The Promise of God’s Presence

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December 11, 2016

Matthew 1:23; 2:6; 4:15-16

Allen Burns

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9:1-7 Sermon Title: The Promise of God’s Presence Sermon Text: Matthew 1:23; 2:6; 4:15-16 MAIN IDEA:  Rejoice in the faithfulness of God to fulfill the prophecy of His presence. The Promised Sign of God’s Presence (Mt. 1:23 - Isaiah 7:14) The Promised Place of God’s Presence (Mt. 2:6 - Micah 5:2) The Promised Purpose of God’s Presence (Mt. 4:15-16 - Isaiah 9:1-7)   NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." I provide this manuscript as a courtesy. I do not follow the document word for word during the message. I also do not write the document with the intent of publication; there may be grammatical errors throughout. Thanks for understanding.  


Matthew, also known as Levi, is the son of Alpheus. He is a Jew who works as a tax collector on behalf of the Roman Government. Because of his position, Matthew is very educated and speaks many languages such as Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. If he does his job well, the Roman government treats him well. Matthew is be responsible for collecting income tax, import and export tax, crop taxes on grains, wine, fruit, olive oil, sales tax, property tax, emergency tax, and so forth. As we might imagine, Matthew is not the most loved man in town. He is the guy who says, “Loretta, I need to see what you have in that basket” or, “Margaret, how many eggs did you get from your chickens last week” or, “Bob, I counted the hay bales, are you sure you paid the correct, hay tax.” Matthew is a Jewish tax collector for the Roman government. The Romans occupy the Israel Promised Land. They don’t belong. Matthew, an Israelite, collects taxes which enable the intruding occupying force to stay in power. To many Jews, especially the zealots, he is a traitor. When Israelites talk about evil people, tax collectors are among the worst; they are in the same group as prostitutes and thieves. Imagine what the great and mighty Israel Messiah, promised to Abraham as being from his seed, promised to David to sit upon his throne forever, would say as he walked by the roadside booth of this low-life, tax-collecting, traitor, and Roman publican named Matthew. You would think the Messiah would publicly shame this traitor. But, He didn’t. Instead, the Bible says this: One day, Jesus came to Capernaum and saw Matthew sitting in the tax collector’s booth and Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow Me!” (Mat. 9:9). Matthew leaves his position as tax collector, a high-paying job, to follow Jesus. He joins the other men following Jesus, including Simon the Zealot, a right-wing nationalist who works to overthrow the Romans and who despises all who support the Roman government. Jesus calling two people to be His disciples who are political opposites says a great deal about His Kingdom and His priorities. From the day Jesus calls Matthew, his life is forever changed. Matthew loves the Messiah. We see it in his gospel. Around 30 years after Jesus calls Matthew to follow Him; Matthew publishes his gospel scrolls describing, not how his life changed, but as a proof Jesus is the Messiah. Matthew’s goal in writing his gospel is simple: he desires to prove Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah and all people should embrace this truth. He writes with a centralized theme which is, “the Old Testament is fulfilled.” He wants us to see, “Jesus did this” or “this thing happened in Jesus’ life,” and you should know that event which I write about is a fulfillment of an Old Testament truth. Look at the first sentence, of his gospel. It reads, “the record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mat. 1:1). What he is doing here, as what he does in the rest of the book is proving Jesus is the Messiah. The Messiah is to be the seed of Abraham and the lineage of King David. Here is the first piece of evidence, his parents are traced back to Abraham and David. The lineage requirement for being the Messiah is fulfilled. With pen in hand, Matthew sits and writes a detailed account of Jesus’ life. He builds his testimony upon 62 Old Testament quotations, nine of which are unique to his Gospel. Matthew wants us to know, “The God of the Universe promises our ancestors He will come and save us from sin. Our ancestors prophesied requirements needing to be fulfilled so we will know it is Him when comes. Many people may say they are the Messiah, but they do not meet the prophetic requirements. I write, as an eye witness, Jesus is the Messiah. Now, almost two thousand years later, we open our Bibles, and we find two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. Matthew’s Gospel is honored to be the first book of the New Testament. It is an excellent choice to be the first book because it is rich with Old Testament truth and shows Christ fulfills the prophecy of the Old Testament. We are going to look at three passages in Matthew’s Gospel. It is Christmas time, so our focus is on the fulfillment of the prophecy in the birth of Jesus. In the Old Testament, God promises His presence. He promises a great gift, and the gift is His Son. God’s present is His presence. Matthew tells us of the fulfillment of God’s promise. We will look at:
  • The Promised Sign of God’s Presence (Mt. 1:23)
  • The Promised Place of God’s Presence (Mt. 2:6)
  • The Promised Purpose of God’s Presence (Mt. 4:15-16)
The MAIN IDEA of the message is this: Rejoice in the faithfulness of God to fulfill the prophecy of His presence (the prophecy that He will live among us.

