Friday, April 27, 2007

Matthew 1:18-20 "Joseph-A example of godliness"

In verses 18 through 25 of this chapter, Matthew records the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. He does so to provide important points in regards to prophecy that Jesus Christ was the long awaited Messiah of the Hebrew people. While doing so, we also observe Joseph's role in the birth narrative that, although passive, provides us insight into the character of the man who would fill the earthly role of father to Jesus. We can be encouraged by his example and his faithfulness.

Matthew records in verse 18 that Mary and Joseph were betrothed, or as we would say, they were engaged to be married. An engagement in Jewish culture was practically as binding as a marriage. As Albert Barnes notes in his commentary, the property of the woman was considered to be now the property of her soon-to-be husband unless he renounced it. For all intents, they were husband and wife. However, they did not live together and did not consummate the marriage until after the actual wedding ceremony. To become intimately involved during the engagement would be looked on as fornication. Therefore, when Matthew states the Mary was found to be with child…before they came together, we find that Joseph and Mary were in a very real crisis. Matthew removes all doubt of any sin by the two of them by noting that the pregnancy was discovered before they had consummated the marriage. He further adds that the Child she was carrying was of the Holy Ghost. The supernatural circumstances of the conception did not mean, however, that they were not still in a crisis. People would assume one of two things. Either Mary had committed adultery or she and Joseph had committed fornication. The death penalty would have applied to both situations. It would be unlikely that anyone would believe the truth. In short, the young couple faced a real life or death personal crisis.

It is in this crisis that we see the man of God that Joseph is. First of all, Matthew records that Joseph is a just man. That phrase is a Jewish expression for someone who is a true follower of God and who observes the law. In other words, Joseph was neither a godless man who rejected the Lord nor was he a self-righteous legalist like the Pharisees Of course, we should remember what Isaiah the prophet wrote in Isaiah 64:6 that "…all our righteousness is as filthy rags." Joseph was as in need of a savior as you or I, but he did earnestly seek after God. We also notice him to be compassionate and merciful. Matthew records that he was not willing to make her a public example but was minded to put her away quietly. Scripture does not record the conversation between Joseph and Mary or how the pregnancy was discovered exactly. Speculation about such things is fruitless for Bible students since God, in His providence, chose not to inspire the authors to write about it. However, Joseph contemplated a divorce as the solution to this crisis. He could have had her killed. Stoning was the penalty for adultery and that would have been what this appeared to be in the eyes of most people. Certainly Joseph could have thought that because he knew the Child was not his. He chose mercy over the law. The Greek word thelo¯ is translated not willing. This word, according to Vines Expository Dictionary, carries with it the idea of authority to make a decision. The word boulomai is translated was minded. This word has the sense of a preference. In other words, Joseph chose not to do as he had a legal right to but instead preferred to quietly divorce her. He chose not to assert his authority in the matter but instead to suffer loss himself and be merciful. In a sense, our Lord did that when He sent Jesus to be our sacrifice. Because of our sin, God had a legal claim on us. He is just and holy and our sin offended Him. By His righteousness He could have condemned everyone to eternal punishment in Hell. Instead, because He loved us, He chose to be merciful. In Colossians 2:13 &14, Paul writes that God "Has made you alive together with Him [Christ], having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." Joseph chose a godly response and instead of demanding justice, decided to extend mercy. Finally, Matthew records that Joseph thought about these things. He did not immediately take action. He preferred to meditate and, in all likelihood, pray about the decision. Sometimes in churches, people want to see God move in a spontaneous way and assume that is the only way in which God moves. However, as we see with Joseph and other men and women in the Bible, there is something to be said for taking time to pause, reflect, and listen for the voice of God. While certainly God does not speak in an audible voice as He once did, He still speaks through His Word, the Holy Spirit, circumstances, and His church. Let us pray for the wisdom to wait to hear from the Lord as Joseph did. Let us pray for the grace that Joseph had to extend mercy rather than demand justice. Let us finally pray to be true seekers of God's righteousness so we can be declared " just" in the same manner as Joseph.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Matthew 1:2-17-"The King's Credentials"

