A Twist of Hope
Many of us may wonder what the purpose of Matthew 1:1-16 is. God said 1,000 years earlier that the Messiah must come from the line of David. How would the people know who to believe? One answer—check His genealogy. If He’s not from the line of David, forget it. He can’t be the Messiah. Matthew 1 begins this way: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” We might say, in a sense, that this family tree is the original Christmas tree. In order for Jesus to qualify as the Messiah, He must be a literal, physical descendant of David. We also may wonder why only four women were mentioned. Israelite scholars usually only recorded the significant male ancestors. Sometimes entire generations were skipped, and usually all of the women were not mentioned. The first woman mentioned is Tamar. “Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother’s name was Tamar” Matthew 1:3 (NIV). On the surface, this seems normal enough, but Judah was Tamar’s father-in-law. After Tamar’s husband died, she behaved as a prostitute and had children with Judah. What does all of this mean? God isn’t like us. We can’t pick our relatives, but He can. We might assume He would pick only the most morally pure of heart for His lineage, but He didn’t. Jesus’ family tree is like any other. Can we see what God is saying even in a detail as small as Christ’s genealogy? We don’t have to be perfect to be used by God. No matter what we’ve done, He still has a purpose and plan for our life.
From the beginning of time, men have studied and watched the stars. On land and sea, men have been guided by the stars, so it was very practical and fitting that the wise men were guided to the Christ Child by the star from the East. More than likely, these men had studied the stars and knew something of their size and movement. When they beheld this unusually bright star in the heavens, they were sure it held special significance. Probably they would have followed this unique star even if King Herod had not ordered them to “go and search diligently for the child and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” Matthew 2:8 (ESV) There must have been something magnetic in this starlight that these wise men were drawn to follow to see if indeed prophecy had come true, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (NIV) Surely the lives of these wise men were never the same after following the star and viewing the new born babe. Our lives can be changed too, if we would catch a gleam from that Star of Bethlehem this Christmas season and worship the Christ Child who was born some two thousand years ago to bring peace, hope and love into the world. Let us hear anew the angels’ song of Peace on Earth Good Will to Men.
A Branch of Grace
During the Kidtown-led worship service last Sunday, we saw some of the boards from Jesus’ family tree removed and used to form a manger like the one where Jesus was born. Later in the service those same boards were used to form a cross like the one where Jesus died. Each board had written on it the name of an individual found in Matthew 1:1-17, the genealogy of Jesus. One of the unique things about the list of individuals in Matthew is that five of the ones mentioned were women, four of whom were mentioned by name—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Mary—and one who was identified as the mother of Solomon, who we know as Bathsheba. Including women, especially identifying them by name, was not a common practice in the time this was written. Even more uncommon was including the name of one like Rahab. You see, Rahab was identified as a harlot, a prostitute, but her story in Joshua 2 centered on what she did to help two spies from Israel escape capture. The spies, in turn, protected Rahab and her family when the Israelites destroyed the city of Jericho. It wasn’t what Rahab did that made her right with God. As John MacArthur says in Twelve Extraordinary Women, “She is a reminder that God by His grace can redeem even the most horrible life.” No matter what sin was in your life or is in your life right now, no matter what you’ve done to make yourself right with Him, it is God who, by His grace, redeems you and puts your name on His Son’s family tree.
A Tree of Love
We search our family trees looking for famous ancestors—presidents, war heroes, movie stars, athletes. Instead, we often find ancestors who are infamous—criminals, deserters, rascals, losers. One thing is for sure. Your family tree looks no better and it looks no worse than the genealogy of Jesus. His family tree includes glorious kings and decadent sinners. This provides an interesting perspective, which should help us avoid being too proud or too embarrassed about the family members who came before us. You may be wondering why all this talk about family trees is important. Why does the New Testament start with a list of names? Why are so many chapters in the Old Testament devoted to ancestry? Two reasons come to mind. First, the family tree provides historical legitimacy to the Christmas story and the prophecies fulfilled by the birth of Jesus. Second, by looking at the kind of people Jesus came from, we can see the kind of people Jesus came for. Regardless of your past, Jesus came for you. And that is the gift that will never stop giving.