February 5, 2006
INTRODUCTION – The apostle Paul in his writings spoke very emphatically about the relevance of every word in this book. For instance in Romans 15:4 he said, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” In his second letter to Timothy – ch. 3:16 he wrote, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”
Nowhere is this claim to the relevance and inspiration of every word in this book tested more than when – in your bible reading – you come across a genealogy. The temptation often for most of us (if we’re honest) is to skim through if not totally skip genealogies to get to the passages that mean something.
So my question this morning is – if “Pursuing the King and His Kingdom”, is our theme for this year (which it is), and the gospel of Matthew is our launching pad for that pursuit (which it is) , what if any significance or relevance does this opening genealogy of Jesus Christ have to our pursuit?
To answer that question I would like to read this first section of the gospel of Matthew, and then share five reasons or ways it actually is quite relevant or significant to help us in our quest. (read 1:1-17) The first reason we must not skip over this section of difficult names to pronounce is
I. This genealogy of Jesus Christ is the starting point for establishing that He is indeed the long awaited Messiah – the Christ – the anointed One – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Many hundreds of years before Jesus Christ was born it had been prophesied that the Messiah would come through Abraham and David’s lines.
Actually as I have studied this, there is no overt reference in all the promises to Abraham that the Messiah would come through his line or seed. But as you study the definition of blessing in the Bible, and as you study what the New Testament books teach us about what God really was after in the Old Testament books, and as you put all the prophetic glimpses or portrayals of the coming Messiah in the Old Testament together, you discover this was indeed what God meant all along. Turn to Genesis ch. 12 if you would..
For instance in Gen. 12:1-3 we read (read it); Of course the key question from this passage is “what does it mean to be blessed by God?” Gen. 13:16 This promise speaks of the far reaching descendants Abraham would have. Gen. 17:1-6 This is the first glimpse we get of the promise of Kings coming through Abraham’s line
Paul – the brilliant Messianic Jew – explained what these promises ultimately pointed to in both his letters to the church in Rome and in Galatia. For instance in his introduction to his letter to the church in Rome he wrote, “Paul, a bondservant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised before hand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,…”
In his letter to the church in Galatia he wrote, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.” Gal. 3:16
No true blessing could come to the nations of the world if it did not come through Abraham’s descendants, seed, or lineage.
Now some might say, but Jesus did not come through Joseph, since Joseph was not his biological father. But Joseph was his legal father, and in Jewish lineage that is all that matters.
Because the primary intended audience of this gospel was Jewish, and because any Jew who truly studied the Old Testament scriptures knew the promised Messiah had to come through Abraham’s lineage, Jesus Christ’s genealogy is crucial to help them see that He is indeed who they have been waiting and longing for all these years.
The Second thing I would note about this genealogy is: II. Jesus Christ was a son of David. Actually in the text this comes first doesn’t it? Why would Matthew state that Jesus was a son of David before he states that Jesus is a son of Abraham? Well that’s a good question. And the answer probably lies in the difference between the promises made to David and those made to Abraham by God. I think for clarity’s sake, I will let Dr. Stanly Toussaint – a noted scholar on the gospel of Matthew explain this. P. 36 bottom para. He writes, “It is of importance to note that the order of the superscription is Son of David and then Son of Abraham. Matthew has a definite purpose in inverting the chronological order of the names. The promises given to David were restricted; that is, they were Jewish, national, and royal in character. To David was promised an eternal throne, and eternal king, and an eternal kingdom (II Samuel 7:12-17; Psalm 89). On the other hand, the promises given to Abraham were more comprehensive, being personal, national, and universal (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:13-21; 17:1-8; 22:16-19). Abraham was given the promise among others that in him should all the nations of the earth be blessed. The pattern of Matthew’s Gospel emphasizes the David aspect first and then the Abrahamic. Matthew shows that the Lord Jesus, restricting His early ministry to Israel (Matthew 10:5-7), comes as the King of Israel offering Himself to them as their Messiah. After Israel has rejected their King the emphasis falls on the universal character of the ministry of the Messiah (Matthew 28:16-20). This is the second aspect of Matthew’s presentation.
