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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Skip Heitzig » Skip Heitzig - The World's Most Unusual Birth

Skip Heitzig - The World's Most Unusual Birth

Skip Heitzig - The World's Most Unusual Birth
Skip Heitzig - The World's Most Unusual Birth
TOPICS: Against All Odds, Bible Prophecy, Christmas

Matthew chapter 1 and Isaiah chapter 14. Surely there have been some unusual births throughout history that have defied the odds. Let me give you an example. There is a housewife in Michigan who has borne three children in three consecutive years. Now that's not unusual, but the dates on which the children were born are highly unusual. Her first-born child was born on August the 8th, 2008. Her second child was born on September the 9th, 2009, and her third child was born on October 10, 2010. So she has three children and the birth dates are 08/08/08, 09/09/09, 10/10/10. You know what the odds of that happening are? One in 50 million. One in 50 million. That is against the odds. You would have a better chance of having quadruplets.

The chances of a woman birthing surviving living quadruplets is one in 800,000. But if you were to have identical quadruplets, the odds are one in 13 million. Then of course, the more children you have, the odds go down precipitously. For example, the chances of having surviving sextuplets, can you imagine having six children at once? It's one in 4.7 billion. But the Guinness Book of World Records gives the honor of beating the odds to a California couple who in 2009, January of 2009, gave birth to octuplets. Eight surviving children, six boys and two girls. What do you think the odds might be of that even happening? It is one in 20,971,520,000,000.

However, I think it's safe to say that the undisputed winner of unusual births is the Lord Jesus Christ, who fulfilled numerous predictions that were given of his birth well in advance. Micah predicted He would be born in Bethlehem, and He was. Hosea predicted He would be called out of Egypt, and He was. The prophets said He would arise out of Galilee, and He did, out of the little town of Nazareth up in the Galilee region. And if you remember in our very first study of "Against All Odds," we noted that the odds of one person fulfilling just eight of the predictions Jesus fulfilled is one in 10 to the 17th power. Against all odds.

Now today, we come to perhaps the strangest prediction of all, that the Messiah will be born of a virgin. And can I just say the odds of that happening are not good. A virgin birth. As you open to the Gospel of Matthew chapter 1, you'll notice a list of names that we're not going to read at the beginning of the chapter. He begins with a genealogy, and he does that because he is giving messianic credentials to Jesus. He is showing you that he fulfills genealogically everything that is necessary. His from the seed of Abraham, from the tribe of Judah, and from the royal lineage of King David.

And then he turns to prophesy. He shows us that Jesus is the fulfillment of all of those predictions that were made in the Old Testament. And the first fulfilled prophecy that Matthew brings out is a virgin birth, that there would be a biological miracle, that a child will be born without any contribution of a human male whatsoever. But that he will be conceived by the Holy Spirit. Now just saying that, in some people's minds, places me in the category of being a wing nut. You really believe that stuff? Like literally, like a virgin gave birth. Uh-huh. Yeah, I'm one of those people. I believe that. And I realize it's controversial, and I realize how people will categorize those of us who believe in a virgin birth.

Millard Erickson the theologian said, "Next to the resurrection of Christ, the most debated and controversial event of Jesus' life is the virgin birth." Not long ago Will Smith the actor was being interviewed on MSNBC about a number of things. One was Tom Cruise's belief in Scientology, a fellow actor, as you know. Tom Cruise believes in Scientology. Will Smith was asked, what do you think about that, and Will Smith said, well you know, all religions are basically the same. And then he said this, Man, how can I be critical of Tom's belief when I believe that Jesus was borne of a virgin? And he gave that mischievous grin on his face as though a virgin birth is absolutely absurd.

Well, he's not alone in thinking that. A lot of people think that. In fact, according to Redbook magazine, 56% of students in theological seminaries do not believe in the virgin birth. Well, not only that, but Joseph, the stepfather, Joseph, the one who will adopt Jesus into his home because the espoused woman, Mary, is pregnant. Joseph is having a hard time with it. He's struggling with the issue. He is thinking, I need to put her away or divorce her privately.

