Matthew 5:2-12: The Pursuit of Happiness (Part 1)

Read: Matthew 5:2-12

If one were to ask any random person about what he or she wants out of life, without fail that person will probably give some answer about wanting to be happy. Humanity values happiness, so they pursues it and go through great lengths to find it. The founding fathers of the United States recognized this fundamental value and baked and even used it as a basic premise in the Declaration of Independence as a self-evident truth.

Happiness is also expressed a number of ways in the Bible. The word translated “blessed” in the Greek simply means “happy” and the word “beatitude” underscores this, as it is taken from the Latin word for happiness. Paradoxically though, the beatitudes in many cases describe circumstances that seem contrary to what one might consider an intuitive pathway to happiness, like mourning and persecution. While the word “blessed” simply means happy, the kind of happiness that Jesus is trying to teach about here is not conventional happiness, rather happiness in spite of adversity because the happiness does not come from the circumstances, but from the things of God. The beatitudes of Jesus are a collection of sayings about happiness, but they each stand on their own. The understanding and application of each one of these then should follow suit.

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Being “poor in spirit” is not to be understood as being lacking in spirit, rather one who comes to God with no perceived righteousness of his or her own. Isaiah 61:1 speaks to those who are in a similar state. When such people have nothing to offer God spiritually, then God has everything to offer them and they can receive it. This is why the promise to the poor in spirit is the kingdom of heaven. To be a Christians, being poor in spirit is a virtually requirement: one has to realize that he or she has nothing to offer God in way of his or her own righteousness rather one depends on the righteousness of Jesus which is imbued on believers at the moment they trust Jesus for salvation. Jesus himself says that unless one must become like a humble child to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3-4).
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Again, Isaiah 61:2-4 speaks to those who mourn. The mourning here is for the great loss of Jerusalem that was torn down. The promise though is that the “ancient ruins” will be rebuilt, a promise of restoration and future glory that will come. A similar theme is found in Isaiah 40:1, where the prophet declares “comfort, comfort” to the people. This same chapter is applied to John the Baptist who is the voice calling out in the wilderness preparing the way for Jesus. The comfort the hearer finds in the restoration of life toward the end of the chapter where exaltation and limitless strength and vigor are found (Isaiah 40:28-31). James 4:9-10 echos this idea of those who mourn being exalted. While this verse certainly has application to those who mourn the loss of a loved one, the more pointed application is for those who see the evil and destruction world such as abortion, racism, starvation, poverty, homelessness, sickness, orphans, and refugees, and mourns for the world because it isn’t right. Such people God will comfort because he is bringing redemption and restoration with the kingdom.

To Be Continued…

Matthew 5:1, Matthew 7:24-29: The Wise Builder

Read: Matthew 5:1, Matthew 7:24-29

The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most famous sermons of all times and the most well known texts in the Bible, chock full of nuggets and saying that are immediately identifiable with Jesus. Categorically speaking, the Sermon on the Mount is wisdom literature similar to the Old Testament genre exemplified by Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, or Job. Wisdom literature was seen as a commentary on the Old Testament law that helped one live out the Old Testament law “skillfully”. In fact, the Hebrew for wisdom mean just that: skillful. Jesus ends the Sermon with a parable concerning two men, one foolish and one wise. The wise man builds his house on the rock and it stands while the other builds his house on sand. Jesus likens the rock to his teachings, saying the one who puts into practice what he says is wise and his house (that is his life) will stand against the metaphorical storms.

Matthew notes that what got people’s attention in the sermon though was the way he taught. Traditionally, the scribes would make lengthy appeals to respected rabbis in their sermons to give authority to the message. Jesus was not appealing to anyone else, rather something entirely different. He says a number of times “You have heard…”, then follows it with “But I say…” (Matthew 5:21, Matthew 5:27, Matthew 5:33, Matthew 5:38, Matthew 5:43). Jesus was speaking against many of the traditions that had been given to the people by the scribes and he was doing so on his own authority.

One of the struggles in the Sermon though is the relationship of the Sermon to the Law. Some of what Jesus says seems to abrogate what the Law says while other things he says seems to uphold to the Law in its entirety. Knowing that this tension exists, it is probably best to handle each topic in the Sermon on a case-by-case basis with full understanding that Jesus himself says in the Sermon that he came, not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). A close examination will show each in light of this statement and how the it applies to the life of the believer today.

