by Dr. Samuel Lee   04/09/2000     0 reads



Matthew 1:18-25

Key Verse: 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.'"


1. Read verses 18 and 19. How does romance and history come together in

the story of Jesus' birth? How did Joseph plan to resolve his

personal struggle? Why?

2. Read verse 20. What did the angel tell Joseph to do? Read verses

24-25.  How did Joseph respond? How did he protect Mary and prepare

an environment for Jesus? What can you learn from him?

3. Read verses 20b-21. What does this verse teach us about who Jesus is

and about God's purpose in sending him? What does this mean to the

people of the world? To you?

4. Read verses 22-23. What did the prophet say? (Isa 7:14; 9:6,7) How

did Jesus' birth fulfill prophecy? Why is it important that he

fulfilled prophecy?

5. What is Jesus' other name, and what does it mean? What does this

reveal about Jesus and his mission? What did "God with us" mean

personally to Matthew? What does it mean to you?




Matthew 1:18-25

Key Verse: 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.'"

  This passage is Matthew's Christmas message mainly for himself. In

this story we learn about Joseph, who made an environment for the birth

of Jesus. Especially we learn about the baby Jesus, who is the Immanuel

God.  May the Immanuel God come to you and be with you.

I.  Joseph, a son of David (18-20,24,25)

  As history attests, romance is the starting point of history: Where

there is no romance, there is no history. Likewise, Matthew's Christmas

message begins with a beautiful romance between Joseph and Mary. Look

at verse 18a. "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His

mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph...." Joseph was a

country man who lived in the country town of Nazareth. Though Joseph

was a carpenter, he was born in the lineage of King David. No doubt

Joseph was very handsome and well-built, with a lofty and kingly

bearing. Joseph was the right person to be married to Mary, the mother

of Jesus. In God's providence, Joseph was engaged to her. According to

Jewish custom, engagement was tantamount to marriage, but the couple

had to spend one year of engagement time before the wedding. Obviously

Joseph worked harder and harder day by day in the hope of getting

together with Mary.

  One day an unexpected thing happened to them. Look at verse 18b.

"...but before they came together, she was found to be with child

through the Holy Spirit." As God had promised, a Savior of the world

was to be born from the offspring of a woman (Ge 3:15). This Savior had

to be a perfect man (Heb 4:15), and at the same time he had to be the

perfect God. So Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit through the virgin

Mary. This great work of God demanded that Joseph and Mary sacrifice

their dream of happy marriage and a sweet home. Before marriage Mary

had to bear a son--the Savior of the world. For this, Mary had to be

pregnant by the Holy Spirit before she got together with Joseph.

  What did Joseph do in this situation? Everybody knows that human

beings are made up of 90% of emotional feelings and 10% of earth, as

well as with the immortal soul of God. There is a story about a young

man. He misunderstood someone who talked about his daughter. Then he

became irrational and outrageous.

  On the other hand, at the news of Mary's pregnancy, Joseph did not

give in to his emotional turmoil, nor was his love transmuted into

hatred. Joseph dealt with this problem in God. Verse 19 says, "Because

Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her

to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly." It was the

custom of the time to expose a woman who became pregnant before

marriage to public disgrace, and then stone her to death. But Joseph

made a decision in God not to expose Mary to public disgrace. The

concept of Joseph in regard to God's righteousness is clear that love

of God is it's foundation. Thinking is one thing and acting is another.

How could he decide to help Mary? It was because he had personal faith

in the righteous God. At that time, to the Jewish people, tradition was

everything to them. But Joseph honored God's law more than tradition.

Joseph did not mind breaking the Jewish tradition because of Mary. He

was in for trouble. But he was not nervous. He did not look at the

situation. He only looked at God in prayer.

  However, there was a problem: If she were exposed to public

disgrace, she might be stoned to death (Dt 22:20,21); if he were to

hide her pregnancy, he would turn out to be a violator of Moses' law.

