Summary: God gives a great promise of the Messiah to a wicked king of Judah. Within the promise to protect Judah is a prophecy that says; "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.
This year as I read through the bible, I color coded each passage that described the kings of Israel and Judah. Red for “bad” kings and blue for “good” kings. May I say that there were many more passages highlighted in red than blue? Did you know that after the death of Solomon, the kingdom was divided and every king of the northern Kingdom of Israel was a bad king? And most of the kings of the southern Kingdom of Judah were bad as well? (9 of the 20. One king started bad but repented)
For example, behind the mention of their names and who their parents were was found either of the following: “…he did evil in the sight of the LORD” or “…did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD.”
Today we are introduced to king Ahaz, the 11th king of Judah since the separation of Israel and Judah. In 2 Kings 16 he is introduced like this:
2 Kings 16: 2 Twenty years old was Ahaz when he began to reign, and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem, and did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD his God, like David his father. 3 But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel. 4 And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.
During his reign, the king of Israel, and the king of Syria repeatedly attacked Judah. God sent His prophet Isaiah, to king Ahaz. No matter how bad Ahaz was, God was going to protect Judah. God’s message to Ahaz was simple: “I will be your Ebenezer.” That is my loose translation, not Isaiah’s. It is during this conversation that we are given a most wonderful announcement concerning the Messiah:
14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Most of you are familiar with the beautiful story of the announcement of the Messiah’s birth to Mary. However, in this passage in Matthew, we are an observer to the announcement from an angel to the soon to be husband of Mary.
Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph – the custom of marriage today is much different than it was in the first century. Normally two families would agree to the union of their children. All the negotiations would commence concerning the dowry (the price for the bride, paid by the groom’s father), on dates, and where they would live, etc. A public announcement would be made and the couple would now be “betrothed.” This is a binding agreement that could only be broken by death or a bill of divorce. The pledge normally lasted a year and this was considered the time needed to ensure that the bride was pure. This custom is the reason why Joseph is referred to as the husband of Mary in verse 19 of Matthew 1.
…before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit - We will deal with this in more detail next week, but know that the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was going to carry the King of Kings and that a miracle of conception would take place by the Holy Spirit of God.
Mary conceives and she begins to “show” that she is pregnant. It appears that Joseph did not know what was going on because of the phrase “she was found with child.” This implies that Mary had not told Joseph of the visit by the angel, and her miracle of conception.
Obviously this is shocking news to Joseph as he is not the father. For everyone concerned, both sides of the families, this would be seen as scandalous. Sexual relations were not permitted during this year. Oh how different our society is today.
According to the Law, sexual unfaithfulness during the betrothal was considered adultery, Joseph had several choices. 1) He could go ahead and marry her and suffer a lifetime of humiliation, disgrace and gossip, 2) he could follow the Law and stone Mary to death (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), or 3) he could give her a bill of divorce. This third option would still bring disgrace to both families.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
Joseph, the husband of Mary is spoken of very little of in the Bible. His part in being the earthly father of Jesus and raising him is all we have. We see him at his conception and birth. He is present when Jesus is left in Jerusalem at the Temple, but then the Bible is silent concerning him.