The Old Testament in Matthew’s Gospel

The Old Testament in Matthew’s Gospel

Andrew Reyburn

Matthew’s Gospel is described in various ways; as for example, the Gospel of the King, the Gospel of the Kingdom, and the Gospel of the Fulfilment. Within its remarkable rages there are many references to the Old Testament. A search reveals over ninty-five such references. Of its twenty-eight long chapters only five have no quotation from or reference to the Old Testament Scriptures. The words, “That it might be fulfilled,” occur at least ten times, and the names of Old Testament characters are mentioned at least eighty-four times.

One of the main purposes of this Gospel was to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah) for whom they were eagerly looking; therefore the use of their own Scriptures was the design of the Holy Spirit to present incontrovertible evidence of the claims of Jesus of Nazareth to be the rightful Heir to the throne of David and to be the Son of Abraham. In Him all the terms of the everlasting covenant are realized.

It has been pointed out that this Gospel is constructed around five great discourses delivered by the Lord Jesus: (1) The sermon on the mount (chaps. 5-7), (2) Instruction to His disciples (chap. 10), (3) The parables of the kingdom (chap. 13), (4) Lessons in humility (chap. 18), and (5) The Olivet discourse and parables of judgment (chaps. 24-25).

All these sections are marked off and opened by the following significant words: (1) “And it came to pass, when He had ended these sayings” (chap. 7:28), (2) “And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding His twelve disciples” (chap. 11:1), (3) “And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables” (chap. 13:53), (4) “And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings” (chap. 19:1), (5) “And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings” (chap. 26:1).

Another division of the Gospel has been noted by others, thus: that of the offices of prophet, priest, and king as fulfilled in Christ. (1) In chapters 1-16:20, the Lord presents Himself as the prophet or messenger from Heaven, laying down the manifesto of His kingdom. By miracles He shows His rights and credentials, substantiating thus His claims. (2) In chapters 16:21-20:21, the Lord reveals to His disciples His impending sufferings, death, and resurrection, for these express His work as the priest, both offering and offerer. (3) In chapters 21-25, He presents Himself as king acclaimed in His royal entry into Jerusalem. His pronouncements of judgment upon the city and upon His enemies as well as the prediction of His return in glorious victory are likewise recorded in this section. These three great offices are secured by the events set forth in chapters 26-28: His trial, condemnation, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection; they are the complete vindication of His claims.

The mass of Old Testament references in this Gospel stands as abundant and conclusive proof of the veracity and inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. All three divisions of the Old Testament are used to confirm God’s purposes for mankind. These are, of course, the historical books, Genesis to Esther; the poetical books, Job to the Song of Solomon; and the prophetical books, Isaiah to Malachi. Great historical events are mentioned by Matthew: Creation, the Flood, the Call of Abraham, the Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Passover, the Law of Moses, the Kingdom of David and Solomon, the Temple, and the Captivity of the Nation. Similarly, the names of many prophets are recalled: Elijah, Isaiah, Daniel, Jonah, Micah, Hosea, Jeremiah, Zechariah, and Malachi. References are made either to their names or to their prophecies or ministry.

When God redeemed His people from Egypt and brought them into the Wilderness, His purpose was to make of them a nation for His glory; they were to be separated to Him, and to be distinct from all the surrounding nations. They were to be a people for Himself; God was to be their King, and their form of government a theocracy. With this in view, God gave them His law which contained not only the ten commandments but a most complete set of rules and ordinances for their conduct and worship. Full instructions were given for health, sanitation, and well-being. In spite of many failures this Theocracy continued for centuries. Whenever the people repented and returned to God their King, He received them back graciously and blessed them with peace and prosperity. Eventually, with the failure of the Judges and the priesthood, Israel asked for a king like unto the nations around them. They in fact rejected God as their King and chose the rule and government of men.

Saul was the first king; he was the choice of the people. The record of his reign tells of trouble and final disaster, and consequently God removed him and set the man of His choice, David, upon the throne of Israel. Under David the kingdom flourished; it reached its zenith of power and glory in the reign of David’s son Solomon. After the death of Solomon division rent the kingdom into two, the two parts becoming the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel. The kings of Israel led the people into grievous sins and idolatry for which cause God dispersed them among the nations which overcame them. In like manner Judah forsook the God of their fathers so with their kings they also were taken into captivity. These historical events demonstrate most vividly the seriousness of their rejection of God as king. Nevertheless, a remnant was preserved by the Lord and was permitted to return from the captivity, and to rebuild Jerusalem. The descendants of this remnant were living in Palestine at the time of the advent of our Lord Jesus, and it was primarily to them that the Gospel of Matthew was addressed.

God’s original purpose in separating Israel from the other nations of the world was that He might dwell among them (Ex. 25:8). Matthew shows that this purpose was fulfilled by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the birth of the Lord as narrated in Matthew 1:23, the prediction of Isaiah was fulfilled, “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). Christ was Emmanuel, God with us. The closing words of our Lord’s Galilian ministry as recorded in Matthew 18:20, were, “There am I in the midst of them.” In His final message in the great commission to His disciples, the Lord again states that purpose by saying, “Lo, I am with you.” Thus from the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of this wonderful Gospel, there is the fulfilment of the eternal purpose of God, the presence of Jehovah in the midst of His people, exercising His kingly rule and prerogatives.