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Saturday, 12 December 2015

The credentials of the King.


Matthew Chapter 1:1-17
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
English Standard Version Anglicised
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Background:
Traditionally believed that Matthew (Levi) the Apostle of Jesus was the author of the first gospel. From the text itself the gospel is anonymous, but ever since the end of the first century it has been attributed to Matthew.

Purpose of writing the gospel:
From early days it has been accepted that it was written for the Jews and by a Jew. It is a typically Jewish account of the life, death & resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew is writing to confirm to his people that the Old Testament scriptures anticipate a coming Messiah who finds complete fulfilment in Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew often makes comment concerning the events of Jesus' life and ministry as “ fulfilling what was said through the prophet.” (see ch.1:22-23; 2:17 etc.) Matthew's purpose of writing was to prove that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah who would rule as King over His people.

Theme:
The main theme is the kingdom of God or of heaven and that Jesus is the King. The book might equally be called “the King and His kingdom.” When we understand this then the gospel is more easily understood by us as we read and study it.

Why is there such a long list of names in the first chapter?
After all they are not really inspiring are they? It is this list of names that is a major clue that this book was written primarily for a Jewish readership. Genealogies were at that time and still are an important part of Jewish culture and history. We have a surname that is our identifying mark which is traceable back in history. Some of the most interesting programmes on our televisions are those which trace the family tree of an individual. Some have discovered that they have royalty in their blood line and others come from less savoury stock. For the Jew their family line was vitally important in order to prove their family credentials and their place in society, it was important which tribe etc that they belonged to. In Jesus’ day they would be able to recite their complete family line just as Matthew does here concerning Jesus. The question that this provokes is “what is Matthew's purpose in recording the genealogy of Jesus?”

Surprising characters!
Matthew goes back as far as Abraham 32 generations earlier. Do you remember the television programme Roots where an old man who could remember a genealogy was able to prove the birth line of the main character of the story. Matthew is using this long list of names in order to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was qualified to be King. He came from the tribe of Judah and was a direct descendant of David.
Within the list are the names of 4 women and one other who is un-named but is referred to by her husband's name. It is somewhat unusual for women to be included in those days. This is even more shocking considering four of the women that are included. There is Tamar, Ruth, Rahab, Bathsheba and Mary. Tamar acted as a prostitute in order that her father-in-law Judah sleep with her and get her pregnant. The reason for this was the wickedness of Judah's two sons whom the Lord put to death leaving Tamar childless and the family line in jeopardy. Tamar ultimately gave birth to Perez You can read the whole sordid account in Genesis 38. It was by this act that the family line to Jesus was continued.
Rahab was a prostitute (harlot) and a Gentile who lived in Jericho. She protected (by lying) the 12 spies sent by Moses into Canaan to spy out the land before the Israelites plan to enter. You can read her story in Joshua 2.
Rahab was the mother of Boaz who went on to marry a Moabitess whose name was Ruth. Not only were the Moabites a Gentile nation they were actually barred by God from temple worship due to their previous deception of God’s people. Who would have thought that a woman from a nation that were enemies of God would be in the very bloodline of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus clearly had very human ancestry!
Then of course there is the infamous Bathsheba, she was the woman who had a fling with the king. David had been casting a lusty eye at this bathing beauty over his balcony. He sent for her, slept with her and got her pregnant. In order to cover up his affair he ended up ordering the “accidental” death of Bathsheba's husband Uriah! The child born very sadly died but Bathsheba went on to marry David and give birth to Solomon who succeeded David to the throne of Israel. This is the line of Joseph as recorded by Matthew.
These 4 ladies had dubious backgrounds but yet they are all a vital part of the genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ. The final lady of course is Mary, she was virtuous and the mother of Jesus. Notice verse 16 she was the mother of Jesus and NOT the mother of God as some would make out! Even though she was virtuous in every way she would have been an outcast of society in that she became pregnant out of wedlock. This is not exactly the story line that we would dream up is writing a novel!
If we think this part of the list throws up some difficult characters then when we look at some of the men we will be equally amazed. Let us take just a cursory look at:
  • Jacob the twister.
  • Judah who willingly slept with a woman he believed to be a prostitute.
  • David the adulterous and murdering king.
  • Solomon the wise king who broke God’s law by worshipping foreign gods and amassing 700 wives.
  • Rehoboam who was responsible for the civil war that split the nation of Israel.
There are many more problems within the list that we do not have time to consider now but we can say that it is not really a very inspiring list. This is even more pertinent when we consider that Matthew’s purpose to prove that Jesus of Nazareth had the credentials to be the Messiah King. {Messiah simply means the Anointed One of God. It is a Hebrew word that in Greek is translated as Christ.} We might expect the credentials of the king to be impeccable especially for the One who is the King of heaven! After all who would ever go to Cruft’s dog show only to find the prize exhibit is Rover who was born by chance in a street liaison between Spot and Brutus who were also known as a “Heinz 57” variety dogs? It seems to me that this is the sort of thing that Matthew is presenting to his readers. It is certainly not a list that flatters Jesus!

