Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Matthew 1:17-18 "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. 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit."
Children count down the days until Christmas. The wonder of anticipation drives such child-like wonder. We find an incredible stage set for the coming of Jesus the Messiah at the opening of Matthew’s Gospel. Are you and I thankful for His arrival over 2,000 years ago? Are we as eager for His return as our children are for Christmas day? This post aims to stir reflection upon the wonder and need of God’s grace.
Various New Testament passages speak of how the incarnation of the Son of God was the appearance of grace. John 1:17 “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:21 “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” Then one more passage, Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.”
The grace of God has to do with God Reaching Across to Comfort Enemies. Grace is God reaching to you and me. Matthew introduces his Gospel with a genealogy. Much life-practical and spiritually profound truths are found when studying any portion of God's Word. (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17) To explore this incredible opening to Matthew’s Gospel, we will note details of it in a count-down fashion that will lead us to Jesus Christ.
1. Four people in need of grace. (The story of you)
We find four women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy. The background of each of the following women portray the story of all humanity born in Adam, into this world.
First, there is Tamar in Matthew 1:3. Tamar’s complete story is found in Genesis 38.
Second, we find Rahab in Matthew 1:5. Rahab lived a reckless life as a prostitute. God’s grace reached her and by her aid of some Hebrew spies sent by Joshua, the walls of Jericho would come tumbling down. God had a plan for her. (see her story in Joshua 2 and particularly Joshua 6:25)
The third person in need of grace in Matthew genealogy is Ruth, the Moabitess, found in Matthew 1:5. Ruth’s story is found in the Old Testament book bearing her name. Per Deuteronomy 23:3, Moabites were considered outside the covenant – hence making Ruth the Moabitess an outsider. Nonetheless, God had chosen her, called her and drawn her in faith to be an insider.
Lastly we come to Bathsheba in Matthew 1:6. By David’s treacherous act of murdering Bathsheba’s husband and then forcibly seducing her, Bathsheba’s life became ruined. (see 2 Samuel 11:26-27)
These four women give us a profile of you and me born into this world: desperate, reckless, outsiders and ruined. Such persons as ourselves and these women needed of grace – the grace found in Jesus Christ. The genealogy of Matthew features four women in need of grace and three people in their response of grace.
2. Three people and their response to grace. (Which one are you).
By looking at Abraham (Matthew 1:2); David (1:6) and Jeconiah (1:12), we can note each man’s response to God’s revelation of His word.
Abraham received such grace by faith. Romans 4:3 reminds us that Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Abraham was transformed from an idolater to a true worshiper. (see Joshua 24:1-3)
Next we see David, whose testimony of grace would result in his positive response to God’s word. (see Psalm 32; 2 Samuel 23) David would go from being a pauper to a king.
Lastly, we see Jeconiah. (see also Jeremiah 22:30) Jeconiah’s father, Jehoiakim, attempted to destroy God’s word in Jeremiah 36. God’s word cannot be broken (John 10:35) nor destroyed (Matthew 5:16-18). God would end up pronouncing a curse on Jehoiakim, with said curse extending down through his bloodline. As far as we know, Jeconiah never followed the Lord. His rejection of God’s Word followed in the train of his father.
The bloodline of the Messiah stood jeopardized as a result of this tragic course of events for Jeconiah. Thankfully, God had other plans and by way of Jeconiah’s grandson Zerubbabel, God’s pledge made to David would continue, meaning that Messiah’s bloodline would ultimately continue unbroken. (see Haggai 2:23)
So, which one of these three men describe you? The first two are those who by grace responded freely to God’s well-meant offer. Jeconiah, the last man, rejected it of his own accord. The bloodline of Jesus’ humanity is littered with sinners. Those sinners tell our story. Thankfully, God sent His Son into the world to save the likes of us. So four people in need of grace and three people in their response of grace captures the plight of humanity. The countdown of history is really your countdown. The question is always – what will you do with Jesus?
One thing is for certain: God’s motive in revealing His grace in the incarnation of the Son of God rests not in man but in God.
3. Two reasons for the appearance of grace (God to you)
Two reasons can be discerned from Matthew 1:1-17 that suggests why God made His grace appear in Jesus Christ.
First, God’s preparation of history. The genealogy tells it all (2,000 yrs; 42 generations; 3 eras 1,000yrs / 400 yrs / 600 yrs). God is a God of what we call "providence". Providence refers to the exercise of Divine authority in guiding the course of history, humanity and the tracks of nations to God's intended purposes. (see Ephesians 1:11)
The numbers associated with Matthew’s genealogy were mainly to aid memorization. However, their arrangement speaks of intention on God’s part. Three divisions speak of a unified, Divine plan, since three is the number associate with God’s Divine plan. The fourteen generations assigned to each division of the genealogy point to the culmination of God’s plan at a particular point. The number fourteen is found in places where God’s plan for His people is brought to a completion. The total number of generations, 42, is associated with a number pointing to affliction, testing. Humanity is full of affliction due to sin. The need of all time was for the babe in Bethlehem’s cradle.
So, we see God’s preparation for history, but notice a second reason for why He wanted to manifest grace through Jesus – plan of salvation. The three heads of the branches of the genealogical tree in Matthew tell the whole Gospel story.
Abraham speaks of a Promise made by God. David reminds us of a Pledge. Jesus of course is the Person to whom the promise and pledge point. God promised Abraham an ancestral line leading to a nation – Israel.
God then pledged to David a lineage of royalty – enduring for all time. The Person of Christ would make what God promised to Abraham and pledged to David a reality. God’s plan for history and for salvation is relevant to you and me today. As we wrap up this “countdown to Jesus”, let’s conclude with a focus upon Matthew 1:18, namely…
4. One Personification of grace (Christ for you)
We have already cited John 1:17; Romans 5:21 and Titus 2:11 as expositions on God’s revelation of grace as Jesus Christ. All of eternity, history and the humanity of Matthew’s genealogy funnel down to one Person – the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 1:18 states – “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.”
Grace is needed for faith to come forth. Jesus Christ is the Author and Finisher of Faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). Christ was given for you. Will you respond in Faith to Him.