This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac.
Isaac was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar).
Perez was the father of Hezron.
Hezron was the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.
Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).
Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam.
Rehoboam was the father of Abijah.
Abijah was the father of Asa.
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat.
Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram.
Jehoram was the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah was the father of Jotham.
Jotham was the father of Ahaz.
Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh.
Manasseh was the father of Amon.
Amon was the father of Josiah.
Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon).
After the Babylonian exile:
Jehoiachin was the father of Shealtiel.
Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel.
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud.
Abiud was the father of Eliakim.
Eliakim was the father of Azor.
Azor was the father of Zadok.
Zadok was the father of Akim.
Akim was the father of Eliud.
Eliud was the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar was the father of Matthan.
Matthan was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah. All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.
As it relates to Scripture, we Christians believe in something called inspiration. Basically, the Bible, though penned by normal folks, is weaved together by God. He’s involved in it all. Joined at inspiration’s hip is the word authoritative. A loaded term for sure, but the essence of the word is trust. Because Scripture is inspired, we trust its contents. We trust the image it paints of God. We trust what it says about being human. We trust how it depicts the human condition and reveals the proper response to evil and sin and a host of other stuff.
Though all of Scripture is inspired and authoritative, not all of it is entertaining. Not that we read the Bible for that reason, but c’mon, how many times have you read Leviticus in its entirety? What about Numbers?
Only pious Christians do that sort of thing.
The rest of us go straight to Deuteronomy after Exodus. And if we’re doing one of those read-the-entire-Bible-in-a-year plans, we substitute our favorite gospel for Leviticus and Numbers (and put a check by each day’s reading anyway).
Though these two Old Testament books are undoubtedly ahead of the pack in terms of least read Scriptures, today’s reading – the genealogy of Jesus – might win the bronze medal. We’re focused on Matthew’s account, but Luke includes one as well. Raise your hand if you’ve read either.
I hadn’t. Until today.
But these genealogies are far from throw-away material. They reveal the heart and character of God.
Start at the top, with Abraham and Isaac. There’s no mention of Ishmael, the first-born of Abraham. You can help but feel sorry for Ishmael. Conceived because of impatience and unfaithfulness, he’s unfairly banished from his home.
Then you have Isaac and Jacob. Let’s not forget, Jacob only receives the blessing and inheritance because he lies and deceives his nearly blind father. The rightful heir should have been Esau, Isaac’s firstborn. His name should appear in place of Jacob’s in this genealogy. But, no.
Just in the first few verses, we see something important about God’s character. He doesn’t always use the most upstanding or deserving person to carry out his plans.
Who among us, after all, is deserving?
That’s kind of the point. God’s fulfills his plans through us, despite us. He can and will use mess up folks. That should be cause for hope.
Let’s talk about the women in Matthew’s genealogy. He mentions five: Tamar (a prostitute), Rahab (an outsider and a prostitute), Ruth (a noble woman, but an outsider), Bathsheba (a victim of abuse at the hands of a powerful king) and Mary (a pregnant virgin?).
Moral or social barriers should have prevented all of these women from being used by God (in the eyes of the religious, anyway). But thankfully God isn’t bound by our social barriers. He doesn’t exclude people based on gender, ethnicity, status, or even religious background.
God also doesn’t disqualify people because of their sin. God’s grace is much larger than our moral shortcomings. The Christian community has work to do here. We tend to write people off based on their moral track record. When a pastor fails morally, we tend to attach his sin to his identity, dismissing grace and forgiveness. And for those who commit the really bad sins (you know the ones), not only do we disqualify them from being used by God, we often ban them from our communities.
Finally, let’s look at the names in this genealogy. Some I recognize. But others? If I didn’t know better, I’d swear Matthew made ‘em up.
Nahshon? Shealtiel? Matthan?
Tell me, what makes them worthy of being included in this genealogy? We’ll never know. And, again, this is God’s grace. He uses ordinary people. He uses “nobodys,” people ignored by society. Invisible people.
The Nahshon’s of the world aren’t popular or charismatic, and if someone asked, “Do you think God could do great things through him?” we might respond with a chuckle.
“That guy. That girl. No way.”
So where do we land with all this? What does Matthew’s genealogy mean for you and me? Gail Godwin tells us:
“If so much powerful stuff can have been accomplished down through the millennia by…betrayers and outcasts, and through people who were such complex mixtures of sinner and saint, and through so many obscure and undistinguished others, isn’t that a pretty hopeful testament to the likelihood that God is using us, with our individual flaws and gifts, in all manner of peculiar and unexpected ways?”
The answer is yes.
God uses you. He uses me. He brings the Kingdom to earth through people. No one is disqualified or excluded. This is the grace of God.
Can you identify some ways God is using you right now, maybe even despite your circumstances?
God, thank you for grace. I trust you are using me in ways I can’t see or understand. May I become even more receptive to your presence in and through me. Amen!