As we observed last time, Matthew was inspired by God to write this gospel as proof to the Hebrew people that Jesus Christ was their long awaited Messiah. As we read this section of Scripture, we notice that the method he was moved by the Holy Spirit to use was a genealogy to prove Jesus had a legal claim to the throne of David. Matthew presents a different genealogy than Luke does in his Gospel. First of all, he begins his listing with Abraham and moves forward in time whereas Luke presents the listing from Jesus and works his way back to the first man, Adam. Secondly, from David onward both genealogies have different people. Bible students have discussed the reason for the discrepancy for years and honestly there doesn't appear to be a "right" answer. Some have suggested that one of the two men made a mistake or copied information that was itself incorrect. Because we know that God's Word is perfect and contains no errors, we can pretty well reject that theory as false. Another theory is that Heli (from Luke's listing) was Mary's father and had adopted Joseph after Joseph and Mary were married because Heli had no legal heir so as to pass his possessions through to Joseph. The most popular theory, however, is that Luke presents Mary's genealogy while Matthew presents Joseph's so that Luke traces Jesus' biological claim to the throne while Matthew traces Jesus' legal claim to the throne of David. In any case, Matthew makes it clear in his Gospel that Jesus is the promised Son of David and is the Messiah promised to the Jewish people. He writes that the people in this listing begat (geunao) their offspring. This word does not mean, however, that the person who was begat was necessarily the child of the person named. In several instances, Matthew skips several generations from the one who begat to the one who was begat. In all likelihood, he did this to provide his readers a memory aid. In verse 17, he lists that his genealogy records three groups of 14 generations covering 3 periods in the history of Israel: the call of the nation (Abraham), the beginning of the Kingdom (David), and the exile to Babylon (Jeconiah). Since written Scripture was rare when Matthew wrote his Gospel, he could have used this common sort of memory aid used by the Jews to help his readers remember this important truth-Jesus is the long awaited Messiah, the King of Israel.

The interpretation of this passage of Scripture, then, is that Matthew wrote to provide proof of who Jesus was. There are other observations that we can make that have valuable application to our lives as well as being a great encouragement to us. First, and most obviously, we can see God at work in history. The genealogy covers about 2,500 years, give or take, of history. Of all the people who lived and died, all the wars, all the good times and bad times that transpired during that time, God was at work to put these people where He wanted them to be to accomplish His will. It is an encouragement for us to remember that, in the end, it's not about us. God was in control before we got here. God will be in control while we are here and after we pass away, God is still in control. We also notice that God is sovereign. In other words, God does what God wants to do and He doesn't have to explain Himself to anyone. We see God choose Abraham. When we read the Genesis account of Abraham's call, we find something interesting about the reason God chose Abraham. It isn't given. We have no clue why God did it. It wasn't because Abraham was more righteous, or smarter, or more religious. Also, out of the 12 children of Jacob, God chose one-Judah. Of Judah's two children, he chose Perez. His sovereignty in all things should cause us to praise Him. Who else has the power to do that? Everyone ultimately answers to someone. Of all the rulers and powerful people in this world, no one has the might, power, and authority that God has. We further notice that God is at work regardless of personal or national circumstances. For instance, there are listed here kings who did right in God's eyes (Hezekiah, Jehosaphat) and those who did not (Joram, Manasseh). Regardless of the good or evil character of these leaders, God was at work and used them. Tamar committed adultery with her father-in-law who, because she disguised herself, though she was a prostitute. David and Bathsheba (she who had been the wife of Uriah) committed adultery. Rahab, before she hid the spies from the nation of Israel who had come in to spy out Cannan in the book of Joshua, was a prostitute. Even through their sin, God was able to use them in his plan to bring the Messiah into the world. We also see people who were not even Jewish included in this birth record. Ruth was from Moab and Rahab lived in Jericho in the land of Cannan when the children of Israel came to invade the land. No matter who we are, what we've done, or what's going on around us, God is at work. If we come to Him in faith, turn from doing things our way to doing things His way, and trust God to forgive us of our sins based on the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus, He will save us and give us the opportunity to serve Him and join with Him in His work. What a privilege.

We also see one exception in this birth record. As Matthew notes, Joseph did not begat Jesus. Joseph was the husband of Mary. Therefore he was Jesus' father in a legal sense. However, Jesus had no human father As Paul notes in Romans 8:3, Jesus was sent in the "likeness of sinful flesh". In Romans 5:12, Paul records that "sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin." Scripture further records that Eve was deceived but Adam sinned. Therefore, since sin is passed from the father to the next generation but Jesus had no biological human father, He did not inherit our sin nature. Matthew underscores this important truth by pointing out that Joseph was the husband of Mary "of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ." By doing so, Matthew teaches us that Jesus was truly the Son of David both through His legal father, Joseph, and his mother, Mary.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Matthew 1:1-"Here is your King."

The early church recognized Matthew as the first Gospel. It was the most often quoted book in the early church. The author, Matthew, was originally called Levi and he was a tax collector by trade. Tax collectors, it seems, were able to overcharge the taxpayer on the amount of tax the person owed and keep any extra as a bonus. They were, therefore, esteemed much like our IRS today. Matthew left his tax collection business upon Jesus' call to "Follow me" in Matthew 9:9. He faithfully followed Christ and wrote this record of His ministry under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. His purpose in writing this Gospel was to present Jesus as the long awaited Messiah of the Jewish people. His primary target audience is, therefore, the Hebrew people. However, all Christians will find study of this wonderful evangelistic book to be a blessing.

