Matthew 1-2: The birth of the Christ.

January 10, 2014.

We have made it to the end of the first week! Thank you so much for your support. These post have been very challenging for me to write, but hearing that people are actually following them has been such an encouragement to me, and for that I can’t thank you enough. If you are just now landing on this page, we have just started a journey to read through the bible in a year as I write a practical/connection based commentary on each section. Click here to got to the first post to find out more. If you are keeping up with the reading, you’re doing great! Keep up the good work.
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Daily Reading: Matthew 1-2.

Background.

Matthew is the first of the four gospels to appear in the biblical cannon. The gospels serve as a detailed testimony of the life, death and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, who had come as the Christ to redeem mankind. This is the very reason they are referred to as the gospels, which means “good news.” Each of the writers had good news to share with the world, that this Christ, the perfect Lamb, had offered Himself up as a ransom for our sins, defeating both sin and death and calling all men everywhere to repentance and salvation. There had been 400 years of silence since the last prophet, Malachi, was sent to guide the people back and surely the people were looking for the spirit of Elijah who would come before the Chosen One to prepare the way. John the Baptizer (see Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 1 and John 1) would serve this role, preparing the way for the Christ.

Highlights and Key Concepts.

Chapter 1

1. The importance of genealogies: When we come to sections of scripture that simply list a bunch of names, describing in long detail the ancestry of a particular linage, it can often become a boring and overbearing task to read through a lot of names, half of which we cannot pronounce. Some of the names we might recognize, but most of them mean little to nothing to us. We often do not focus on genealogies in scripture, throwing them aside to get on to the “more important stuff.” To the Jews, however, genealogies were very important. Jews identified with who their family was, especially which tribe they came from (descended from the 12 patriarchs, see Genesis 35:22-26). Genealogies were particularly important in the line of Kings, specficially with the lineage of David, for God had promised him a child on the throne throughout the generations, leading to the Christ. One practical way to get through genealogies today is to take some time with the names to see if you can remember any stories about the people and the context of their lives. When we connect with the people in the genealogies (wherever we can at least), the simple long list of names turns into something to which we can better relate.

2. The birth of the Christ: Since the time of the first Messianic prophecy that came just after the fall (see Genesis 3:14-15), man has been awaiting his Savior to come to earth. It is likely that every woman of the children of Israel had at least a small hope that their child would be the One who would come to save them. The prophets had come and long gone at this point and the people were probably getting restless. When will the Chosen one come? Will the Chosen One come? There had been 400 years of silence since the last prophet had spoken the word of God to the sons of men. Where had His voice gone? Had Jerusalem, they who killed the prophets and stoned those who were sent to them (see Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34), disobeyed to the point where God was totally done with them? One night, the answer came, for a child was born of a virgin, according to the prophecies, in the town of Bethlehem. The Christ had come, and the world would be charged through Him. It is no wonder why Mary sings the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55. The long awaited time had finally come, for Jesus, Immanuel, had been born.

Chapter 2

Messianic prophecy: Many times in just these few opening chapters of the book of Matthew has a phrase to the effect of “to fulfill what was spoken of by the prophets” surfaced in reference to Jesus. Messianic prophecy is one of the strongest apologetic tools that is used to give evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Isaiah had prophesied that a virgin should give birth to Him (Isaiah 7:14), Micah had cited the city of His birth (Micah 5:2), Hosea had made reference to Him being called out of the land of Egypt (Hosea 11:1) and Jeremiah had predicted the evil thing Herod would do when he felt his power was threatened (Jeremiah 31:15). These are just four of the more than 350 specific Messianic prophecies that are made in the Old Testament, prophecies that were recognized by Jewish religious leaders as Messianic long before Christ came to this earth. Jesus fulfilled every one of them. There are many times throughout the gospels and even into Acts where the writer will point out the specific prophecy that is being fulfilled in their writing; and there are more in the Old Testament that are fulfilled by Christ that aren’t explicitly mentioned as being fulfilled. If you are in need of a faith building exercise, search out a list of the Messianic prophecies that are made in the Old Testament and read through them. Then look to see how Jesus fulfilled them.

