When you finish this session, you should be able to:
- Understand how God keeps his promises
- View your own life and its ups and downs against a biblical
- Consider the graciousness of God in the choices he makes
- Define how God guides and provides
- Discern how Matthew deals with the First Testament
In the birth and infancy narratives, there are five sections to observe. The first section demonstrates how God keeps his promises. The second section, the birth, and infancy of Jesus shows some of the acts whose origin was in God and had a continued dependence on
God. Then, we see the form of worship that Gentiles brought to the story. Next, Matthew shows how Jesus is seen as the New Moses. Finally, we see how God guides by the Spirit.
| Overview |
There are five sections in Matthew chapters 1 and 2. The following is a reading outline that will help you be more attentive to the text of the Gospel of Matthew.
- Genealogy (Matt. 1.1-17): This section tells us that God keeps his promises.
- Birth (Matt. 1.18-25): This section demonstrates the acts of God.
- The Visit Of The Wise Men (Matt. 2.1-12): This section shows how the Gentiles worship.
- The Escape To Egypt (Matt. 2.13-18): This section begins to identify Jesus as the New Moses.
- The Return To Nazareth (Matt. 2.19-23): This section continues to show the intervention and guidance for Jesus’ early life.
The Genealogy of Jesus: Matthew 1.1-17
God Keeps His Promises: Matthew 1.1
The new, as well as the seasoned believer, often skips the genealogy sections in Scripture. One must take to heart that these sections are inspired text just like the rest of the First and Second Testaments. At first look, they don’t seem to yield the same benefit as John 3.16, but with closer inspection, they are just as powerful for the modern reader.
The first verse of Matthew is intended to be understood in the following way: God keeps his promises. There were several covenants in the First Testament, two of them are important in this verse: the covenant made with Abraham (Gen. 12.1-3), and the covenant made with David (2 Sam. 7.16).
In the covenant with Abraham, God said that all nations would be blessed through his seed. Paul tells us in Galatians 3.16 that Jesus is the seed to which these words eventually pointed.
David was told that his kingdom would be established forever. The list of names in the genealogy established that God does keep his promises. Jesus is the zenith of the genealogy fulfilling the covenant with Abraham. At the same time, the kingdom which Jesus had come to bring was the initiation of the kingdom that David was promised.
Life on a Rollercoaster, Salvation History Had Ups and Downs: Matthew 1.2-17
The high point of Jewish history occurred during the period from Abraham to David. During these years the Jews moved from their origin in Abraham to a full nation under the kingship of David (v. 2-6a). While they had their trials and tribulations during this period, they were moving toward their summit.
From the summit, they began to move toward the lowest moments in their existence. This period occurred from David to the deportation (6b-11). After David and Solomon, the kingdom was divided against itself, and, finally, both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms were taken into captivity. This was Israel’s lowest point.
From their lowest point—the deportation—they began to move toward the purpose of their existence–the birth of Jesus (Matt. 1.12-17).
God Uses Whom He Chooses
God does not overlook sin. He does have the power to forgive sinners and use them regardless of their sins. God is simply gracious. One point that Jesus followers need to learn early is: sin is sin! While there are different consequences in our lives for different sins, there are no small sins or large sins. To God, all sin is sin and sin has its punishments if we do not ask forgiveness.
There are five women in this genealogy story. They are there to demonstrate God’s mercy and grace to forgive sinners. It is as if Matthew has reached into the family closet and pulled out the family skeletons. They are:
- Tamar (Matt. 1.3): She prostituted herself to her father-in-law (Gen. 38). She was the daughter-in-law of Judah and the widow of Er and Onan (Gen. 38.6, 8). Judah’s third son, Shelah was next in line (Levirate Marriage) to marry Tamar. Judah would not allow Shelah to marry Tamar. In an act of revenge, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced Judah. From that union twin sons, Perez and Zerah were born (Gen 38.12-30).
- Rahab (Matt. 1 5): She was the harlot of Jericho (Joshua). The spies, who had been sent to discover what the land across the Jordan was like, returned and made a report (Joshua 2.1-7). They were exposed to danger in Jericho and had been safely hidden by Rahab who was a prostitute. When the city fell (Joshua 6.17-25), Rahab and her family were saved because the spies had so promised. She became the wife of Salmon, a prince of the tribe of Judah (Ruth 4.21). Being asked to bring out the men in her house was in keeping with eastern manners. No man could enter a woman’s house without her permission. The mention of the flax on the rooftop was because it was harvest time.
- Ruth Matt. 1.5: She was an outsider—a Gentile (Ruth). Ruth was a Moabitess and married to Mahlon who died leaving her a widow. She refused to leave her mother-in-law, who was returning to Bethlehem after all the males in her family had died. In Bethlehem, she met Boaz, a rich relative, whom she eventually married. Her son was Obed who was the grandfather of David. She was a Gentile whose faithfulness was rewarded by becoming a part of the family tree of Jesus.
