23rd November 2012

Someone Better

(the first of three studies on Matthew 1-2)

“All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said.”
Matthew 1:22 (NIV UK)

When Matthew recounts the birth of Christ, he underlines how Jesus and his ministry fulfil Old Testament prophecies. Luke also attests to this, and explains that everything that was written about Christ “in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” had to come to pass (Luke 24:44). There is a rabbinical maxim that states “all the prophets prophesied only of the days of the Messiah”.

Matthew saw the scriptures as being “the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23), and thus full of direct relevance to the coming of the Messiah. He explains that Jesus is a better fulfilment than anything that had happened previously.

For example, in the eighth century BC Judah was surrounded by the Assyrians and by their allies. Ahaz, the childless king of Judah, could not see a way forward for his nation. So Isaiah was sent with a prophecy that God would provide a son for Ahaz, and that this son would defeat Judah’s enemies. The son was Hezekiah, and he did conquer the Assyrians. Matthew sees Hezekiah as a mere shadow of the greater reality of Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus is the higher and better fulfilment. The emphasis in the prophecy is not the concept of “the virgin birth” as the original word used refers just to a young woman and has no connotations related to virginity. Rather the emphasis is on the name “Emmanuel”, meaning “God with us”. God was made flesh in Jesus, who is therefore the true Immanuel (compare Isaiah 7:14 to Matthew 1:23).

In a similar vein Micah, also writing about the Assyrian crisis, spoke of a great ruler “whose origins are of old, from ancient times”, who will “shepherd the flock” and “he will be their peace” (Micah 5:2,4,5). To Matthew there was no more obvious fulfilment of this scripture than Jesus himself (Matthew 2:4-6).

Jesus is the Christ, explains Matthew. The great prophecies of deliverance point ultimately to him alone. Other people, like Hezekiah, may have been involved initially, but Jesus overshadows them all.

After all, argues Matthew, don’t you realize Jesus is the Messiah? All these things are happening in order to fulfil the Lord’s prophecies about him. Jesus is someone better than anyone could have hoped for. He exceeds all prior expectations.

Father, thank you that Jesus is the greatest fulfilment of prophecy. Thank you that what was prophesied about him came to pass, and that Jesus is the Messiah.

Study by James Henderson 

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