Friday, October 1, 2010

Prophecy and Our Response – Matthew 1:18-24

10. Give two reason Jesus came according to the angel and prophecy.

The angel said that Jesus would save His people from their sins that is why He was named Jesus, which means “the Lord saves.” The prophecy stated that Jesus would be God with us. The prophecy named Him Immanuel to make it clear that this was indeed God with us. These two purposes are interrelated. It has been stated before and it bears repeating. Jesus is fully God and fully man. There is no other way that He could save us from our sins. If He were God but not also man, then there is no way He could have taken our sins on Himself. 2 Cor 5:21 states, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (NASB) Since God is Holy, He cannot be sin. Since Jesus was also man, He could become sin. It is vital to note that He did not sin but God placed on Him all of our sins. Heb 9:25-26 makes it clear that when Jesus did this, He did it for all our sins, past, present and future because He only had to offer Himself once. He doesn’t have to die daily like the O.T. daily sacrifices.

Paul explained it a bit differently in Rom 8:3-4. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (NIV) Jesus came in the likeness of sinful man.

In both of these verses, we see Jesus taking on our sin and, in Him, we are able to take on God’s righteousness. Apart from Jesus there is no way we can partake in God’s righteous nature. So, by being Immanuel – God with us – He was able to then become our Savior and save us from our sins.

11. How do we know that the prophecy was for a virgin to give birth and not just the firstborn child of the woman?

Isa 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (NIV) People who try to point out contradictions in the Bible will often say that the Hebrew word used for virgin could be translated as young woman. The RSV Bible uses young woman instead of virgin. While this is correct, we have to understand how the Israelites of Isaiah’s time and the Jews of Jesus’ time understood the Scripture. Part of the problem arises because this verse is actually two prophecies in one. The first and most apparent was that this was a sign to King Ahaz that Rezin and Aram would be destroyed and Judah would be spared. In Isaiah 8, the first prophecy is fulfilled when Isaiah’s wife bears a son. In this case, Isaiah is the father. There is nothing supernatural here except the timing. So “young woman” would be an appropriate translation. However, it is also interesting to note that the Lord told him to name the child Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz rather than Immanuel. Perhaps this is why the future prophecy was still expected.

As is the case in many O.T. prophecies, especially regarding the Messiah, the short term prophecy has come and gone but the future one still needed to happen. Jewish scholars identified many prophecies that I would never have see relating to Jesus. The virgin birth is one of them. It isn’t as if the early Christians looked at Jesus and then went back into the O.T. and tied verses to His life and claimed prophetic fulfillment.

I don’t know exactly how the concept that young woman would actually be a virgin was revealed by God. However, it is evident that He did. In Matthew 1:23, the word used in the Greek is translated virgin. In Luke 1:27, Mary is described as a virgin. The Greek O.T. translation (Septuagint) of Is 7:14 used the same word for virgin. This means that those Jewish scholars who translated the O.T. (before Jesus was born) knew that the meaning of the prophecy for the Messiah required a virgin to give birth, thus ensuring that the Messiah is uniquely God and man.

Joseph protected Mary by taking her home as his wife. Moreover, he protected her virginity by not having sex with her until after Jesus was born. No one could say that Mary wasn’t a virgin at the time of Jesus’ birth. While that would not have been the point, through Joseph’s obedience it hasn’t even been brought up.

12. How is Joseph’s response an example to us?

The first thing Joseph did after waking up was to do what the angel commanded. We should follow his example in the speed of our obedience. You may say that you haven’t had an angel give you any commands lately so you are doing OK in this area. However, God does convict of sin. When we realize we have sinned, how fast are we obedient in repenting, asking forgiveness, making restitution, getting rid of the things that make us or a brother stumble? Do we give back to the Lord from what He has provided?

Second, Joseph didn’t have the New Testament to guide him but he did have the Old Testament. When the angel spoke to him, he was able to discern the implication of his task and that it was a Biblical command. He was to be instrumental in raising the Messiah. We seldom hear of people getting such clear commands in dreams anymore but more often hear of people who get commands to do un-Biblical things.

Anyone can have a dream or even have an idea pop into his or her head. He can then interpret it to mean just about anything. However when it lines up with the Bible, then we better pay attention. Knowing the Bible is important if we are to try to understand God’s will for our lives. Too many people are falling for cults because the cult leaders are getting revelations and vision that do not line up with Scripture and are being used to control the members. People who are eager to do God’s will but don’t have a good foundation in the Word will do whatever a leader tells them when that leaders says, “The Lord told me to tell you …” are easy prey for these cults.

Another problem is when people allow others to interpret the Bible for them. They will believe anything written in the margins or the notes. There are some Bibles on the market that have some very un-Biblical notes written by people who are very cultish.

Being eager to God’s will is good. However this is the attitude we need: Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (NIV) Do you go back over a sermon to see if the preacher was accurate and to see what he said was true? How do you know that he didn’t slip in just a small error that after a few months or years will lead to major error? I just read an article that showed how a simple comment with good intentions was then used to lead to major heresy.

I would like to think that Joseph was like the Bereans in his knowledge of the Word. This enabled him to recognize God’s command and immediately obeyed.

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