Saturday, December 4, 2021

Genealogy Full of Mercies

 I’ve already talked a bit about the importance of Jesus’ lineage. Not a single person listed was a mistake, they were all apart of God’s plan. But the genealogy that Matthew provides at the beginning of his gospel can teach us other things as well, specifically about the heights of God’s mercy—what Dane Ortlund calls God’s most natural work. In his book, Hidden Christmas, Tim Keller describes three insights we can glean from what appears to be a simple list of hard-to-pronounce names.

Jesus’ genealogy reads like a résumé. Keller writes, “The purpose of a genealogical résumé was to impress onlookers with the high quality and respectability of one’s roots. But Matthew does the very opposite with Jesus. This genealogy is shockingly unlike other ancient genealogies” (p. 29-30). Jesus’ lineage highlights some of the most scandalous events and dysfunctional relationships in the Bible. And it was out of these families that the Messiah came.

Yet this shows us something singular about God’s plan. From prostitute to king, male and female, Jew and Gentile, the moral and immoral—they were all sitting down to the table of grace as equals. Keller says: “Equally sinful and lost, equally accepted and loved. Indeed, in the King James Bible, this chapter is filled with ‘the begats’—‘so and so begat so and so . . .’ boring? No. The grace of God is so pervasive that even the begats of the Bible are dripping with God’s mercy” (p. 33).

The second thing we can learn from Jesus’ genealogy is a reminder that God’s timing is not like our own. It is a theme we see in Scripture on a regular basis, but one that we so easily forget. In this snapshot of names, we can see clearly how long it took for God’s promise of a Messiah to be fulfilled. Back in Genesis 12, God said to Abraham that the whole earth would be blessed through his descendants. Back further still, in Genesis 3, God provided a prophecy himself: One was coming who would crush the head of Satan and defeat evil. Thousands of years later, Mary sang,

“He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

(Luke 1:54-55)

Keller emphasizes, “You cannot judge God by your calendar. God may appear to be slow, but he never forgets his promises. He may seem to be working very slowly or even to be forgetting his promises, but when his promises come true (and they will come true), they always burst the banks of what you imagined” (p. 34)

The third thing we can learn from Jesus’ genealogy is one of those deep dives into Old Testament symbolism. As modern Christians, we don’t often stop to consider the importance of numbers in Scripture, yet for the first century readers, especially the Jews Matthew was writing to, this would have made so much sense.

As the final name in His genealogy, Jesus mirrors God the Father and sits in enthroned as Rest personified. He is the ultimate rest.

Keller helps us break this down: From Abraham to David there were fourteen generations, fourteen generations from David to the exile in Babylon, and fourteen generations from the exile to Christ. That’s six sets of seven. Jesus was the beginning of the “seventh seven.”

If you know a bit about the number seven, you know that it is highly significant in the Bible. We first see the number seven when God rested on the seventh day after Creation. He called it a sabbath day.

Further on, in Leviticus 25, we learn about the year of jubilee. After the seventh period of seven years—the forty-nineth year—Israel was to have a year of celebration and rest.
Keller explains, “In that year all the slaves were to be freed and all debts were to be forgiven; all the land and all the people were to have rest from their weariness and from their burdens” (p.39). Sound familiar? It brings to mind Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 61, and it reads almost like a job description for Jubilee Jesus:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion…

(Isaiah 61:1-3a)
Matthew loved the details. I can just imagine him geeking out at these equations. In God’s plan, even mathematics declares His glory and provide us with this truth: rest will only come to us through Jesus Christ.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.