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?

“We need to travel back in time to the day when Isaiah confronted King Ahaz on the highway to Fuller’s Field. 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!”

 

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.

Read More