Matthew 1:18-25 – God With Us

Translation & sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 19 Dec 2010


18. Now, about Jesus Christ, His genesis was like this:

While his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before their coming together,

she was found with a pregnancy which she was having from the Holy Spirit.

19. And Joseph, her husband, being righteous yet not willing for her to be made an example of, took council to divorce her privately.

20. Now, these things had been burning in his mind
when an angel of the Lord was revealed to Him by a night-vision, saying,
            “Joseph, son of David, stop being afraid to take Mary to be your wife,
                        for the one who was brought into being from the Spirit in her is holy.

                        21. And she will deliver a son,
                        and you will call Him by the name Jesus,
                        because He Himself will save His people from their sins.

            22. And the entirety of this has come into being in order that
                        what was said by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying,

                        23. ‘Behold the virgin will have a pregnancy and will deliver a son,
                        and they will call Him by the name Emmanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’”

24. Now, after Joseph arose from his sleep,
he did just what the angel of the Lord prearranged for him,
            and he took his wife,
            25. but he did not know her [intimately] until when she birthed a son,
            and he called His name Jesus.


·         Betsy screaming at us for taking away her plate when we did so to put food on it.

o       She didn’t understand the big picture. What appeared to her to be the worst possible thing we could do to her (take away her plate and her change to get food), turned out to be the way that we were providing to feed her.

·         Something similar happened to Joseph, the man who ended up adopting Jesus.

o       Joseph started out upset that his fiancée was cheating on him and having someone else’s baby, but God convinces Joseph that this disconcerting event was really the only way that God could save Joseph from his sin.

·         The story of Joseph’s change of mind was strategically chosen by Matthew to introduce His gospel:

o       After establishing to his Jewish audience that Joseph was of the kingly line of David, Matthew next has to convince his Jewish audience that Jesus was not illegitimate.

o       This would be a hard sell, but he does it by telling how Joseph started out skeptical of the legitimacy of Jesus and yet was converted into a believer that Jesus is the Son of God and convinced to adopt Jesus and raise him as his own.

·         What did God do to convert Joseph from a skeptic to a believer?

Joseph’s story

·         Betrothal to Mary

o       Jewish betrothal-more binding than engagement. Required divorce to break.

o       μνηστευθείσης-lit give a souvenir to in order to remember-like engagement ring-NIV: “Pledged to be married”

·         Discovery of a pregnancy:

o       εν γαστρὶ εχουσα, lit. “she has [something] in her belly”

o       The only way for a woman to get pregnant with a baby in her womb is for a man to have planted that baby there. Women don’t just get pregnant on their own; there has to be a father.

o       Joseph is a righteous man, so he would not have fathered a child before his marriage was consummated. That would be to break the 7th commandment not to commit adultery; that would be a sin. Joseph knew he had not committed adultery with Mary, so the only thing he could conclude was that Mary had committed adultery with some other man.

·         Deliberation

o       Punishment due fornication, Deut 22:23-24 NASB  "If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her,  then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death... Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.”

o       v. 19 Being a just/righteous man means Joseph would not minimize this sin either. “That justice, on which a commendation is here bestowed, consisted in hatred and abhorrence of crime. Suspecting his wife of adultery, and even convinced that she was an adulterer, he was unwilling to hold out the encouragement of lenity to such a crime... Not only is such wickedness regarded with abhorrence by good and honorable minds, but that winking at crime … is marked by the laws with infamy. Joseph, therefore, moved by an ardent love of justice, condemned the crime of which he supposed his wife to have been guilty; while the gentleness of his disposition prevented him from going to the utmost rigor of law.” (Calvin)

o       not willing παραδειγματίσαι-ESV “to put to shame”/NIV: “to let her be exposed to public disgrace”/ more than just exposure, but also setting an example (paradigm) to deter others from same sin, thus KJV “be made an example of”/Braids Scots: “Be i the mouth o’ the publick.” (cf. Col 2:15, Heb. 6:6, Num. 25:4, Jer 13:22, Ezek 28:17)

o       Joseph’s thinking:

§         ἐνθυμηθέντος-thought/considered/lit. “burning in”

§         μὴ θέλων

§         ἐβουλήθη-planned/resolved/had it in mind/lit. “took counsel”

o       λάθρᾳ ἀπολῦσαι – divorce/put away Mary quietly/secretly-opposite of publicly –

§         (This appears to be a new word for “divorce” used throughout the NT instead of the LXX apostellw)

§         It was considered an actual divorce to break an engagement, so there had to be some process to accomplish this.

§         Follow Deut 24:1 NASB  "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house”

§         This non-public alternative process could be done without a magistrate in the presence of two witnesses, and no cause had to be stated.

·         Convinced by an angel to follow through with marriage and consider the child legitimate

o       This happens while Joseph is asleep (cf. v.24), but it is a special word used only by Matthew to describe a visit from a messenger of God who delivered the message while the person was asleep (Joseph, the wise men, and Herod’s wife). These were not ordinary dreams, they were revelations from God. Relating of prophetic dreams such as this may have been another connection point between Matthew and his Jewish audience.

o       The angel uses three lines of proof that Jesus is not illegitimate but is God’s son:

1.      ἐκ Πνεύματος (of/by/through/lit. “out of” Holy Spirit) Stated emphatically in v.20
and “Emmanuel” – emphasis on divine origin of Jesus=holy (and legit.)

