Saturday, May 12, 2007

Matthew 1:22-23 “God’s Revelation/Joseph’s Response” Part 2

Hello. If you're here for the first time, I'd like to say welcome. If you've been studying this book of the Bible along with me before today, welcome back. I just thought I'd make a suggestion or two. First of all, if you feel led to leave a comment or ask a question, feel free to do so. I've turned comment moderation on because, since this is the internet, I didn't want to give somebody who is "Kookoo for Cocopuffs" a forum to say something that ought not be said. Secondly, I strongly encourage you to read the scripture in Matthew before you read the Bible study. I just think the study will make more sense to you if you do that. I use the New King James version but, of course, there are other translations that will work as well.

So, without further delay, here we go.

As we observed last week, Joseph was visited by an angel who brought revelation from God Himself regarding the special nature of Mary’s pregnancy. Matthew records here that the supernatural circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ were actually the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. He records that all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet. It is important for us to remember that the ultimate source for all scripture and revelation is the Lord God. As the writer of Hebrews observes in chapter 1 verse one of that book, “God…spoke through the prophets.” They were the intermediaries or heralds and they communicated the message that God sent them to speak (2 Peter 1:21) In this case, we see God as the ultimate source of this prophecy that was given to the people through Isaiah in Isaiah 7:14.

We should also take note of the substance of the revelation. In the book of Isaiah chapter 7, this prophecy is given by Isaiah to King Ahaz. To make a long story somewhat short, the land of Judah was in danger of being destroyed by armies of Israel and Syria. The king was contemplating the idea of calling in reinforcements from his neighbor Assyria. Isaiah was sent, as noted by Albert Barnes, to tell the king to ask God for a sign. In other words, he was told to look to God for help rather than look to his neighbors. Ahaz refused to ask God for a sign so God said he would give a sign for Himself. This sign, as recorded in Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23, was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ. We read that it is introduced with the word idou which is rendered in English as Behold. Back where I come from, we might have said “Look here, boy”. The word is not only used to draw attention to this miracle but also to indicate that it was something unusual and supernatural. The reason it was supernatural was a virgin shall be with child and bear a Son. The word translated virgin is the Greek word parthenos and it can mean a maiden or marriageable daughter in addition to virgin. However, we can be sure that God inspired Matthew to quote this prophecy in Isaiah to reiterate the idea that Mary was a virgin for several reasons. First of all, Matthew here uses the same Greek word that the translators of the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagent, used for Isaiah 7:14. In the Hebrew, the word translated virgin is alma. The word could be understood as a young maiden. However, the most reasonable explanation of what God was trying to communicate through Matthew was that this woman would be a virgin. Secondly, there would be nothing miraculous about the birth that is identified as a sign if it was simply that a woman became pregnant. However, if a virgin became pregnant, that would be a miracle. The only way something like that could be explained would be supernatural intervention. In much the same way as Abraham’s wife Sarah’s pregnancy in Genesis could only be explained as a work of God, so Mary became pregnant and bore a Son.

Matthew records the name or title that would be given to this Son by people. He writes that the Messiah would be called Immanuel which meant God with us. The fact that Jesus Christ was God in human flesh is one of the most important truths taught in the New Testament. Jesus Christ was fully human. He had all the same bodily organs and physical needs that you and I have. He got hungry (Matthew 4:3), tired (Mark 4:38), and was tempted in every way you and I are (Hebrews 4:15). However, since His mother was a virgin and, therefore, he had no human father, He did not inherit our sin nature. Sin is passed on from fathers to the next generation (Romans 5:12-14). Evey person born is both a sinner by nature (they were born a sinner) and a sinner by choice (we all choose to disobey). God was able to punish Him for our sins because not only had He never committed a sin willingly, He was also not a sinner by birth as you and I are. As Paul records in 2 Corinthians 5:21 God ”made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”. While Christ was fully man, He was also fully God. The miracles proved that He was God (John 14:8-11). He declared Himself to be God (John 8:57-58). Because He was God, He was able to forgive sin and promise eternal life to the thief on the cross who was crucified beside Him. Matthew was inspired by God to reveal that Jesus Christ was the long awaited Immanuel that had been promised almost 750 years prior by Isaiah. Because He was God in human flesh, He could pay for our sins by dying on the cross. When we repent of our sins (that means to change direction-we stop doing things our way and start doing things His way), ask His forgivness, and trust His death as payment for those sins rather than relying on our goodness to get us to heaven, we become His children. Praise God for His wonderful gift-the gift of Jesus.

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

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