Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
~ Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 8:8, John 1:14, 2 Corinthians 5:19
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
~ Luke 2:20
And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
~ Romans 15:9-13
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
~ Psalm 2:12, Psalm 95:6
And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds:
~ Genesis 43:11
And when any will offer a meat offering unto the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon: And he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests: and he shall take thereout his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD:
~ Leviticus 2:1-2
And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.
~ 1 Kings 10:2
The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.
~ Psalm 72:10
All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.
~ Psalm 45:8
For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.
~ Malachi 1:11
Expository Thoughts On Matthew 1:18-25, and On Matthew 2:1-12, by J.C. Ryle.
Matthew, Chapter One.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
~ Matthew 1:18-25
These verses begin by telling us two great truths. They tell us how the Lord Jesus Christ took our nature upon Him, and became man. They tell us also that His birth was miraculous. His mother Mary was a virgin.
These are very mysterious subjects. They are depths, which we have no line to fathom. They are truths, which we have not mind enough to comprehend. Let us not attempt to explain things which are above our feeble reason. Let us be content to believe with reverence, and not speculate about matters which we cannot understand. Enough for us to know, that with Him who made the world nothing is impossible. Let us rest in the words of the Apostles’ Creed: “Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary.”
Let us observe the conduct of Joseph described in these verses. It is a beautiful example of godly wisdom, and tender consideration for others. He saw the “appearance of evil” in her who was his espoused wife. But he did nothing rashly. He waited patiently to have the line of duty made clear. In all probability he laid the matter before God in prayer. “He who believes shall not be in haste.” (Isaiah 28:16.)
The patience of Joseph was graciously rewarded. He received a direct message from God upon the subject of his anxiety, and was at once relieved from all his fears. How good it is to wait upon God! Who ever cast his cares upon God in hearty prayer, and found him fail? “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Prov. 3:6.)
Let us observe the two namesgiven to our Lord in these verses. One is JESUS: the other EMMANUEL. One describes His office; the other His nature. Both are deeply interesting.
The name JESUS means “Saviour.” It is the same name as Joshua in the Old Testament. It is given to our Lord because “He saves His people from their sins.” This is His special office. He saves them from the guilt of sin, by washing them in His own atoning blood. He saves them from the dominion of sin, by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit. He saves them from the presence of sin, when He takes them out of this world to rest with Him. He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when He shall give them a glorious body at the last day. Blessed and holy are Christ’s people! From sorrow, cross, and conflict they are not saved. But they are saved from sin for evermore. They are cleansed from guilt by Christ’s blood. They are made fit for heaven by Christ’s Spirit. This is salvation. He who cleaves to sin is not yet saved.
Jesus is a very encouraging name to heavy-laden sinners. He who is King of kings and Lord of lords might lawfully have taken some more high-sounding title. But He does not do so. The rulers of this world have often called themselves Great, Conquerors, Bold, Magnificent, and the like. The Son of God is content to call Himself Saviour. The souls which desire salvation may draw near to the Father with boldness, and have access with confidence through Christ. It is His office and His delight to show mercy. “For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him.” (John 3:17.)
Jesus is a name, which is peculiarly sweet and precious to believers. It has often done them good, when the favour of kings and princes would have been heard of with unconcern. It has given them what money cannot buy, even inward peace. It has eased their wearied consciences, and given rest to their heavy hearts. The Song of Solomon speaks the experience of many, when it says, “your name is oil poured forth.” (Cant. 1:3.) Happy is that person, who trusts not merely in vague notions of God’s mercy and goodness, but in “Jesus.”
The other name in these verses is scarcely less interesting than that just referred to. It is the name which is given to our Lord from his nature, as “God manifest in the flesh.” He is called EMMANUEL, “God with us.”
Let us take care that we have clear views of our Lord Jesus Christ’s nature and person. It is a point of the deepest importance. We should settle it firmly in our minds, that our Saviour is perfect man as well as perfect God, and perfect God as well as perfect man. If we once lose sight of this great foundation truth, we may run into fearful heresies. The name Emmanuel takes in the whole mystery. Jesus is “God with us.” He had a nature like our own in all things, sin only excepted. But though Jesus was “with us” in human flesh and blood, He was at the same time very God.
We shall often find, as we read the Gospels, that our Saviour could be weary, and hungry, and thirsty–could weep, and groan, and feel pain like one of ourselves. In all this we see “the man” Christ Jesus. We see the nature He took on Him, when He was born of the Virgin Mary.
But we shall also find in the same Gospels that our Saviour knew men’s hearts and thoughts–that He had power over devils–that He could work the mightiest of miracles with a word–that He was ministered to by angels–that He allowed a disciple to call Him “my God,”–and that he said, “Before Abraham was I am,” and “I and my Father are one.” In all this we see “the eternal God.” We see Him “who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen.” (Rom. 9:5.)
Would you have a strong foundation for your faith and hope? Then keep in constant view your Saviour’s divinity. He in whose blood you are taught to trust is the Almighty God. All power is His in heaven and earth. None can pluck you out of His hand. If you are a true believer in Jesus, let not your heart be troubled or afraid.
Would you have sweet comfort in suffering and trial? Then keep in constant view your Saviour’s humanity. He is the man Christ Jesus, who lay on the bosom of the Virgin Mary, as a little infant, and knows the heart of a man. He can be touched with the feeling of your infirmities. He has Himself experienced Satan’s temptations. He has endured hunger. He has shed tears. He has felt pain. Trust Him at all times with all your sorrows. He will not despise you. Pour out all your heart before Him in prayer, and keep nothing back. He can sympathise with His people.
