By Sam E. Stone
Today’s lesson is based on three passages of Scripture. Psalm 89 affirms God’s faithfulness in keeping his amazing promise to David (2 Samuel 7) that we studied last week. There he assured David that he would have a place of greatness, that his offspring would succeed him, and that his kingdom would be established forever.
Next, one of the key messianic prophecies is cited. Isaiah assures the people that Immanuel will remain beside them—literally “God with us.” Four descriptive titles are used to introduce him in this text.
Matthew is the only Gospel writer to provide many details about Joseph’s role in the birth of Christ. His book begins by recording the genealogy of Jesus (1:1-17). Throughout his Gospel he seeks to show that Jesus is the Messiah, the promised seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:3).
God will keep his Word. His promise is based on his character. He won’t change his mind or go back on what he has said, like people often do. The throne of David will be established and preserved by the Lord himself. What humans can’t do, God can. The psalmist compares the Son of David’s rule with the enduring presence of the moon in the sky. Whenever you look up, you know it will be there.
James E. Smith declared, “God adds additional confirmation that the covenant made with David was immutable. He promises not to break nor in any way alter that covenant. God has sworn by his holiness, for there is nothing higher by which to swear. He cannot lie.”
Isaiah 9:6, 7
The prophet Isaiah gives a wonderful introduction to God’s Son, who will be known on earth as the Son of David. Four meaningful titles are used to describe his greatness—Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Obviously the child described is greater than anyone can imagine. His reign will be marked by justice and righteousness.
The miraculous birth of Christ is carefully explained by Matthew. A Jewish couple was normally betrothed for about 12 months prior to their actual marriage. This was a binding relationship, however, and the couple was considered to be man and wife, even though they did not live together yet (Deuteronomy 22:23, 24). Mary was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Luke explains this from her perspective (Luke 1:26-38), while Matthew tells it through Joseph’s eyes.
Joseph was not only a pure and good man, but he was tender and gracious as well. He kept the law and did not want his name and reputation to be sullied. At the same time, he loved Mary and cared about her well-being. He wanted to protect her from public disgrace, so he was considering a quiet divorce.
Joseph did not act hastily, however, but took time to anguish over the right thing to do. Taking time to think before we act is a wise habit for all of us (James 1:19). God appeared to Joseph in a dream. The Lord at times used dreams to make known his will to the prophets and other people of God (Genesis 20:3; 1 Kings 3:5; Daniel 7:1). The Lord reminded Joseph of his lineage in preparation for his role in raising the Son of David—Jesus, the Son of God.
“Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife.” Joseph did not need to be afraid, nor should he have doubted Mary’s chastity. The child conceived in her was by the Holy Spirit. An angel had explained this to Mary as well (Luke 1:26-38). His name was to be Jesus.
Names were important to the Jewish people. The name Jesus, like Joshua, was derived from the Hebrew word meaning “to save.” This play on words is emphasized when Matthew adds because he will save his people from their sins (see Psalm 130:8). All this took place to fulfill what God had said. It was not fulfilled because it had been predicted, but it had been predicted because it was certain to take place (2 Peter 1:21).
A miraculous conception was essential for the miraculous things that God’s Son would do. The quotation from Isaiah 7:14 clearly set forth the fact of the virgin birth. The name Immanuel describes how the divine nature was combined with the human nature in him—“God with us.”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.