A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this morning and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Matthew 1:2-17
In May of 1977 I sat in a movie theater glued to my seat as the Star Wars saga began on the giant screen. The special effects were totally cool for 1977 especially as the movie began and letters scrolled across the screen. The very first words were; Episode IV – meaning something had happened before, and this episode was a continuation of a story that had begun a long time ago.
Matthew’s gospel in a very similar way is the next episode of a continuing story that began two thousand years earlier. As the first book after the Old Testament these opening words continue the story that began 2000 years earlier in Genesis with the calling of Abraham. It is the climax of the covenant promise that is now fulfilled in Jesus Christ. So begins the story of the New Testament.
But a genealogy does not seem to be a great way to begin a story. However, in this seemingly boring list of names, God’s plan of redemption, the fulfillment of his covenant promise, and the display of his unfathomable grace no longer remain in the shadows, but are all revealed in Jesus Christ.
Matthew gets us there by telling us in 1:1 how it all began with God’s promises to Abraham and David, and then with a recounting of Jesus’ heritage, he uses Jesus’ genealogy to prove that he comes from royal blood and is truly the fulfillment of God’s promise in 2 Samuel 7:12 to have a future and eternal king sit on the throne.
In the Jewish world, pedigree mattered greatly. It determined your lot in life, your stature, your wealth, your acceptance, your place in the synagogue. Records were kept to ensure family lines were known. Matthew’s genealogy does just that. His genealogy validates Jesus’ royal background that would be important to his Jewish audience. But that’s not all he is doing in his genealogy. He is showing us how deep, and wide God’s mercy and grace are that stands behind his covenant promise by sending his only son into the world that the world might be saved from sin and death through him.
Here are some things to know about this genealogy in particular:
There are three distinct phases: Abraham to David, David to the Babylonian exile, and the Babylonian exile to the birth of Christ. If you look carefully you will discover that this is not a complete genealogy. Matthew has left out some people and some years between generations because it seems that he is wanting to provide a succinct summary of Jesus’ royal history.
While not complete with every name and every year accounted for over a two-thousand-year history this genealogy does exactly what it is intended to do: It tells us how God’s covenant promise comes to be fulfilled in Jesus.
But this genealogy is more than just a list of names from Jesus’ family background. It also gives us an insight into the history of these individuals.
It is a stunning family history that tells the story of God’s saving grace in the coming of Jesus Christ in spite of one sinful generation after another. Every generation in Jesus’ family line was unfaithful, sinful, and disloyal to God, but when Jesus came in the flesh, conceived by the Holy Spirit with a sanctified bloodline he brought that evil and unfaithful history to an end.
What does Matthew want us, a 21st century reader to learn from reading his genealogy? Two lessons:
1. God’s promises are “always” reliable.
Matthew starts with where we began last week - 1:1 – He reminds us of God’s covenant promises to two men, and in spite of two-thousand years of sin and failure his covenant promises do not go unfulfilled.
Consider Abraham. From the moment God made his covenant with Abraham Jesus’ family history was a mess. God makes a remarkable promise to Abraham: “I will give you a son, I will bring nations from your seed, and I will bless all people through you.” And yet, after this spectacular promise Abraham and Sarah impatiently come up with their own human solution to fulfill God’s plan because it was so long in coming, and as we all know it was an abysmal failure.
Still, Matthew reminds us that Abraham and Sarah’s failure could not mess up God’s plan because he is faithful to always fulfill his promises, and in his perfect time his promise was fulfilled in the birth of Isaac.
Or think about David. The messed-up family failure continues because Abraham isn’t the only one to fail so miserably. David’s sin is incredibly wicked. He’s supposed to be at war with his army but instead he’s at home in the palace where he commits adultery with Bathsheba, gets her pregnant, and then murders her husband. After marrying Bathsheba Solomon is born, but Matthew doesn’t mention her by name, instead he just says that David is the father of Solomon by the “wife of Uriah.”
Still, God’s sovereign purpose to have an eternal king on the throne through David’s line comes to pass in Jesus Christ because God’s promises are always reliable. As we saw with Abraham it took fourteen generations before David came on the scene, and another twenty-eight generations before Jesus was born. This is a genealogy 2000 years in the making. It seems that very often God’s promises are slow to come be fulfilled, but God always fulfills his promises in his perfect time.
It can often seem to us that he works too slowly in our lives, and we can even wonder if he does keep his promises. Will our financial need ever be met? Will our child ever change? Will my physical suffering always be with me? Will he really build his church when we don’t even have a place to meet?
Matthew’s lesson in this genealogy is simple: We must learn to wait on God’s promises and not take matters into our own hands like Abraham. We must not insist or demand that God meet our requests “now!” What we learn from this genealogy is that God’s grace is sufficient for the moment. It keeps us until his promises are fulfilled.
Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.” That confession is “Christ in us”, the gospel.
The second lesson we learn from Matthew’s genealogy is this:
2. Our sin cannot stop God’s purposes.
No difficulty, no sin, no failure can ever stop God’s purposes in our lives. Look at the genealogy! Many in Jesus’ family background are stunningly wicked people, and it begs the question: “How can a savior come from this group of people?”
[Read Matthew 1:2-6]
In verses 2-6, Matthew mentions four women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah. These are Jesus’ great, great, great ancestors: Tamar, she pretends to be a temple prostitute so she can have a son through her father-in-law Judah. Rahab, she was a prostitute by profession. Ruth, she was a Moabite (the wicked family line from Lot’s daughter). And Bathsheba, she was a Hittite who was taken advantage of by David. All of these women are Gentiles. All of them have very messy backgrounds. Prostitutes. Gentiles. These are the women whom make up Jesus’s history. But it gets worse.
[Read Matthew 1:7-11]
Each of the names listed in verses 7-11 are the names of the kings from David’s bloodline. King’s they were, but oh what a mixed group it was. Most were wicked kings (there were a few good ones) whose reigns were evil, characterized by idolatry, murder, infanticide, greed, and a disregard for God himself. So evil are the kings in this group that God’s judgment finally falls on them, and soon everyone is exiled to Babylon.
A sinful and sordid history to be sure, and yet their sin and all its consequences does not stop God purposes as his grace overcomes their sin. His plan to redeem is not derailed by anyone’s sin, and that message is still relevant today. Don’t let your past sins paralyze you. Remember the words of Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus our savior has come. His gospel has freed all who believe in him from the power of sin and its consequences. When we sin, God promises that he will forgive and cleanse us when we come to him in repentance. His grace is greater than our sin, offering us forgiveness, and promising us that he has not forsaken us but is always at work in us: Philippians 1:6 – “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.”
[Read Matthew 1:12-17]
The genealogy ends with the birth of Christ. John tells us in his gospel that the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Matthew’s lesson here is simple: There is more grace in Jesus than there is sin in my heart.
As Romans 5:30 says, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” This is the message of the gospel. This genealogy is the story of sin abounding, but more importantly of grace abounding all the more in Jesus who is himself grace and truth.
Jesus indeed has come. The failure, unfaithfulness, sin, exile, and everything else in his family history did not stop God’s promises from being fulfilled.
Like Christian on the road to the Celestial city, our road is sometimes arduous, but the city is always there awaiting our homecoming, and because God has promised that we will make it home we will get there for where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.
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