Therefore what is the purpose of such a list?

The first clue is found in the first part of verse 1: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.”
Matthew is so convinced of the credentials of Jesus that he immediately nails his colours to the mast by claiming him to be the Christ. From the very beginning of his writing he is setting about to prove this point. Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One the long awaited Messiah. He goes on from this statement to prove this by beginning with Jesus’ pedigree.

Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham
David was the king to whom God promised an everlasting kingdom to come from his descendants. The Jews expected that the kingdom spoken of would be the nation of Israel and that a Saviour sent by God especially for them would rise up be a conqueror who would rid the land of all occupiers. They did not understand that what God had promised was greater than the earthly kingdom of Israel but that it would be a heavenly kingdom which Messiah would build. Abraham was the father of the earthly nation, David was the king of the earthly kingdom, both of which were mere signposts to the eternal kingdom of God which is the church that the Lord Jesus Christ continues to build as promised by the prophets.

Matthew with his Jewish mindset begins by proving that Jesus has the right credentials to be the King.
For Jesus to be King he had to be a descendant of David, therefore chapter1:6-16 records Jesus’ family tree “warts and all.” One difficulty that the discerning reader will spot is that there is a difference between Matthew’s account of Jesus’ genealogy and that which is recorded by Luke (Luke 3:23-38). It is believed that Luke traces Jesus’ family line through Mary whereas Matthew follows Joseph’s line. Both trace Jesus' ancestry to David. This means that through both sets of earthly parents Jesus had the correct credentials. Matthew’s purpose however is to prove through the paternal line (which was important to the Jew of his day) that Jesus had a right claim to be called the Son of David. As we know Joseph was not Jesus’ actual father but he was his adoptive father which in Jewish law gave Jesus the legal right to be called the son of Joseph which means that He was perfectly entitled to the family inheritance. In conclusion there can be no dispute from either genealogy that Jesus is directly descended from David. Jesus had the credentials required for Kingly authority.
A blessing to the world.
But there is also another aspect in this verse: Matthew states that Jesus is the son of Abraham. Abraham had been promised by God that not only would a great nation come from him but also that one of his descendants would be a blessing to the whole world. This was a great promise from God that a Messiah would come who would bless beyond the borders of Israel! This is why Matthew goes back to Abraham. The One who is Messiah must be a direct descendant of Abraham in order to fulfil God’s promises to His people. So in the genealogy we see the foundation for the rest of the book, Matthew is boldly pronouncing Jesus as Christ!
The Jewish reader would immediately understand this, whereas  our Gentile thinking needs it to be explained.
Matthew’s readers would react immediately to these words, some would go no further and others would be fascinated by the argument. What seems to be like a dry list of names to us would have been vitally important facts to the Jew. Many people stumble when they come to the “begats” of the bible and go no further. In this Christmas period it is important that we can at least explain the reason why these lists are there and even through them we may be able to declare that Jesus is Lord!

And finally!
One final thought: Matthew also speaks of God’s ordered plan. In verse 17 he recounts 14 generations from Abraham to David; 14 generations from David to the exile and 14 generations from the exile to Jesus. God has a plan things do not come by some divine accident. Our God is ordered in His dealing with this world. In His set time Jesus came as Messiah. Just as Matthew witnessed in his time planned by God then so do we.
We are not here by accident but by God’s appointment to be effective witnesses to our people in our day!

God has a purpose for all of His people, we come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Our backgrounds are as diverse as are the clothes that we wear. All of those mentioned were vital to the Lord's plan and so are we. They certainly did not get everything right and neither do we but God still by His grace used weak and sinful humanity for the ultimate blessing of the world.

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