And so because of that, in verse 20 of Matthew chapter 1, "While he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, 'Joseph, son of David. Do not be afraid to take to you Mary, your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.'"

Notice the phraseology. Notice that the angel doesn't say, you guys are going to have a son. No, your wife is going to have the son because she is conceived by the Holy Spirit. You had nothing to do with this Joseph, as you know. And your job is the easy job. You get to name the child. She's going to have the baby. You get to name the baby. And the name you will give the baby is Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophets saying, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel," which is translated "God with us."

Now I think you'll agree that this is the ultimate against all odds scenario, a virgin birth. What are the odds of that? The odds fall off the charts at that point. There are no odds for that. This is a medical, physical impossibility. Has never been done, and it won't happen again. But the angel promises a Savior, and the Savior will be the son predicted by Isaiah the prophet, who will be the solution to our problem. And I'm going to look at those three things this morning, a Savior is promised, a son is predicted, a solution is provided.

Let's go back to our texts in Matthew 1. I'll have you turn in a minute to Isaiah 7, but Matthew 1. You'll notice that a Savior is mentioned. A Savior is promised. You will call his name Jesus for, or because, he will save his people from their sins. In other words, his name denotes his mission. What he is called will tell you what he is called to do. His name "Jesus" means "God is salvation." Yehoshua, Yeshua, or Joshua. Joshua and Jesus, the anglicized form of those Hebrew terms. Joshua and Jesus are essentially the same name. Jehovah, or God, is salvation. That's what he is going to do. He will save his people from their sin. Now note that.

What do we need saving from? Do we need saving from economic woes? Some will say, oh, of course we do. Some will say we need saving from negativity or from poverty or from disease or from cultural baggage. But what I want you to note is the promise is He will save us from the greatest human infection called sin, the sin virus. That's what he's going to do.

Jesus, when He was on the cross, the first words out of His mouth, do you remember what He said? First prayer He said was, Father forgive them, for they don't know what they do. Why would that be the first utterance out of Jesus' lips while hanging on the cross and making that holy transaction? That was His first prayer because that was our greatest need. Forgiveness is our greatest need.

So our greatest need became Jesus' greatest mission and accomplishment, to forgive people from sin, and this is, frankly, the reason that many are not interested in Jesus Christ. They don't see the need for a Savior because they don't admit the reality of sin in their lives. If I don't have any sin as God defines it, then I don't need any Savior as God defines Him. I'm good. I don't need saving from anything. I'm not weak. I don't need that kind of a crutch. So when a person doesn't admit that they have fallen short of the glory of God as a sinful human being, they're not looking for the Savior. And so they will reject him.

But God has saving sinners at the very top of his list. And when He sent His son into the world, it was on a rescue mission to save His people from their sin. Jesus said as much. Jesus said, for the Son of Man, that's himself, has come to seek and to what? Save those who are lost. In Mark chapter 2 verse 17, Jesus again said, those who are well do not need a physician. Only those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Then John the Baptist, when Jesus came to the Jordan River to be baptized, John looked at him and said behold, or look or check it out, here comes the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And the great rabbi Saul of Tarsus who became Paul the Apostle, he was converted. And he said, he wrote, 1 Timothy 1:15, this is a faithful saying, and it's worthy of all acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

I still have that Christmas card. I've kept it for years on file. On the front of the card, it says, if our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.

That is what the angel is basically saying to Joseph. You're going to call His name Jesus because He will save people from their sin. Everyone I've ever met has a deep sense that they need forgiveness from someone, for something. Everybody basically knows this is true. I still remember when I was a kid and I offended my mom or my dad, which was frequently, but I always sensed the need that I have to make things right. I have to hear them say, I forgive you. I have to seek reconciliation. I have to get forgiveness. I wanted it more than anything at some points, and I still find that true.

If I offend God or if I offend my family, that relationship requires forgiveness. So that's God's plan. A Savior is promised to save people from sin. Question, how is God going to do that? Answer, the virgin birth. The virgin birth is absolutely necessary to solve our dilemma, our problem. I'm going to show you that before this study is finished this morning.

