Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Isaiah 7:10-16 1
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you[a] a sign: The virgin[b] will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.

Background

We read Isaiah for many reasons, one is its many prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. One of the most familiar is the this one and it is also found in Matthew’s Gospel. It is the story of the birth of Jesus.

Isaiah was writing this message for the common people.  He is known as “the Prophet.” However, Isaiah held high standings and also gave his prophetic messages to the kings.  Here, Isaiah is giving his message to King Ahaz.  Ahaz became king at the age of 20 and reigned for 16 years (735 to 715 BC). History would record him as a bad king. To avoid war, Ahaz swore homage to the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser along with all of the Assyrian gods. It would take Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son this entire reign to undo the damage done by his father’s lack of faith in the one true God.

Isaiah goes ahead and gives Ahaz a prophesy that is uplifting and hopeful. King Ahaz refuses to accept it. Isaiah would tell the king that although he was unworthy, God would honor is covenant.  There would be a sign through miracles that a Savior would be sent by God for the people of Israel. The message, God was sending the world a baby, Immanuel which means, God is with Us.

Biblical Truths and Theology 2

Verse 12: Ahaz refuses the Lord’s offer. And he pretends to be very holy (see Deuteronomy 6:16). In fact, Ahaz has already decided what he will do. He prefers to trust the Assyrians for help against Syria and Israel. He can see soldiers and weapons. He cannot see God.

Verse 14; The name Immanuel means ‘God is with us’. The immediate meaning was that God was with Judah. So God would save Judah from the nations that opposed it. And this would happen while Isaiah’s own son was still a child. The writers of the New Testament saw another meaning in this verse. The Christ (Messiah) was ‘God with us’. And Christ would rescue his people from all that opposed them. That is, from all human enemies and from all evil powers.

Verses 15-16: ‘Curds and honey’ were poor foods for hard times. During the next 3 years, Damascus (capital of Syria) would fall to the Assyrian army. So did Samaria (capital of Israel), 13 years later.

Items for Discussion

  • Through prophecies, God foretold the coming of the Messiah.  Why did some see this and some did not see Christ in the message?
  • God gives his message to both those who are worthy and those who are unworthy – Why?
  • What is the significance of having a young woman bearing a son?
  • What are the differences between the God in heaven and the God with us?
  • What does it take to lead a Christ-like life?

 

Matthew 1:18:25
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[a]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[b] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d] (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Background

The story of the birth of Jesus is found in only two of the four Gospels: Luke and Matthew. In Luke, the story is told from the point of view of Mary, to an audience made up of Christians who were Gentiles prior to their conversions. In Matthew, the story is told from the point of view of Joseph, to an audience who would have been Jews prior to their conversion.

Matthew is aware of the prophecy in Isaiah stated above. Matthew connects the prophecy directly to the birth of Jesus. He includes these key elements: A visit from an angel; a message from God delivered in a dream; a prophecy of the Old Testament fulfilled in the New Testament; and a naming event that is important.

God uses dreams to convey messages that might not “get through” the chatter of human life. Joseph seemed to be open and responsive to God’s messages. Prophecies reenforce that God does what God says. This is a foundational truth of our faith. The naming of someone throughout Scriptures is always given significance.  We are to note that Jesus’ naming is no different.

Biblical Truths and Theology 3

Verses 18-19: To be engaged to marry was a more serious state than it is in many societies today. It was a legal contract by the couple about a year before the marriage. Then, even before the marriage, people called the couple husband and wife. The girl would remain in her parent’s house until the marriage. And the couple would not have sex until the marriage. To break off the agreement to marry would be a legal divorce.
Joseph’s first thought was that Mary had not been loyal to him. That was until the angel told him otherwise. Joseph found that Mary was expecting a baby. She had not had sex with a man. The baby was by the Holy Spirit. We are sure that Mary would have told Joseph the truth. But he could not believe it then. He thought that it was impossible to have a baby without sex.

Joseph was a good man. In the circumstances, he thought that the marriage could not happen. However, he would not make the matter public. He decided to have a private divorce. This would be the kindest thing to do for Mary. In this way, he could avoid open shame. A secret divorce was not difficult for a man. He must give to Mary a letter of divorce. There had to be two witnesses to the divorce. Then he could send her away from him.

Verses 20-21: Joseph did not act in a hurry. He thought about the situation. He had decided what to do. Then he had a dream. God sent an angel to Joseph in that dream. The angel called Joseph ‘son of David’. This may have been to emphasise that Jesus would be a king from the family of David. The angel then told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. This does not mean that Joseph was afraid. Rather it means that he should not hesitate to take Mary as his wife. To take her meant to complete the marriage. The man would go to the bride’s house. And he would take her from there to his own house. Then they would have the wedding meal to complete the marriage.

The angel explained to Joseph the truth about this situation. The child inside Mary was not because of sex with a man. The power of the Holy Spirit had done this. Joseph was not the father of the child. But by his marriage to Mary, he would make Jesus legally his child.

Mary’s child would be a son. It was normal for the father to choose the child’s name. But God told Joseph to give to the child the name Jesus. To give the name to the child would be to accept the child as if it was his own. So, by Joseph, Jesus was a descendant of David. Also, Jesus was a descendant of David by Mary. But it was important to the Jews that Jesus was a descendant by the father of the family.
The name Jesus was the same as the Old Testament name Joshua. The name means ‘the Lord saves.’ The angel told Joseph that Jesus would save his people from their sins. Jesus came to deal with sins. He did this by his life and death. He took the punishment for the sins of the world. So, he is able to save people from their sins.
Verses 22-25 God had spoken by the prophets about future events. Much of what the prophets said happened in Jesus. Jesus was the Christ that God promised to send. In this Gospel, Matthew shows how the prophecies actually happened (Matthew 1:22, 2:15, 2:17, 2:23, 4:14, 8:17, 12:17, 13:35, 21:4, 26:56, 27:9).

The prophecy here is what God spoke by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14). As Matthew often does, here he follows the Old Testament in the Greek language. The Old Testament that we use is a translation from the Hebrew language. That explains why some of the words are different from our Old Testament. Isaiah had written about how a young woman would give birth. That birth was evidence that God would save his people from their enemies. His word for a young woman could mean a woman who had never had sex. That is how Matthew understood Isaiah’s prophecy. Mary had not had sex. And her son, Jesus, is the Christ who saves his people from their sins.

We do not read that anyone called Jesus by the name Emmanuel. But we know Jesus by that name. In his birth, Jesus was human. His birth was not his beginning. Before he came to earth, he was God. And when he came to earth, he was still God. He was Emmanuel. Emmanuel means ‘God is with us.’

Joseph woke up from his sleep. He did what the angel had said to him. Joseph publicly accepted Mary as his wife. He took her to his home. But Joseph and Mary did not have sex until after the birth of her first son. Later they had other children. Among them were James, Joseph, Simon and Judas (Matthew 13:55).

Joseph gave to Jesus the name Jesus. By this act, he legally adopted Jesus as his son.

Items for Discussion

  • Why do you think God sends angels to visit people? Is this effective?
  • Why do you think that messages sometimes come in dreams?
    • What other ways does God communicate with us?
  • Why did the Old Testament prophets foretell what God was doing to do?
  • Do we have prophets at work today?
  • Names and their meanings have always been important in the Bible.  How did you go about naming someone?
  • What does the name Emmanuel (God is with Us) mean to you?

Discussion Challenge

  • How does the Christian Church keep our Christmas Story alive in a world that is hostile to it?
Share