- Bathsheba Matt. 1.6: She committed adultery with David (2 Sam. 11). She was the wife of Uriah, who David had murdered to cover his sin with her. David saw her bathing on her roof one evening and became aroused. He had her brought to him and committed adultery. From that evening encounter, she became pregnant. When David discovered that she was pregnant, he sent for Uriah to return from the battlefield. He tried to engage him in having sexual relations with his wife, but he would not. So David ordered him to be killed. After a period of mourning, Bathsheba became the wife of David (2 Sam. 11.27). The child conceived in adultery died.
God uses whom he wants to bring about his desires. All of these women had a scandalous past. The person that readers have the most difficulty seeing as touched by scandal is Ruth. You must understand that to be a Gentile and not a Jew was to be tainted.
- Mary (Matt. 1.16): She is often contrasted to the other four women. She was the wife of Joseph and the mother of Jesus. She was chosen as a virgin to be the mother of Jesus. Little is known about her personal history. Her family tree can be seen in Luke 3. She was part of the Judah tribe and the lineage of David (Luke 1.32). While pregnant she made two long trips, one to see Zacharias and Elizabeth about 100 miles one way. After three months she returned to Nazareth. Soon after the decree of Augustus (Luke 2.1), she traveled with Joseph to Bethlehem about 90 miles away, giving birth to Jesus on their arrival. After the commencement of the public ministry of Jesus, there is very little notice given to Mary. The time and manner of her death are unknown.
Some Basic Affirmations
- In the First Testament, we can find the roots of Christianity.
- Jesus had a direct tie to Israel.
- Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel’s history.
- In Jesus, the age to come has been inaugurated.
- Jesus is the descendant of Abraham and David is the legitimate heir of all the promises of God.
- The work of the Spirit can be seen in the taking of outcasts and blessing them with his grace.
What can Jesus Followers Learn?
- We can learn that all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching.
- We should not skip over difficult sections so lightly. Each area of Scripture has a benefit for the Jesus Follower.
- We live life on a roller coaster.
- God keeps his promises.
- God uses whom he chooses.
The following verses (Matt. 1.18-25) function as an extended footnote for verse 16. At the conclusion of the genealogy, we are informed of the characters involved in the birth of Jesus. There are three aspects on which you should focus your attention.
The Holy Spirit Creates Newness
Wherever there is creation, you will find the Holy Spirit. He was at work in the creation of the physical world (Gen. 1.2). He was there at the creation of humankind (Gen. 1.26; Job 33.4). He was there in the re-creation of humankind spiritually (Ezek. 27.14; John 3.5). He was there at the creation of the miracle of the virgin birth (Matt. 1.18). He was there when you were created into a new person.
God Often Guides One Step at a Time
This is a difficult proposition in our Western church. We tend to think of guidance from only one source—the written Scripture. While God does use Scripture for guidance, he has never stopped guiding people in many different ways through the Holy Spirit. Below are some examples that Matthew shares about guidance.
- First, Joseph was guided to marry Mary when visited by an angel (Matt. 1.20-24). The book of Hebrews, written by and to a second-generation ecclesia, tells us that angels are ministering spirits who are sent to serve the ones who are believers (Heb. 1). It is not impossible today for you as the reader to have a visit from an angel to guide you.
- Second, Joseph was guided to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus (Matt. 2.13-14). This is the second occurrence where Joseph is given guidance by in a truly human place in which he was living.
- Thirdly, Joseph was guided by an angel to leave Egypt. This was not unlike God’s children leaving Egypt (Matt. 2.19-21).
- Finally, Joseph was guided to go to Galilee (Matt. 2.22). When you begin to think about being Truly Human in this present evil age guidance takes on a whole different way of thinking.
To help his reader understand how being Truly Human occurs in his life, Matthew shares the pattern, which the angel used in his communication with Joseph. When he was told to marry Mary (Matt. 1.20-24), this is the pattern which materialized.
- First, there was a command (v. 20a): take Mary home as your wife.
- Second, there was an explanation of the command (20b): what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
- Third, there was another command (v. 21a): you give him the name Jesus.
- Fourth, there was another explanation (v. 21b): he will save his people from their sins.
- Finally, there was a response (v. 24): Joseph did what the angel of the Lord commanded.
When Joseph was told to go to Egypt (Matt. 2.13-14), you can see the same pattern as transpiring.
- First, there was a command (v. 13a): take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there.
- Second, an explanation of the command (v. 13b): for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.
- Finally, there was a response (v. 14): Joseph got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and left for Egypt. In this case, there was an immediate response.
