Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25 ; Isaiah 7
Today is the second Sunday of Advent. As we are getting closer to Christmas, we pray that our hearts may be filled with joy as we remember that day when “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us!” (John 1:14)
Although all four gospels emphasize the teaching, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus, they also record some events related to the birth of Christ.1 These events are part of revelation from God to us concerning our Savior. Understanding them will allow us to appreciate the blessing and grace of God even deeper, so it is a proper and joyful thing to meditate on birth narratives during this period of time and to be reminded of the messages given to us.
This week’s passage is on the appearance of an angel to Joseph, the betrothed husband of Mary. Joseph naturally understood Mary’s pregnancy from human point of view, so an angel appeared to him in his dream and explained the significance of the whole thing: that the child was from God and through this child, God is going to save his people.
There is no doubt that the birth of Jesus is about salvation provided by God to his people. The details and background of this narrative give us some other reminders as well:
It is a reminder for self examination.
While we might be delighted by Christmas lights or warmth feeling that comes with holiday celebrations, remember that the original message to God’s people was that he would save his people from their sins. That means that his people – yes, God’s very chosen people, were living in sin and needed salvation! And who are we to think that after we have accepted Christ, we have never sinned or will never sin again?
If we have truly accepted Christ as our savior, I believe our salvation is secure, but it is a good time to reflect and think whether we live a life that is pleasing him.
It is a reminder to seek and trust God.
We are very familiar with the quotation “the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (1:23, quoting from Isaiah 7:14), and we often think about the fulfillment in Christ at his birth, especially during Christmas season. That prophecy was certainly fulfilled in Christ, but the first audience of the message (Joseph and the Jews) would have been reminded of the saying by prophet Isaiah.
The background in Isaiah 7 is that King Ahaz from Judah was deeply distressed by his enemies who were raging war against Judah (Isa 7:1-2). So the Lord told Isaiah to comfort King Ahaz and to remind him to trust in the Lord because the Lord would protect Judah (Isa 7:3-9). The Lord even told King Ahaz that he could ask the Lord for a sign if he had doubt. But out of disbelief or whatever reasons he had, the king refused to ask or seek the Lord (Isa 7:10-12).
So prophet Isaiah warned the king that the Lord was about to run out of patient. The Lord himself would give the king a sign, that “the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Before this child was fully grown, the two kings that king Ahaz was afraid of would be gone (Isa 7:13-16). That prophecy about the child was fulfilled during the reign of king Ahaz,2 and it must have served as a reminder to Judah to seek and trust the Lord.
Interestingly, the Jews expected yet a bigger fulfillment in the future,3 and so we indeed had a bigger fulfillment with the birth of Christ. So there is a sense that we might have missed if we did not look at the background of Isaiah 7, that is, there was a reminder that God’s chosen people should have trusted God, but they did not, so God was sending a reminder.
So during this Advent season as we think of the prophecy concerning Immanuel, let us examine ourselves and see if we truly trust the Lord and if we truly listen to him. Let us seek His words and guidance in our lives!
It is a reminder to celebrate our salvation.
“You are to give him the name Jesus” (v. 21). The name Jesus is the short from of Joshua in Hebrew, which means “Yahweh (the LORD) is Salvation.” We are reminded that no one can save us except the Lord himself. If we have accepted his salvation, this is a time / season to rejoice in it!
It is a reminder to celebrate God in our lives.
In providing salvation from sins, God did a marvelous thing. He sent His son to live among his people. Matthew reminds us that his name is Immanuel, which in Hebrew means “God with us.” Apostle John reminds us that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Joh 1:14). Apostle Paul prays “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph 3:17).
Rather than getting so busy doing things that we all say are not related to Christmas, let us praise God for his salvation and continue to seek and trust him in everything we do!
For other articles in the Christmas series, please click this link: Christmas Series.
“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: 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. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 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. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:18-25 TNIV)
- The gospel of Mark briefly mentioned how prophecies concerning John the Baptist and Christ were fulfilled. John does not have any birth narrative but describes incarnation of Christ instead. ↩
- Isaiah did not say who the child would be, so there are interpretive differences about the identity of this child, but the uncertainty is only to us because we could not identity the child. As it was a sign from the Lord, King Ahaz and the people of Judah must have recognized the child and realized that it was a reminder from the Lord. ↩
- This can be seen by the choice of word in the translation of Isa 7:14 in the Septuagint, but we won’t get into the details here. ↩
Thank you David.
Thanks you for such an important message about truly seeking and trusting God in our lives.
Thank you Bingxin for your comment. You are so open to God’s word! I am sure He will continue to lead and guide you.
“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Pro 4:18 TNIV)
Reading both series, the “Christmas” topic and Ephesians would produce a synergistic effect on me: reading and understanding more about Ephesians would help me to appreciate and be thankful for the birth of our Savior Jesus. In the meantime learning that God’s promise is revealed in Isaiah 7, and His promise never fails and is fulfilled as recorded in Matthew would definitely increase my understanding in Paul’s intention and teaching in Ephesians.
Once again it is amazing to me that a book in Bible is never isolated; Matthew, Isaiah, and Ephesians that were written by different people in different times, are all connected and related to each other for God’s revelation, His grand plan, His will and His purpose!