Matthew from an Isaiah informed perspective

What is the natural setting of the Gospel? Six months of repeated exposure to the whole of Isaiah provides a rich feel for the natural setting of the first book in the new testament. We noted in an earlier entry that Matthew 1:17 sums up the story of God and his people like this: "So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the exile to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the exile to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations."
The gospel is a very Israel-Zion-Jerusalem-Abraham directed buisness. It is for Israel first then the gentiles as add-ons.
We cannot easily read the first four chapters of Matthew without the following observations.
1) Jesus came for Israel. 2) Jesus came to be Israel. 3) Jesus came to ultimately define Israel around himself.

1) Jesus came for Israel.
Again Matt.1:17 implies Jesus' essential role in the history of Israel. In Matt.2:2 we will read that Jesus will shepherd his people Israel, but even before we get to chapter two, look at what is written in 1:21. An angel of the LORD appeared to Joseph and said, "you shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who will save his people from their sins." "His people" refers to Israel. This point is made even more explicit later in Matthew chapter 15 where Jesus tells a Canaanite woman, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Jesus came for Israel.

2) Jesus came to be Israel.
a)As the figurehead of Israel
Matthew 1:1 we read that Jesus Christ came as "son of David"-Israel's greatest king, and "son of Abraham"-the father of Israel. We have noted in earlier posts that "Israel" is a name that most literally refers to one person...normally called Jacob. Later "Israel" stands for the sons of Jacob and then it is sometimes used to refer to the portion of the northern tribes. In the main we find "Israel" being used in scripture to refer to the people God raised up from the seed of Abraham.

b) as the fulfillment of the name "Son of God"
We may not be used to allowing Israel priority in being the "Son of God" but chronologically that title is given to Israel first. In Exodus 4:22 we hear God say to Pharaoh "Thus says the LORD, 'Israel is my son, my first born. So I said to you, Let My son go, that he may serve Me..." And later in Hosea 11:1 the LORD speaks of what he has done for "Israel": "When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son." That is what happened historically to Israel -the people, and yet Matthew 2:13-15 tells us that Jesus is actually the one who fulfills, or fills up, the meaning of Israel -God's Son, being called out of Egypt.

Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him." So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON." (Matthew 2:13-15)

Furthermore, Jesus actively identified himself with the people of Jerusalem and Judea and even those of the region of the Jordon when he too went out to be baptized of John saying that it was fitting for him to fill up all legitimacy in identifying himself with Israel as the son of God. Jesus came to be Israel.

3) Jesus came to (ultimately) define Israel around himself.
This truth is set forth especially in Matthew chapter 3. There John the baptist says to some Israelites coming out to be baptized that they should not think of their bloodline relationship to Abraham as securing their status as the Israel of God, for "God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones." A nature that is like Jesus is being sought and for those unwilling to embrace the way of the messiah, that is to say those without good fruit are trees ready to be cut down and burned. Another image is given that speaks of God sending a separating wind so that Israel might remain with messiah and the chaff might be gotten rid of. This threshing floor image has been spoken of by the prophets to describe what God will do to Israel, separate the good grain from the chaff and that is what Jesus has come to do. Jesus came to ultimately define Israel around himself.


atonement for Israel

"Comfort, O comfort My people," says your God. "Speak kindly to Jerusalem; And call out to her, that her warfare has ended, That her iniquity has been removed, That she has received of the LORD'S hand Double for all her sins."
(Isaiah 40:1-2)

In this passage we hear of Israel's experience described as an atonement. that atonement will be summed up in Jesus' death. Their exile and ongoing dishonor among the nations is actually the weighty hand of their God who is displeased with a people who have sinned nationally and individually against their maker. The passage quoted above has it's meaning filled up in Jesus. This perspective of fullfillment would be a good discussion topic as we open up the Gosples.