Then he quotes William Kelly, “Christ came with all the reality of the kingdom promised to David’s Son. But if He were refused as the Son of David, still, as the Son of Abraham, there was blessing not merely for the Jew, but for the Gentile. He is indeed the Messiah; but if Israel will not have Him, God will during their unbelief bring the nations to take of His mercy.”
Back to Mr. Toussaint, “Paul establishes this interpretation in his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 15:8,9). By this brief superscription Matthew discloses the theme of his book. Jesus is the One who shall consummate God’s program. In His first coming He was presented as the Son of David first and then as the Son of Abraham. The emphasis falls on His royalty and then on His universality. “First He is Sovereign, then Savior” This is the order Matthew follows in the development of his argument.”
Now I realize most of us are not into genealogies, most of us are not Jewish, and we do not need to be convinced that Jesus Christ is the long awaited Messiah and King.
But you know what encourages me about this – is that God is so willing to go to such an extent to convince those who are into these things – and who demand that Jesus match up to everything that has been prophesied about the Messiah – that He does indeed fit the bill in every way.
Our God in His amazing goodness has made it abundantly clear that the Messiah – the anointed One – is none other than this Jesus Christ of Nazareth, born of Mary – the wife of Joseph, of the lineage of David. And today He is just as willing to go to amazing lengths to make known His precious and glorious Son.
III. The third thing I would note about this genealogy is – It is a powerful illustration of the principle of generational transfer.
God’s will and way from day one was that moms and dads would not live for themselves or even only for their own generation; but that they would live and lead their children and grandchildren with great expectation and foresight – that they and their children and grandchildren would know and fear God and be mightily used by Him in the coming generations. You may get to the end of your life on this earth, and feel some of the things you wanted to accomplish for God never quite materialized; but if you lived with the future generations in mind, and took every opportunity to pray for them and impart to them the knowledge of God and His will and ways – – you will some day in heaven see that your life and ministry really carried on for many generations after your death. What you yourself were not able to accomplish, your kids and their kids and their kids far exceeded in accomplishment – at least partly because of the precedent you set and the prayers you prayed. Perhaps this would be a good time to review a couple of scriptures that help us see this principle in black and white.
Deut. 4:9 “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.”
Psalm 78:5-7 (turn to)
As I look at this genealogy I see men like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Boaz, David, Solomon, Jehosophat, Hezekiah, Josiah and Joseph – – men that God used mightily in their day; and yet who all probably got to the end of their lives and thought – man there is so much I never got to or finished; the people of God I led are not yet what and who they were called to be; – but the story didn’t end with them. One was to come through their lineage – that at a time of great darkness on the earth would pierce that darkness with a light that would never ever be extinguished, but would grow brighter and brighter until the whole earth is absolutely filled with His glory.
Dear friends, this genealogy is proof that if you live for eternity and for the future generations, your life is a gift that keeps on giving – even after your death.
IV. The fourth thing I would note about this genealogy that stands out like a sore thumb or a diamond in the rough – is the very unusual inclusion of four women.
William Barclay in his commentary on the gospel of Matthew regarding the inclusion of women in this genealogy explains: “It is not normal to find the names of women in Jewish pedigrees at all. The woman in Jewish culture had no legal rights; she was regarded, not as a person, but as a thing. She was merely the possession of her father or her husband, and in his disposal to do with as he liked. In the regular form of morning prayer the Jew thanked God that he had not made him a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. The very existence of these names in any pedigree at all is a most surprising and extraordinary phenomenon.”
It would be one thing if these were four upstanding and upright Jewish women such as Sarah, and Rebekah, and perhaps Esther. But two of these women – Rahab and Ruth are not even Jewish. Three of the four were scarred by sexual immorality. But all were women who in one way or another expressed their faith in God and were used by Him to further Abraham’s and David’s line until the Messiah was ready to be born.
Of course the question is, why mention this? Why would the Holy Spirit direct Matthew to include women in the genealogy of Jesus Christ – the Son of God, much less these particular women?