Joseph was in a storm of life. It is certain that he knelt down and

prayed earnestly, asking God's mercy on him. Then God gave him the

power of faith to make a decision to save Mary at any cost. We learn

from Joseph the quality of being a Christian at a crucial moment. He

thought of God first, second of Mary, and lastly of himself. He did not

care about himself, if only he could save Mary.  We see in him the

image of Jesus, who took up our infirmities and transgressions (Isa


  What happened next? Look at verse 20. "But after he had considered

this, 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.'" When he woke up, he

did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as

his wife. At that time, according to Jewish custom, it was beyond

imagination for Joseph to bring pregnant Mary to his home; it was shame

for his family; it was shame for his relatives; it was against the law

of Moses. But Joseph took Mary home. Probably Joseph's family members

pushed him out to sleep in the stable of an animal.

  Look at verse 25. "But he had no union with her until she gave

birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus." Joseph was pure in

heart. Even though he brought Mary home, he had no union with her until

she gave birth to a son. Humanly speaking, he was a carpenter.

Spiritually speaking, he was a man who could see God. Matthew 5:8 says,

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." Thank God that

we can see God when our hearts are pure. Joseph also gave him the name

Jesus, as he was told by the angel of God. God was pleased with Joseph

and used him to make an environment for the birth of Jesus. We must

think about Joseph's pure heart seriously.

II.  Jesus saves his people from their sins (21)

  Look at verse 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." The name Jesus means, "the Lord saves." In this verse, "his

people" refers to the people of Israel. At that time, the people of

Israel were under the oppression of the Roman Empire. They lived in

constant fear and misery. All of them thought they were miserable

because of the Roman occupation. But they were miserable not because of

the Roman occupation but because of their sins.

  Russian communists thought they were miserable because they could

not share bread equally. When they could share bread among themselves

equally, just as they had wanted they should be happy. But they were

still miserable, not because of human conditions, but because of their

sins. Sin also torments sinsick people. One young man looked good

outwardly, but he had a severe lust problem inwardly. He will get into

his 30's in several months, but he is still a freshman. He determined

to study well at the beginning of every semester. But in the middle of

the semester he was habitually carried away by lustful desire, which

is as strong as a locomotive.

  We thank God that God saves us to overcome our carnal desire and

press on the upward way. As we studied, Joseph was nothing but a

country carpenter in Nazareth. But he had a loftiness and kingly

bearing, because he was not ruled by his sinful desire but by the word

of God. These days, in order to shape himself up, many a young man

makes himself very strange and smelly especially in his sheepdog

hairstyle. But it is not a fashionable style; it is the sign that he is

a helplessly corrupted man. We should not live by peer pressure; we

must live like Joseph. Even though we look very ordinary outwardly, we

must have a kingly bearing. We children of God must have the kingly

bearing of Jesus in our character.

III.  Jesus, the Immanuel God (22,23)

  Verses 22 and 23 tell us how Jesus, the Immanuel God, saves his

people from their sins. Look at verse 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.'" God saves us by being with us.

Even New Guineans cannot be with other New Guineans who speak different

dialects. "God with us" does not sound so impressive. But the Holy God

Almighty being with sinsick people is mystery and full of grace and

truth. God with us is like a mother being with her sick child, staying

up all night to take care of him, shedding many tears.  Even today,

"God be with you" might be the best greeting to all helpless people. We

cannot say to a dying patient, "Take care." Our God is the Immanuel

God. What does "God with us" mean, and how was God with his people?

Let's think about why our God is the God of Immanuel.

  Before talking about the God of Immanuel, it seems good to think

about how sinful human beings are. Sin has the connotation of

separation or cutting off. There is a beautiful girl. She is so pretty

like a tiger cub. But she is very sorrowful and her self-confidence is

less than nothing. She is bright.  But her school records are below

average. It is because of her lifestyle. She cooked a boy with her

womanliness and enjoyed him, and then she deeply regretted it. Her

guilty conscience was tranquilized through Bible study.  Then she

caught another boy and enjoyed her fleeting pleasure of sin. She thinks

that her lifestyle is normal. But she is not normal. She feels always

that her existence is crumbling moment by moment. She must know the

seriousness of sin. There are many young people like her. But God does

not abandon them. He wants to be with them.

First, God was with his people Israel. God chose Israel as his people

to raise them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. When God

brought them out of Egypt to the promised land flowing with milk and

honey, he wanted them to proclaim the knowledge of God to all Gentile

people. God wanted to overflow the world with the knowledge of God

through his people. Amen. But living in the promised land, his people

only liked milk and honey. As a result, they abandoned God. They also

abandoned God's holy mission for them. They became corrupt and useless

to God.

