Look For The Star
The Bible is one glorious story pointing to the person of Jesus. Yet it is easy to segregate the Christmas story from the rest of the Bible. We might read about the birth of Christ right before we open presents on Christmas morning, but then do we find ourselves guilty of packing the story of Advent away with our Christmas tree and not opening it up again until next year?
What would happen if we saw how the whole Bible points toward Christ? What if, instead of separating the individual Bible stories, we saw all the stories of the Bible as one grand narrative of our salvation and redemption?
Think about it like a strand of Christmas lights. If one light is broken, the whole strand does not light up. What part of the gospel story might be illuminated when we connect Christ’s birth with the rest of redemption history?
This post seeks to connect the promises given to Abraham with the coming of Christ. And as we see how these two stories connect, I pray that we will be able to rejoice in the provision of Christ in a new way. As we look at the life of Abraham, we will see a gospel picture, a gospel promise, a gospel sign, and the gospel provision.
Picture the scene: Abraham was in the land of Moriah, taking his one and only son up a mountain to make a sacrifice to God. The wood for the offering was placed on his son Isaac’s back, and Abraham took the fire and knife. “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son,” Abraham explained (Gen. 22: 8). So they went up together.
There are so many parallels between Abraham’s sacrifice and when Christ was led up the mountain to be crucified. Jesus was the one and only son who took the wooden cross upon his back. And like Isaac, Jesus trusted his father and didn’t resist. Jesus said in the garden of Gethsemane with the cross still in front of him, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
God kept his promise to Abraham to provide the sacrifice by bringing the perfect lamb who lived a sinless life and died the death we deserved for our sin.
So what does this picture, this sacrificial scene, have to do with Christmas? It is the place where Abraham received a promise that God would fulfill at Christ’s birth.
In the context of a glorious gospel picture on top of a mountain where Isaac was foreshadowing Christ’s death, God promised that in Abraham’s offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed. On that mountain where Abraham did not withhold his only son, God swore by himself saying, “I shall surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:17-18, emphasis mine).
Abraham was hearing the Gospel proclaimed, and he believed and it was credited to him as righteousness. Galatians 3:8-9 says, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
The Gospel was promised. There would be another Son that would be sacrificed for mankind. There would be a king that would bless all the nations of the earth. That savior, that king, was coming.
Not only did God give Abraham a promise, but he also gave Abraham a sign. God proclaimed to Abraham in Genesis 22: “I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is on the seashore.” The sign was a vast amount of stars in the sky.
What if this sign existed to point straight to Jesus who would bless the nations by living, dying and rising again? We see another hint of this promise in Numbers 24:17, which says, “A star shall come out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.” (emphasis mine).
This seemingly obscure passage in Numbers proves to be one of the most encouraging passages in the Old Testament. If you remember the story, a pagan king, Barak, hired a prophet, Balaam, to curse the nation of Israel. But the same God who provided the sacrifice for Abraham and Isaac would not be so easily thwarted. For Balaam could not even curse Israel; rather, his mouth was filled with blessing. And this was the blessing for God’s people: “A star shall come out of Jacob… it shall crush the forehead of Moab.”
This prophecy, this blessing, is significant for two reasons: one points backward and one points forward. It points backward to an earlier gospel promise in Genesis 3:15, that one day God would raise up a seed of the woman who would crush the head of the enemy. This prophecy tells us that this head-crushing seed will come from the nation of Israel. This connects with the second promise, the forward-pointing promise. At this point, Israel had no king. Israel had never had a king. But this prophecy tells us that all along, God was planning to raise up a king from the nation of Israel who would deliver a death-blow to the enemy of the people of God. How will we recognize this king? Look for the star.
So this prophecy in Numbers needs to be written all over our Christmas cards. It provides wonderful insight into the good news behind the star of Bethlehem. What if God showed Abraham stars because that would help us see the true king? What if a giant star rose in Bethlehem on to announce Jesus’ birth saying, “Here is the king!” What if that star shone to fulfill the promise to Abraham to provide the perfect sacrifice? What if the star was there to say, “Here is the true Son. The true seed of a woman that will crush the head of the enemy”?
What if the star was there to bring both Jews and Gentiles to salvation? Do you see that the star led a group of wise men (who were Gentiles) to the true king? What if the star pointed directly to the man who would create in Himself “one new man in place of two, so making peace” (Eph. 2:15). I think that star existed to say, “Here is the true God. The true king! Worship Him.”
When we see the Christmas story in the context of God’s larger story of redemption, it provides a wonderful picture of the gospel. Christ’s birth isn’t just for celebrating in December. It is an invitation for us to behold how our great God keeps his promises from generation to generation.
“And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Mt. 2:9b-11)
Behold your king! Jesus has come. This glorious news is an invitation to rejoice and worship the living God alongside the wise men. We, like the wise men, were once far off and apart from God in the world. But God gave us a light that penetrated our darkness and drew us to himself. His glory is so attractive, so compelling, that we, too, must come with bended knees before our great king. Isaiah foretold this moment, saying, “And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isa 60:3).
So even though we no longer see a physical star above a physical stable, we can still adore Christ the King. Peter tells us: “… you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19b). Jesus is the morning star of Balaam’s prophecy; he is the morning star who rises in our hearts as we worship him even today. Jesus is the true King. Christ is the everlasting Lord. What an amazing story of love.