2.      Scripture quoted – fulfillment of scripture legitimizes this pregnancy

§         Isa 7:14-maybe Matthew’s own translation from Hebrew-not LXX (which uses lampsomai instead of exei – the former having more a shade of meaning of the receiving of pregnancy/conceiving and the latter with pregnancy in general)

§         The context is a challenge to king Ahaz delivered by the prophet Isaiah to trust God instead of trusting in his human allies.

·         God calls Ahaz to ask for a sign which could strengthen his ability to trust God to deliver Judah from the Syrian army, but Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign.

·         He was not like the man who told Jesus “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). He flat out said he didn’t even want to believe.

·         God responds that He will still give a sign, but He will postpone giving that sign until Emanuel is born.

·         As I have mentioned before “Emmanuel” is a Hebrew phrase that means “God with us.”

·         When Jesus was finally born, the angels told the shepherds that the “sign” had now been given: a baby “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

·         Ahaz missed his change to have his faith strengthened because he refused to even want to trust God to save him. Brothers and sisters, let us not miss out like Ahaz did; let us desire to trust God to save and sustain us and let us open ourselves up to all the help God wants to offer to strengthen our faith!

§         Significance of “virgin” - ἡ παρθένος / העלמה

·         “the virgin” = a particular virgin = Mary

·         The original Hebrew word used by Isaiah is “almah.”

·         A Jew from Jerusalem emailed me a year ago about this word in Isaiah 7:14, saying, “…almah is NOT a virgin or unmarried woman, but simply ‘the young woman’…To say ‘virgin’ here is simply a coverup of the misquote in Matthew 1 based on the inept Septuagint, as the NT author was ignorant of the Hebrew (which is why it was written in Greek).”

·         Martin Luther once made an offer of 100 guilders to any scholar who could prove that “almah” was used of a young married woman; Luther never had to come up with those 100 guilders, because nowhere is it used in a context that does not also require that the young woman also be a virgin.

·         A lot is at stake over that little word “virgin” – if Mary did not conceive Jesus as a virgin, then Jesus would not be the son of God but rather an illegitimate child.

·         But if she was a virgin, then Jesus is a truly unique individual, the holy Son of God.

§         As Joseph considered the prophecy of a child who would be born of a virgin and who would be called “God with us,” he became convinced that Mary’s pregnancy was indeed the fulfillment of that prophecy as the angel of God had told him – that this child was legitimate.

Not only was Joseph convinced on the grounds of the Holy Spirit as the source of the pregnancy and on the grounds of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, he was also convinced on the grounds of the:

3.      Child’s name and Mission:

§         NAME: Jesus/yeshua= “Jehovah is salvation.”

·         Same name as that of Joshua (Num 13:16) the army commander named as the successor to Moses and the one who led God’s people into the promised land

·         Same name as Jeshua the priest who led God’s people back into the promised land after the exile in Babylon and rebuilt the altar in the temple (Mentioned in Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zecheriah).

·         Also basically the same name as the prophet Hosea, who portrayed God as the faithful and gracious husband.

·         Jesus’ name also was His mission:

§         MISSION: v.21 “for He will save His people from their sins”

·         ἁμαρτιῶν to miss a mark; as a warrior who throws his spear and fails to strike his adversary, or as a traveller who misses his way. In this word, therefore, one of a large group which represent sin under different phases, sin is conceived as a failing and missing the true end and scope of our lives, which is God. (Vincent)

·         It is assumed that His people is the very people who miss the mark of God’s expectations for us expressed in the 10 commandments.

·         If it is His mission to “save” then it is assumed that His people was in trouble because of their sins and in need of saving. We are not o.k. on our own without Jesus.

·         We only have to look forward to chapter 3 to see that God promises “wrath to come” on those who continue in their sin without repentance.

·         However, the good news is that “Jesus Christ… loved us and released us from our sins by His blood” (Rev 1:5), in other words, He took God’s wrath upon Himself, bled and died on the cross, and rose from the dead in order to free us from bondage to our sins and save us from God’s wrath.

·         Finally, if He will save “His people” then it is assumed He will not save others who are not His people. This means not everyone will be saved, but rather the one group of people He considers His.

·         Again, we don’t have to look far to see what characterizes those who are saved in chapter 3; it will be the people who “confess their sin,” believing in Jesus to save them, and “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance.”

Joseph was such a man. He decided to believe that Jesus was the Holy one from the Holy Spirit, that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy that Immanuel would be born of a virgin, and he decided to believe that this child deserved the name Jesus because He would save His people from their sins.


Joseph’s faith resulted in action: v. 24 “Joseph got up from his sleep and did just what the angel commanded (literally what the angel had “pre-arranged”): he accepted Mary as his wife and “brought her to his side” (ATR), and when that baby was born, Joseph named him Jesus.