The Promised Sign of God’s Presence (Mt. 1:23 - Isaiah 7:14)

When we are to meet someone at the airport, and we don’t know what they look like, we might tell them something like, “you will know who I am because I have a bright orange shirt and an orange hat.” We want them to find us, so we give them a sign of identification. God promises He is going to live among mankind. The God of the universe was going to clothe Himself in human flesh and walk among other people. He needs a way for everyone to know that it is Him. He needs a unique, distinguishing characteristic unlike any human before or after. God does not want imposters to say they Him when they are not. Around 700 years earlier, a prophet of the Most-High God wrote these words: Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14) Think about that. If you are going to separate yourself and identify yourself from the rest of humanity, there is no better way than to have your mother be a virgin and give birth. The virgin birth is the most remarkable of all the signs pointing to Christ as being the Messiah. It is hard to fake this one. There are several people who claim to be the Messiah. Ann Lee (1784), the founder of the Shakers. William Davies (1906), leader of a Latter Day Saint group.  Thomas Harrison Provenzano (2000), a convicted murderer. Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez (1990–), who in November 2011, fired nine shots at the White House believing himself to be Jesus Christ sent to kill President Obama. However, none of these, nor any of the other hundreds of people claiming to be deity are born of a virgin. Just ask their mother. Matthew did his research about Jesus birth. Let’s look at what he discovered: 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “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.” 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Mat. 1:18-25) The requirement for being of the lineage of Abraham and David (in both parents), fulfilled. The requirement for being the child of a virgin birth, fulfilled.

 The Promised Place of God’s Presence (Mt. 2:6 - Micah 5:2)

Matthew continues his testimony by telling of the promised place of God’s presence. How many of us pick our place of birth? God does. God picks where He will make His first appearance among mankind. God told the prophets when I dwell among people; I will begin in the city of David; the town of Bethlehem. This prophecy comes about because God loves King David. King David is a sinner like us. However, King David expressed His love for God unlike anyone else in Scripture. David loved His God so much when the giant Goliath blasphemed God it made David so angry, he was willing to risk his life to shut that guy up. When the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence, made its journey into Jerusalem, David was overjoyed and danced in a loincloth the entire way. His wife was not too happy, but David told his wife, that’s just too bad. Listen to how David gushes over God You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you (Ps. 16:2) when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness (Ps. 17:15) Who have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth (Ps. 73:25) God decides He is going to begin in Bethlehem, the city of David. Around 735 BC, the prophet Micah wrote: But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. (Micah 5:2) The phrase, “His goings forth are from the days of eternity” reveals that the one who will go forth to be the ruler in Israel is eternal. That the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem is a well-known prophecy among the Jews. In his Gospel, John tells us this account between Philip and Nathanael: Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:45-46) Nathanael is saying, how can you have found Him who Moses and Prophets wrote if you say He is from Nazareth. The prophecy doesn’t say the Messiah is from Nazareth, Philip; the prophecy says the Messiah will be from Bethlehem. Let’s read Matthew’s testimony of the place of Jesus’ birth. Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:1-6) All the chief priests believed Christ was to be born in Bethlehem. There was no argument. The magi from the east went to Bethlehem, about a five-mile journey, and they found the Messiah, and they worshiped Him, born King of the Jews. Jesus is born of a virgin and in Bethlehem, the city of David. There are three more fulfillments between here and chapter four where we will see our next point. All of us familiar with the Nativity story know of Herod seeking to kill Jesus. In his effort to kill Jesus, Herod kills all the children of Bethlehem. Matthew points out that Herod’s act fulfills what the Prophet Jeremiah wrote about the slaughter of the innocents (Mt. 2:18). Joseph is warned in a dream about Herod’s intent to kill Jesus so he took Jesus and his wife to Egypt until it was safe to return. Matthew connects this with the Prophet Hosea, “out of Egypt I called My Son” (Mt. 2:16). In chapter three, Matthew proves yet another prophecy in the life of Jesus by connecting John the Baptist as being the forerunner of the Messiah (Mt. 3:3). The beginning of chapter four tells of Jesus testing in the wilderness. Incidentally, as a side note, look at the parallels of Jesus and the Israelites.
  • Both are called out of Egypt
  • Both are baptized - Jesus by John; the Israelites by Moses in the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:2)
  • Both are tested in the wilderness (He. 3:8)
Let’s pass by these fulfillments so we may look at the next proof of Jesus being the Messiah in chapter four. Here, Matthew reveals an important aspect of God’s presence upon earth and that is the purpose of His coming. This is a very important truth we all need to understand. God promises the gift of His presence, but why is it a gift to us? Why is it such a wonderful thing for Jesus, God clothed in human flesh, to walk among us? God’s presence upon the earth is a wonderful present because of the purpose of His presence.