Matthew records, in verse 1, the book of the genealogy (the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word used for origin or beginning-Genesis) of our Lord and Savior. As the 17th century expositor Matthew Henry noted, one might question why Matthew might include something as common as a birth record in his Gospel narrative. He observes, and we should remember, that the purpose of Matthew's Gospel was to introduce the Jews to their Messiah. The Messiah had to be Jewish (of Abraham) and had to be of the kingly line of the house of David. Therefore, Matthew is not presenting an interesting bit of trivia but was in fact grounding the message of his Gospel on a central theme-Jesus is Messiah. Here to the reader, especially the Jewish reader, Matthew begins to hammer that point home. Through the use of this genealogy and Old Testament quotes, Matthew presents the resume of our Lord for the position of the long awaited Messiah who would reign on the Throne of David.

Furthermore, we should notice the name of this Messiah. Jesus (Ie¯sous) is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua. The name means "Jehovah saves". We are told later in this chapter that Jesus will, in fact, save His people from their sins. With this name is paired the title Christ (Christos) which means anointed. Jesus Christ was God's anointed in several respects. First of all, as the book of Philippians Chapter 2 tells us, He was God's Servant who "became obedient to death, even death on a cross". He came to do the will of His Father in heaven and was specially commissioned for such work. He was also anointed of God by having been given the Holy Spirit without measure, as the Gospel of John records. However, the anointing that Matthew likely has in mind here is the anointing of Kingship. David had been promised a descendant who would reign forever. Matthew here points out that Jesus is the One who was uniquely anointed by God for just that task. Again, in Philippians chapter 2, Paul notes that at the name of Jesus "ever knee shall bow….and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."

As the anointed Christ, Jesus would have to trace his ancestry back to the family of David. In Jeremiah 23:5, the Lord said that " Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord, 'That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.'" The title son of David would have aroused feelings of pride and hope in the heart of the Jewish reader. They knew of the political situation they were in being subjects of Rome and they knew of the promise of God and His faithfulness through the years. In the years surrounding the birth of Jesus, the Jewish people were waiting expectantly for the Messiah. In fact, even people who were not people of faith in God were expecting his arrival (Matt 2:7, Acts 5:35-37). Of course, the Jewish people were expecting immediate emancipation from their Roman rulers and, as such, assumed a military victory. In identifying Jesus as the son of David after His death, burial, and resurrection, Matthew affirms the truth that the Messiah's permanent eternal kingdom is not of this world. While He will reign at some future point in Jerusalem for 1,000 years, the kingdom of which there shall be no end will be in the New Jerusalem.

Matthew next identifies Jesus as the son of Abraham. Jewish people obviously revered Abraham as their father (John 8:39). God made an eternal covenant with Abraham. This covenant had three features: Land (Gen 12:7), Blessing (Gen 12:3), and Seed (Gen 22:18). The land we now know as Palestine was promised to Abraham and his decedents as their possession. When Matthew wrote this gospel, the Jewish people were under the rule of Rome. In fact, since the Babylonian deportation in 476 BC, the land of Israel had been under the control, politically, of another country (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome). They had not taken possession of the land and, therefore, held onto this promise. We know that Jesus, when He comes back at the end of the Tribulation, will set up a Millennial kingdom in Jerusalem where He will reign for 1,000 years. However, Jesus fulfilled the other two parts of the covenant while here on earth. Paul identifies Him as the Seed that God was referring to in His promise to Abraham. In Galatians 3:16, Paul writes, "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ. " Therefore, Christ came into this world as the Seed promised to Abraham. It was through this seed that God would bless the whole world and the specific blessing that he would bring was the salvation promised by God in the Old Testament (Hosea 2:14-20). This salvation was not only for the Jews, but was in fact for all who would place their faith in Jesus Christ (Col 1:6, Romans 2:9-10).

Matthew, in the first verse of his gospel, identifies Jesus as the promised Heir to the throne of David and as the promised Seed of the covenant with Abraham.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


Martin Luther, one of the fathers of the Reformation, was quoted as saying "Let the man who would Hear God Speak read Holy Scripture." I am convicted that God spoke literally through prophets and apostles to deliver His perfect Word to us. It is my hope and prayer that as you read this website that you will hear God speak as we explore His Word together.

I will be updating the website weekly and welcome all comments.

As the psalmist said, my prayer for you and I is that God might open our eyes that we might behold wondrous things from His law.

in Him