So a Savior is promised. Second thing I want you to notice is that a son is predicted. Now go back to Matthew 1, and please notice that Matthew quotes an Old Testament passage. He's quoting the prophet Isaiah, a prophet who wrote and predicted about the Messiah 700 years before Jesus was born. And so I want you to turn back to Isaiah 7 since you've already read Matthew 1.

Go back to Isaiah chapter 7, and I'm going to begin in verse 10. "Moreover the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, "Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God. Ask it either in the depth or in the heighth above.' But Ahaz said, "I will not ask nor will I test the Lord.'" He sounds so spiritual. Then he said, this is Isaiah the prophet, "Here now, oh house of David. Is it a small thing for you to weary men but will you weary my God also? Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel."

When Isaiah spoke these words, looming on the political horizon, dark threatening clouds were there. Let me explain. There were two kings north of Ahaz. You see, Ahaz mentioned in our text, he was the King of Judah in Jerusalem. And you know that by this time, the nation of Israel was split north and south. Israel in the north, Judah in the south. 10 tribes, two tribes.

So during this time when Isaiah is prophesying, the King of Israel by the name of Pekah and the King of Damascus in Syria by the name of Rezin formed a coalition to fight against another King further up north, a superpower looming called Assyria. The Assyrians were about to take over the world. So these two kings, Pekah and Rezin, formed a coalition to fight against him. They tried to talk King Ahaz down south into joining the coalition. He would have nothing to do with it.

So those two kings, Pekah and Rezin, threatened King Ahaz in Jerusalem, OK, you're not going to help us? We're going to come and attack you. So Ahaz does an end run. He gives money, a bribe, to the King of Assyria, that the two kings they're trying to fight against, form a coalition. He sends money to him and says, would you please attack those two kings before they attack me?

So in walks Isaiah the prophet, and as the prophet says, just want you to know God is going to protect you and Judah. He's going to keep you safe. Nothing's going to happen. He's going to protect you from those two kings. Then Isaiah said, OK. Now ask God for a sign. And Ahaz sounds very spiritual, goes, I'm not going to test the Lord. Well, what he really meant is, I'm not going to trust the Lord. Because he has already shown that he doesn't trust God by trying to hire out mercenaries to kill his enemies instead of trusting the Lord to do it.

So Isaiah said, OK, fine. I'm going to give you a sign. God's going to give you, the word "you" is in the plural. Not just you personally, but y'all a sign. I'm giving the whole house of David, God's going to give the whole house of David a sign, and he predicts the virgin birth. Now whenever you see the word, or hear the word, "sign" in the Bible, it's a pretty special thing that's going to happen. A sign is the disruption in the natural flow of things. It is a supernatural event. Example, the Red Sea parting, that's a sign. A fire falling from heaven and consuming Elijah's sacrifices, that's a sign. A miraculous physical healing, that's a sign.

Well, what's this sign? Look what it says, "the virgin shall conceive." Now that's quite a sign, right? That's a supernatural event. That's a sign. That's a mega sign. When the ultrasound shows a virgin girl who has never had any physical relationships with a man suddenly pregnant, that's a sign of something. The Lord's going to give you a sign, a virgin birth. Now, over the years, I have heard people say, well you know, virgin births are more common than you think. And that's my response, just what yours was, that kind of a little chuckle. Oh really? Say yeah, there is a scientific process known as parthenogenesis, and what that is is that creatures can be conceived without fertilization. It's common among various species of lower animals, including many insects.

For example, honeybees' unfertilized eggs will naturally develop into drone bees. Silkworms can reproduce parthenogenically. In recent years, they've discovered that frogs and rabbits have been reproduced by parthenogenesis. And so they will say, well see, these, too, are virgin births, so it's not so unique. Well, that doesn't help. It certainly does not explain Jesus Christ, and here's why. Parthenogenesis as a reproductive entity or event can only reproduce genetically identical beings. Frogs, for example, may be stimulated to reproduce, but they will always be female frogs, never male frogs. In other words, the offspring will be genetically identical to the mother that laid the eggs.