The Promised Purpose of God’s Presence (Mt. 4:15-16 - Isaiah 9:1-7)

God has a purpose for sending His Son. After writing about Jesus overcoming the temptations in the desert, Matthew speaks of the beginning His ministry. Let’s read beginning at verse 12 of chapter four: Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat. 4:12-17) God promised to Isaiah that the Messiah will enter the region of Zebulun and Naphtali as a great light. Matthew confirms this prophecy. The imagery spoke of by the prophet Isaiah is both exciting and beautiful, “the people living there in darkness, saw a great Light.” Picture in our mind’s eye everyone living under a dark shadow which covers the land; the shadow of death. Death is a darkness looming over everything. Everything is gloomy. It’s like living under the shadow of mighty volcanic mountain, spewing forth poisonous gases, waiting to erupt at any moment. The mountain and the clouds of dark smoke block all the light and it is an ever-threatening presence. Life becomes depressing. There is no dawn. People blindly grope unable to find their way. Living under the shadow of death is to live in continual disappointment and discouragement. There is no future hope, only the promise of a grave. Conversations are dull and meaningless. There is nothing cheery or bright, but only pessimism, dejection, and dreariness. Human spirits are dark like the dark overcast sky. Evil walks in the open. Destruction and decay are commonplace There is nothing good found under the blanket of darkness. Suddenly, a light dawns over the land. Not just a light, but as Isaiah says, a great light! When the light dawns, shadows slither away. Despair and discouragement crawl into a hole. This is the purpose of God’s presence. For all who live in the despair and gloom of darkness, a great Light shines to give hope. The Bible tells us: God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.   God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. (Gen. 1:3-4) Light overcoming darkness is one of the many beautiful themes of Scripture. We read about it in the prophets, wisdom literature, and the Gospels. Light has a featured place in the story of Christmas. The light of Jesus’ star led the magi from the east to worship the King of the Jews. God has a purpose in creating darkness and light. God gives us eyes so that we may enjoy the goodness and beauty of light. God creates us as beings who attracted to light. When we stare up at the night sky, we don’t stare at the darkness, and say, “look at the beautiful black area over there.” Instead, we gaze upon the beauty of the stars in the heavens. In the dark of the morning, we anticipate the light of dawn. The purpose of God’s presence is to cast away darkness. Jesus clothes Himself in human flesh to be the light of the world. Jesus demonstrates light has the power over the darkness. Darkness never overcomes light. We may never walk into a room with a light and proclaim, “turn on the darkness.” Darkness only takes place when the light is taken away. Jesus entered the world and He is a great light. He said so Himself. “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”   (John 5:12) In the presence of Jesus, evil has nowhere to hide. Darkness hides evil, but the light exposes it. In the presence of the light of Jesus Christ, the shadow and darkness of death falls away. The darkness of despair is replaced with the radiance of hope. Blindness is replaced with sight. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6) As the light shines in our hearts, images of dread and the unsightly are replaced with all that is good and beautiful. Our fear and anxiety melts away because our enemies are defeated. We cry out: The Lord is our light and our salvation. Because of this, who shall we fear (Ps. 27:1). The light of Jesus brings hope. His light reveals the truth and beauty of holiness and righteousness. His presence changes the course of this world. God promised He will make His presence upon earth.
  • He gave us a sign, a virgin will give birth,
  • He told us the place, the town of Bethlehem,
  • and He revealed His purpose, to shine a great light in the darkness.

