God with us – but which God? Matthew 1:1-25

Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
We are preparing to celebrate the birth of the Son of God, Jesus, Immanuel – God with us. I want us to think this morning about what may seem initially to be a very strange question. Jesus was Immanuel – God with us. But WHICH God? Which God is with us? I ask the question because it is one which many Christians never seem to think about. But it was a central question for the writers of the gospels, especially for Matthew who records so many details surrounding the birth of Jesus and its significance. Jesus is God with us – but which God? Why, the Jewish God of course! The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of Moses, the God of David, the God of Israel, the ONLY true God. NOT one of the many Greek Gods, NOT one of the Roman Gods. Not one of the gods of Egypt or Mesopotamia or any of the Eastern mystery religions followed by millions two thousand years ago. NO – the God who became flesh was ISRAEL’s God, Yahweh, THE LORD, the great I AM.
We are talking about the God who brought Israel out of slavery in Egypt and struck down the Egyptians with the 10 plagues as punishment for their false gods. The God who parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross. The God who fed them with Manna in the wilderness for 40 years and who gave Moses the 10 commandments for his chosen people to live by. THAT is the God who became a human being born in a stable and laid in a manger in Bethlehem.
GENEALOGY – Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham
1:1 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: 2Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
This may seem to us to be a strange way to start a biography. But Matthew begins his gospel with a most important fact. Jesus was a Jew. These days many people are interested in genealogy, find my past, what are my roots? Matthew wants us to know what Jesus’s roots were. Jesus was a Jew – that was his ancestry. And Jesus was not just any Jew – but a very special Jew. Matthew names Jesus as Son of David, Son of Abraham.
Jesus was a descendent of Abraham – the first of the Patriarchs, the heir of God’s promises.
Genesis 12:1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. 2“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Jesus was a descendent of Abraham – very many Jews were. But more than that, Jesus was also a direct descendent of David, the greatest King Israel ever had.
And Matthew wants everybody to know that as a descendent of Abraham and a descendent of David, Jesus had a place in history.
17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.
From the call of the Patriarchs to the reign of David to the time of exile to the birth of Christ, Jesus had a destiny in God’s masterplan of salvation.
Matthew 1:20 An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
He would be called Jesus because he would save His people from their sins. And who were “his people”? Why, the Jews of course. Not Gentile sinners like us, but God’s chosen people Israel. Immanuel was God with us. Which God? The God of Israel. The God of Abraham and the Patriarchs. The God of David and of Moses and of the Exiles. That God! We know that is true because everything that was going to happen had already been foretold long ago by God’s messengers, the prophets of Israel.
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
Jesus would be Immanuel, God with us. Stories said that false Greek gods and false Roman Gods could APPEAR in the guise of human beings – but only the God of the Jews, the one true God who had created human beings in his own image, only HE could actually become human and be born as a baby. And this baby would be the fulfillment of God’s promises to send his Messiah, his Christ, his chosen one, to his people. So the baby would be born in Bethlehem, the city of David.
Matthew 2:5 When Herod had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”
The prophet Hosea had foretold that early in his life, Jesus and his family would have to escape and become refugees in Egypt.
Matthew 2:14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
And as we will see in a few minutes, it was also foretold that the birth of the Messiah would echo the grief the Israelites had experienced when Jerusalem was destroyed and the whole nation taken into Exile in Babylon.
So many elements of the Birth of Jesus happened in fulfilment of prophecies in the Jewish Scriptures which we know as the Old Testament. But then later on Matthew’s gospel also records other events which were foretold in the same Scriptures, and Matthew spells out many of those prophecies for us, starting with the very beginning of Jesus’s ministry.
Matthew 2: 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: 15“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
Jesus’s ministry of healing was prophesied beforehand.
Matthew 8:16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.”
Jesus’s teaching in parables was foretold.
Matthew 13: 34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”
Matthew tells us that Jesus’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was a fulfilment of prophecy in Zechariah.
Matthew 21: 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5“Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”
At so many points, the life of Jesus was foretold in the Jewish Scriptures, in the words of the prophets of the God of the Jews. Immanuel was God with us. Which God? The God of Israel and all the prophets of Israel. Even though they were not Jews, the wise men came looking for Jesus among the people of Israel, in Jerusalem,.
Those wise men were the first non-Jews to worship Jesus. Quite possibly they were the first non-Jewish Christians. But who had they come to find?
Matthew 2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
So they came to the palace of Herod, king of the Jews, to find the new born king. They brought gifts fit to honour a king – but whose king? The King of the Jews of course.
Jesus was a Jew. Because of that fact, many Jewish families would suffer.
Matthew 2:16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
There is a story not often preached on. It is a story with curious echoes. Most importantly, the slaughter of the innocents reminds us of the attempts Pharaoh had made to kill all the Israelite boys born in Egypt at the time of Moses. Following in the footsteps of Moses, Jesus escaped to become the Saviour and Liberator of God’s chosen people Israel.
So Jesus was Immanuel – God with us. But WHICH God? The God of the Old Testament. The God of Abraham and the Patriarchs. The God of Moses and David – and indeed of Herod. Herod wasn’t only trying to kill a rival for his throne. Herod was trying to kill the Saviour God had promised to the nation of which Herod was King. Herod was trying to kill HIS Messiah, His Lord, His God.
Because that was the God who became flesh as Jesus Christ. That was the God who became a human being to die for our sins. Some Christians ignore the Old Testament because they think it only applies to the Jews. Some people think the Old Testament is irrelevant now we have the New Testament, now that Christ has come. But the Old Testament can never be irrelevant, because it speaks to us of the SAME God who became flesh in Jesus Christ. Some people think that Jews and Christians worship different Gods. Even some Christians think of the God of the Old Testament as somehow angry and vengeful whereas the God of the New Testament is all love and compassion. If you think that God in the Old Testament is different from God in the New Testament then think again because it is the God of the Old Testament, Yahweh the God of the Jews, who became flesh and lived among us as Jesus the Christ, the Jewish Messiah.
Sometimes people will ask us, what was so special about Jesus? What was so special about His birth? We can talk to them about Jesus’s life and His ministry – about his wonderful miracles and his amazing teaching. We can tell people about Jesus’s death on the cross for our sins and about the greatest miracle of all, his resurrection from the dead. We can talk about his miraculous virgin birth. But we can also tell people that Jesus did not just appear out of nowhere. Two thousand years of Jewish history were preparing for the incarnation of the Son of God. We can count more than four hundred prophecies in the Old Testament which Jesus fulfilled during his life, starting with the prophecies surrounding His birth which we have thought about this morning. Jesus was born and lived and died to be the turning point in the marvellous plan of salvation which began when the God of Israel called Abraham, and then Isaac and Jacob, and then Moses, and then David. It was the God of Israel who became flesh and lived among us, and died to save us.
But then of course, John’s gospel points us to the ultimate sadness of the Christmas story.
John 1:10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Jesus came as the Jewish Messiah, the promised Saviour of Israel. And his own, God’s own chosen nation, rejected him. Yet at the same time here is the Good News of Christmas.
John 1: 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The eternal and divine Word became Immanuel, for us and for our salvation. Bow down and worship – for THIS is your God.

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