By the time we get to Matthew 2 the birth of Christ is over. But the heart and soul of Matthew 2 is to tell us that Jesus in the events around His birth fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. Isaiah said that Jesus would be born of a virgin, and He was. And the prophet said it seven hundred years before Jesus was born. Micah said Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, and He was.
Hosea said that Jesus would be called out of Egypt, and He was. And many prophets said He would be from Nazareth, and He was. And Matthew assembles those specific prophesies, in order to prove that this child is indeed the promised King. Matthew 1 describes that the Child had the credentials of the King: born of the seed of Abraham and of the line of David, the royal line.
Then having established that this one is the promised King by virtue of His lineage, Matthew then establishes that this child is indeed the promised King by virtue of His virgin birth. That means that He had no earthly father. It was the Holy Spirit who placed the seed in the egg of Mary that became the child that grew in her womb, and was born Jesus, the Son of God.
And then Matthew further establishes the credentials of Jesus Christ as the promised King and Messiah by seeing the fulfillment of prophecy. One clear and precise prophecy appears at the end of Matthew 1. Matthew quotes from Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,” which translated means ‘God with us’.
So the first prophecy is Isaiah 7:14, that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. No human being has ever been or will ever be born without a human source for the sperm that impregnates the egg. Only Jesus Christ is virgin-born. He is man because He comes through Mary’s womb; and He is God because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And that prophecy was fulfilled seven hundred years after Isaiah prophesied it.
Matthew 2 gives us more prophecies. They have to do with locations. The first prophecy has to do with Bethlehem. The second prophecy has to do with Egypt. The third prophecy has to do with Ramah, and the fourth prophecy has to do with a town called Nazareth. Jesus fulfilled them all. This is a complex of prophesies that proves that the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was not coincidental.
There are just too many prophetic components. It would have to be orchestrated by God, and the fact that the birth of Christ was associated with Bethlehem, as Micah said it would be; with Egypt, as Hosea said it would be; with Ramah, as Jeremiah said it would be; and with Nazareth, as many prophets said it would be, is proof enough that this, in fact, is the prophesied predicted Messiah.
Let’s begin with the first prophecy: the birth at Bethlehem. Matthew 2:1-2; 5-6, “Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote.”
“6 And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.” Now here is the first of these location elements in the birth of Christ. It comes from the prophet Micah, and it says that He was to be born in Bethlehem. Now remember that the magi were the elite cultured king makers.
They had been influenced by the Old Testament, because the southern kingdom of Judah was taken captive into Babylon. And with that came the Old Testament and the prophet Daniel, and the prophet Ezekiel who spent time in captivity as well. And that grew into an expectation that there would come this great King the Old Testament promised; and these wise men were waiting for that.
And then they were given a sign, a star in the heavens. They followed that and came to Jerusalem seeking this King. Well, that possibility was an immense threat to King Herod. Herod, was a small-minded, insecure and evil man, who upon hearing that a king of the Jews had been born would do everything possible to make sure that this king was executed in his infancy.
And so these wise men ask him, “Where is this King to be born? We have seen His star. We want to find Him.” Verse 7-8, “Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child.” And that leads to the fulfillment of that prophesy, as recorded in Micah 5:2.
Micah’s message to the Jews gives them the knowledge of how wretched their leadership is. That is the context in Micah 5:2, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past will come from you on my behalf.” In the midst of this corruption Micah says, “There will come a leader who is from eternity.”
And Micah is speaking of the Messiah, the true Ruler, and the King of kings. Now you can go back to Matthew 2 and find that that is precisely what happened. And Matthew adds in verse 6, “who will shepherd My people Israel.” Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and thus you have an explicit Old Testament prophesy that says Jesus will be born in Bethlehem; and He was.
The second prophecy in Matthew 2 regards the exodus to Egypt. First, the birth at Bethlehem; secondly, the exodus to Egypt. Go to verse 13, “After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Verse 14, “That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother.” Now why does He have to go to Egypt? It is a seventy-five mile walk to get to the border, and another hundred miles to get to the heart of the land of Egypt where some people reside. That is a journey of many days. And Mary and Joseph have a very young child between one and two years of age.
That’s why Herod slaughtered all the babies two and under. And why is it necessary? Verse 15, “and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: ‘I called my Son out of Egypt.’” Now here is one prophesy that has a limited significance. In other words, there was nothing particularly important about going to Egypt in itself.
But Egypt had become a Jewish colony, filled with Jewish refugees where they could find people that would care and support them. During those four hundred years of biblical silence there were some serious things happening in Israel, not the least of which was the Maccabean Revolt. And because of those terrorist activities, some of the Jews had taken refuge in Egypt and migrated there.
Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt have I called My Son.” God had selected Israel to be His child while they were in Egypt, and made them a nation, and led them into the Promised Land. That is the significance of Hosea 11:1. And what is behind that is the great love of God. It says in Deuteronomy 32 that God has chosen Israel because of His great love. Now that’s the significance of Hosea 11:1.
Hosea preaches judgement. He deals with Israel’s wickedness, namely involvement in idolatry with all of its sins. So the message of Hosea is the failure and the decadence of Israel, and he preaches it but he does more than preach it; he illustrates it with his own life in a most graphic illustration. Hosea married a woman named Gomer. She turned out to be a prostitute.
She went after other lovers; and in her prostitution conceived illegitimate children. And Hosea named one of them “Not My Child.” But in spite of what she did, he deeply loved her; and instead of rejecting her, he followed her around and made sure that all her needs were met. And finally Hosea bought her back off the market. She was literally on a block naked, being sold, and he took her back as his wife.
Now that is a graphic illustration of God’s relationship to Israel. And the message of Hosea is this: just as Hosea had married Gomer, God had taken Israel as his wife. Just as Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea, so is Israel was unfaithful to God. Just as Gomer was enslaved by her lovers, so Israel was enslaved by idolatrous nations in whom she had placed her love. And Jehovah would restore Israel.
So the message of Hosea is a message of heartbreak. And it is at that point that God says, “Do you understand that it was out of Egypt I called My Son?” And God goes back to that initiating love. Reading through Hosea you would understand that, but you wouldn’t understand that it had anything to do with Jesus. But in reality, it is a type prophesy that Jesus would be called out of Egypt.
Nothing in the Old Testament is a type of Christ until the New Testament says it is. If the New Testament says it does, it does. This was a type prophesy fulfilled in Jesus Christ as noted in the New Testament. Now it makes perfect sense, because Israel is, at that point, a type of Christ. Christ is called in Isaiah the servant of the Lord, and so is Israel. Israel is God’s child; so is Christ.
Let’s go to the third prophecy, the mourning at Ramah, now we come to another location. Verse 16, “Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance.” He slaughters every child to prevent one from growing up and being a threat to his throne.
Verse 17-18, “Herod’s action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A cry was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.” Imagine the horror of Bethlehem, as Herod sent his soldiers to stab those little ones, or cut their heads off. But this fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 31:15, “Thus says the Lord, ‘A cry is heard in Ramah, deep anguish and bitter weeping. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children are gone.” Jeremiah was prophesying before the people of Israel were carried away into captivity. And there would be tremendous weeping in Ramah, a village on the border of the north and south kingdom, where people were transported into captivity.
But how is Rachel involved? Because, it says here, “Rachel weeping for her children.” Well, Rachel was the mother of both kingdoms. Joseph, brought forth two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh; and Ephraim was always identified with the northern kingdom. But Rachel also was the mother of Benjamin who was part of the southern kingdom. So Rachel weeps for both, because she was the mother of both.
Jeremiah sees this in his prophecy, but he sees also another kind of prophecy. If you’re studying Scripture and if you’re going through it, we call it a near-far fulfillment. The far intent takes us to the birth of Christ. “A voice was heard in Ramah weeping in great mourning.” One mile north of Bethlehem there was an area that had come be known as Ramah. And people will always say, “That is Rachel’s tomb.”
And in the time of Christ, Rachel’s tomb was also there. And so there is a different Ramah, not the high place north of Jerusalem, but a new Ramah south, and where there is Rachel’s tomb. How appropriate that God orchestrates all of that to bring together the near and far fulfillment. So in another Ramah, in the area of Rachel’s tomb, mothers weep again because their children are slaughtered.
Then the fourth prophesy about Nazareth. Verse 19-20, “When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” This is the third time that God spoke in a dream. Verse 21, “So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother.”
Verse 22-23, “But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. 23 So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.” This was Joseph’s original home; and he was to go back there.
“Where in the Old Testament did they say this?” Answer: nowhere. It says the prophets said it. They did, but it just wasn’t recorded in the Old Testament. It was one among perhaps many prophesies that were not recorded in the Old Testament. There is a reference in Jude to the prophecy of Enoch, which isn’t recorded in the Old Testament either. But here the Holy Spirit refers to it.
There is written prophecy; typological prophecy; double fulfillment, far and near prophecy; and there is prophecy that is not recorded in the Old Testament. From any one of this prophetic material, it all focuses on Christ: born in Bethlehem, out of Egypt, in Ramah there was weeping, and He went to Nazareth and became a Nazarene. All brought to pass in Jesus Christ by God’s power. Amazing truth to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. Let us pray.