Israel or Messiah – Matthew 1-4

There is a specific verse in Matthew 2 that gets a lot of scoffing. It is his usage of Hosea 12:1, that “out of Egypt I call my son”. When you go back to Hosea, you find that this verse cannot be employed in such a manner. It is so far removed from the original context that many have labeled Matthew as a deceiver. Of course, they who have done so are either non-believers or utterly unorthodox. However, the remark needs to be tenderly attended to.

While Matthew 2:15 is not the subject of this blog post, it does do great justice to the point that I want to make. There is a continuum that is unbroken. Israel is the nation of priests, and is called to go out into all nations and be God’s nation. It is unto Israel that the call was given to be a witness unto all nations. Yet, when we come to the New Testament, these sorts of statements and role is given unto Christ Jesus. Many have used this to then claim that everything is fulfilled in Christ, and therefore Israel is no longer held unto that place of honor. It is no longer the Jew that has God’s mandate to witness unto the world, but the Christian.

We read in the letter to the Romans a fascinating statement: “The gifts and callings of God are irrevocable”. The statement is within a context that tells us this is specific to Israel. Therefore, such a conclusion that all of what Israel was called to be is fulfilled in Christ is absurd. However, there is indeed a connection and correlation. Let us begin this in the book of Isaiah, among the servant songs.

We read in Isaiah 41-49 a servant being addressed. This continued over into Isaiah 52-53, which is why many Jews debate the Christian interpretation of Isaiah 53. Let us note a few of these references to the servant of Isaiah 41-49:

“But you, Israel, are my servant,
Jacob whom I have chosen,
he descendants of Abraham My friend,” Isaiah 41:8 (Israel)

Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles,” Isaiah 42:1 (Messiah)

Who is blind but My servant,
Or deaf as My messenger whom I send?
Who is blind as he who is perfect,
And blind as the Lord’s servant?” Isaiah 42:19 (Israel)

You are My witnesses,” says the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
That you may know and believe Me,
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
Nor shall there be after Me,” Isaiah 43:10 (Israel)

Yet hear now, O Jacob My servant,
And Israel whom I have chosen.
Thus says the Lord who made you
And formed you from the womb, who will help you:
‘Fear not, O Jacob My servant;
And you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen,” Isaiah 44:1 (Israel)

Remember these, O Jacob,
And Israel, for you are My servant;
I have formed you, you are My servant;
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me!” Isaiah 44:21 (Israel)

“Who confirms the word of His servant,
And performs the counsel of His messengers;
Who says to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be inhabited,’
To the cities of Judah, ‘You shall be built,’
And I will raise up her waste places,” Isaiah 44:26 (Messiah)

For Jacob My servant’s sake,
And Israel My elect,
I have even called you by your name;
I have named you, though you have not known Me,” Isaiah 45:4 (Israel)

And He said to me,
‘You are My servant, O Israel,
In whom I will be glorified.’ Isaiah 49:3 (Isaiah)

“And now the Lord says,
Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant,
To bring Jacob back to Him,
So that Israel is gathered to Him
(For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord,
And My God shall be My strength),
Indeed He says,
‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Isaiah 49:5-6 (Messiah)


What you can note from these verses is that there seems to be a back and forth to the “servant”. Sometimes it is explicitly stated as Israel, and then other times, this “servant” is the very deliverer of Israel! In fact, when you read the context of Isaiah 42 and 49, the servant cannot be Israel, because this servant is the one who is made as a covenant for Israel, and the deliverer of Israel.

How do you answer this?

Matthew saw a principle here that we have missed. As with Israel, so with Messiah. As with Messiah, so with Israel. The two are interwoven. Sometimes the servant is explicitly Israel, but other times it is impossible to be Israel. Think of it like the Olympics. When a runner wins the gold, they don’t mention that runner’s name. Instead, they say that America won the gold, or Germany won the gold, or whoever the person is running for. They are a representative of the whole nation. So it is with Messiah.

When we take this to the Gospel of Matthew, we find something fascinating. The birth of Jesus was a miraculous birth, just as the miraculous birth of Isaac. Just as Pharaoh killed the Hebrew male children, so do we find Herod slaying the male children of Bethlehem. Thus, Jesus is taken into Egypt to flee Herod, so just as Israel came out of Egypt, so now God calls His (other) Son, Jesus, out of Egypt. Just as Israel must cross the Red Sea after coming out of Egypt, now we find in the narrative that Jesus gets baptized in the River Jordan. Just as Israel then roams 40 days unto Sinai, so we find Jesus being in led into the wilderness for 40 days. Just as Israel suffered three temptations in that wilderness to come unto Sinai, so does Jesus face three temptations. Just as Israel comes unto Sinai to receive the Law, now Jesus comes out of the wilderness and up on a mountain and expounds the Law to the multitudes of Israel.

Matthew is brilliantly putting together pieces that most people I’ve talked to have never even considered. It eventually comes to a point where we begin to wonder if a man wrote this, or if God wrote it… We eventually come to a place where we wonder if Jesus’ life was happenstance at all, or if every moment of Jesus’ life was an eternal moment that reflected a pattern already established, and continued that pattern to reveal unto us the eschatological scheme. Every detail matters.

With this, we will begin next time examining the birth of Christ and the scene that Matthew records around Joseph and Mary during this time. Grace and peace to you all.


One thought on “Israel or Messiah – Matthew 1-4

  1. Pingback: Out of Egypt I Call – Matthew 2:13-15 – tjustincomer

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