Now when Jesus heard that John was arrested, he went to Galilee. He left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum, which lies alongside the sea in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali. This fulfilled what Isaiah the prophet said: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, alongside the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who lived in the dark have seen a great light, and a light has come upon those who lived in the region and in shadow of death. From that time Jesus began to announce, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” (Matthew 4:12-17, Common English Bible).
Wow! We are only four chapters into Matthew’s Gospel and counting the one here, there have already been seven occurrences of words similar to, “This is the fulfill the words of prophecy.” Jesus has barely gotten started, there have been no disciples called, there has been no preaching, there has been no miracles. Yet we have already heard from the prophets seven times. It might just make some people think that someone was trying to tell us and the many generations between us and Jesus something! Inquiring minds want to know!! I know, cornball line. I just couldn’t help myself.
Without question, prophecy fulfillment in each case is at least part of the equation. Part of it also is a matter of practicality. In chapter 1, a virgin becoming pregnant. It fulfilled the prophecy but there was no other way to remove original sin from the life of the Messiah.
Then in chapter 2, Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem did fulfill prophecy. The birth needed to happen in Bethlehem to confirm the tie to the lineage of King David. Later in the chapter the fleeing to Egypt might have been to fulfill the prophecy of God’s son coming from Egypt but it also met a much more practical need. Jesus couldn’t even begin ministry if he was killed as a young child.
I could go on with each of the other prophecies but I don’t think its necessary. You can go back and read them and draw your own conclusions.
In the case of our lesson today, Jesus needed a base of operations. I think he had a pretty good idea where at least a good chunk of his disciples were going to come from, they were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Why not make their home your home base. Additionally, as we can see in chapters to come, Jesus really couldn’t have made Nazareth the home base, people weren’t going to accept him there. He had to pick another place.
Jesus also knew, if he were arrested, as the lesson tells us John had been, his ministry, in the way it had to play out, would not have been possible if he was sitting in jail. Any number of people could have identified Jesus with John the Baptist. And, if you think that isn’t a big deal, in the days of the Roman Empire people were arrested for less. Innocent until proven guilty didn’t exist in those days.
There are a couple of conclusions I draw from these fulfilled prophecies. First, if we are to see the words of the prophets played out in succeeding history or in the future, we first have to know the words of prophecy. I have heard a number of folks say over the years, “We are a New Testament people. We don’t need to study the Old Testament.” That might sound good but it is wrong. We need to study the Old Testament because God had a great deal to say in those pages.
Second, I think God not only was speaking to those in the Biblical era but speaking to us as well. For me, what these fulfilled prophecies do is, show that God and the Word of God can be trusted. Just as God fulfilled and is fulfilling the prophecies of old and God was with those people, God can be trusted to be with us too.
Is there a place where you see God fulfilling prophecy today?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Peace,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.