  God was sorry. God sent them into exile to Babylon for divine

discipline.  But God did not send them there by themselves; he was with

them (Isa 43:2). God suffered together with them in the Babylonian

captivity. God identified himself as a captive together with them. God

was with them until the 70 years of captivity was over. According to

Matthew 1:17, God was with his people for 42 generations, even though

they were too sinful for him to be with. God never gave up to save them

from their sins and to raise them as a nation of Bible teachers. God

was with them until Christ the Savior of the world was born (1:17). We

believe that God will be with us until this nation is raised as a

kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Second, Jesus was with Matthew. In the time of Jesus there was a man

named Levi. He was a tax collector. At that time, the people of Israel

hated tax collectors extremely, branding them as quislings and enemies

of the suffering people of Israel. The more the people of Israel were

oppressed, the more they hated the tax collectors. As a young man,

Matthew must have had a dream to be the greatest man who ever lived.

But like all other young men, he had to figure out how to survive in

this world. So he hardened his heart and chose to be realistic about

his future. He became a tax collector, thinking that money could make

him happy. His realistic idea made him very selfish. He did not care

about his suffering people, if only he could make money. He did not

mind losing his national identity, if only he could make money. Maybe

he frequently pretended to be a Roman. But his conscience made him feel

like a man with leprosy. There are two kinds of people in the world.

One is lovely people, to whom we want to give whatever we have. The

other is unconditionally hateful people. Levi was the hateful kind of

people because of his selfishness. It was hard for anyone to be with

him. As soon as he appeared on the street or in a restaurant, people

and even dogs pretended to be busy and scurried away one by one until

nobody was left.

  One day Matthew was sitting in his tax collector's booth all by

himself.  He was lonely--so lonely that he felt like dying. What was

worse, no one approached him; everyone ran away from him. But Jesus

came to him and said, "Follow me." It meant, "be my disciple." Matthew

could not believe his ears. But it was reality. At the moment, Matthew

could see God in Jesus.  This is the reason he could follow Jesus

immediately. Matthew was a very difficult person to help because of his

blind selfishness. Matthew made Jesus sick and tired every day. But

Jesus was always with him, until he was healed of his blind

selfishness. Jesus was with him until his greatness in God was fully

restored. To Matthew, "God with us" was the good news of great joy for

all the people, especially for himself.

  In the past, Matthew had no life direction. But since Jesus was

with him, he found true life direction. When Jesus saw him, he was an

able man despite his wretchedness. Filled with compassion, Jesus said

to him, "Follow me." It meant, "You must live a new life. And you must

grow slowly and steadily to be one of my disciples." In the past,

Matthew loved money. Yet money only gave him a huge potbelly until he

could not get into his expensive car. But since Jesus was with him, he

began to open his spiritual eyes. Since he met Jesus, he could see the

kingdom of God. He found his life mission. Obviously Matthew said again

and again, "You know, nobody wanted to be around me. I was lonely. I

was like a leper. But Jesus came to me and was with me until I was

changed into St. Matthew!" His life problem was a future security

problem. But he said in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first his kingdom and

his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Third, the Immanuel God came to this world as a child. It was

prophesied in Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is

given...." This verse is a vivid expression that God is love. This

verse means that God would send his one and only Son to this world as a

child to be born of Mary. Almighty God came down to this world as a

helpless child. Why did God do so? It was so that he might be with all

sorrowful people and save them from their sins.  While on earth, Jesus

was always with sorrowful people. While on earth, Jesus was always with

helpless people. While on earth, Jesus was always with very fatalistic

people. It was to save them from their sins of fatalism and bring them

back to his glorious kingdom. All men are fatalistic because of the

sting of death. But in Jesus there is no death, because he came to this

world to save fatalistic sinners by being with us. Jesus is the God of


  In a few years, the way of greeting has been changed. In the past,

people said "God be with you" when they departed from each other. Last

several years time people said to each other "Take care" instead of

saying "God be with you" (goodbye). Soon they began to say "Have fun."

These changes clearly show the power of ungodliness overpowering in

men's souls. We must say again "God be with you." May the God of

Immanuel be with us so that the God of Immanuel may be with our