In the third illustration, there is the same design. Joseph was directed to leave Egypt (Matt. 2.19-21).
- First, there was the command (v. 20a): get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel.
- Second, an explanation of the command (v. 20b): for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.
- Finally, the response (v. 21): so he got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.
You can plainly see that the pattern which God used in all three occurrences was the same:
- He gave a command
- He gave an explanation for the command
- There was an expected response.
The biggest downfall of Jesus followers in trying to follow God’s guidance is to move too fast—to hear the command and be on the move before we understand the reason for the command. Becoming a cautious optimist is one of the most useful tools for any believer to adopt.
The Names of Jesus
In this section, Jesus is introduced to followers by the choice of his name (Matt. 1.21, 23). The first name we are introduced to is Jesus, which means Jehovah saves. He came to do what his name means. In doing so, he brought to himself a people which Matthew identifies in two ways: my ecclesia (Matt. 16.18), and a people (Matt. 21.43). More will be discovered by you when we address these parts of Matthew.
The second name we are introduced to is the name Immanuel (Matt. 1.23). This name means God with us. The last words of Jesus recorded in Matthew (Matt. 28.20) indicate this very idea. God, in Jesus, will never leave his followers.
Some Basic Affirmations
When there is a new creation, you will find the Holy Spirit present.
- God guides by his Spirit.
- God shares information on a need-to-know basis.
- He gave Joseph a step-at-a-time pattern of guidance.
- God gave an explanation for why the specific guidance is given.
What Can a Jesus Follower Learn?
- The newness of life Jesus followers experience comes from the Holy
- God can, will, and desires to guide the followers of Jesus by his Spirit.[ref]Winn Griffin. Gracelets. Harmon Press. 94-97.[/ref]
- We may only get one step of guidance at a time, but that will always be enough. At the same time, he may give us an explanation for the why of that step and he may not.
Herod, The Wise Men, and the Scribes: 2.1-15
Where God Guides, He Provides
The Herod who is mentioned in this passage was one of five Herods mentioned in Scripture. He was jealous of his throne. He had killed his wife, mother-in-law, and three sons who were thought by him to have ideas of taking over his throne. It was commonly said about Herod that it was better to be one of his pigs than one of his sons. There is a play on words between pigs and sons in the Greek language. The two words sound alike. Herod was the leader of Israel but had no conception of the possibility of the great event of the birth of Jesus that would occur. He had to call together the chief priests and teachers of the law for their interpretation (Matt. 2.4). All Jerusalem was worried along with him about the birth of this child because of his jealous bend. They were afraid for good reason as the story goes on to tell. He was a conniver and liar (Matt. 2.7-8).
| The Wise Men (Magi)
The Magi were originally members of the Persian priestly caste who were astrologers. They were serious about finding Jesus and worshipping him (Matt. 2.1-2). God had communicated to them two years prior by means of what they knew—the star—to get them to Jesus. God uses whatever means he chooses to communicate with folks in order to draw people to himself. They worshipped Jesus by prostrating themselves before him (the meaning of the Greek pipto [PIP tow] bowed down, NIV). God communicated to them by the Spirit once they had found and worshipped Jesus (Matt. 2.12). They brought gifts just in time for the move to Egypt.
| Religious Scholars
(Chief Priests, Scribes & Teachers Of The Law)
These folks were the priestly aristocracy which was the upper class of Jewish society. This group was mostly Pharisaic. They knew where Jesus was to be born, but did not act on that knowledge (Matt. 2.4). There is a contrast battle that rages between the secular and religious. The secular scholars searched and found. The religious scholars knew but did not find. The same may be true today.
Some Basic Affirmations
- Jealousy leads to destruction.
- Jesus is to be worshipped by people outside the Jewish faith.
- He will be worshipped by some and rejected by others.
- God loves to communicate with mankind. Information without action is totally inadequate.
What can a Jesus Follower Learn?
- It doesn’t pay to be a conniver.
- God will communicate with you along lines that you know, to bring you to himself. Once that occurs, you are available to receive communication directly from the Spirit.
- God wants everyone to worship him regardless of race, color, or creed.
- Part of worship occurs with the responses of your body, i.e., they fell prostrate before Jesus.
- Don’t strive to acquire only information; begin doing what you know.
The Escape to Egypt: 2.13-18
The names that Matthew calls Jesus are interesting. He is called the Son of Abraham (Matt. 1.1); the Son of David (Matt. 1.1); the Son of Joseph (Matt. 1.16); the Son of Mary (Matt. 1.16); and the Son of God (Matt. 2.15). What is the significance of these names? What do they describe concerning the character of Jesus? The Son of Abraham and the Son of David describe the roots of Jesus as being Jewish. The Son of Joseph and the Son of Mary describe his human-natural person. The Son of God describes him as a servant.
