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Make Genealogies Great Again: Matthew Chapter 1

Imagine you’re going to write about the most important person ever to live. Where do

you start? One of his amazing miracles? The time he literally came back to life? What about

his world changing teachings? Matthew decided not to start with any of those things. Instead, he chose, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, to begin with a genealogy. Why would he do that, and what can we learn from the genealogy?


Man studying Bible

Are you tempted to skip over genealogies in the Bible? If we’re honest, we typically see

them as boring lists. No one ever claimed Numbers to be his favorite book of the Bible. We

typically see them as nothing more than dry lists. Is that what we have in Matthew’s Gospel?

When you read Matthew’s genealogy (Matthew 1:1-17), something should jump out at you

which will set his apart--women.


Matthew shows the lineage of Jesus from Abraham to his earthly father Joseph. In this,

he is showing how Jesus is, of course, a Jew but also of the line of the kings. This prerequisite enables Jesus to be a candidate for the promised Messiah. While this is Matthew’s clear objective, he goes about it in such a puzzling way. If you want to convince your readers (originally Jews) that Jesus is the Messiah, why would you highlight the sketchy parts of his background? Instead of avoiding these things, Matthew goes out of his way to highlight them!


Let’s take a look at these women in attempt to understand what Matthew is doing. In

verse 3, Tamar is mentioned. Matthew could have just said “Judah the father of Perez, and

Perez the father of Hezron.” Instead, he wrote, “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose

mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron.” The story of Judah and Tamar (Gen. 38) is not what a parent to read to their kids at bedtime. Check out Genesis 38 for the full story, but to keep it short, Tamar pretended to be a prostitute with Judah, her former father-in-law. Later, her out-of-wedlock pregnancy is revealed to Judah who says that she should die for her sin. He is revealed to be a hypocrite, but when confronted, he immediately says “she is more righteous than I.” He repented of his sin and was never the same. So, our Savior, though of the line of Father Abraham, was also from an unmarried coupling. This, in itself, proves that God can create good out of bad. Children born out of wedlock are still loved…still wanted…still people of value. The circumstances of one’s birth does not diminish the image of God on him.


If you were making up a story about a figure that you want to say is the great Messiah,

why highlight his ancestry of illegitimate birth? Why not gloss over that and focus on the

heroes? God is speaking to you and me in this. He uses the broken. The ones who have messed up. The ones who have sinned, but as in the case of Judah, have repented. Repentance is the necessary ingredient, not perfection. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. The question is what do we do about it? Do we confess it? Do we repent of it?

Matthew doesn’t name every person from Abraham to Jesus. He selects certain people

(groups of 14) which communicates purpose in the ones he does name. The next person of

interest is Rahab (Joshua 2). She was the “prostitute” in Jericho who hid the Jewish spies

against her own people. Again, he didn’t need to mention Rahab. She was both a pagan and a prostitute.


Next to be mentioned is Ruth. While Ruth was of noble character, her heritage was not.

Ruth was a Moabite. In Genesis 19, Lot’s daughters have no men around them to marry, so

they scheme to get their father drunk to sleep with him in order to have children. The

2 Moabites are the descendants of that union. If God didn’t use “unclean” people, he couldn’t use anyone.


If God didn’t use “unclean” people, he couldn’t use anyone.

In verse 6, Matthew says, “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been

Uriah’s wife.” While Bathsheba isn’t mentioned, Matthew is pointing out the sins of murder

and adultery! Again, this could have been glossed over, but instead, Matthew highlights it. He is making a point without coming out and explicitly saying it. While we in the west tend to be direct, Matthew is writing in a different culture, hence the subtlety.


Our God is Sovereign. I’m reminded of the passage in Romans (8:28) that reads, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” He can take the mess we’ve made of our lives and turn it for good. Redemption is his passion. The ones who confess their faults are the ones he can use. Judah and David were both confronted with their sins and immediately repented. I can relate to those two. Maybe you can relate more to Ruth. Maybe your background isn’t something you can be proud of. To this day, Ruth is known for her character, not her poor lineage. You, too, can choose to leave your past life behind like Ruth and Rahab. Turn to God who would love to make a new creation out of you.


All this tucked away in a genealogy? If it is written in God’s word, its purpose is just waiting to be discovered. Amen.


 

Chad McCracken

Connect with Chad's personal blog "Biblical Thinker"

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