So even way back in the 1940's, a group of scientists under the head of Dr. Gregory Pincus proved that if Mary had conceived parthenogenically, she would have had a daughter and not a son. But the sign would be that the virgin will conceive and bare a son, a male child. And I think the very first hint of the virgin birth is all the way back in the book of Genesis. I think it's the first messianic prophecy, Genesis chapter 3, where it says the seed of the woman will come, the seed of the woman. And there will be a birth, and then that person, that child will crush the head of Satan. You remember the prophecy.

What's wrong with that phrase, "seed of the woman"? Seed doesn't come from the woman. It comes from a man. You have to have a virgin birth for that to occur, if that is the meaning of the text. And it's unfolded for us as the angel says, the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and she will bear a son, and you will call his name Jesus. So this is not parthenogenesis, folks. If anything, this is pneumagenesis. This is spirit breathed. This is spirit control. This is a one time miraculous event.

Now that passage, Isaiah 7:14 quoted in Matthew chapter 1, that has been controversial, not only in scientific circles but also in theological circles. And that is because the one born once that virgin gives birth to that child, it's going to have a name or a designation. It's going to be known as something, Emmanuel, which means God with us. So as you might expect, modern Jewish scholars deny the virgin birth and deny that Isaiah chapter 7 has anything at all to do with the messianic prophecy whatsoever. Because I told you last week, they say, when the Messiah comes He's just going to be a human being. He's not going to be God, not going to be born of a virgin, et cetera. So they deny that.

Here's my question. If you look at Isaiah 7, and you have to say, OK, if this isn't the Messiah, then who is it? You will be hard pressed to get a cogent answer to that question. So if this isn't the Messiah, who is it? Because if you're going to ascribe this to any human being at all, it sounds ridiculous. A virgin is going to conceive and bare a son, and you're going to call him "God with us." Well, that must just be a King. That just must be some guy. It's all so ridiculous sounding to ascribe this to angels, because angels aren't conceived in wombs.

Now, you may not be surprised, especially after last week's study, to learn that earlier Jewish sources, go way back hundreds of years, thousands of years, ascribed Isaiah chapter 7 as a messianic prediction. The rabbis believed that is a prediction of the Messiah. So when you go closer back to when it was originally given, the consensus among Jewish scholars is that it is indeed messianic in meaning. In fact, what the ancient rabbis did was tie Isaiah chapter 7 together with Isaiah chapter 9, verse 6 and 7. You know this one.

As soon as I say it, you know it, for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Upon the throne of David to order it and to establish it, from this time forth even forevermore the Lord of hosts will perform this. They tied Isaiah 7 and Isaiah 9 together.

You remember last week, I told you about those Jewish sources that are commentaries and traditions and translations. I mentioned their names the Targum, the Talmud, the Mishnah, the Midrash, the Gemara, all that. I've said, you've heard me say that through the years. I've quoted those. Well, the Targum of Isaiah, the Midrash and the Babylonian Talmud, ancient Jewish sources, all of them, ascribe a messianic meaning to Isaiah chapter 7 and Isaiah chapter 9.

Also, there was a set of books, 18 books, 18 psalms called The Psalter of Solomon from the first century BC. So between 50 and 100 years before Jesus Christ was born, this book was written, and they cited the Isaiah passages that I'm mentioning to you and that we're reading. They cited them, and they said this. Here's the quote, "He is the King who reigns in the house of David. He is the Son of David, who comes at that time known to God only, to reign over Israel. He is Christ the Lord. He is pure from sin. He will bring His people the blessing of restoration and judge the nations, who will be subject to His rule, and behold His own glory." End quote. That's what Jewish sources before Christ was born said those prophecies mean, but something happened.

