Prophesy (Matthew 8:17)

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We are at Matthew 8:17. Matthew has to this point quoted Isaiah 7:14 (Matt 1:22),   Micah 5:2 (Matt 2:6), Jeremiah 31:15 (Matt 2:18), unnamed prophets (Matt 2:23), Isaiah 40:3 (Matt 3:3) and Isaiah 9:1-2 (Matt 4:15-16). Each time he has used the same introductory phrase, which he now uses again in quoting Isaiah 53:4, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” ”

Matthew is able to look at the events he saw and see not just the event, but the absolute fulfillment of Scripture long ago spoken. Of course that is because of the Spirit’s work in him during the writing of the Gospel. But each of those Scriptures also had an earlier fulfillment that others might have seen in their time. 

For instance, Isaiah 7:14 refers to the virgin giving birth, and then adds, “…before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. The Lord will bring … the king of Assyria.”  So that particular Scripture (Isaiah 7:16-17) was seen to be fulfilled in Isaiah’s time before the Assyrians invaded Judah in 701BC. But the earlier part (v14), although realized at the time, wasn’t completely fulfilled until Jesus was born. 

Likewise, Jeremiah 31:15 – which says, “This is what the Lord says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more,” was fulfilled in part during the exile, when Israel was conquered and the children taken away as slaves. That Scripture had an even earlier fulfillment long before Jeremiah’s day, when Jacob heard his sons asking for Benjamin after going to Egypt, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin.” No doubt as upset as Jacob was, his wife Rachel was even more so! But in Jesus’ day Jeremiah 31:15 had its complete fulfillment in Herod’s slaughter of the innocents.

Likewise, the unnamed prophets said of God’s chosen rescuer, “He will be called a Nazarene.” So it was that both Samson (the strong man who defeated Israel’s enemies in his death) and Samuel (the first prophet of Israel) were Nazarene. That prophesy had at least two realizations prior to Jesus, but it wasn’t completed (as a prophesy) until Jesus’ appearing. And so it goes. One wonders if every generation doesn’t see some kind of minor realization of Scriptural prophesy. One would expect so, because God’s Word is timeless as God Himself is timeless, so His Word has echoes throughout time – ripples that go backward through time and carry right up until the final purpose for which it was spoken is fulfilled. Only then can the Spirit of God say with finality, “This was to fulfill what was spoken.” 

From that point forward, the fulfillment of God’s prophetic Word changes the course of everything downstream. All who live from that point on are impacted by the historical fact. For it is not the prophesy that ripples anymore, but the faithfulness of those who fulfilled it. 

The effects of faithfulness, like ripples from a pebble tossed in a pool, spread far beyond the one who is faithful.

Walter A. Elwell


Our God is every faithful ave ever able to fulfill His every promise. Praise Him for His infallible Word! 

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