What’s In A Genealogy?: 3 Lessons From Matthew 1
The genealogies of the Bible are often overlooked, and certainly the opening of Matthew 1 is no exception. We may only imagine how many people have leapt right over Matthew’s opening 17 verses to get to the passages recounting the birth of Jesus. Yet Matthew, writing this God-breathed Scripture, did not idly open with this long list of what are known in King James Version parlance as “the begats”. Matthew was demonstrating the ancestry of Christ initially to a primarily Jewish audience, and so showing His lineage would be immensely important for anyone who was to be the awaited Messiah. The With that in mind, here are three short takeaways from Matthew 1:1-17:
1) Jesus is the Seed of Abraham
We note in verse 1 that Jesus is mentioned as being in the line of Abraham. Why is this important? For one, it helps demonstrate that God kept his promise to Abraham, than through his offspring all nations of the world will be blessed (Genesis 12). As Galatians 3:16 reminds us, Genesis 12 speaks of Abraham’s Seed, singular. There is a seed, or a people, that receives this blessing, and a Seed, an individual, who promises this blessing. Jesus would be that individual, the blessing and savior of countless nations. God not only promised a great people as a seed through Abraham, but a spiritual people of many nations, saved through Jesus Christ.
2) Jesus is in the Line of David
Matthew also notes in verse 1 that Jesus is a son, or descendant, of King David. This references to one of the greatest Messianic promises, given by the Lord to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-13: “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
It would be hard to see in the millennium between this covenant being given to David and being fulfilled in Jesus that this would ever happen. That thousand years saw dissolute and idolatrous kings, a divided kingdom, foreign invaders, and a loss of Israel’s homeland to occupation. Yet born in the very city of David, would come Jesus Christ, who reigns as Almighty King, now and forever. Matthew reminds us that God’s promises will be fulfilled, and that he works His plans of His own perfect time and choosing, against all human expectations.
3) God Uses The Unlikely and Broken
There are five women mentioned in this genealogy, something rather unusual for this type of list. What makes it even more unusual are the stories each of these women have. Tamar was a woman who tricked Judah, her father-in-law, into getting her pregnant. Rahab, who hid Israel’s spies in Jericho, was known as “Rahab the Prostitute” through Scripture. Ruth, the wife of Boaz, wasn’t even of Israel—she was originally an outsider Moabite. The “wife of Uriah” is Bathsheba, who slept with King David (who had her husband killed) in adultery. And then you have Mary, who had a child in circumstances which seemed to be a violation of her engagement with Joseph.
Five women, each with something that society (and especially the religious leaders of Christ’s own time) would have seen as grievous, if not unforgivable. Yet God used these women to further the promised line of David through which the Messiah would come. The ancestors of Christ represent a mix of moral failings and those outside of society proper, along with great kings and patriarchs. We remember that God uses evil, along with good, for the great welfare of those who love Him and to His supreme glory. A path might seem disastrous to human eyes, but there is no suffering or failure that cannot be used by our Sovereign Lord in a way we may scarcely imagine.
We once again are reminded that there are no superfluous or excess entries in God’s Word. When we take the time to read through even the more obscure passages of Scripture, and look at the whole Bible as the incredible, interconnecting account of redemption it is, we begin to see that there is a treasury in every part of the Word. The entries of Matthew’s abbreviated genealogy remind us that the earnest hope, so very long-awaited, appeared in Christ, according to the covenant of God in the Old Testament. To those who have turned and put their faith in Him, we know we serve a God who keeps promises perfectly, even over the long and unlikely generations.