In our Bibles, as we turn the page from Malachi to Matthew, it’s easy to forget that there are over four hundred years of history between these two books.
Just think about that for a moment. At the end of Malachi, we left Israel desperately hoping for God to send the promised Savior. But for hundreds and hundreds of years, he didn’t. But the Israelites didn’t stop believing. Many waited faithfully for their Savior to come.
Theologians call the historical period between Malachi and Matthew the Intertestamental Period. During this time, Israel remained under the rule of pagan nations. While a small number of the Jewish exiles had returned to their homeland, many were still scattered around the Roman Empire. The promises God made to Abraham, Moses, and David included a united Israel. So, as they lived under foreign oppression, the people of Israel waited eagerly for the day in which God, through the promised king, would unite them, restoring the kingdom of God.
As they waited, the Jews prayed, learned the Law (the Torah), celebrated their religious festivals, and gathered at their places of worship (aka synagogues) to remind themselves of the covenant they had made with God. With about half a million Jews living in Israel and about three million scattered across the Roman Empire, most looked for a day when God would return to redeem his people from their pagan oppressors. They didn’t know God was going to do so much more. His work of restoration would eradicate sin, Satan, and death from the world, bringing the whole of creation and humankind once again under God’s gracious rule. Salvation would come when the king arrived. So, they waited in hope. His work of restoration would eradicate sin, Satan, and death from the world, bringing the whole of creation and humankind once again under God’s gracious rule. Salvation would come when the king arrived. Click To Tweet
And then one day, Hope came.
In Matthew 1:1, Matthew proclaimed the good news that the promised king had come! Written to a primarily Jewish audience, Matthew traced Jesus’s lineage, showing how he came from the family line of David and Abraham. With the arrival of the king, God’s promises of kingdom restoration would be fulfilled. This was an epic moment for Israel (and for us)! Even though the Israelites had waited a long time, God had not forgotten them.
Matthew is one of four Gospels that each tell the story about the arrival of King Jesus! Each Gospel paints a unique portrait of Jesus Christ, providing special insight into who he is and what he accomplished. The Gospels exhibit both unity and diversity, bearing witness to the same Jesus (unity) but viewing him from unique perspectives (diversity).
MATTHEW wrote to Jewish-Christian communities struggling with their relationship to Judaism. He stressed the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies to show that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.
MARK portrayed Jesus as the suffering Son of God who offers himself as a sacrifice for sins. His Gospel is often associated with the persecuted church in Rome.
LUKE pictured Jesus as Savior who brings salvation to all nations and people groups.
JOHN showed Jesus as the eternal Son of God, the self-revelation of God the Father. John’s original audience consisted of both Jews and Gentiles living in the larger Greco-Roman world.
In Matthew 2, we learn that not everyone who heard about the birth of Jesus was pleased with the news. When the wise men followed the star to Jerusalem and asked about the newborn king and their desire to worship him, Herod was disturbed (v. 3). He didn’t appreciate this threat to his power. So, he instructed the wise men to let him know exactly where this new king was located after they found him. But God was protecting this baby king. He warned the wise men to return home by a different route and told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. When Herod realized he’d been outwitted by the wise men, he tried to end Jesus’s life by having every male child in Bethlehem two years old and under killed.But God was protecting this baby king. He warned the wise men to return home by a different route and told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. Click To Tweet
Similar to God preserving his people by rescuing them from slavery in Egypt and leading them to the promised land, He told Joseph to leave Egypt to go back to Nazareth. While this would not be the last time someone would try to kill Jesus, the mission of the king would not be thwarted. The angelic celebration of his birth was rooted in the overwhelming realization that God’s long-awaited promise for kingdom restoration was being fulfilled. Even though Israel was currently in spiritual exile, Jesus’s life and ministry would be used to unite the kingdom, defeat sin and death, and bring the blessing of God to all of humanity.