Summaries, Lessons and Connections.

Chapter 1

v. 1-17: The genealogy of Christ. Luke gives another genealogy of Christ (see Luke 3:23-28), and the two lines differ somewhat in the latter sections. Of the different explanations for these differences, two prominent ones are that either Matthews gives Jesus’ genealogy though Joseph’s family and Luke through Mary’s or that Matthew gives the generic royal line through David and Luke cites the specific line to whom Joseph belonged. A concise view of Matthews record is as follows:

Abraham > Isaac > Jacob > Judah by Tamar > Perez > Hezron > Ram > Amminadab > Nahshon > Salmon > Boaz by Rahab > Obed by Ruth > Jesse > David the king

David > Solomon  > Rehoboam > Abijah > Asaph > Jehoshaphat > Joram > Uzziah > Jotham > Ahaz > Hezekiah > Manasseh > Amos > Josiah > Jechoniah

After the deportation to Babylon (see Jeremiah 24:1):

Jechoniah > Shealtiel > Zerubbabel > Abiud > Eliakim > Azor > Zadok > Achim > Eliud > Eleazar > Matthan > Jacob > Joseph by Mary > Jesus, who is called Christ.

v. 18-25: Mary, a young Jewish woman who is engaged to a Jewish man named Joseph, is found to be pregnant before the couple had gotten married. Notice the character of Joseph mention in this passage, how he was going to divorce Mary quietly like (under the assumption that she had been with another man due to her pregnancy) when there was really no need to do so. Little did he know that the boy inside Mary was the Son of God as Isaiah had prophesied (see Isaiah 7:14). After a message from an angel, Joseph knew that the child was of the Holy Spirit and he took Mary to be his wife.

Chapter 2

v. 1-6: Cited as the town that the Messiah was to be born in by the prophet Micah (see Micah 5:2), Bethlehem lies just south of Jerusalem and was the hometown of Joseph. Joseph and Mary had traveled back to Bethlehem due to a Roman census that was called in those days (see Luke 2:1-7). It was through a great many events, decisions put into place by men such as the census and Herod’s evil decree, that Mary and Joseph were in the exact places that the prophets spoke of in times past. This gives even more credence to the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. Notice that the Jewish people knew of the prophecies, for they were able to show Herod where the Christ was to be born.

v. 7-12: Feeling his power threatened by the coming Christ, Herod tricked the wise men into thinking that he wanted to worship the child, so that they would return and tell them where Jesus was. But Herod wanted to kill the child. And thus, being warned in a dream, the wise men did not return to king Herod after they had found Jesus and worshiped him, bringing him presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Note that the text never reveals how many wise men there were, but only tells of three different types of gifts that they brought.

v. 13-18: Herod never had plans to worship the child, but rather to kill him, and so when the wise men did not return, he was very angry and sent out a decree to slaughter all the male children two years old or under in effort to catch Jesus in the mix (see Jeremiah 31:15 for the prophecy made about this event). However, the Lord had a larger plan at work, guiding Mary and Joseph to the land of Egypt so that the prophecy made in Hosea 1:11 might be fulfilled.

v. 19-23: When Mary and Joseph are called back out of the land of Egypt (possibly echoing the Exodus of the children of Israel), they are warned in another dream to turn aside to Nazareth because of the still wicked ruler who had come after Herod, so that another prophecy might be fulfilled. Note that the prophecy specifically referenced here is not in the Old Testament cannon we have today, but may have belonged to a lost book, or have been handed down through oral tradition, as this was a common teaching technique used in this time period and culture.

Tomorrow’s Reading: Romans 3-4.

Unto us a child has been born; praise His name.

-Walter

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