Samaria, Jehu rounded up all who were left of Ahab's family and butchered them all.
This savage slaughter was in fulfillment of God's judgment pronounced against the atrocious wickedness of Ahab and Jezebel, who were the most notorious couple in the annals of Israel's royalty, and who led the nation into awful apostasy. However, in the process Jehu managed to wipe out systematically practically all the male descendants of Israel and Judah, leaving only a fee scattered survivors. The Davidic line was suddenly in jeopardy.
The very next year, 882 B.C., the sword struck savagely again, this time through Athaliah, the queen-mother of Judah and daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. When she learned that her son Ahaziah was dead, she proceeded to massacre the whole royal family. The sickening story of her mad spree is recorded in 2 Kings 11:1-3. Jehosheba, the quick-witted sister of the deceased king, snatched up Joash, his one-year-old baby boy, and hid him and his nurse in the bedroom. Later he was smuggled into the temple, where he remained in hiding for six years, the lone survivor. David's royal line hung by the slender thread of a single, small life!
Then over 400 years after David's death, in the year 609 B.C., Jehoiakim ascended the throne. He was an evil king. During his reign Nebuchadnezzar subjugated the land and Jehoiakim became his vassal. After three years he rebelled but only became more deeply defeated in costly skirmishes with the surrounding nations Jeremiah, sometimes called "the weeping prophet," ministered during this period. What Thomas Becket was to Henry the Second and Sir Thomas Moore was to Henry the Eighth, Jeremiah was to Jehoiakim--his conscience!
The Lord told Jeremiah to write all His words on a scroll and have them read to the people. Toward the end of the fifth year of Jehoiakim's reign, during a day of national fasting, the messages of the scroll were read from the balcony of the temple. They were then shared with the royal officials, who in alarm determined that the king should hear them.
The king was sitting comfortably in his winter apartment, a warming fire burning before him. As the words of the scroll were read to him, he cut them off section by section and, to the horror of his officials, tossed them contemptuously into the fire. This utter disregard for the Word of the Lord brought down the judgment of God on him. The sentence was dire: "You have burned this scroll... Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: "He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night..." - Jer. 36:29,30, NKJV
The clause concerning his ignominious death was literally fulfilled. He died unmourned, unburied, his body dragged away like a donkey's and thrown outside the gates of the city (Jer. 22:18,19). The clause concerning no son to sit on the throne seemed not to be immediately fulfilled, for his young 18-year-old son Jehoiachin did ascend the throne. Within three months, however, he was deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, and his uncle was installed as a puppet king ( 2 Kings 24:6-16).
But there is another tremendously interesting and illuminating aspect to the pronouncement that Jehoiakim would have no son to occupy the throne of David. Jehoiakim gave his son Jehoiachin another name, a name that was expressive of his callous complacency toward the Word of God. That name was Jeconiah (1 Chron. 3:16), meaning "Jah is establishing," and suggesting security, stability, strength. Despite God's pronouncements through the prophet Jeremiah, Jehoiakim, with contemptuous disdain, gave his son a name that ignored the predictions of impending doom.
But God called Jeconiah merely Coniah, and while literally Coniah signifies "Jah is creating," there does seem to be a play or pun on words in Jer. 22:24,25. Jehoiakim called his son Jehovah's signet ring. God called him merely signet ring. The Lord said, in effect, "Even if he were a signet ring on my finger, I would wrench him off!" God repudiated him, his name, and all that he stood for, because he was evil in the sight of the Lord. In fact, God pronounced a curse on Coniah, the terms of which debarred any of his descendants from ever occupying the throne of David: "Thus says the Lord: 'Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not prosper in his days; for none of his descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah.'" - Jer. 22:30, NKJV
Through this curse on Coniah, the succession to the throne of David was abruptly terminated, and the Davidic line seemed doomed. The curse appeared to jeopardize God's unconditional promise to David. The promise and the curse were at variance. The promise meant that an authentic, legal heir of David would occupy the throne forever. The curse effectively cut the line after Coniah, debarring any of his descendants from ever occupying that throne.
That's where God's Miracle Baby comes in! Joseph was a direct descendant of Coniah (Jehoiachin) and therefore stood under the sanctions of the curse pronounced upon him (Matt. 1:6,11,16; Lk. 1:27). So were all of Joseph's sons-James, Judah, Joseph, Jr., and Simon (Matt. 13:55). So although Joseph was a direct descendant of David through the royal line of Solomon, neither he nor his sons could claim the throne because they were all under the curse of Coniah.
Mary, on the other hand, was a direct descendant of David through Nathan's line. Nathan's line was not the royal line and had no legal claim to the throne of David, but it was a blood line of David. His blood flowed in Mary's veins.
So God's Miracle Baby, the Lord Jesus Christ, through Mary has a legitimate claim to the throne of David, because He is the son of an actual, direct descendant of David through the line of Nathan. Mary's blood flowed in His veins. Through Joseph, his legal guardian, he also has a royal claim to the throne of David, having escaped the curse of Coniah through the miracle of the virgin birth. Joseph's blood did not flow in His veins.
In the terrible tension between the promise and the curse God had placed a lock upon the throne of David which only Christ could open. In the letter to the church in Philadelphia (Rev. 4:7), Christ is introduced as the One who holds the key of David. In a since Christ not merely holds the key, He is the key! HE IS THE ONLY JEW WHO EVER LIVED WHO CAN LAY CLAIM TO THE THRONE OF DAVID, AND TODAY HE SITS AT THE FATHER'S RIGHT HAND!
And there's an intriguing footnote of history to the case. When the legions of Titus overran and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., all the records and genealogies of the Jewish people, meticulously kept over the centuries, were destroyed-all, that is, except the two preserved for us intact in the gospels. And those two establish beyond any reasonable doubt Christ's legal claim to the throne of David!
When the angels appeared to the astonished shepherds that holy night centuries ago, they brought good news of great joy for all people: "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." - Luke 2:11, NKJV
In fulfillment of the unconditional promise given to David centuries before, the Greater Son of David was born in the very city of David. He is the Christ, the Anointed One, the Sovereign Lord, who will establish an eternal kingdom based on righteousness and peace.
At last through God's Miracle Baby--the Hinge of History--the curse was broken, and the promise was finally fulfilled. No wonder the angelic throng broke into praise, saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!" - Luke 2:14, NKJV