Jesus came, was borne of a virgin in Bethlehem. The early church ascribed the virgin birth to Jesus. As soon as that happened, the rabbis eventually began an argument, a common argument that is still prevalent today. Here's the argument. They'll say, well, in the original Hebrew language, when it says, Behold a virgin shall conceive, the word in Hebrew for virgin is the word "almah." That's the Hebrew word, almah. And almah doesn't just mean a virgin. Sometimes it just means a young girl, a young girl. And so that's how they translate it. It's not predicting a virgin will conceive. It just says a young girl will conceive.

Now here's my question. How is that a sign? I mean, how ridiculous does this sound? Here is a sign from God, A young girl is going to get pregnant and have a son. That happened 353,000 times yesterday. That's how many kids are born per day. Half of those were boys, or thereabouts. That is no great monumental sign like the parting of the Red Sea, and it doesn't solve the problem that this son will be called "God with us."

Well, let me tell you how we are helped. We are helped with a translation of the Bible called the Septuagint. Anybody here ever heard of the Septuagint version, raise your hand. OK. Good. The Septuagint version, for those who don't know, is a translation into the Greek language from the Hebrew language. It's a very famous translation. It occurred 280 BC. In 280 BC, the Jews realized that most people are speaking Greek, not Hebrew anymore, so we need to translate the scriptures, the Old Testament, we would call them, into the Greek language so people can understand the meaning of it.

Well, when they came to the Isaiah 14 passage, or the Isaiah 7:14 passage, "a virgin shall conceive," the word they chose to translate the word almah, virgin or young girl, into the Greek language. They chose the word parthenos, the parthenos. And that is a Greek word that can only strictly refer to a virgin girl. Not a young woman, a virgin.

Now what does that tell us? It shows us how scholars best understood way back then the meaning of the Hebrew text. So a modern scholar could say, well, it doesn't mean virgin. It means just a young woman, but the Septuagint translators would beg to differ with you. It means only a virgin girl. And why am I going through this? Because I want you to see that clearly what is predicted here is a miraculous sign, a supernatural birth. And that's how it was understood. So a Savior is promised, a son is predicted, and now I want to cover a third, a solution is provided.

Remember, I said toward the beginning of this study that God said He's going to save His people from their sin through Jesus. And how is He going to do that? And my answer is the virgin birth. The virgin birth is required. Why? Because only in the virgin birth do you have a child who is both human and divine. He's human in that He is born through the womb of Mary. He's divine in that He is conceived by the Holy Spirit. So He is a son who was born, but He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is both. That's the meaning of Isaiah 9, Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and His name will be Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, the one who is going to come to rule.

Why am I doing the whole sermon on this? Why did I focus on the virgin birth? Well, that's part of the series "Against All Odds," number one, but number two. Here's why it's so important. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, that is, if Jesus Christ were born like every other human being, then He's not God. And if He's not God, then all of His claims are lies because He kept claiming to be God. Even His enemies said, you are constantly making yourself God. So if He's not born of a virgin, He's not God. If He's not God, His claims are false. If His claims are false, then guess what. Your salvation is a hoax. Because the scriptures say it will be the virgin born son of God who will come and die and rise again. So it is absolutely essential.

And let me just say because He is born of a virgin, He's the perfect solution. You see, as a man, He's the perfect representative of us. As God, He's the perfect sacrifice for us. Because He was sinless and He took all of our sins upon himself, even though He himself committed none. He's the perfect representative of us being human. He's the perfect sacrifice for us being God.

So think of it this way, Jesus on the cross, hands stretched out because of crucifixion. With one hand, He could take the hand of the Father. With the other hand, He could take the hand of humanity and bring God and man together finally, being reconciled over his own blood. So the virgin birth provides the solution to our sin dilemma, our sin problem.

But something else. Did you know that the virgin birth provides the solution to a sovereignty problem? You're going, what? What are we talking about, a sovereignty, what does that mean? Did you know that the line of David, the dynasty of King David was cursed? A curse was placed on it by God. Did you know that? God cursed the line of David. I want you to see it for yourself.

