"The Lineage of Our King"
(Delivered Sunday, February 22, 2004 at Bethany Bible Church. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotes are taken from the New King James Version.)
We begin a brand new study this morning; and I'm trusting that it'll be a very profitable one. We'll be learning together from the first book of the New Testament: the Gospel of Matthew.
I have a love for all four of the Gospels. But I'll always have a special love for the Gospel according to Matthew. I first placed my trust in Jesus Christ many years ago, at the age of 16; and I immediately began to read the Bible afterwards. I had tried to read the Bible before, but couldn't make much sense of it; and I now believe that my inability to understand was because I hadn't yet entered into a relationship with its Divine Author. But almost as soon as I believed, I picked up my little Gideon's New Testament and began to read as best I could - and I began at the Gospel of Matthew. And as I read it, I found that my eyes were being opened to God's love for me in Christ. The more of Matthew's Gospel that I read, the deeper in love I grew with the Jesus whose story it told.
I didn't know much about the Bible back then. And so, I was thrilled when, after reading Matthew, I found that the next book of the Bible was another story about Jesus' life: the Gospel of Mark. And after reading Mark's Gospel, I began to read the one by Luke, and found yet another telling of the life of Jesus. And then after Luke's Gospel I began to read the Gospel of John and found still another telling of Jesus' life. And when I finally started to read the Book of Acts, I remember how disappointed I was. It wasn't another story of Jesus' life!
Well, now of course - after all these years - I love the Book of Acts as much as I love all the books of the Scriptures. But I believe I'll always have a special place in my heart for Matthew's Gospel. It was the first book of the Bible I ever read as a brand new Christian. I hope you will grow to love it too - and more importantly, to deeply love the Jesus whose story it tells. We can never hear too much about our wonderful Savior and His love for us.
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Let's begin with a word about Matthew himself, the human author of this book. Matthew is the English transliteration of the writers' Greek name Matthaion. And that is a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic name "Mattathy„h", which means "The gift of YHWY". But his formal name was Levi (Luke 5:27-32) - a name which means "Attached".
I suspect that, when he wrote his Gospel, Matthew preferred to use his more familiar name (the name that emphasized God's grace) rather than his surname name, because he felt unworthy to use the name that emphasized faithfulness. You see, when Jesus first met him and called him, Matthew was in a terrible state of sin and unfaithfulness to his own people.
Matthew was a tax collector; and this was a particularly sinful thing to be, because he collected taxes from his own people on behalf of the Roman government. Few sins were considered more notorious in Jesus' day than that of being a tax collector for the Romans; because it made one a traitor to God's own covenant people.
But Matthew tells us his own story. Jesus was leaving Nazareth; and . . .
Matthew was a repentant traitor who was transformed by God's grace. He had at one time worked against God's kingdom, but now had become a worshipper and follower of God's King. I'm sure that's why he preferred to call himself 'Matthew' - "The gift of YHWY".
And I'm also suspect that that's why Matthew's Gospel has the unique emphasis that it does. His Gospel stands out as the one that presents Jesus to us as "King". In it, Matthew sets out to prove to his own people - and to us - that Jesus is the long-awaited King of the Jews. In telling us His story, Matthew invites us to bow to Jesus and own Him as our King.
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With all this in mind, let's now begin our study at the very beginning. Matthew begins his Gospel by laying before us the proof that Jesus is, indeed, the long-awaited King of the Jews. He does this by giving us Jesus' genealogy.
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
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Someone might be tempted to pass this genealogy by, thinking of it as unimportant. But that would be a terrible mistake. For one thing, there are no portions of the Bible that are unimportant! Every word of God's book is significant, and has been preserved by the Holy Spirit for us for a good reason. This is even true of the genealogies we find in the Bible.
The genealogies are important, if for no other reason than because they prove to us that God works providentially through something over which no one but Him has control - that is, the people from whom other people are born. God shows, in the genealogies contained in the Bible, that whoever He promises will be born IS in time truly born through whomever He says they will be born! These portions of Scripture prove that God is a greatest Promise Keeper of all - one who faithfully and fully keeps all His promises, even if His promise extends through multiple generations. But this genealogy is particularly important, because it is the genealogy of King Jesus. In it, God shows that the greatest Promise Keeper of all faithfully kept His greatest promise of all - and kept it to all those before whom He made it.
And what's more, this genealogy shows that God kept this promise objectively - that is, in real history! The Savior that we trust is not a mythical character, but Someone who actually came into human history in real time, with a real genealogy - born from real people. As Matthew points out at the end of the genealogy, Jesus' story is vitally connected to the main touch-points of the history of His people. A few names are omitted from the record; but Matthew says, "So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations (v. 17). In other words, Jesus' birth is inseparable from time-place history! Our faith is based on an actual, historic event!
This genealogy should also not be ignored because it is a very crucial part of the whole Gospel of Matthew. This list of names is making the key assertion of the whole Gospel of Matthew; and all the rest of Matthew's Gospel account, from 1:18 all the way to 2:20, is simply an expansion of the point that it is making - that Jesus is truly the King of the Jews.
