“She [Mary] will bear a son, and you [Joseph] shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Joseph was bothered by the news that his betrothed Mary was pregnant with a baby that was not his. He was a just man, however. Deuteronomy 22:21 required that a woman caught in adultery be stoned to death. That law, however, was seldom carried out. (The incident in John 8:1–11 may offer us a reason for that reluctance.) The Jews opted for public humiliation; however, Joseph did not want even this lesser penalty, just a quiet end to the betrothal. He knew that she would be subject to scorn and ridicule anyway.
An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and encouraged him to follow through with the marriage. Mary’s condition was the work of the Holy Spirit. She would bear a Son and Joseph, as acting father, was to name the child. Names held great significance to the Jews, either reflecting character or signifying purpose and calling. In this case both aspects are evident. Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Yahushua (from Yeho, the abbreviated form of the Divine name, Yahweh, and shua, savior—Yahweh Saves). Jesus was indeed Yahweh, the only Savior (Isa. 43:3; 45:21; Acts 4:12).
The angel also revealed the purpose and calling of Jesus: “He will save his people from their sins.” To reinforce the significance of that statement, Matthew adds that all this was to fulfill Isaiah 7:11. Isaiah also records another name, Immanuel (God with us), which also signifies God’s purpose to dwell among His people as their God and Savior (Ex. 29:45; 2 Cor. 6:16).
Book Two of the Psalms (42–72) is filled with lament and distress at Israel’s condition due to sin and rebellion, discipline and exile to Babylon. It was designed to raise expectation and hope that Yahweh would save His people (44:1–7). This collection ends with a psalm attributed to Solomon that is regarded as the epitome of royal theology. It expresses the purpose of God to fulfill the promise to Abraham that his Seed would one day bless the whole earth. “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! . . . May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!” (vv. 8, 11).
Isaiah 62 expresses this longing for restoration. “The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give” (v. 2). That new name is Jesus and Joseph was commanded to call Him that. Psalm 72 joins this desire for God’s glory and His fame (name) in a unique phrase used only twice (Neh. 9:5; Psa. 72:19). “May his name endure forever, hisfame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed! Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory!”