Do You Have Peace With God?

After recording the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew tells the story of Jesus’ birth and childhood by expositing the Old Testament text. This section in our current study of Matthew’s Gospel begins in Matthew 1:18 and ends in Matthew 2:23. This section of the text includes the geographical prophecies of the Old Testament and reaffirms the significance of Jesus’ adoption by Joseph. In every respect, Matthew is only teaching about Jesus what the Old Testament taught concerning the Messiah. He was writing to Jews in order to prove that Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah. The Scriptures were the basis of Matthew’s teaching, not Jesus’ signs or Jesus’ charisma or popular religion. Matthew paid careful attention to follow the principle of Sola Scriptura even though he could have probably accurately spoken from personal experience. Scripture was the authority. Scripture is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.

Matthew 1:18-25

The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.

But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

See, the virgin will become pregnant

and give birth to a son,

and they will name Him Immanuel,

which is translated “God is with us.”

When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.

The Old Testament

Isaiah prophesied about 700 years before Jesus was born. He was a pre-exilic prophet, which means he was prophesying before the deportation of the conquest of the Assyrians and the deportation into Babylon. In Matthew 1:22, the Gospel writer reveals that the birth of Jesus, as he has described it, took place in order that the Scriptures would be fulfilled. The Father was working all things together very intentionally. The birth of the Messiah was fore-ordained, the method predetermined, and the fulfillment worked together according to what God had already spoken through His own word as spoken plainly by His prophets.

In Isaiah chapters 7-9, we get to read the reference material that Matthew is using in this passage of his Gospel. For the sake of time (and space if you are reading), we will only observe some select passages from Isaiah 7-9.

Isaiah 7:10-17

Then the Lord spoke again to Ahaz: “Ask for a sign from the Lord your God — from the depths of Sheol to the heights of heaven.”

But Ahaz replied, “I will not ask. I will not test the Lord.”

Isaiah said, “Listen, house of David! Is it not enough for you to try the patience of men? Will you also try the patience of my God? Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel. By the time he learns to reject what is bad and choose what is good, he will be eating butter and honey. For before the boy knows to reject what is bad and choose what is good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned. The Lord will bring on you, your people, and the house of your father, such a time as has never been since Ephraim separated from Judah — the king of Assyria is coming.”

Isaiah 8:5-10

The Lord spoke to me again:

“Because these people rejected

the slowly flowing waters of Shiloah

and rejoiced with Rezin

and the son of Remaliah,

the Lord will certainly bring against them

the mighty rushing waters of the Euphrates River —

the king of Assyria and all his glory.

It will overflow its channels

and spill over all its banks.

It will pour into Judah,

flood over it, and sweep through,

reaching up to the neck;

and its spreading streams

will fill your entire land, Immanuel!

Band together, peoples, and be broken;

pay attention, all you distant lands;

prepare for war, and be broken;

prepare for war, and be broken.

Devise a plan; it will fail.

Make a prediction; it will not happen.

For God is with us.”

Isaiah 9:1-7

Nevertheless, the gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times when He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. But in the future He will bring honor to the Way of the Sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations.

The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

a light has dawned

on those living in the land of darkness.

You have enlarged the nation

and increased its joy.

The people have rejoiced before You

as they rejoice at harvest time

and as they rejoice when dividing spoils.

For You have shattered their oppressive yoke

and the rod on their shoulders,

the staff of their oppressor,

just as You did on the day of Midian.

For the trampling boot of battle

and the bloodied garments of war

will be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child will be born for us,

a son will be given to us,

and the government will be on His shoulders.

He will be named

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

The dominion will be vast,

and its prosperity will never end.

He will reign on the throne of David

and over his kingdom,

to establish and sustain it

with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this.

Could Jesus learn what to reject what is bad or choose what is good?

Isaiah 7:15-16 is, perhaps, the most surprising description of the Messiah that we read in Isaiah. Isaiah seems to indicate that the Messiah, who is God (9:6), would have to learn what it was like to submit to moral authority. If we are not careful, here, we might become heretics by thinking that before the ‘age of accountability’ Jesus could possibly have sinned. If Jesus would have sinned at any point, he would have proven Himself not to be God and not to be capable of delivering the people of God. Jesus’ life must have been sinless in order for Him to be worthy.

The same idea that the Messiah became obedient is present in the New Testament. Teaching about the Messiah is the same and the New Testament, remember, is an exposition of the Old with specific application and witness to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ- the Messiah described and foretold in the Old Testament. We find the most obvious statement in Paul’s letter to the believers in Philippi.

“Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,

who, existing in the form of God,

did not consider equality with God

as something to be used for His own advantage.

Instead He emptied Himself

by assuming the form of a slave,

taking on the likeness of men.

And when He had come as a man

in His external form,

He humbled Himself by becoming obedient

to the point of death —

even to death on a cross.

For this reason God highly exalted Him

and gave Him the name

that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus

every knee will bow —

of those who are in heaven and on earth

and under the earth —

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11, emphasis on v. 7-8).

This is a doctrine concerning the Messiah in both the Old and New Testaments known as the emptying, or kenosis, of Christ. Before the incarnation, the Messiah did not need to submit to moral authority because He is the moral authority. In the incarnation, Jesus emptied Himself, became 100% human, and became obedient to the moral and instructional authority of the Father. In being entirely obedient in His humanity, Jesus presented Himself as the perfect sacrificial lamb without blemish- the perfect atonement for sin. For this reason, every knee will bow to Jesus.

In Isaiah’s prophecy, Isaiah is stating that before this kenosis, the Jews would succumb to the Assyrian conquest and exile in Babylon. The Messiah would come, having emptied Himself (being Immanuel, God with us), sit on His eternal throne established through David, and be named “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” His dominion would be vast and His prosperity would have no end. I think Isaiah understood this kenosis because He referred to the Messiah as Immanuel, which means “God with us,” and as the eternal Father.

God with us

One of the first things that we will notice about the Old Testament prophecy that Matthew quoted, is that the virgin would conceive and give birth to a child whose name is Immanuel. In Matthew’s Gospel, we see that God, through an angel, specifically instructed that the Messiah would be given the name Jesus. We see again the importance of literary context. Without context, one might see a contradiction in the text or think that Jesus did not fulfill the Old Testament prophecy because His name was not Immanuel.

So, we read Isaiah. In chapter 7, verse 14, Isaiah states that the virgin giving birth will call the Messiah’s name Immanuel. This is the prophecy Matthew is describing in his birth narrative. In chapter 9, verse 6, Isaiah also states that the name of the child will be “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father,” and “Prince of Peace.” Jesus did not receive any of these names formally from Joseph and Mary either. His name was Jesus. God instructed that He be named Jesus. Jesus means “salvation” (Matthew 1:21). How can Matthew possibly claim that Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth?

Matthew probably is not pointing to the formal naming of Jesus as the fulfillment, but to Jesus’ actual identity. We saw in the genealogy that the Messiah must be God Himself. God is the only salvation of His people. The things of God could not be accomplished by human biology or human striving. God is the author and finisher of His own work. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and adopted by Joseph into David’s kingly line. Mary was a virgin until after she gave birth to the incarnate Jesus. God did become a person and so Jesus was Immanuel. Jesus is also “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father,” and “Prince of Peace.” That is Jesus’ eternal identity. His formal name was now “Salvation,” which is a term that necessarily implicates all the others because God is the only one who can effect salvation for His own glory.

This is how Jesus’ birth, His conception by the Holy Spirit and His adoption into the kingly line of David, fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy that God would be the one with His people, counseling and bringing eternal peace.

Has Jesus brought peace, or is this prophecy left unfulfilled? There is a reason the Jews of the first century expected the Messiah to come with military might, crush Rome, and restore peace to the region. Jesus did not do things this way. He did bring peace between His own people and the Godhead, which is the more important peace. The extinguishing of violence and hatred has not been accomplished yet. So, the prophecy is both already fulfilled and not yet fulfilled. It still finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, who will return and who will cause the former things to pass away and the new will come (Revelation 21:1-5).

Questions

  1. Is it shocking to know that Christ’s life was planned in detail beforehand?
  2. What is the relationship between the Son and the Father according to Isaiah and Matthew?
  3. What Biblical doctrines did you already see present, only in the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel?

_________________________

Remember to download your free copy of Neat: my letter to the church and to my generation.

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