^A Matt. I.18-25.
^a 18 Now the birth [The birth of Jesus is to handled with reverential awe. We are not to probe into its mysteries with presumptuous curiosity. The birth of common persons is mysterious enough (Eccl. ix.5; Ps. cxxxix.13-16), and we do not well, therefore, if we seek to be wise above what is written as to the birth of the Son of God] of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When his mother Mary had been betrothed [The Jews were usually betrothed ten or twelve months prior to the marriage. So sacred was this relationship that unfaithfulness to it was deemed adultery, and was punishable by death -- death by stoning (Deut. xxii.23-28; Lev. xx.10; Ezek. xvi.38; John viii.5). Those betrothed were regarded as husband and wife, and could only be separated by divorcement. Hebrew betrothals set the world a good example. Hasty marriage is too often followed by hasty repentance. "No woman of Israel was married unless she had been first espoused"] to Joseph, before they came together [Before Joseph brought his bride to his own house. An espoused maiden lived in her father's house until the marriage, as is our own custom] she was found with child of the Holy Spirit [The two evangelists (Matthew and Luke) which give the earthly genealogy of Jesus are each careful to mention his miraculous conception through the Holy Spirit (comp. Luke i.35). All New Testament writers recognize Jesus as at once both human and divine. Christ's physical nature was begotten of the Holy Spirit, but the Christian's spiritual nature is begotten of him (John i.13). The act of the Holy Spirit in this case indicates that he is a personality, and not a mere influence, as some are disposed to imagine. Influences do not create physical bodies.] 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man [As a righteous man he could not complete his marriage, and thus stain his family name. As a merciful man he did not wish to openly disgrace the one to whom he was so fondly attached. He wished to act justly toward his own reputation, and mercifully toward the reputation of Mary], and not willing to make her a public example [he did not wish to expose her to the shame of a public trial before the court, nor to punish her as the law permitted], was minded to put her away privily [The law of Moses gave the husband the power of divorce (Deut. xxiv.1). The bill or writing certifying the divorce usually stated the cause, and was handed to the wife in the presence of witnesses. Joseph evidently intended to omit stating any cause in the bill, that there might be no record to convict her of shame. The law of divorce applied to betrothed as well as to married persons. In his kindness Joseph anticipates the special teaching of Christ (Matt. xix.8) and the general instruction of Paul (Gal. vi.1). How different the conduct of the innocent Joseph from that of guilty Judah (Gen. xxxviii.24). Judah needed some one to point out his unfitness -- John viii.7.] 20 But when he thought on these things [God guides the thoughtful, not the unthinking], behold, an angel of the Lord appeared unto him [The Lord looks after the good name of those who honor his name, and he serves those who serve him ( I. Sam. ii.30; John xii.26). The sufferings of both Mary and Joseph must have been very extreme at this time -- one being forced to suspect the chief object of his affections, and the other being compelled to rest under the unjust suspicions of loved ones, because of a condition which God alone could explain. But God does explain where we can not understand without his revelation, and where we absolutely need to know] in a dream [A mode of communication frequently used by God ( Gen. xx.3; xxxi.11, 24; xxxvii.5; xli.1; I. Kings iii.5; Dan. vii.1; Job iv.13-15). It is difficult to say how men determined between ordinary and divine dreams, but doubtless the latter came with a glory and vividness which gave assurance of their supernatural nature. Matthew mentions four divine dreams, viz.: this one; the second one given to Joseph (Matt. ii.13); the dream of the Magi (Matt. ii.12); the dream of Pilate's wife -- ch. xxvii.19], saying, Joseph [We are known to angels, and they address us by name (Acts x.3, 13; xxvii.24). Much more does the Lord know our names -- John x.3; Luke xix.5], thou son of David [the name of David was calculated to waken the memories of God's promises, and helped to prepare Joseph to receive the wonderful news that Messiah was about to be born, for Messiah was the promised heir of David], fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife [Have no fear as to Mary's virtue and purity. Fear no disgrace in taking her. Joseph feared as a son of David that this marriage would sully his genealogy. But it was that which gave point and purpose to an otherwise barren and uninteresting record. He feared as a man lest he should share Mary's apparent disgrace; but he had infinitely more reason to fear his unworthiness to share with her the exalted responsibilities of parentage to our Lord]: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.21 And she shall bring forth a son [the angel does not say "shall bear thee a son," as he said to Zacharias -- Luke i.13]; and thou shalt call his name JESUS [Joseph was to