The Sermon and the closing remarks on the sermon echo the Old Testament of how righteousness leads to a fruitful life. Psalm 1 speaks to one who meditates on the Law being as one planted by a stream and all that he does prospering. Christians therefore do well to understand the Sermon and how it relates to the Law and apply to their lives so that they may prosper and be like the wise builder!

Lord, let me build my life on what you say!

Matthew 4:12-25: Only One Gospel

Read: Matthew 4:12-25

Matthew invokes Isaiah 9:1-2 as being fulfilled by Jesus’ itinerant preaching ministry. Jesus travels through the regions that were historically occupied by the tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali and adds how Jesus will honor the “Way of the Sea”, the gentile Galilee, and beyond the Jordan – all places that Jesus had been. Matthew 4:25 lists the first century names of the places that the Isaiah prophecy lists. Jesus’ fame spread the more broadly he traveled and the people, both Jews and gentiles, came from all over to hear him preach and be healed of their infirmities.

Matthew notes that Jesus preaches the same gospel as John: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2). This message is what Matthew also calls the “gospel of the kingdom” in verse 23. In a manner of speaking, this is showing that Jesus’ message and John were preaching about the same thing, which was about the coming Messiah. The main difference was that Jesus is the Messiah and John was his prophet. Interestingly, interspersed between summary statements about the message that Jesus was preaching is the calling of the first disciples. Here, Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James (John’s brother), and John to be his followers, and he declares that he will make them “fishers of men”. They too would become evangelists in the same manner as Jesus and John were. The fulfillment of this is seen in the book of Acts and even beyond Acts as the gospel has been carried to the ends of the earth.

The unity of the message that John and Jesus preached is also underscored by the message that Paul preached too. In Galatians 1:6-24, Paul says there is but one gospel, and Paul himself claims to have received this gospel by direct revelation from Jesus himself before he started to preach. He later came in contact with Peter and James (Jesus’ brother), two of the leaders in the church in Jerusalem. Paul preached this gospel for 14 years then went back to Jerusalem where Peter, James, and John all affirmed the gospel that Paul preached and appointed him as the apostle to the Gentiles. Peter and John were both present that day when Jesus called them from fishing and heard him preach the same gospel John did (Galatians 2:1-10).

The biggest difference between what John preached, what Jesus preached, and what the apostles went out and preached was tense: John was looking forward to the Messiah, Jesus is the Messiah, and the apostles were looking back Jesus. In all cases though, they were all looking forward to the second coming of Christ when Jesus will come in glory, as Isaiah proclaims in Isaiah 9. He will be on David’s throne and will be given titles of honor and praise like “Prince of Peace” and “Wonderful Counselor”. Christians today are in the same boat as the apostles were, looking back to Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. If one is a Christian, then one is a “fisher of men” who is a gospel proclaimer sharing the same message that has been passed down through the ages and the future of hope eternal life. Christians thereby should be about the task of fishing for men so that even more can come to know the one gospel Jesus proclaimed and be saved!

Lord, make me a fisher of men!

Matthew 4:1-11: Temptations

Read: Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus’ temptation is an interesting episode in the scriptures. This sojourn in the wilderness is in many ways in keeping with Matthew’s theme of showing that Jesus is the Messiah. He us fulfilling all reghteousness and obedience here by doing what Israel could not do while they were in the wilderness.

First, Satan comes to Jesus while Jesus was in the wilderness fasting for 40 days, which resulted in hunger. Satan tempts Jesus with food to appease his hunger, but Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3. In the context of Deuteronomy, Moses is reminding Israel of the testing that they went through in the wilderness for 40 years after the Exodus. God used this time to shape Israel such that they realized in their humility that they were utterly dependent upon God for their well being – even something as simple as food. It was God that provided manna everyday for Israel. When Jesus came to earth, he submitted himself to the will of the Father and became obedient to God’s will (Philippians 2:1-11). While he was more than capable of turning stones to bread, he chose not to out of a desire to remain humble.

For his second temptation, Satan tempts Jesus by taking him to the pinnacle of the temple to where he says that Jesus should throw himself off so that the angles would catch break his fall. This time though, Satan quotes from Psalm 91, which speaks of God as a refuge and how God will protect those who love him. Jesus replies again quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16. The context here follows from where Jesus previously quoted on the second temptation about worshiping God alone. Here, Moses is reminding Israel not to test God as they did as Massah, where they grumbled against God because they had no water. God miraculously provided water from a rock for them (Exodus 17:1-7). Satan was correct in quoting from Psalm, but he twisted the scripture, wanting Jesus to demand that God do a miracle instead of resting in God’s providential care.

