Friday, April 20, 2007

Matthew 1:2-17-"The King's Credentials"

As we observed last time, Matthew was inspired by God to write this gospel as proof to the Hebrew people that Jesus Christ was their long awaited Messiah. As we read this section of Scripture, we notice that the method he was moved by the Holy Spirit to use was a genealogy to prove Jesus had a legal claim to the throne of David. Matthew presents a different genealogy than Luke does in his Gospel. First of all, he begins his listing with Abraham and moves forward in time whereas Luke presents the listing from Jesus and works his way back to the first man, Adam. Secondly, from David onward both genealogies have different people. Bible students have discussed the reason for the discrepancy for years and honestly there doesn't appear to be a "right" answer. Some have suggested that one of the two men made a mistake or copied information that was itself incorrect. Because we know that God's Word is perfect and contains no errors, we can pretty well reject that theory as false. Another theory is that Heli (from Luke's listing) was Mary's father and had adopted Joseph after Joseph and Mary were married because Heli had no legal heir so as to pass his possessions through to Joseph. The most popular theory, however, is that Luke presents Mary's genealogy while Matthew presents Joseph's so that Luke traces Jesus' biological claim to the throne while Matthew traces Jesus' legal claim to the throne of David. In any case, Matthew makes it clear in his Gospel that Jesus is the promised Son of David and is the Messiah promised to the Jewish people. He writes that the people in this listing begat (geunao) their offspring. This word does not mean, however, that the person who was begat was necessarily the child of the person named. In several instances, Matthew skips several generations from the one who begat to the one who was begat. In all likelihood, he did this to provide his readers a memory aid. In verse 17, he lists that his genealogy records three groups of 14 generations covering 3 periods in the history of Israel: the call of the nation (Abraham), the beginning of the Kingdom (David), and the exile to Babylon (Jeconiah). Since written Scripture was rare when Matthew wrote his Gospel, he could have used this common sort of memory aid used by the Jews to help his readers remember this important truth-Jesus is the long awaited Messiah, the King of Israel.

The interpretation of this passage of Scripture, then, is that Matthew wrote to provide proof of who Jesus was. There are other observations that we can make that have valuable application to our lives as well as being a great encouragement to us. First, and most obviously, we can see God at work in history. The genealogy covers about 2,500 years, give or take, of history. Of all the people who lived and died, all the wars, all the good times and bad times that transpired during that time, God was at work to put these people where He wanted them to be to accomplish His will. It is an encouragement for us to remember that, in the end, it's not about us. God was in control before we got here. God will be in control while we are here and after we pass away, God is still in control. We also notice that God is sovereign. In other words, God does what God wants to do and He doesn't have to explain Himself to anyone. We see God choose Abraham. When we read the Genesis account of Abraham's call, we find something interesting about the reason God chose Abraham. It isn't given. We have no clue why God did it. It wasn't because Abraham was more righteous, or smarter, or more religious. Also, out of the 12 children of Jacob, God chose one-Judah. Of Judah's two children, he chose Perez. His sovereignty in all things should cause us to praise Him. Who else has the power to do that? Everyone ultimately answers to someone. Of all the rulers and powerful people in this world, no one has the might, power, and authority that God has. We further notice that God is at work regardless of personal or national circumstances. For instance, there are listed here kings who did right in God's eyes (Hezekiah, Jehosaphat) and those who did not (Joram, Manasseh). Regardless of the good or evil character of these leaders, God was at work and used them. Tamar committed adultery with her father-in-law who, because she disguised herself, though she was a prostitute. David and Bathsheba (she who had been the wife of Uriah) committed adultery. Rahab, before she hid the spies from the nation of Israel who had come in to spy out Cannan in the book of Joshua, was a prostitute. Even through their sin, God was able to use them in his plan to bring the Messiah into the world. We also see people who were not even Jewish included in this birth record. Ruth was from Moab and Rahab lived in Jericho in the land of Cannan when the children of Israel came to invade the land. No matter who we are, what we've done, or what's going on around us, God is at work. If we come to Him in faith, turn from doing things our way to doing things His way, and trust God to forgive us of our sins based on the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus, He will save us and give us the opportunity to serve Him and join with Him in His work. What a privilege.

We also see one exception in this birth record. As Matthew notes, Joseph did not begat Jesus. Joseph was the husband of Mary. Therefore he was Jesus' father in a legal sense. However, Jesus had no human father As Paul notes in Romans 8:3, Jesus was sent in the "likeness of sinful flesh". In Romans 5:12, Paul records that "sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin." Scripture further records that Eve was deceived but Adam sinned. Therefore, since sin is passed from the father to the next generation but Jesus had no biological human father, He did not inherit our sin nature. Matthew underscores this important truth by pointing out that Joseph was the husband of Mary "of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ." By doing so, Matthew teaches us that Jesus was truly the Son of David both through His legal father, Joseph, and his mother, Mary.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great! You make this scripture clear and understandable. Thanks for using your gift!!!!!!