The beginning of Matthew is something many readers skim over quickly to get to the good stuff. It is after all, a genealogy, a simple list of names listing fathers and sons. We realize it has some significance but as we simply look at the “big” names in the list we often fail to see the message behind Matthew’s opening facts.
Yes, Matthew wanted everyone to know the reality of Jesus’ genealogy so they could understand that he was the long promised Messiah, a descendant of the patriarch Abraham, and indeed a son of King David. Yet if you read carefully and look into the facts that Matthew decides are notable enough to point out, you will see a pattern in his teaching.
The genealogy is a total of 42 generations. It is broken into 3 groups of 14 which he points out and states why that is significant. It is important because we need to remember where we have come from and it has not all been good. The genealogy begins with Abraham, a man of faith and obedience. He was given a promise and he lived it out, he doubted and tried to make his own route to the promise, but in the end, he was faithful. It began with a promise. The next major point in the genealogy is King David. David represents the height of this family. It reminds the people of their rise to prominence in the world. The third spot is the lowest point in the history of this family. It is the Babylonian Exile. A time in which this family that became a great nation was humbled as a result of years and generations of disobedience and idolatry. The fourth point and stopping place in this list is the fulfillment of that promise. In Jesus Christ, the promise that Abraham’s family would be a blessing to all people became true.
Do you see the importance in this information? Jesus’ family was not perfect. It was a family that had risen and fallen. They had both succeeded and failed. They had walked in both righteousness and unrighteousness.
I think if you take just a little more time and see the things Matthew decides to give commentary to, you will discover this honesty and openness continues. He speaks of Salmon’s wife Rahab, who had been a prostitute and foreigner before honoring God in Jericho. The next woman pointed out (which is not the norm in a Jewish genealogy, it is built around the men) is Ruth. This was a woman of great faith and honor, yet she had also been a foreigner.
The next commentary is very telling. It is about David and his son Solomon. Solomon was the son of Bathsheba who had been Uriah’s wife. The family’s dirty laundry is put front and center. David had committed adultery with this woman and had her husband murdered to cover it up. “Thanks, Matthew, for bringing out the worst in us to the world to know.”
Then we move further down to here the exile mentioned. This, too all the original readers, was a reminder of the lowest point in the history of its family and nation.
What, however, was Matthew’s purpose in sharing this information with the world?
His purpose was to remind us that we all rise and fall…we all fail and succeed…all of our families have done both good and bad…as have we.
Failure, however, is not the end of God’s promises in our lives. We fail to experience God’s promises in our lives when our faith in the One who has made that promise fails. God’s promises are not dependent on our faith, but our experience of them and relationship to them is.
Perhaps today you feel stuck in some ups and downs, peaks and valleys, failures and success. Perhaps you feel stuck in the never ending ebb and flow of life and you are losing the purpose behind it.
Don’t give up. God has a great plan for you and for those that will follow you. Be faithful with this day. Quit being obsessed with what might be written in your genealogy because of your past and wonder what might be said because of your future. God loves you and has plans for you. These plans will prosper you. You will find your hope and your future there in those promises.
So make a bold move and set a new direction for your genealogy.
(Another side note to leaders and teachers, people learn more when you share the realities of such ups and downs in life instead of pretending they don’t exist in your life. The reality is that authenticity is model of Scripture…find some…and share your story without fear.)