Let these thoughts sink down into our minds. Let us bless God for the encouraging truths which the first chapter of the New Testament contains. It tells us of One who “saves His people from their sins.” But this is not all. It tells us that this Saviour is “Emmanuel,” God Himself, and yet God with us, God manifest in human flesh like our own. This is glad tidings. This is indeed good news. Let us feed on these truths in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving.
Matthew, Chapter Two.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
~ Matthew 2:1-12
It is not known who these wise men were. Their names and dwelling-place are alike kept back from us. We are only told that they came “from the East.” Whether they were Chaldeans or Arabians we cannot say. Whether they learned to expect Christ from the ten tribes who went into captivity, or from the prophecies of Daniel, we do not know. It matters little who they were. The point which concerns us most is the rich instruction which their history conveys.
These verses show us, that there may be true servants of God in places where we should not expect to find them. The Lord Jesus has many “hidden ones” like these wise men. Their history on earth may be as little known as that of Melchizedek, and Jethro, and Job. But their names are in the book of life, and they will be found with Christ in the day of His appearing. It is well to remember this. We must not look round the earth and say hastily, “all is barren.” The grace of God is not tied to places and families. The Holy Spirit can lead souls to Christ without the help of many outward means. Men may be born in dark places of the earth, like these wise men, and yet like them be made “wise unto salvation.” There are some traveling to heaven at this moment, of whom the church and the world know nothing. They flourish in secret places like the lily among thorns, and “waste their sweetness on the desert air.” But Christ loves them, and they love Christ.
These verses teach us, that it is not always those who have most religious privileges, who give Christ most honour. We might have thought that the Scribes and Pharisees would have been the first to hasten to Bethlehem, on the lightest rumor that the Saviour was born. But it was not so. A few unknown strangers from a distant land were the first, except the shepherds mentioned by Luke, to rejoice at His birth. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” What a mournful picture this is of human nature! How often the same kind of thing may be seen among ourselves! How often the very people who live nearest to the means of grace are those who neglect them most! There is only too much truth in the old proverb, “The nearer the church the further from God.” Familiarity with sacred things has a dreadful tendency to make men despise them. There are many, who from residence and convenience ought to be first and foremost in the worship of God, and yet are always last. There are many, who might well be expected to be last, who are always first.
These verses teach us, that there may be knowledge of Scripture in the head, while there is no grace in the heart.Mark how king Herod sends to inquire of the priests and elders “where the Christ would be born.” Mark what a ready answer they return him, and what an acquaintance with the letter of Scripture they show. But they never went to Bethlehem to seek for the coming Saviour. They would not believe in Him, when He ministered among them. Their heads were better than their hearts. Let us all beware of resting satisfied with head-knowledge. It is an excellent thing, when rightly used. But a man may have much of it, and yet perish everlastingly. What is the state of our hearts? This is the great question. A little grace is better than many gifts. Gifts alone save no one. But grace leads on to glory.
The conduct of the wise men described in this chapter is a splendid example of spiritual diligence.What trouble it must have cost them to travel from their homes to the place where Jesus was born! How many weary miles they must have journeyed! The fatigues of an Eastern traveler are far greater than we in England can at all understand. The time that such a journey would occupy must necessarily have been very great. The dangers to be encountered were neither few nor small. But none of these things moved them. They had set their hearts on seeing Him “who was born King of the Jews;” and they never rested until they saw Him. They prove to us the truth of the old saying, “Where there is a will there is a way.”
It would be well for all professing Christians if they were more ready to follow the wise men’s example. Where is our self-denial? What pains do we take about our souls? What diligence do we show about following Christ? What does our religion cost us? These are serious questions. They deserve serious consideration.
Last, but not least, the conduct of the wise men is a striking example of faith.They believed in Christ when they had never seen Him–but that was not all. They believed in Him when the Scribes and Pharisees were unbelieving–but that again was not all. They believed in Him when they saw Him a little infant on Mary’s knee, and worshiped Him as a king. This was the crowning point of their faith. They saw no miracles to convince them. They heard no teaching to persuade them. They beheld no signs of divinity and greatness to overawe them. They saw nothing but a new-born infant, helpless and weak, and needing a mother’s care like any one of ourselves. And yet when they saw that infant, they believed that they saw the divine Saviour of the world. “They fell down and worshiped Him.”
We read of no greater faith than this in the whole volume of the Bible. It is a faith that deserves to be placed side by side with that of the penitent thief. The thief saw one dying the death of a malefactor, and yet prayed to Him, and “called Him Lord.” The wise men saw a new-born babe on the lap of a poor woman, and yet worshiped Him and confessed that He was Christ. Blessed indeed are those that can believe in this fashion!
This is the kind of faith, let us remember, that God delights to honour. We see the proof of that at this very day. Wherever the Bible is read the conduct of these wise men is known, and told as a memorial of them. Let us walk in the steps of their faith. Let us not be ashamed to believe in Jesus and confess Him, though all around us remain careless and unbelieving. Have we not a thousand-fold more evidence than the wise men had, to make us believe that Jesus is the Christ? Beyond doubt we have. Yet where is our faith?