The New Testament's Use of the Old Testament: The Birth of Christ

Have you ever wondered why Matthew quotes Isaiah in the opening chapter of his Gospel?[1]  Perhaps you would say, "Of course not!  We already know why.  The quote substantiates the virgin conception and birth of Christ!"  Yes, but is that the only reason?  Again, you may claim, "Isn't that reason enough?"  To which I might be tempted to cry, "Uncle!"  But let me take a stab at pressing our understanding a bit further. 

We need to travel back in time to the day when Isaiah confronted King Ahaz on the highway to Fuller's Field.[2]  On that day, King Ahaz was in trouble.  He had not only refused to join forces with Damascus and Israel against the rising power of Assyria, it was worse, he had sought an alliance with Assyria!  Now, Damascus and Israel were coming to teach him a lesson.  But Isaiah the prophet met King Ahaz to tell him that there was another way.  He did not have to side with Damascus and Israel nor did he have to side with Assyria. He was the Son of David.  He was in the line and lineage of the man after God's own heart.  God would protect him and preserve him from all three!  What is more, God would give him a sign confirming His word.  God invited him to ask for a sign in the highest heavens or the depths of Sheol; ask anything!  But he didn't.  Ahaz claimed piety for his reason; he would not tempt God.  But the raison d'être was a bit different.

Second Kings 16:7 records the awful truth.  Here is the text.  “So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-Peleser king of Assyria, saying, ‘I am your servant and your son; come up and deliver me from the hand of the king of Aram and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are rising up against me!”  Did you see that?  The Son of David postured himself as the son of Tiglath Pileser, king of Assyria!  Ahaz needed no sign from his heavenly Father because he had forsaken the family of God!  He was petitioning for adoption into the family of Assyria.

And so, as you might expect, Isaiah responded sternly.  He reminded this man of his identity, “Listen now, O house of David!  Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well?”  Along with that rebuke Isaiah announced that God would give His own sign.  If Ahaz would not be a faithful son then He would send a faithful son.  God would send His own Son born of a virgin as a sign of deliverance.  Here the curtain drops on history and we don’t pick up the thread of the story again until we open up to the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel. 

And when we turn to Matthew's Gospel we find that he begins with a genealogy.  Why?  For a very simple reason, he, under the Spirit’s superintendence, provided the genealogy in order to establish Jesus as a son of David.  Just read the genealogy.  It’s all about David!  He’s mentioned no less than five times.  What is more, the genealogy is divided up into three sections of fourteen generations each with David as the focal point.  David is everywhere present in the genealogy and for good reason.  Matthew is telling us that Jesus is the son of David. 

But that's not all.  This Jesus is not only the Son of David, Matthew does not want us to miss the fact that He is also the Son of God.  Luke is just as pronounced in his claim.  In Luke 1:32, the angel announced this to Mary about her soon to be conceived Son, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”   Jesus is the promised Son whose kingdom would have no end and He would sit on the throne of David forever. 

Brothers and sisters, Ahaz failed to see the love and fatherly care of God.  He refused to be counted as a son.  But I have good news.  Though Ahaz is long dead and buried in his tomb, Jesus Christ,  continues to sit on the throne at the right hand of the Father in glory.  He is high and lifted up and the train of His robe fills the temple.  Beloved, this Son, Immanuel, is more than able to deliver you from your sin and give you comfort and peace.


[1] Matthew 1:23

[2] Isaiah 7

Jeffrey A. Stivason has been serving the Lord as a minister of the gospel since 1995.  He was church planter and now pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA. He also holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.  Jeff is the Managing Editor for Place for Truth.

Jeffrey Stivason

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