The gospel according to Luke gives us the details of Jesus’ birth from Mary’s perspective. But Matthew records Joseph’s concern, and Joseph’s concern was that Jesus was not an illegitimate child but was indeed “God with us.”


And Joseph was convinced. What we have here in Matthew chapter 1 is the testimony of Jesus’ earthly father as to the genesis of Jesus Christ/how He came about. v.18 “It is in fact the word Genesis. The evangelist is about to describe, not the genesis of the heaven and the earth, but the genesis of Him who made the heaven and the earth, and who will yet make a new heaven and a new earth” (Morison).


·         In faith, Mary carries the child to term and labors to bring the child into the world.

·         In faith, Joseph names the child Jesus, announcing in advance of the cross that this child would save us from our sins.

·         And in faith, Jesus also obeyed His heavenly Father and offered Himself to be the propitia­tion for our sins so that by His death and resurrection we could be redeemed from sin and death.


What is our place in this? Matthew says in v. 23, “They will call Him Emmanuel, which means/is translated/interpreted ‘God with us.’” Who will call Jesus Emmanuel?

·         Well, Joseph was instructed to call the child “Jesus,” so calling him “God with us” goes beyond Joseph’s fatherly role in naming the child.

·         The Greek Septuagint text of Isaiah 7:14 doesn’t say “they will call;” it says “you will call the name of this child Immanuel.” Who is “you” that Isaiah speaks of? Well, Isaiah and his son were having a meeting with King Ahaz at the time. Ahaz is not recorded in the Bible as ever saying the word “Immanuel,” but it is entirely possible that Ahaz’s son, Hezekiah, was there at the meeting with Isaiah, and the Bible does record Hezekiah as saying, “God with us”:

o       2 Chronicles 32:2-8 (NASB) “Now when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to make war on Jerusalem… 6  He appointed military officers over the people and gathered them to him in the square at the city gate, and spoke encouragingly to them, saying,  7  "Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him.  8  With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God [Immanuel] to help us and to fight our battles."

o       How many of that kingly line listed in Matthew 1, from verse 9 on, believed in a God who was “with them?” Certainly Hezekiah, then Josiah, Zerubbabel… and then we come to Joseph.

o       This truth made all the difference to Joseph. Would he believe that Mary was carrying an illegitimate child, or would he believe that this was the Son of God? Joseph believed that Jesus was “God with” him, and brought Mary to his side as his wife and raised that boy believing that he was raising God’s Son.

·         Although the Greek Septuagint text of Isaiah 7:14 says “you” will call his name Emmanuel, the Hebrew text of Isaiah 7:14 says, “She [the virgin] will call His name Emmanuel.”

o       Certainly Mary believed that Jesus was the Son of God brought into her very womb to be “with her.”

·         So if the Septuagint says “you” singular will call Him Emmanuel, and the original Hebrew text says Mary will call him Emmanuel, why is it that Matthew, in v.23 instead says “they,” referring to many people would call Jesus “Emmanuel… God with us”?

o       I believe it is because this name is not just for Hezekiah, not just for Mary, but for every one of us who are numbered with the “people” of God. Every one of us is also to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus as “God with us.”

o       Do you believe that Jesus is “God” who “became flesh and lived among us”? (John 1:14)

o       John 14:9 NASB  Jesus said to… Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father…”

o       As John Calvin put it, “If we are united to Christ, we possess God!”


v.21 – Three characters with three futures:

1.      Mary will deliver/bear/bring forth/give birth

2.      Joseph will name

3.      Jesus will save - emphatic “He himself” he alone


We can’t take on Jesus’ role, but we can follow in Mary and Joseph’s footsteps:

1.      We can name the name of Jesus as an act of faith, claiming Him as “God with us.”
Act according to the truth God has revealed in the Bible even in the face of human ridicule.
     “Come on Joseph, virgins don’t have babies, this child is not God!”
     “No, I believe He is God with us, and He will save us from our sins.”

2.      We can labor to carry Jesus to the world and deliver the word of God like Mary did.

a.       Accept and nurture the faith God has planted in us:

                                                                                      i.      We encourage our Bradley couples to eat 100g protein and eat healthy foods, because we want to grow healthy babies, and we know that diet affects the health of the baby.

                                                                                    ii.      How do we grow and nurture our faith? Through spending time with other believers, participating in the Lord’s Supper, spending time talking to God in prayer, and reading the Bible or listening to good Bible teaching, and even making memorials that remind us of God’s work in our lives.

b.      (Not only Nurture but also) Share that faith with others:

                                                                                      i.      Mary and Joseph changed all those dirty diapers and taught all those scripture lessons to Jesus, then released Jesus to minister throughout Israel.

                                                                                    ii.      Then Mary shared her testimony to Luke who wrote it all down to be shared with generation after generation in the Bible.

                                                                                  iii.      Paul – Gal 4:19 “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you”


So let us follow in Mary and Joseph’s footsteps, naming the name of Jesus in faith that He saves us from our sins and is truly God with us, and nurturing that faith within ourselves and sharing it with the world around us.