“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matthew 1:21-23.
These verses from the Word of God have been and continue to be one of precious comfort to His people through the ages. For in the fullness of time, it pleased God to fulfill His promise of giving to His people the long-awaited Savior from their sins. And He did so by performing the wonder of wonders, causing a virgin to conceive a son, who would bear both the nature of man excepting sin, and His very own divine nature. Our God is the wonder-working God of salvation of us, His people!
Part of beholding this wonder of wonders is to consider the manner in which it was fulfilled. And God was pleased to accomplish this great wonder in very dark, difficult circumstances for His people. “All this” points to the dark and seemingly hopeless circumstances leading to the birth of our Savior. The Old Testament nation of Israel, once a glorious kingdom under kings David and Solomon, was no longer even a kingdom. It was now but one of the many provinces under the rule of the mighty Roman empire. A period of 400 years of prophetic silence followed after Malachi had spoken. Oh yes, there was still preaching and teaching going on in the temple. But preaching and teaching had fallen on hard times. And that was because the precious gospel of repentance from sin and faith in the coming Christ was lost. The Word of God was no longer faithfully expounded. All these circumstances made God’s people in Israel think and ask themselves, “Has God forgotten? Has He forgotten His promises? Has He forgotten us, His people?”
Dear reader, do these questions echo what is in your mind and heart? Be assured that God never forgets. He never lets His promises fall to the ground. He never forgets His people. For verse 22 reads in its entirety, “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet.” He remembers! He remembers His promises!
In particular, He remembered what He spoke through the prophet in Isaiah 7. Isaiah had said to king Ahaz, “Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God, ask it either in the depth or in the height above” (7:11). And what was the sign? Isaiah declares, “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (7:14). Through Isaiah, God had given the sign of the virgin birth. So, “all this was done” in order to fulfill this sign spoken by Isaiah and echoed in Matthew 1:23. God remembered His promise and the fulfillment of this sign. For Christ was coming through the seemingly hopeless circumstances surrounding His people in Israel. The formation and rule of the Roman Empire was to enable the gospel of Christ to spread to the nations in the New Testament once Christ had come. And the dark backdrop of Israel’s rejection of Christ and His gospel prepared the way for God to judge that nation and to give the gospel to the Gentiles! So also, dear reader, God is accomplishing His good purposes and plans for you through the dark and difficult circumstances you may be experiencing!
God was doing just that with His people then. He was busy fulfilling the sign that He had given and promised. And what an astounding sign! We have an indication of how astounding this sign is from Joseph’s struggle with it. For he had planned to put Mary away, albeit privately and not publicly in his love for her. And that was because he thought that she had conceived a child with another man. The thought never occurred to him that the child she conceived was not of man, but the wonder work of God in her.
What as astounding sign! For it was something that was utterly impossible! What is the possibility of a virgin giving birth? Would not the phrase “virgin birth” be like a “square circle” or a “round triangle”? Humanly speaking, we would only be right to use the word “oxymoron” to describe such a sign: an utter impossibility! Even more, what an astounding sign when we consider that this child of a virgin shall be called, “Emmanuel, God with us.” This child will be God! No, He is God! God incarnate! God Himself in our flesh! This child shall be called Emmanuel. God with us! Wonder of God this is!
God remembered His promise! For is that not an important reason why Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus, the promised Messiah of God? God remembers His promise not only from Isaiah 7:14, but from all the way back to Genesis 3:15 and the seed of the woman! This seed of the woman is come through the fulfillment of the astounding sign of the virgin birth! And He who is come is Emmanuel, God with us: One who is all-powerful because He is divine, but also One bearing our flesh (yet without sin), who understands perfectly the very feeling of our infirmities!
Jesus is come! Come through the sign and wonder of the virgin birth. What a glorious fact!
To be sure, Jesus’ birth is a glorious fact not because of the false glory that the world now puts into the birth of Jesus Christ. The glory of the birth lies not in the idea that He was an absolutely cute, harmless, adorable baby. Nor does it lie in the bright Christmas lights the world displays to glamorize its sanitized version of the environment in which Jesus was born. For let us not forget the fact that Jesus was born in a manger. There was nothing glorious, even decent, about that place. It was a stinky place where animals were tucked away. And let us not forget the reason why that was the case: because there was no room for them in the inn. The world had no room, and still has no room for the real, biblical Jesus of the Scriptures who confronted sin and commanded repentance from it.
Wherein, then, lies the glory of God in the birth of Jesus Christ? The glory of God lies in His faithful remembrance and fulfillment of the gospel promise He made concerning the coming of His dear Son for our sake. The glory of God lies in His fulfillment of that astounding sign and wonder of the divine conception, virgin birth, and sending forth of His only-begotten Son into the world in our flesh. The glory of God lies in His great, astounding love for us in all these wonders, and most of all, in giving His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die for us on the cross.
Do you not see the glory of God in these blessed truths of the Bible, dear reader? And out of them all, do you not see that blessed Savior of yours, Jesus Christ?
Make no mistake about it. Because of the great faithfulness of God demonstrated in His astounding gift of Jesus our Savior, we have a blessed gospel! The gospel is blessed not because Jesus was a powerless Savior who died trying to save everyone in the world but, in the final analysis, saves no one unless they themselves exercise their own will to believe. That “gospel” is no gospel at all, because if salvation were left up to man, no one would be saved. The gospel is blessed because it is the gospel of one called “Jesus.” And He is called “Jesus,” “for he shall save his people from their sins” (v. 21). This Jesus, and this Jesus alone, is the real Jesus, the biblical Jesus. He is the sovereign Savior, the efficacious Savior, the complete Savior of all and only those who have been given to Him by the Father to save. For these elect sinners He died. He saved them alone, and will preserve them in salvation unto the end. Jesus saved you and me, totally helpless, God hating, and Christ-crucifying sinners, from our sins! That is the blessed gospel we have!
And that blessed gospel comes to us through the faithful fulfillment of the wonder work of God in the virgin birth of Jesus, our Savior! Let us rejoice in this our wonder-working God who so loves us and never forgets us! Let us enjoy the comfort and joy of such a blessed gospel. And let us not be ashamed of that gospel, but rather let us be good witnesses of it—declaring it, defending it, and letting it show forth in the way we live our lives before the church and the world this Christmas season and always!