In fact, we could go so far as to say that this genealogy is crucial to the whole message of the gospel itself. The assertion that Matthew is making in it is that Jesus is historically and ancestrally qualified - in every respect - to be whom the gospel presents Him to be. If the assertion of this genealogy were not true, then Jesus could not be the promised King of the Jews. And if He is not the promised King of the Jews, then God's promise has failed, and we have no Savior!
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Let's look closer at this genealogy and I'll show you why it's such an important part of God's Good News to us. First, we see that it tells us that the lineage of our King is . . .
1. IN KEEPING WITH PROPHETIC HISTORY.
Take a look at how Matthew introduces this genealogy; "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham."
Abraham was the great patriarch of the Old Testament from whom the whole Jewish family came. He was originally called "Abram"; and he was a childless man, who lived in a heathen land - in far off Ur of the Chaldeans. But at a point in time, God called him to come by faith to the land of Canaan. The Bible tells us,
Now the LORD had said to Abram:
God was making several remarkable promises to poor old, childless Abram. He was promising that he would inherit the land that God was showing him. And He was also promising that, even though he was then childless, it would be from him that a great nation of people would come; a people that would occupy that land. And He promised that from that great nation of people - Israel - would come the blessing of all the earth.
I believe that this promise of blessing reflected another promise - the promise God first made back in the Garden of Eden, after our first parents fell. God said to the serpent; ". . . I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heal" (Gen. 3:15). All mankind had suffered in Adam's fall because of the work of the devil; but God promised that the Seed of the woman would arise to crush the head of the serpent and reverse the terrible curse sin had brought on mankind. And now, God was promising to Abram that it would be through him that this great blessing would be brought about.
And it's with Abraham that Matthew begins his genealogy of Jesus; because Jesus is the promised Savior who would come from the Jews. Jesus is, then, "the Son of Abraham" - the fulfillment of God's promise to bless the world through Abraham.
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And Jesus is also the Son of David. As Matthew's genealogy progresses, we find that it passes on from Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Judah and his brothers (the twelve tribes), and on down from Judah to Jesse, who begot - as you see it in Matthew's own words - "David the king".
David was the greatest king in the history of Israel. God had removed the first king of Israel from power - Saul - and had replaced him with David, 'a man after His own heart'. And God made this promise to King David;
"When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will 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. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever" (2 Samuel 7:12-16).
God repeated this promise in Psalm 89:34-37;
My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David; His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me; it shall be established forever like the moon, even like the faithful witness in the sky (Psalm 89:34-37; see also v. 29).
Israel longed after the fulfillment of this promise for centuries; longing for the coming of the promised King in the lineage of David. And Matthew makes clear to us that Jesus is not only the Son of Abraham, but is also the Son of David - "the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David" (Revelation 5:5). This genealogy shows us that our King's coming to this earth was in keeping with prophetic history! His coming was a prophetic promise fulfilled!
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Not only that, but His coming was also . . .
2. IN UNION WITH FALLEN HUMANITY.
As you examine this genealogy, you'll find many names that are familiar to you. You'll also find a lot of names that are unfamiliar. But in it all, you can't escape the fact that the people in Jesus' historic lineage were a part of fallen humanity. There are many names that are all-too familiar to us, because of the Bible's story of their sin.
Run down the list. You'll find a reminder of the shameful story of Judah, the son of Jacob who begot Perez and Zerah through incest with his daughter-in-law Tamar (v. 3). You'll find Rahab who was a harlot (v. 5). You'll find that David begot his son Solomon through his adulterous affair with "her who had been the wife of Uriah" (v. 6). You'll find Solomon, whose heart was drawn away from God into idolatry by his many foreign wives (v. 7). You'll find Rehoboam, whose pride and arrogance caused the nation of Israel to be split in two (v. 7). You'll find Uzziah, who died in shame as a leper because he dared to enter the temple of God and offer an unlawful offering (v. 9). You read of Ahaz who fell into gross idolatry (v. 9). You read of the murderous Manasseh, who so filled the land of Israel with bloodshed that God cast him out of the land (v. 10). You read of Jeconiah, whose rebelliousness led to the people of Israel being carried off in captivity to Babylon (v 11).
If you wished to create an impressive genealogy for the Savior, would you construct it of such people as these? But we shouldn't miss the obvious point of it all - that our Savior came into this world as one who was radically identified with fallen humanity. He was not far removed from our falleness, as He surely could have been; but instead came to this earth in great condescending love - as one who was touched with our sins.
The Bible teaches us that, because of the sin of our first parents, we are all born into the human family in a condition of sin. And because of our sinfulness, we can never earn God's favor by obedience to God's commandments. But as the apostle Paul tells us, "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son . . ." And do you know how God sent His Son? ". . . In the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin . . ." (Rom. 8:3). Praise God that we have a Savior/King who was born into this world in union with fallen humanity - so that He could die on the cross for us as one of us.
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But this leads us to another thing that this genealogy teaches us about our King; and that is that He came into this world . . .