For his third, Satan takes Jesus to a high place and shows him all the kingdoms of the earth and says that he will give them to Jesus if Jesus were to bow down and worship Satan. Here, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:13, which speaks of the jealousy of God for his people. He commanded the exclusive worship of the people of Israel. The irony of the situation is that Jesus is divine, and would one day rule the nations (Revelation 21) and Satan would be subjugated (Revelation 20:7-10). The temptation here again is showing the humanity and humility of Jesus. Jesus refused circuit what would be his anyways after his death, burial, resurrection and ascension so that he could fulfill his mission and defeat death and Satan and redeem humanity.

Jesus was tempted in every way that Christians today are. And because Jesus was tempted, he is able to empathize with all humanity, yet he did not sin This makes Jesus the perfect great high priest that can help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). James 4 speaks to sin among believers and says that the remedy for it this is submission to God and resisting the devil. This is precisely what Jesus did: he stayed humble and obedient to God and Satan was unable to gain a foothold. With Jesus’ help, believers can overcome temptation and do so triumphantly. To do this though, when needs to know what God’s word says concerning sin so that when temptation does come ones way, he or she will not fall prey to temptation (Psalm 119:11).

Lord, help me to stay humble and obedient so that I may resist temptation!

Matthew 3:13-17: “To Fulfill All Righteousness”

Read: Matthew 3:13-17

Up to this point in his Gospel, Matthew has been building a case for Jesus based on who he was and where he came from with a particular emphasis on prophecies. Here, Matthew switches to Jesus’ adult ministry and life with his baptism being the first episode in the gospel with Jesus as an adult. It serves as a bookend to Jesus’ ministry, with the other bookend being the Great Commission. The connection between Jesus’ baptism and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) is uncanny. In both texts we see a reference to obedience, all members of the Trinity, and a reference to baptism. When Jesus starts his ministry, he comes to John asking for baptism of repentance, rather so he could “fulfill all righteousness”. Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was to save people from their sins, but in order to do so he had to do what they could not: live a perfect life in obedience to the law. The first act of obedience that is recorded in Matthew is baptism. Jesus had nothing to repent of, but it serves to show that he was in submission to the will of the father willing to do deeds in accordance with righteousness.

A key difference here though is that all the members of the Trinity are present at the event. Jesus is being baptized, the Spirit is descending like a dove, and the Father is speaking from heaven. The Father’s statement by themselves underscore Jesus ministry if nothing else won’t. These same words are spoken in Matthew 17 at the transfiguration of Christ which Peter also recalls in his 2 epistle (2 Peter 1:17). The transfiguration account however tags the remarks with “Listen to him”. In both instances though, the Father is acknowledging the Son before people so that they too will listen to Jesus and his message of salvation.

When Jesus ended his ministry on earth, he was not one under authority, rather one with all authority. He acknowledges this fact in verse 16 in the Great Commission, then offers a command for his disciples to make disciples of all nations. Jesus is commanding the disciples to teach others to obey the commands that he had them to follow. The same commission goes out to all those that followed too. Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2 tells Timothy to teach what he had learned to others who could teach it. By implication, there are 5 generations: Those that taught Paul, Paul himself, Timothy, those that Timothy would teach, then those who who be taught by Timothy’s learners. Christians today stand on the authority of Christ and are commanded to do no less than the disciples did: make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey the things God commanded, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Lord, all authority has been given to you so help me to obey you by making disciples of all nations!

Matthew 3:7-12: Baptism

Read: Matthew 3:7-12

John’s words are harsh. He calls those that are coming out to be baptized a “brood of vipers”, which in that time and place was not something nice to say. “Vipers” in the ancient near east were associated with wicked men. Jesus uses the word to describe the Pharisees and Sadducees on 3 occasion (Matthew 3:7, Matthew 12:34, Matthew 23:33). It was a serpent who deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden too (Genesis 3:1-15). Being called a viper was to associated a person as cunning and subtle with ulterior motives – they saw baptism as yet more religion. Those coming to be baptized by John were “fleeing wrath” which implies that they knew judgment was coming and were looking for a means to effectively purify themselves. The thinking was that the more piety one had, the less likely judgment was to fall in them. Likewise, those coming to be baptized were clinging to their heritage as well, thinking that because they were from the line of Abraham made them special and that they wouldn’t face judgment.

