Today’s advent post is written by Russ Ramsey (ThM, Covenant Theological Seminary) who serves as a pastor at Midtown Fellowship Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He writes for the Rabbit Room (www.rabbitroom.com), a website devoted to the discovery and celebration of truth and beauty.
“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.”
– Matthew 1:17 (ESV)
I love the narrative arc of scripture. Because I do, the older I get the more fascinated I become with the genealogies in the bible. They are there to tell us the Bible is more than a collection of stories; it is one story. It is the story of how God redeemed a wayward people and saved them from a ruin of their own making—and he did it through love and justice.
The story goes like this: Father Abraham had many sons. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation—the people to whom God would bind himself and from whom he would ultimately provide the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (Gen 17:1-14, John 1:29.)
Against all odds, Abraham had Isaac. Isaac had sons who had sons who had sons of their own, and before you know it, Boaz (who married Ruth) begat Obed who begat Jesse who begat David who became the King of Israel.
God expanded the details of his covenant with Abraham by telling King David that his throne would be established forever and that from his line would come the Messiah, who would reign in power and righteousness at the right hand of God for all eternity (2 Sam 7:12-14).
But while Abraham’s descendants continued to grow in number, their faith in the one who promised to never leave them wavered and weakened until many abandoned God altogether.
Generations later, when all seemed lost, one of David’s descendants, King Hezekiah, discovered the word of God on a dusty old shelf in the temple (2 Chronicles 29-31), and he began to read. The people heard the word of God again and their faith was rekindled into obedience and worship. But the obedience did not last, and eventually God exiled his people to Babylon and Assyria. Though many would eventually return to their homeland, the line of Abraham had become almost unrecognizable (2 Kings 24:10-17).
Until once upon a time, there was a young woman named Mary, engaged to a young man named Joseph. They lived in an out-of-the-way town called Nazareth. Joseph was a descendant of the great King David, though for his part he was a common laborer—a blue-collar man of no reputation. Together these two were common in every way—working hard to build an ordinary life.
But their plans were interrupted in a moment when an angel of the Lord appeared to tell Mary that the thread of his redemptive promise to Abraham, Jacob, and David was going to run through her life. She was going to have a son who would be the savior of the world (Luke 1:26-38).
For all the unimaginable good this news brought, it also brought trouble for the young couple. Mary and Joseph would suffer suspicious looks from friends and relatives, questioning his character and her purity as her belly expanded (Matthew 1:18-19).
Ultimately, as the old cleric Simeon told the couple when they brought Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord, the angel’s message to Mary would become like a sword that would pierce her soul (Luke 2:22-38). Jesus would be born so that he could die.
How did Simeon know all this? Though he was only meeting Jesus for the first time, Simeon knew the Messiah’s story. He had been waiting on this child for many years. He knew the line from which the Savior would come, and he knew the Christ would be a suffering servant (Isaiah 53). Mary’s deepest sorrows and greatest joys were wrapped up in the life of her son.
In the genealogies we see an amazing thread that runs through redemptive history—a strand God has sewn into the story of humanity. It is the true tall tale of promises made and promises kept. It is a storyline for which no one person can take any more credit than a man can take credit for his own birth.
The thread that runs through redemptive history tells the story of God’s fidelity to a wayward people. He has preserved the line of blessing that he promised Abraham he would trace on through into eternity.
Matthew’s genealogy tells us that the one in whom our righteousness rests, the one who represents us before the throne of God, the one who calls those who believe in him his Bride, comes precisely as God said he would.
Why does it matter that Obed begat Jesse? Because their lineage is part of an unbroken line God promised to draw from Abraham’s descendants to the Savior of the world.
When God made this promise, Abraham looked forward to its keeping in faith.
At this point in history, we now look back, also in faith.
Marvel at the precision of the miracle of the unbroken line in God’s redeeming plan, because there we see that the genealogies of Scripture are not just telling us Jesus’s story. They are telling us our own.
Today’s advent post is written by Russ Ramsey (ThM, Covenant Theological Seminary) who serves as a pastor at Midtown Fellowship Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He writes for the Rabbit Room (www.rabbitroom.com), a website devoted to the discovery and celebration of truth and beauty. “All the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to […]