3. IN A CONDITION OF SINLESS PURITY.
Matthew's genealogy progresses on down from the captivity in Babylon, from Jeconiah, to Shealtiel, to Abiud; and then on to many names about which the Bible is silent. But when we come to verse 16, we find that a man named Jacob, who was in the lineage of King David, begot Joseph. And note how carefully Matthew speaks of Joseph. He describes Jesus' relationship to Joseph in a way completely different from Joseph's to his father - and indeed to all the others. Others were said to have been "begotten" of their fathers. But Matthew calls Joseph, "the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ." Jesus was born, not of the seed of Joseph, but as one conceived in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit. Joseph was Jesus' father by adoption; and as such, Jesus received the inheritance of David's royalty through Joseph. But Jesus did not inherit the sin of Joseph in the process.
Matthew speaks of this in verses 18-25 in greater detail; and we'll look at what it says of Joseph when we come to that passage. But for now, consider the story as Luke tells us in his Gospel. There, we're told that the angel announced to Mary that she would have a son. And when she responded by asking, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"; the angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). "That Holy One . . ."! In other words, this genealogy teaches us that Jesus was born into the world in sinless purity - having no sin of His own, and therefore able to bear our sins on our behalf. We have in Jesus a "High Priest" who was "in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). He was born into fallen humanity, and was definitely a member of it; and yet as a member of it, He was completely distinct from its falleness. What a Savior!
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There's one more aspect of this genealogy I'd like to share with you - an aspect that is easy to miss, but truly marvelous and miraculous. I believe we couldn't possibly begin to appreciate the depth of God's wisdom revealed in this genealogy without knowing about it, because it teaches us that our King came into this world . . .
4. IN FULL INHERITANCE OF ROYAL AUTHORITY.
You see, God solves a marvelous problem in this genealogy. The fact is that, if Jesus had been born as the literal the son of Joseph, He would have been under a curse that would have prevented Him from being the King of the Jews. How to cause Jesus to be born in the lineage of David through Joseph, but to do so without Jesus being under the curse that would prevent Him from ruling as the King, is the great problem God solves in this genealogy.
Do you see the name of one of Joseph's royal ancestor in verse 12, Jeconiah? He was the king under whom Israel was taken captive into Babylon for seventy years. God had placed this king - along with all his descendants - under a curse in Jeremiah 22:24-30. He is there referred to as "Coniah"; and God speaks through Jeremiah in that passage and says,
"As I live," says the LORD, "though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, where the signet on My right hand, yet I would pluck you off; and I will give you into the hand of those who seek your life, and into the hand of those whose face you fear - the hand of Nebuchadnezar king of Babylon and the hand of the Chaldeans. So I will cast you out, and your mother who bore you, into another country where you were not born; and there you shall die. But to the land to which they desire to return, there they shall not return.
God had made the promise to King David that his "throne" would be "established" unto his offspring "forever"; and unless Jesus had been of the lineage of David, He could not - in any way - have become King of the Jews. But because of the curse on Jeconiah, if Jesus had been a full physical descendant of the royal lineage, He would have been born of a lineage that was prevented - because of a curse from God - from ever sitting on the throne again!
How God solved this great problem is a marvel! If you look at Matthew's genealogy, you see that Joseph was born from David in the lineage of David's son Solomon (v. 7). But there is another genealogy of Jesus found in Luke - a genealogy that is traced down to Joseph from the lineage of Joseph's father-in-law Heli (Luke 3:23). Matthew, in other words, is giving us the genealogy of our Savior through Joseph, and Luke is giving us the genealogy of Jesus through Mary. And Mary was born from David in the lineage of another of David's sons - Solomon's older brother Nathan (Luke 3:31). Both were sons of David; but Solomon's linage was under a curse, and Nathan's was not.
Solomon's descendants were the sons of David that held the rights of royalty; and that's because only Solomon, of all the sons of David, was made the king. But because of Jechoniah, Solomon's physical offspring were under a curse that prevented any of them from ever sitting on the throne. Nathan's descendants were the sons of David that were not under a curse. But since Nathan had not become king, none of his physical offspring possessed the rights of royalty. And so, God, in wisdom beyond words, ordained that Jesus our Savior would be born as a full Son of David - physically born of the lineage of David that was not under the curse by being conceived in the womb of His mother apart from the agency of a man; but also then inheriting the full rights of royalty through the royal lineage of David, without inheriting the curse, by being adopted by Joseph!
Jesus was born into the human family in the full inheritance of royal authority! And only Jesus could have been! But only the virgin conception of Jesus could make His rights to inherited royal authority possible; and only God could have solved this problem in such an astonishing way!
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I certainly hope, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that you'll never look at the genealogy of Jesus the same way again! And again, please note that the point of it all is to prove to us that Jesus truly is who He is presented to be - the King of kings and Lord of lords.
We are under the authority of a mighty King to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given (Matthew 28:18); and yet, He is a loving and merciful King who first condescended to enter into our fallen condition with us and die for us in order to save us. Let's give Him our love, our worship, and our allegiance!
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