Isaiah and Matthew go together like cheese and wine, Ross and Rachel, sausages and mash…
They make sense of each other. In Isaiah, we see everything that is to come in Jesus. Later we’ll read the chapters of the suffering servant, and the hope of the new world that Jesus’ life and death will bring. But in these early chapters, we read mostly of anger; God’s yearning, aching heart for justice. How the rebellion of his people, and their ignoring of the poor, pains Him. Their sacrifices and holy days can’t buy back God’s favour: ‘stop bringing meaningless offerings!’ ‘I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.’ (Isaiah 1:13). The law-abiding days of the Old Testament are wearing thin and God’s people have let Him down again, and again, and again.
In Isaiah 1:18 God relents a little from his yelling: ‘let us settle the matter.’ Though our sins are blood-red, they can be washed white as snow! Though there’s a lot of anger and messing up to come, there’s a plan! God worked out from the beginning a way for justice and mercy to combine, in love for His people, that we could never make happen for ourselves.
In Matthew, we’re given a glimpse of the backstory to Jesus’ life. Going back 40 or so generations, Matthew is keen for us to know that Jesus is of the same line as Abraham and David. He’s a King! The Jews always knew that their Messiah would come from the family of David. The rest of the gospel is littered with prophecies and promises made in the Old Testament that are fulfilled in Jesus (google them), to drill in the point that this Jesus is the one everyone’s been waiting for.
We finish this week’s readings in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus teaches with the same authority that Moses, back in the day, would have had. However, Jesus’ style isn’t exactly what the Jews expected… Trapped under Roman occupation, they longed for a leader, a warrior, to rescue them from their oppressors. Instead, Jesus tells them to love their enemies and stop judging people, among other things. God’s method for mending our broken world isn’t force; it’s love.
- How much do you know about the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus?
- How do they (or how could they) affect your understanding of the gospels?
- God got tired of the Jews’ festival days and sacrificial offerings. What do you offer God? Are you more concerned with following rules, or with giving God the whole of yourself?