The people were right to recognize that there was impending judgment, but they were approaching it the wrong way, wanting to address sin with religion and traditions without changing their hearts and actions. John on the other hand saw through both of these. He was calling people to repent (that is, change one’s heart and mind about sin) and bear fruit in accordance with repentance. He agrees with the people that judgment is coming when he says the ax is near the root of the tree and every good tree that doesn’t bear fruit will be cut down and burned: There would be a “baptism” of the Holy Spirit while others would receive a baptism of fire.

John actually speaks of 3 baptisms in the text and there is a fourth in the Bible, namely Christian baptism.

  • Baptism of repentance – also known as John’s baptism, was a water baptism was performed by John, and is distinct from Christian baptism. In Acts 19:1-7 Paul makes this distinction where he rebaptizes 12 men in the name of Jesus, which would be Christian Baptism, on which they receive baptism of the Holy Spirit. Christians don’t receive this baptism anymore, but it pointed to Jesus.
  • Baptism of the Holy Spirit – This baptism is not a physically manifested baptism, rather it is one that comes when one believes in Jesus and the Holy Spirit comes to live in the life of a believer. This baptism is mentioned a number of times in the book of Acts: Acts 1:5 referring to Pentecost in Acts 2:16-21, Acts 2:38 in response to Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, Acts 11:16-17 where Peter calls it a “gift”, and lastly in Acts 19:1-7 with Paul.
  • Baptism by fire – this baptism refers to an impending judgment that would come to those who did not repent and turn to Jesus. John the Baptist explains in verse 12 that Jesus is coming with a winnowing fork that would separate the wheat from the chaff – the wheat would be stored while the chaff was burned. This is an allusion to the Lake of Fire Revelation 19:20 and Revelation 20:10-15 as a place of judgment for the devil and those who’s name are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
  • Christian Baptism – this is the water baptism that believers receive upon professing Jesus as Lord. Paul in Romans 6:1-12 explains that this baptism is symbolic of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Christians in a manner of speaking “die” to sin and are raised to walk as in the “newness of life” that comes from God. Ultimately, those that do believe will have eternal life made possible by Christ’s triumph over death.

Water baptism is a simple and beautiful picture that symbolizes so many things: cleansing, burial, resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. While baptism is a beautiful picture and it is indeed a command of the Lord, it in and of itself doesn’t save anyone, rather salvation comes by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Baptism is an act of obedience that shows publicly and outwardly that of an inward change that comes from salvation. Likewise, it also shows publicly that one is identifying with Christ, which is also another reason folks would get baptized. Whether a new Christian is seeking baptism or one has already received it, it is good to be mindful of one’s motives and use the symbol to reflect on the spiritual reality of all that baptism symbolizes in one’s life.

Lord, baptism shows I have been saved by grace! Let my baptism testify to this!

Matthew 3:1-6: The Kingdom At Hand

Read: Matthew 3:1-6

John the Baptist lived as a man on the fringe of society, choosing to scratch a meager existence out of the Judean wilderness rather than enjoy any of life’s luxuries. Nevertheless, he attracted a following.

His message was simple: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In no uncertain terms, John is making a statement concerning the coming of Jesus and the impending judgment that would come as a result of Jesus’ second coming. For this reason, he was seen as a prophet, specifically fulfilling Isaiah 40 which is also echoed in Isaiah 57. Both of these prophecies speak of a voice calling for the people to make way for the coming king. Many of the laity in John’s day believed him to either be Elijah, who as taken up to heaven without dying (2 Kings 2:1-14) or someone like Elijah. The camel hair garment and leather belt herald back to the garb that Elijah himself wore (2 Kings 1:8). Jesus affirms this view in Matthew 11:7-14, where he applies Malachi 3:1 and Malachi 4:5-6 to John as well. Paul also affirms John’s prophetic ministry in Acts 13:24.

According to Jesus too John was the last in the line of prophets before Jesus came (Matthew 11:13). This is significant because it in a manner of speaking point to the end of the Old Testament prophecy and a transition to the New Testament era where the Apostles picked up the prophetic mantle, particularly the Apostle John. Jesus’ ministry was to fulfill the law and the prophets and Matthew is making a case for this here in chapter 3 and all through the book when he points to how Jesus fulfills various prophecies.

