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December 22

Matthew 1:1-17

1 The historical record of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: 2 Abraham fathered Isaac, Isaac fathered Jacob, Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers, 3 Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Aram, 4 Aram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 5 Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab, Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth, Obed fathered Jesse, 6 and Jesse fathered King David. 7 Solomon fathered Rehoboam, Rehoboam fathered Abijah, Abijah fathered Asa, 8 Asa fathered Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat fathered Joram, Joram fathered Uzziah, 9 Uzziah fathered Jotham, Jotham fathered Ahaz, Ahaz fathered Hezekiah, 10 Hezekiah fathered Manasseh, Manasseh fathered Amon, Amon fathered Josiah, 11 and Josiah fathered Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. 12 Then after the exile to Babylon Jechoniah fathered Shealtiel, Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel, 13 Zerubbabel fathered Abiud, Abiud fathered Eliakim, Eliakim fathered Azor, 14 Azor fathered Zadok, Zadok fathered Achim, Achim fathered Eliud, 15 Eliud fathered Eleazar, Eleazar fathered Matthan, Matthan fathered Jacob, 16 and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were 14 generations; and from David until the exile to Babylon, 14 generations; and from the exile to Babylon until the Messiah, 14 generations.

What We Learn from Jesus’ Genealogy

by Karla Worley

Today’s passage is…oh no. A long list of names we can’t pronounce. Remember way back last January, when you made that New Year’s resolution to read the Bible all the way through this year? This kind of passage is what did you in. How can a long list of names offer any kind of useful devotional thought to get us through our day? Because we think like that, we skim through genealogies.

But Matthew is thinking like a first century Jew, the audience he is writing to persuade. So he begins with information essential to his Jewish audience: the family credentials of the Messiah as the son of David, the son of Abraham. Matthew knew the Messiah had to come from this family line, because God had promised this to David (Psalm 89:3, 2 Samuel 7:8-16, 1 Chronicles 17:7-14).

While you and I can see a genealogy as merely a list of unpronounceable names, the Jews read them as a record of God keeping His promise. God had made not only a promise to David, but also a prior promise to Abraham: “I will make of you a mighty nation…and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3) The Messiah was the long-awaited fulfillment of both promises. Matthew begins his Gospel with a celebration of God’s faithfulness, culminating in Jesus.

This record shows us that God works to accomplish His purpose and to keep His promise in His own way. Abraham was also the father of Ishmael—technically his first-born son, but not the son promised nor delivered miraculously by God. Jacob was also not a first-born son, nor was Judah. So the genealogy is not a record of human history, but of God’s hand in history.

Jesus’ genealogy shows us that God works to accomplish His purpose and keep His promise through surprising circumstances. This genealogy contains some unexpected names: women! Why include women, and why these women? Tamar had to trick her father-in-law into sleeping with her to continue the family line. Ruth was an outsider, a Moabitess. As Matthew is quick to point out, Bathsheba was Uriah’s wife whom David took in an adulterous act. Mary’s pre-marriage pregnancy was scandalous. If you wanted to shine up the Messiah’s credentials, these are the family stories you’d sweep under the rug. But this not a record of man’s faithfulness; it’s a record of God’s faithfulness. Here’s Matthew saying, “Remember when that happened? God was doing this.”

Jesus’ genealogy tells us that God works to accomplish His purpose and keep His promise through ordinary lives. We know nothing about many of the people listed here—only that they had a son, who had a son. But each had a crucial part in God’s long-term plan. Lifetime after lifetime, as the centuries went by and Abraham’s descendants went about their lives—even in the dark days of Babylon, even when the prophets ceased to speak—God was keeping His promise.

Praxis

  1. What are the surprising circumstances in your life during which God was working, even though it might not have looked like something God could use?
  2. How have you seen God work in His own way, in spite of the plan you had, or the way you thought things should work out?
  3. Who do you know who needs to hear the genealogy of Jesus? Who thinks their life is just ordinary, not special? Who thinks their circumstances are hopeless? Who is worried about making their plan happen, or why their plan isn’t happening? Make this your Christmas gift to them this Advent season: Read them the story of how God kept His promise in Jesus.