The Comparison of Jesus With Moses
It is Matthew’s intention to help Jesus followers understand that Jesus was the new leader of the new people of God. For the Jews, Moses was hailed as their leader, and the Covenant was the relationship code in which the Jews were to abide. With Jesus, there was a new people of God— the ecclesia. The ecclesia has a new leader—Jesus. So Matthew takes time to demonstrate and contrast events in their lives. His basic goal is for his readers to see Jesus as the new leader for the new Israel.
In this section, we encounter the comparison of an event during the early life of Moses and Jesus. Exodus 1 tells us the story of Pharaoh killing all the males two years old and younger. The same kind of event happened in the early life of Jesus. Herod heard about Jesus from the Magi and put out an order for all the males under two to be killed. In both events, the enemy of God tried to dismantle God’s plan for redemption—Israel under Moses and humankind under Christ. He was not successful on either occasion.
Some Basic Affirmations
- Jesus is compared to Moses to demonstrate Jesus as the first Moses with a new Israel.
- God provides for the care and protection of his own.
- The trip to Egypt and the time spent there could have been financed by the gifts from the wise men which God had sent?
- The story of Herod is an illustration of what men will do to get rid of Jesus. A man who is set in his own way, who sees Jesus as one who will interfere with his ambitions and rebuke his ways, can be driven to almost anything to eliminate Jesus.
What can a Jesus Follower Learn?
- We are a part of his new people of God with full rights.
- God will provide for us in a Truly Human way of acting when he desires to.
- God cares and wants to protect us from our enemy.
The Return to Nazareth: 2.19-21
Matthew’s Use of the First Testament
In these two chapters, Matthew has quoted the First Testament four times (Matt. 1.22; 2.6, 15, 17, 23). Matthew 1.22 is a reference to Isaiah 7.14. Matthew sees in the prophetic word about Isaiah’s own son a fulfillment in the son of David, Jesus.
The four First Testament quotes in Matthew 2 have to do with the geographical movement of the infant Jesus. They were probably an apologetic effort to downplay any embarrassment because of the quite well-known fact that Jesus was from Nazareth when the First Testament pointed to the birth of the Messiah occurring in Bethlehem.
Matthew 2.6 is a reference to Micah 5.2. The meaning is straightforward: Bethlehem was the predicted place for the origin of the Messiah. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem fulfills this prophetic word.
Matthew 2.15 is a reflection of Hosea 11.1 which plainly refers to the Israelites leaving Egypt in the Exodus. The key to this passage is the word Egypt. It is a geographical point supported by the context of verse 15 where Jesus has just arrived and settled in Egypt, rather than verse 21 where he leaves.
Matthew 2.17 is a reflection of Jeremiah 31.15. The passage in Jeremiah points to the exile of the children of Israel, not their death. There was precedent for the exile of Jesus into Egypt.
Finally, the quote in Matthew 2.23, which is a quotation of substance rather than exact words from the First Testament, links Bethlehem and Nazareth.
How then do we use the First Testament?
We should let the First Testament speak on its own terms, and refresh its meaning when the Second Testament refreshes its meaning.
There should be an interaction between the First Testament and its cultural setting and word meanings; the Second Testament with all its First Centuriness, and us with all of our twenty-first-centuriness, using all the tools available to enable us to hear the words of the First and Second Testaments as they were heard by their first readers.
But, we should always have an ear aimed toward God to hear the unexpected word of God through the First and Second Testaments, which challenges our twenty-first-century presuppositions and perceptions.
Some Basic Affirmations
- God wants to communicate with his children.
- We should always be available to hear his unexpected word for us.
What can a Jesus Follower Learn?
- The First Testament has a word of its own apart from the Second Testament
- The Second Testament provides a deeper understanding of some First Testament passages.
- God is a speaking God. We should learn to Listen!
These two chapters are thoroughly charismatic: The angel giving guidance. The unexpected word from God. God by his Spirit still wishes to
- Give Guidance
- Share with us his word
Catalog your ideas about the following thoughts:
- God keeps his promises.
- Salvation history has its ups and downs.
- God uses whom he chooses.
- The Holy Spirit creates newness.
- God often guides one step at a time.
- Where God guides, he provides.
- We should listen for the unexpected word from God.
Community Discussion Questions
➡ |CDQ Info|
- What are some of the promises that God has fulfilled in your new life?
- How does understanding that salvation history has its ups and downs help you clarify how God works with you?
- How does God “uses whom he chooses” make you feel? Explain your feelings.
- What new things do you see happening in your new life?
- How does knowing that God’s guidance often happens one step at a time change your frustration level?
- How does the idea that God uses different ways of communication affect your view of guidance?
- How has the idea that where God guides, he provides worked in your life?
- What has God said to you unexpectedly?