This is in Jeremiah chapter 22 verse 30, concerning the royal line and one of the kings at that time named Jeconiah of the royal line of David. This is what Jeremiah 20 to 30 says, and we'll put it up for you. "Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none ever his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule in Judah anymore." By the way, that is true. That happened. After Jeconiah, none of his offspring sat on the throne. His uncle took over, and the line died out. The line of David died out.

So now we have a problem. How is the Messiah going to come through the lineage of David if that line ends? Well, I'm glad you asked. Because that's why we have two genealogies in the New Testament. People as, why do you have two genealogies that are, that are, that are different. They are different because they're of different people. One is the genealogy of Mary. The other is the genealogy of Joseph. Both are traced back to King David, but they have different lines back to King David, different people back to King David.

Joseph is a descendant of Jeconiah in the royal line and the rest of royalty, including Solomon all the way back to David. But Jesus is not the physical son of Joseph. He was adopted by Joseph. Joseph nothing to do with his birth. But because of the relationship in that family, Joseph gave Jesus the legal right to the throne, the royal throne, through Solomon, Jeconiah, all the way back to David, even though the lineage was cursed.

But Mary's genealogy traces back all the way to David, bypassing Solomon and Jeconiah, through the son called Nathan, one of the other sons of David. Why is that important? Because the virgin birth is the only thing that can solve that problem. God can give a curse to the lineage of David because of the disobedience of Jeconiah, but then get around his own curse by a virgin birth. So that you have Jesus born. He has the right to the throne legally, dynastically, but he escapes the curse physically. A virgin birth. All of that to say this.

What happened 2,000 years ago at Bethlehem was against all odds. It was absolutely supernatural and staged so intricately, but it was all part of God's plan to provide a Savior to save you and you and you and you and you and me from our sin. It's marvelous to me. I mean, when I think of this and I think of all that God went through, so to speak, the intricacy of the plan to stage the giving of the son who would fulfill the prophecy and get around a curse and the genealogy and the virgin birth, why? That's how much he loves you to give us a Savior who would save you and I from sin.

Two men were having a conversation. One of them was considering the claims of Christ. The other was the Christian witnessing to him. And the man considering put his head down, scratched his head. He goes, you know, I'm just not sure I can pay the price of becoming a Christian. That's what he said. I don't know if I can pay the price of becoming a Christian.

And his friend said, well, have you ever considered what it will cost you not to? If God went through all of that to get a hold of you, for you to say no to Him, that's a pretty serious no. That's a pretty serious refusal. But God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.

Father, we bow before You. We bow, Lord, at the intricacy of your plan, and we think of what Paul said. That in the fullness of time, God sent his son born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the curse of the law. Thank you, Lord, for the Savior who is the son that Isaiah predicted, son of man, son of God, and in that virgin birth provided the solution to our ultimate nagging dilemma of sin. We think what it cost you to send Jesus. What it cost to him in giving sacrificially of his life and his blood, and it costs us absolutely nothing. Because you paid the price, and all we do is the believing, the trusting, and we get everything for it. Lord, I pray for those who may not have a relationship with You, and I pray that before they leave, they would just say yes to this Savior, this Savior, this one, this only one, Your only begotten son.

If you don't know the Lord, what do you just... well let me rephrase it. If you don't know the Lord, but you to, you want your sins forgiven. You're ready to make that change. It has to be voluntary. It has to be something you are willing to cooperate with. Or maybe you're sensing God calling you, pulling you, tugging at you, then why don't you respond to him? You could do it right now. Doesn't even have to be a show. It could just be right now, personally, privately in your own heart. You could just say, "Save me, Lord. I believe in you". Maybe you want to say these words to Him. If you do, say them. Say them out loud if you'd like. Say them in your heart if you would rather.

Lord, I give you my life. I know that I am a sinner, and I'm sorry. Forgive me. I believe in Jesus, that He died for me, that He rose again from the grave for me. I turn from my sin. I turn to Jesus as my Savior and as my Master. I repent of my sin. I receive Jesus as Savior. I want to live for him as Lord. Help me to do that, in Jesus' name. Amen.

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