"This hymn was first published in 1744 in Charles Wesley’s Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord, a little collection so popular that it was reprinted 20 times during Wesley’s lifetime. Wesley draws upon a cumulative technique, the repetition of a single word for effect. In this case it is the word 'born' which appears four times. Each time 'born' is sung, an aspect of Jesus’ mission to a troubled world is revealed: 'Born to set thy people free'; 'Born thy people to deliver'; 'Born a child and yet a king'; 'Born to reign in us forever.'” - Excerpt from umcdiscipleship.org
"And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike His heel." - Genesis 3:15
"Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.
The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
a light will shine.
You will enlarge the nation of Israel,
and its people will rejoice. . .
For you will break the yoke of their slavery
and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. . .
The boots of the warrior
and the uniforms bloodstained by war
will all be burned.
They will be fuel for the fire.
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.
The government will rest on His shoulders.
And He will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven's Armies will make this happen!"
- Isaiah 9:1-7 NLT
Genesis 3:15 is the first prophecy of the promised Messiah whom God would provide to bring salvation to His people. A King who would crush the head and power of evil and arrest the power of death and sin. (Sin meaning "to miss the mark. When we sin it simply, yet profoundly, means we have missed God's intent for our lives, for our flourishing). This is the very beginning of the hope of our salvation. Imagine what God knew, yet He still entered into a committed relationship with the humans He created. God knew we would reject Him, yet He also knew He could pursue us and win us back. Immediately after God's humans chose their own ego and their own glory over God's beautiful and best for them, God promised deliverance from the death their choices brought about. God had a plan in place and would spend the next several hundred years trying to prove His love and devotion to His wayward people, culminating in God laying down His own life to win back each of our lives.
The Old Testament can read as a depressing, sordid, horrific, or boring account of Israel's history, unless you realize that it all points to the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, God's promised Deliverer. This perspective gives us new eyes as readers of the Old Testament, and we find that it is rich with promise, with God's relentless pursuit of His people, and with breathless anticipation for the coming of God's Salvation through Jesus.
Everyone highlighted in the Old Testament from Moses to Noah to David to Job, lays the groundwork for a new and better Leader, a faultless King, a humble and sacrificial Servant willing to give up everything for our salvation! Where the leaders of the OT failed and chose their own power and glory and plans over God's, Jesus was victorious at every turn. Even the Israelites themselves would be reflected in Jesus' perfect life. Where Israel turned their back on God and chose their own demise time and time again, Jesus remained faithful to God's plan for His life and was steadfastly reliant on God's provision and strength just as Israel was meant to be. Jesus was the perfect and better Israel.
The humblest of God's people clung to these prophecies and promises, believing in God's protection and deliverance. The coming Messiah was their only hope in a world that oppressed them. Some sources say that Charles Wesley looked around at the poor in his community, and at the systems of oppression, and wrote this hymn out of a desperation for Jesus' power and peace to bring salvation and reconciliation to a broken world.
Jesus is the hope and salvation of this world. Yet people, me, you, we choose ourselves over and over again. In the worst cases, this leads to oppression of others, to war, to illness, to atrocities that wring the compassionate and sorrowful heart of our loving God. We can join Wesley and people all over the world in singing this hymn and desperately crying out for Jesus to come and make all things new.
What prophecies or stories from the Old Testament stick out to you and point to Jesus?
How is God asking you to lay down your own agenda or pride to truly submit to and follow Him?