take the position of a legal father to the child and name it. The name means "Salvation of Jehovah" or "Jehovah is the Saviour." Would we could all bear our names, such as Christian, pastor, magistrate, father, mother, child, etc., as Jesus bore that wonderful and responsible name of Saviour]; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins [Thus from before his very birth-hour the nature of Christ's salvation is fully set forth. He came to save from the guilt of sin by having shed his blood, his may be remitted or washed clean. He saves from the power of sin by bestowing the gift of the Spirit, who regenerates, comforts, and strengthens, and ultimately he saves from the punishment of sin by giving us a resurrection from the dead, and an abundant entrance into the home of glory. That is no salvation at all which fails to free us from this triple bondage of sin.] 22 Now all this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord [It was not fulfilled because predicted, but was rather predicted because sure to take place. Prophecies are fulfilled in four ways, namely, 1. When a thing clearly predicted comes to pass.2. When that which has been pictured in type and shadow is at last shown forth in substance and reality.3. When an event which has been described in language more elevated and elaborate than it demands is followed by another similar event to which the said language is more perfectly suited.4. When parabolic or figurative language may be applied to some subsequent event. The prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled after the third fashion, which was spoken by the Lord. In innumerable passages the divine origin and inspiration of the Scriptures are clearly and unmistakably set forth. The same Spirit which foretold through the lips of the prophet now interprets the foretelling through the lips of the angel] through the prophet [Isa. vii.14. Isaiah's name is not given. The ancients were studious readers, and had few books, so that there was little need to cite authors by name], saying [About the year 740 b.c. While Ahaz was king of Judah, his land was threatened with an invasion by the united armies of Syria and Israel. Isaiah came to frightened Ahaz, promised divine aid, and told Ahaz to seek from God a sign confirming this promise. This Ahaz refused to do; whereupon Isaiah replied that God would grant a sign anyway. The sign was that a virgin should have a son, and before the son reached the age of discretion, the kingdoms of Syria and Israel should be destroyed. The sign given Ahaz was one of deliverance, and prefigured the birth of Christ, the great Deliverer, in four ways: 1. A virgin bearing a child.2. A male child (Rev. xii.5).3. The divinely ordered naming of the child.4. The significance of the name given. Jesus fulfilled in his ministry man predictions; but many more such as this one were fulfilled upon him without his volition], 23 Behold, the virgin shall be with child [The Sonship of Jesus demands a miraculous birth. If we doubt the miracle of his conception, we can never solve the perplexing problem of his marvelous life and death], and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name [rather, title; under the head of "name" the titles of Jesus are also set forth at Isa. ix.6] Immanuel; which is, being interpreted, God with us [Nature shows God above us; the Law shows God against us; but the Gospel shows God with us, and for us. The blessing of the church militant is Christ, God with us; that of the church triumphant is Christ, us with God. In this world Jesus walked "with us" in human form (John i.14); and because he did so, we, in the world to come, shall walk "with him" in divine form (I. John iii.2; I. Cor. xv.49). In a personal sense Jesus may fitly be called "God with us," for he was God and man united in one body.] 24 And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. [he followed the instructions, though contrary to his first inclination. Blessed are they who permit God to guide them. As Joseph appears to have acted at once upon the angel's instruction, the marriage must have taken place several months prior to the birth of Jesus], and took unto him his wife [thus becoming the legally recognized father of Jesus, and though he bestowed upon Jesus but a humble name (Luke iv.22; Matt. xiii.55), he nevertheless rescued him from the reproach of an illegitimate birth]; 25 and knew her not till she had brought forth a son [Romish teachers contend for the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, that she may be regarded as an object of worship. This doctrine can not be proved by Scripture. But there are weightier reasons than this which forbid us to worship her; namely, it can not be proven from Scripture either that she was divine or that she was sinless. Moreover, the fact that she entered the marital state at all, shows that she was perfectly human, and comported herself as such]: and he called his name JESUS. [Two Old Testament heroes bore the name Jesus under the form of Joshua. One was captain of Israel for the conquest of Canaan, the other was high priest of Israel for rebuilding the Temple (Zech. vi.11, 12). Christ was both the Captain of our salvation and the High Priest of our profession.]