John himself is a prophet and a fulfillment of prophecy. This is important, because it does vindicate the ministry of Jesus as messiah and ultimately as king when his kingdom does come in glory. Recognizing the factual implications of this is what makes the need for repentance all the more important. Scoffers may look on, asking when Jesus will come back. After all, it has been 2000 years since Jesus supposedly ascended into heaven. 2 Peter 3 assures believers that scoffers will arise, but God will remain faithful to his promise. The warning against lawlessness and an encouragement to remain faithful in spite of scoffers that arise. His promises are true and he will do them.

Lord, your kingdom is coming! Help me to be mindful of this and live accordingly!

Matthew 2:13-23: “Spoken By The Prophet”

Read: Matthew 2:13-23

Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecies is a recurring theme in Matthew. Here in the latter part of chapter 2, Matthew shows how Jesus’ flight to Egypt as a baby fulfills at least three distinct prophecies (probably more) from the Old Testament.

  • v15: The first prophecy comes from Hosea 11:1, a prophecy about how God called Israel out of Egypt to be his people. Matthew likens this to Jesus, who sojourned in Egypt for a while and was called out. Jesus in a symbolic fashion spent time in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). In all this, Jesus remained obedient and faithful to God so that he might fulfill the requirements of the Law, unlike Israel.
  • v18: The second prophecy comes from Jeremiah 31:15. The entire chapter of Jeremiah 31 is a series of prophecies concerning the future blessings that would be given to Israel. Matthew invokes Jeremiah to show how mothers grieving over their children slaughtered by Herod points to a prophecy concerning the children “coming back”, speaking to a future time that even though they have lost them in the moment, they are certainly redeemed by God and Jesus’ coming makes this possible.
  • v23: The third prophecy is really more a generalized statement from many prophets, which is plural in the text. The root word for “Nazarene” in the Hebrew means “root” or “branch”. Many believe that Matthew may have originally been written in Aramaic, but nevertheless Matthew was undoubtedly familiar with this word. Without a specific reference, it is impossible to know what prophecies Matthew had in mind, but Isaiah 11:1-16, specifically verses 1 and 10, Zechariah 6:12, Jeremiah 23:5, and Jeremiah 33:15 area few possibilities. These all speak of a future king in David’s line – a very familiar theme in Matthew.

The number of prophecies that Jesus fulfills is amazing. While it is difficult to quantify this probabilities, most all estimates put the probability of Jesus fulfilling just a few prophecies as odds that are so astronomical that the numbers become a statistical impossibility that he fulfills dozens if not hundreds of prophecies. In other words, it is no mere coincidence. The fulfillment of prophecies themselves are intermingled with historical events too. Matthew is not merely showing that Jesus fulfills prophecies, but that the fulfillments are anchored in real world events, not some vague references to motifs from the Old Testament. Given this, the fulfillment of prophecy vindicates Jesus’ message and mission as being true and from God! The message of Christ is not pie in the sky, rather it is realm message grounded in history that simply cannot be written off as legend. Christians can use the power of this testimony to Jesus as tool to point people to the reality of Jesus and the salvation that he brings!

Lord, all of history points to you! Help the world to know this truth!

Matthew 2:1-12: “We Have Come To Worship Him”

Read: Matthew 2:1-12

The Visit of the Magi or “Wise Men” as they are called in some translations has been the source of much speculation concerning both who the Magi actually were and the nature of the star that the observed in the sky that prompted them to travel to find and worship Jesus. While little is actually known about the Magi that visited Jesus, history does speak to the Magi in general. They were a priestly sect in Babylon that were known as astrologers, soothsayers, and magicians which is the same sect that couldn’t interpret the dreams in Daniel 2. They traveled the land seeking fulfillment of their visions. There is evidence that they traveled as far east as China and far west as Rome during the first centuries before and after Christ.

Those that did visit Jesus were obviously astrologers because they observed a celestial event. In the Greek language and in the Ancient Near East, all celestial bodies were called “stars”, even planets and comets. They did observe that some of these stars moved against the background of what appeared to be fixed stars. The star that the Magi observed for Jesus was one of these moving stars. In the Ancient Near East, when one of these wanderers would pass near another star or “wanderer”, such an even was called a conjunction and these events were seen by the astrologers as major events in history such as the birth of a new king. Exactly which event the Magi observed is unknown, but there were several events like this around the time of the birth of Christ.

