Birth of the Messiah-To the Jew First
In Romans 1:16, God’s ongoing love for the Jewish people is revealed in the Good News of Messiah. Though Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, he coined the phrase “To the Jew first” regarding God’s faithfulness, and his personal ministry approach (Acts 13:46). It’s a concept that didn’t begin, nor end with Paul, but from the foundation of the world. God’s provision of salvation was to and through the Jewish people. In fact, the birth of Messiah would be God’s declaration that “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).
Gentile Seekers and the Jewish Messiah
Regardless of the specific date of Yeshua’s birth, the Jewish focus of His birth for the Gentile world is undeniable. The Magi, wise men from the east, came seeking Him: “Now after Yeshua was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him’” (Matt. 2:1-2). Who were the Magi, and what motivated these men to follow this particular star? The Magi were a caste of wise men specializing in the study of astrology/astronomy, medicine, and natural science.
One of their own, Balaam, predicted centuries earlier about a Ruler who would arise, as contained in this prophecy: “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a star shall come out of Jacob; a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). Since a scepter is the symbol of the authority of a king, you can see why they knew the star would lead them to the one “born King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:1-2).
When this star appeared in the sky, the Magi recognized that they were on the verge of a special event! The time had come, and by faith they followed the star and found the true King of the Jews and Savior of the world. Thus, right from the beginning the fact that the Good News is to the Jew first wasn’t viewed as a lack of concern for the nations. It was God’s means to reach all people, along with Israel.
The Timing of Messiah’s arrival and His Purpose
Also available to the Magi would have been Daniel’s writings, as Daniel had apparently been identified with this crowd while in Babylon (Daniel 2:2-13). Therefore, the time of Messiah’s coming, according to Daniel 9:24-26, would have made the Magi alert as to when to look to Israel for their hope and salvation. But in Daniel 9:24 we read, “Seventy weeks [490 years] have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.”
It was not only the timing of Messiah’s coming that would have been noticed by the Magi. His spiritual purpose was emphasized: “to make atonement for iniquity, transgression and sin; to establish righteousness and anoint the Holy Place.” The date of His coming is intrinsically linked to His purpose for coming. Similarly, Messiah’s humility at His birth was a foreshadowing of and pointed to His humiliation at His death. Humility precedes glory, as repentance precedes redemption.
We have come to worship Him
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Matt. 2:2). Think about it…As the elite of society, these Gentile Magi stepped out of their pagan culture, traveled nearly 1,000 miles on camel, possibly for as long as two years, for the sole purpose of worshiping the true God in Messiah! For these Gentiles, seeking out and trusting in a Jewish Savior crucified their pride, as well as put an end to their sin. They had to leave the sophistication in the East and travel to the backwater locales of the Empire, even Bethlehem of Judea.
These Magi were not merely seeking the Sovereign of the Jews, but the Savior of the Jews as well. They understood that in Messiah’s birth the Good News to the world is to the Jew first. Their journey was surely long and difficult, but it was worth it all to gain more than gold, myrrh and frankincense could ever purchase – salvation by faith in the King of the Jews. Yeshua!
Good News to the Gentile World
Isaiah too, prophesied that “To the Jew first” was Good News for the Gentile world. Not only did Isaiah foretell that Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), that He would be God incarnate (Isa. 9:6), and that He would be David’s seed, born of the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), but this very Jewish Messiah would be the One in whom all the nations would trust. “Then in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious” (Isa. 11:10); “He says, ‘Is it too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth’” (Isa. 49:6); and “Thus He will sprinkle many nations (Isa. 52:15) with His atonement“ (Isa. 42:1,6).
Through Messiah’s death, salvation in His atonement changes our hearts from rebelling against the God of Israel, to relying upon Him and His promises, which alone can nourish our souls. Thus, Isaiah predicts that in the time to come, the hearts of the nations who turn to the God of Israel will also love the people of Israel. For those who recognize and appreciate the Jewishness of their faith, their hearts will be inclined to the Jew first. “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isa 60:3).
Enjoying all the Promises of God
“Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her: Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her…For thus says the LORD, ‘Behold I extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you will be nursed, carried on the hip and bounced on her knees.’ As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you will be comforted in Jerusalem’” (Isaiah 66:10-13).
Indeed, for those who allow the King of the Jews to reign in their hearts, His love for the Jewish people will flow like a river. Better understanding is that God’s “To the Jew first” program is not only the way to find the Savior, but the way to enjoy all the promises of God (Romans 11:17, 18).
Wise Men still seek Him
The prophecies and promises of Scripture would be fulfilled and authoritatively recorded in yet another Jewish book, the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31). As those who sought salvation at Yeshua’s birth followed the trail of clues in the Hebrew Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15). Wise men today still must recognize these Jewish apostolic writings to find the Savior of the world. Turning to the pages of the New Covenant we see the faithfulness of God manifested in a manger. “To the Jew first” was the call upon the Magi, and upon all that seek Him born King of the Jews.
This year as you celebrate His birth, let that miraculous event orient your life for the coming new year, and forever!
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6) and all of Israel during this difficult time. Pray for our efforts throughout the world as we endeavor to be faithful to His call and declare His forgiveness and New Life in the New Year, to all with ears to hear, both “to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.”