Allow me to suggest a few reasons: 1. From the very beginning of the revelation of Jesus Christ – the Holy Spirit wants us to know He came for everyone. Every barrier and wall that sinful man had created up to that point, Jesus Christ shattered. In His eyes, gentile, Jew… man, woman… black, Hispanic, white – we are all precious in His sight. Ruth and Rahab especially I believe were inserted so there would be no mistake that this King came to rule and reign over all; and that every tribe, people, and ethnic group was invited to enter in to His kingdom.
2. God wanted all of us to know, salvation and being used by God is all about His sovereign choosing, and has nothing to do with our human merit and achievements. What man or woman throughout history on the face of the earth could possibly be considered worthy to be in the lineage of the Righteous One? My guess if any of the Jews then or us today were to look at that list of men and find one who was worthy, we would probably pick David – the man after God’s own heart. I believe that is why the Holy Spirit – instead of having Matthew write, “David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba”, which would have fit with the pattern up to then – – instead had Matthew write, “David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.” Lest any of us forget Solomon was conceived on the heels of a cold hearted murder of his mother’s husband and an adulterous affair by his mother with King David.
Perhaps this would be a good time to remind us all as Romans 3:10 states, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks for God. All have turned aside..” I believe these particular women were included in our Savior’s genealogy because Jewish pride and our pride must be dealt with before we can encounter the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and enter into His kingdom. No one has any peculiar claim to Him. All of us are desperately dependent upon His mercy and grace.
By including these women, in no way is the Holy Spirit making light of their sin. But He is making a bold statement that as the apostle Paul said to the Corinthians, “…there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, “Let Him Who Boasts, Boast In The Lord.”
A third reason why the Holy Spirit might have led Matthew to include these women is: 3. Just in case someone is having problems accepting the reality that Mary was impregnated by God, unusual pregnancies are not uncommon in the lineage of Jesus Christ or in the story of God’s people. I mean, think about it, because Tamar’s husband (Judah’s son) died, Judah should have given his youngest son to her to be her husband (according to Jewish law), but he refused to do so. So Tamar had to trick him by disguising herself as a prostitute to be able to continue her line. Judah admitted when he found out who that so called prostitute really was and why she did what she did – that she was more righteous than he. Rahab, a Gentile prostitute, got in Jesus’s family line by being willing to hide some of Joshua’s soldiers who were spying on Jericho, and lie to the pursuing soldiers. She and her relatives were the only ones who were not destroyed when Joshua and his army conquered Jericho. Ruth was a Moabitess woman, who through a rather unusual series of events met a prominent Jewish man – Boaz – and won his heart, and eventually bore his baby Obed who became the father of King David’s father – Jesse. A thorough study of Biblical pregnancies will show that God has always been sovereign and can do whatever He wants whenever He wants with whomever He wants.
In light of that, Mary’s pregnancy while entirely supernatural, is not that far out of the realm of possibility.
V. The final thing I want to note about this genealogy is the abrupt breaking of form or pattern in vs. 16. Please note that all through this genealogy the pattern is either so and so was the father of so and so, or in the case of the four women who were included, so and so was the father of so and so by Tamar or by Rahab or by Ruth or by the wife of Uriah.
But when it gets to Joseph and Mary it says, “Mary, of whom Jesus was born”. Why the difference in grammatical form here? Well the “of whom” is a feminine relative pronoun (ek ns in the greek) clearly indicating in the greek that Jesus was the physical child of Mary, but that Joseph was not His physical father. This miraculous conception is explained later on in the chapter. And is crucial for us to see that this man Jesus would be no normal King, He was not of this world, nor would His Kingdom be of this earth.
He was born of a woman in space and time as a real human being, but as God He has always been, He is and He always will be. As Isaiah put it, “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this.”
CONCLUSION – Do you know Jesus Christ as King? Are you learning to operate in this amazing unseen kingdom that He rules? Has He chosen you to be an instrument to expand His kingdom on earth? And if so, are you cooperating with Him? Do you see people – especially the most unlikely to succeed in the eyes of man – the way He does? (Prayer time together)