Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How one verse puts together the entire Bible

Matthew 1:17 "So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations. "

Yesterday we began exploring the need for God's people to know how to fit together the scripture's pieces.  Today I want us to consider the Bible's own testimony as to why Christians should know how it's message is framed by the ages of history, centered around God's Covenants and purposed in revealing God's glory in Jesus Christ. 

Where to begin seeing the Bible put together - Matthew's Gospel
The text above is in the first chapter, of the first book of our New Testaments.  Matthew was one of Jesus' disciples and the writer of the first Gospel.  He under inspiration of the Holy Spirit opens the New Testament with a jog through roughly 2000 years of history.  42 generations of humanity, stretching from the sun-baked deserts of Canaanland in Abraham's day to the narrow streets of first century Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. 

Why does Matthew do this? To demonstrate Jesus Christ's legal right to the throne of David and prophetic identity as the seed of Abraham's promise.  Matthew 1:17 fits together the Old Testament's big pieces in the following ways:

1. Matthew frames the Bible's message by noting God's plan of the ages  All of redemptive history from Abraham to Jesus' day is framed by the generations of Israel that traversed their way through the ages.  42 generations, divided into three sets of 14 generations.  The Old Testament age or era is viewed by Matthew in three "seasons" or "subdivisions of time": Abraham to David (over 1,100 years of time); David to the Babylonian captivity (roughly over 400 years of time) and then the Babylonian captivity up to Jesus' day (roughly 400 years of time).

2. Matthew centers the Bible's message around three chief historic covenants in the Old Testament  All of redemptive history centers upon the Covenants of God.  Again in just looking at Matthew 1:17, we note that Matthew's opening genealogy centers upon three men.  Abraham is the father of the Jewish nation, and God's covenant with him is the chief covenant of the Bible from whence all others mark their point of reference.  Genesis 12, 15, 17 and 22 and over 100 other biblical references speak of Abraham.  God's promise of a redeemer, a nation, the land of Israel and the bloodline leading to the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ leads to and finds their point of departure from God's Covenant with Abraham.

David is the second man in Matthew's example of putting together scripture's pieces.  David of course was the greatest king of Israel.  In 2 Samuel 7:13-16 God makes a covenant with David, promising him a descendant upon His throne.  This promise is connected with the Covenant of Abraham, since the blessing of Abraham was not only going to be centered generally in the nation of Israel, but moreso specifically in a Person - a King.  The Covenants function like a string of pearls around the neck of scripture, with the central jewel being Christ Himself.  Over 40 references to God's covenant with David are found from 2 Samuel to the end of the Old Testament. 

Then of course Matthew ends this verse with reference to "the Messiah".  The Greek text says "Christ", from which the translation in the NASB renders it as "the Messiah".  Any Jewish reader would had been rocked at that claim - since the Messiah had been anticipated by the Jews for over 400 years from the close of Malachi.  As we come later on into the New Testament, we discover that Jesus Christ was to be the mediator of the New Covenant, and that the inauguration of that Covenant would usher in the third major age of scripture - the Age of Grace or Church Age. 

As Matthew puts together the Bible's pieces, he shows firstly that the Bible's message is framed by the ages.  Then he features Abraham and David, men who were the objects of two of the three greatest covenants of God in the Old Testament.  But now what is the focus, the purpose behind the ages and covenants of the Bible? In the Old Testament, there was one other main Covenant which not only reiterates what God had promised to Abraham, but takes the promises of Abraham and predictions of the Davidic Covenant and gives them a target of fulfillment - Blessing - i.e the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31-33.

3. Matthew shows the purpose of both the ages and covenants of the Bible - Jesus Christ How was God going to bless all families of the earth (as he stated to Abraham)? Furthermore, how was He going to establish a permanent King on the throne of Jerusalem? Lastly, how was God going to usher in the New Covenant promises of a transformed heart, forgiveness of sins and the internally written law of God on the heart of the believer? All of these big questions find their answer in the remainder of Matthew's Gospel and the New Testament.  That answer of course is in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Already in Christ's first coming we see the Abrahamic, David and New Covenant promises being inaugurated by Christ following his death, burial, resurrection and ascension following his first coming.  However, those same three covenants have not yet been fulfilled in their entirety, and will not be finally and ultimately fulfilled until Christ's second coming.   

How the Bible's big pieces unveil the God-man Jesus Christ
Touching His humanity - Jesus Christ fulfills the bloodline of Abraham, is the descendant of David's throne and the Mediator of the New Covenant.  As God in human flesh, he has inaugurated His reign as the Davidic king over His church, and will return to manifest the physical earthly aspect of that reign for 1,000 years. (Revelation 20)  Second, Christ will return to restore Israel, the original recipients of Abraham's promise. (Romans 11:25-26)  Then finally, as mediator of the New Covenant, Christ functions as the Christian's prophet, priest and King, spiritually pouring out the New Covenant blessings on the church, with the plan of taking the current set-aside nation of Israel and pouring out those same blessings more fully on a repentant Israel at His second coming. (Zech 12:10; 2 Corinthians 5)   

As you can see, one verse, Matthew 1:17 easily shows why knowing how the Bible fits together can aid the Christian in knowing the scope and significance of the Bible in its aim to reveal God's glory in Jesus Christ.