The Magi upon traveling to find Jesus went to the place they would expect to find this child: the palace where the king would be. But Herod had not had a new son and most of them were already teenagers or grown by then. The news of a new King being born caused quite a stir, so they summoned the scribes to ascertain where this new king was born. They quote from Micah 5:2. Micah 5 is another prophecy given about the King of a Assyria and this tells of a king from Bethlehem that would deliver them from the hands of the Assyrians. (The Jews were likely expecting a political leader to deliver them from Rome, their contemporary “Assyria”). Herod obviously didn’t like this news, so he conspired to have the baby killed, but the Magi went back home another way.

For Christians, it’s hard to know what to make of the Magi. They were pagan astrologers, something that is actually frowned upon in the Bible (Deuteronomy 4:19, Isaiah 47:13-14). There’s no evidence that they went away converted either even though they had seen Jesus. Even their warning dream makes no mention of an angel unlike all the other dreams of Joseph that do make mention of an angel. Yet Matthew mentions them and that they did pay homage to him with traditional gifts given to kings. What can be said though is that the Magi were there to vindicate the fact that Jesus was the fulfillment of a prophecy from Micah 5:2 telling that a a king would be born in Bethlehem and deliver God’s people. The worshiped him and paid homage to him as if he were a king. This is certainly keeping with one of Matthew’s theme to establish Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and rightful heir to the throne of David. One day, every knee will bow before Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11). The question is not who, but how: some will do it in praise and adoration while others will do it in judgment. Christians can rest in the fact that they will do it in praise!

Lord, your are King! I worship and adore you!

Matthew 1:18-25: God’s Will God’s Way

Read: Matthew 1:18-25

Mary becoming pregnant with Jesus certainly raised eyebrows. Based on what we do know about her, she was a devout Jew betrothed to the righteous Joseph. The Bible records that both Mary and Joseph followed the traditions of the Jews by observing festivals and rites and religious observances at the temple (Luke 2). Mary getting pregnant before she was married among a community of devout Jews was certainly taboo, and the penalty for such was death (Deuteronomy 22:23-14). Joseph knew this and did not want to make a spectacle of Mary or see harm come to her even though under the law she could have been killed, so he decided to to dismiss her quietly.

Twice in this text though Matthew affirms that the baby Mary was carrying was conceived by the Holy Spirit. An angel reveals this to Joseph and also reminding him that he was the Son of David. The common belief of Jews was that the Messiah would come from the line of David. Luke 1:34-35 also confirms that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, a baby conceived by the Holy Spirit means that Mary broke no law — rather it pointed to the fact that this was indeed God’s will and God was using Joseph and Mary’s lives to bring about his purposes.

Matthew shows the importance of the virgin birth by invoking the prophecy from Isaiah 7:14, which is echoed in Isaiah 8:10 and Isaiah 9:6-7. Isaiah is speaking about a prophecy concerning the coming of the King of Assyria that was coming as a conqueror to Israel, but it wouldn’t happen immediately. It would come some time after the child was born to a virgin. When this boy came of age, then the judgment would come. This would be followed by a time of restoration and this child would assume the role of King David. While this prophecy was literally fulfilled in part during the time it was given, the restoration with a King in the line of David was not and is where Jesus comes in. Like the Isaiah child, there will be a time of relative calm between of his birth and second coming, but after that judgment will fall and Jesus will be enthroned forever (Revelation 22).

But if fulfilled prophecy wasn’t enough, even the names given to Jesus pointed to God’s purposes. Emmanuel, as the text states, means “God is with us”. Jesus is the Anglicization of the Greek, which as a transliteration of the Hebrew “Yeshua” which means “God Saves”, and Matthew notes that Jesus would save people from sin.

Jesus’ first coming was not to judge the world, but to save it (John 3:17). His second coming will be the time of when he returns to judge the world. Christians today are living in the interim period between his first and second coming and God is still accomplishing his purposes through ordinary individuals like Mary and Joseph. Every believer has the Holy Spirit working in him or her like Mary guiding and directing believers (John 14:26). Christians therefore ought to be as Joseph and Mary and respond in obedience to what God wants from them so that his will can be accomplished on earth!

Lord, I am willing. Use me as you see fit for your glorious ends!

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