Today’s Bible reading is Deuteronomy 23 and Matthew 1.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet… (Matt 1:22)
When something has been fulfilled, it’s been put into effect. Requirements have been satisfied. Standards have been realized. Full potential has been met.
The Gospel of Matthew is full of fulfillments. From beginning to end, this tax collector whose life was forever changed by the son of a carpenter is pointing his readers to the accomplishments of Jesus, and what it all ultimately means.
But as [Joseph] considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). (Matt 1:20-23)
Matthew repeatedly stops, stands like a guide, and tell us to pay attention–pointing with one hand to some centuries-old-prophecy, and with the other hand to Jesus as the fulfillment.
This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matt 2:15)
Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah…” (Matt 2:17)
And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene. (Matt 2:23)
And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “…the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light…” (Matt 4:13-16)
This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” (Matt 8:17)
This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen…” (Matt 12:17-21)
This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables…” (Matt 13:35)
This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “…Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey…” (Matt 21:4-5)
“But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” (Matt 26:56)
Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver…” (Matt 27:9-10)
Isn’t this why Jesus will say in his most famous sermon, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt 5:17)?
“Listen,” Matthew is challenging us. “Those promises and prophecies of God? They’ve been realized and put into effect. He was telling us the truth all along. This Jesus of Nazareth not only spoke as one who had authority, he repeatedly proved why we should hear his words and do them. Fulfillment walked among us and has made promises and prophecies of his own.
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (Heb 2:1-3)
On a related note, visualizations like this give us a sense of just how often the Old Testament is referenced in the New Testament: