Details

What the LORD said through the prophets was fulfilled in Jesus Christ

Read: Matthew 2

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written.” (Matthew 2:5)

And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:15b)

Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled. (Matthew 2:17)

And he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene. (Matthew 2:23)

Reflect:

It can be hard to re-read such a familiar passage in the Bible carefully, without my attention drifting. But when I think of the author of this gospel, Matthew (the disciple also known as Levi, who had once been a tax collector), I realise that this was a man who paid very close attention to his Rabbi’s story.

Matthew had the skills and talents necessary for being a tax collector: he could pay attention to fine detail, he could remember facts and analyse interconnections. He must have had an analytical brain, must have thrived on minutiae, or at least so it seems from his writing.

For Matthew, the most important details of Jesus’ birth and babyhood are found in the connection between the events themselves and Old Testament prophecies. Matthew finds four occasions in Jesus’ early life, five if I count the “virgin will conceive” reference (2:22-23), where the prophets predicted what Jesus’ life fulfilled. And it is not as if Baby Jesus could exert control over any of these events from the womb or his mother’s arms. The prophets’ words all came true by the sovereign will of the Father.

Isaiah, Micah, Hosea and Jeremiah spoke as the LORD spoke through them. They spoke (unknowingly) of Jesus.

Crux:

What the LORD said through the prophets was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are Sovereign: You make plans, you speak promises; you bring your plans to fruition and your promises to fulfilment. You are the Omnipotent God.

Thank you for your promises through the prophets that help me to see your plan and recognise your Son. Thank you for gifting Matthew with the talents and skills necessary to chronicle Jesus’ life and ministry. Thank you for equipping him to research and record the ways and occasions Jesus fulfilled the prophets’ words. Thank you for revealing yourself in the words of the prophets, in the words of Matthew, and in your Word, Jesus Christ.

Thank you for the skills and talents you have given to me. May I be faithful in using them to proclaim your glory, the glory of your Son. May I know the truth of your word as well as the details of your word, and be confident and capable to share this truth in speech and in writing. May I be faithful in obedience to your word so you are glorified by my words.

May you bless everyone who hears or reads my words with a better knowledge of you and a deeper love for you, for your glory.

Amen.

Kin

The family history of Jesus Christ was the handiwork of God

Read: Matthew 1

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David. (Matthew 1:5-6a)

Respond:

Matthew 1 tells two stories of kinship. The second is most familiar, from the Christmas nativity stories I sing in carols and read in cards. This version – and I’m paraphrasing here – gets the headline: “Pregnant Mary in disgrace almost gets dumped by her fianc√© Joseph before angelic messenger intervenes.” So the basic facts of Virgin Mary, Faithful Joseph and Baby Jesus/Immanuel are well known.

The earlier kinship story in Matthew 1 is actually a multitude of stories. These stories are less well known, but they still interest me, especially the verses I’ve quoted above. Matthew edits and crops Jesus’ genealogy here, truncating roughly 300 years of history into two lines. (So Rahab and Naomi were not contemporaries.)

Boaz married Ruth, acting as kinsman-redeemer to Naomi’s foreign daughter-in-law, and they had a bouncing baby boy, Obed. This is the story from the book of Ruth in the Old Testament, just after the book of Judges. One key moment in this story occurs when widowed Ruth tells her bitter, also-widowed mother-in-law Naomi, “Your God will be my God.” By herself, Naomi has nothing to offer Ruth; but Naomi’s God is the Lord of All.

The previous line, however, tells a rather different story, which has to be pieced together from events in the beginning of the book of Joshua: It stars Salmon, valiant man of Judah, one of the invading, immigrating swarm of Israelites led by General Joshua. In a surprise move, Salmon marries Rahab of Jericho, a woman whose murky past life is now buried in the rubble that is all that remains of her city’s wall. Was Salmon one of the spies, who earlier hid on Rahab’s roof at the top of that wall? How did they deal with a cross-cultural marriage as Israel grew more and more powerful within the promised land and overthrew other cities and cultures? I don’t know, but I wonder. One thing of which I am sure: it was God who made a way for these two people to meet and marry across a cultural and religious divide, by opening Rahab’s eyes to his glory.

Crux:

The family history of Jesus Christ was no accident; it was the handiwork of God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Father in heaven, you are sovereign over births, deaths and marriages.

You intervened when Rahab needed your help to begin a new life with the people of Israel, when she placed her trust in the God she had only heard about through gossip of plagues and miracles.

You interceded when Ruth needed your help, when she was living as a destitute widow among her mother-in-law’s people, determined to surrender to her mother-in-law’s God.

You involved yourself in Mary and Joseph’s lives when their relationship was on the rocks as they both struggled to live faithfully to you and your plans.

LORD, intervene in my life too. Mould me into a woman whose faith in you is unshakable  even in terrible times, because I have witnessed your work in my life, in my family, in my church, in my community, in the pages of my Bible. Build me up in Christ, I pray.

Amen.