Challenge: What about us?

How does this message written by Matthew in the first century apply to us today 2000 years later? Why does the writing of a former tax-collector have any relevance in our age of computers and space travel? It has relevance because it is the inspired Word of God. It is written by an eternal God who is the same God today as in the days of Matthew. The same Holy Spirit who conceived Mary with the Holy offspring of Israel is the same Holy Spirit who breathed out these words written by Matthew. Today, we have two kinds of people; children of light and children of darkness.

Are you a child of light?

If you have received Jesus as your Lord and your Savior, you are a child of light. You may say: You have delivered my soul from death, indeed my feet from stumbling, so that I may walk before God in the light of the living (Ps. 56:13). Children of light have great joy and hope. The Bible says in heaven there is no darkness. The Lord God illumines everything. God if the Father of lights and with Him there are no shadows (Ja. 1:17). Our destiny is to forever live in the presence of God’s light. Tonight, it will get dark. However, we are a people who know there is a finite number of nights in our future. We don’t say, “our days are numbered” but instead, we say, “our nights are numbered.” Each evening of darkness we experience is one less evening of darkness in our future. Our hope of living in the perpetual light of God’s presence inspires thankfulness and praise. We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). We are indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit. We now are the light of the world. The church is a city set on a hill which cannot be hidden. Just as we do not put the light of a lamp under a basket, but we place it on the lampstand so all who are in the house have light, we shine our light shine before men in such a way that they may see Christ in us and glorify our Father in heaven.” (Mat. 5:14-16) Just as Jesus was a great light in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, we reflect the light of His glory in the region of the Upper Valley. During this Christmas season, just as we adorn our houses inside and out with lights, we also are to adorn ourselves with the light of Christ. Let’s bring the light of Christ to those who are living in darkness around us. As children of the light, let’s shine our lights brightly during these dark times and in this dark place.

 Are you a child of darkness?

You are a child of darkness if you have not confessed Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Without Jesus as your Savior, you have no hope. The Bible says God created a place for the fallen angels. It is a known as a pit of darkness (2 Pe. 2:4). Those cast into the pit of hell remain for eternity. If you don’t worship Christ as your Lord, enjoy the light while you can. For you, light is temporary. Your destiny is darkness. With each passing day of sunlight, the number of days with light in your future becomes one less. There is a limit to your days of light. Your days are truly numbered. Do you love the darkness? Do you love your sin? This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil (John 3:19) Jesus is the great light that is shining in the darkness. Do you see His light? Do you find the light of His holiness, goodness, and righteousness as beautiful or do you prefer the darkness because you much rather continue in your evil deeds? I beg of you to come to the light. There is no joy in darkness. Jesus said, “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46) Matthew tells us that once Jesus began His ministry, His message was this: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4:17). Jesus is saying, “Stop, repent, change your ways. Stop sinning against a holy and righteous God. Stop living in the darkness. The Kingdom of light is at hand.” Your sins are many, but they all may be forgiven if you follow Christ. If you have never received Jesus as your Savior, you may do so right where you sit. Ask Jesus to forgive you for your sins. Tell Him you desire to follow Him all the rest of your life. Give your life to Jesus. Step from the darkness into the light of His beautiful kingdom.


Let’s close today on the beautiful passage we read earlier. Matthew quotes from the first two verses of chapter nine in Isaiah. Let me read the last two verses and let this thought dwell in our minds this week as we progress through this joyous Christmas season. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)