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Kingdom Come

Date: Sep. 20, 2015

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Matthew 1:1-17

Key Verse: Matthew 1:1

“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:”

On September 9 of this year, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest ruling monarch in British history. She surpassed her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria who ruled for 63 years and 216 days. That’s longer than any of the kings we saw in our study of 1 & 2 Kings. She began her rule in 1952 and has four children Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. The next in line for the throne would be Charles and then next after him would be his oldest son William. William himself has two children: Prince George who is 2 and Princess Charlotte who is just 4 months. When these children were born, so many people waited on baited breath to hear the news. At first they wondered if they would be boys or girls, and then when they would be born and what their names would be. After they were born, the people wanted to see them. Expectation and excitement surrounded the two young nobles as they were the latest additions to the British royal family. For all the anticipation that surrounds little George and Charlotte, more than two thousand years ago, the anticipation was even greater. The people were waiting for the return of their king. The road was long and hard but finally the king and his kingdom had come.

Last week, we just finished our study on 1 & 2 Kings and did you know that we started that study almost one year from today? During that year, we saw a grand experiment unfold. Prior to our studies in 1 & 2 Kings, the Israelites came to the prophet Samuel and requested a king just like all the other nations around them. Samuel was upset because he led the people as the final judge and the first prophet. He thought that the people were rejecting his leadership. You see, during the time of the judges, Israel only had a distinct leader when situations dictated the need. It usually happened when the Israelites were being oppressed by the Philistines, but the leadership was very informal and there was no line of succession. God just raised up a leader when one was needed. It was pretty unusual, and when you read the account, it almost seems like the people think that is why the Philistines constantly oppress them. When the leader passes away, the door is open for oppression. The Israelites may have thought that a more stable government would be better for the nation. Samuel was getting old and his sons were not leadership material, so they asked for a king. Like I said, Samuel became very upset. He was offended by the idea of a king. It made him feel like the people didn’t think that he was good enough and how he led was inadequate.

But the Lord told Samuel, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” (1 Samuel 8:7) The reason why Israel’s leadership was so different was because God was their king. They didn’t need a human king. They had God as a king. When they asked for a human king, they were saying that God was not good enough. Amazingly, God gave them a king, but he warned the people of the greed in men’s hearts and that a king would exploit the people for his own ends. God gave the Israelites the king that they wanted in Saul. He was a fine physical specimen who was a head taller than anyone else. The grand experiment of a human king in Israel had begun. Saul was alright for a while. He protected the people, but his spirit did not follow God. Saul didn’t trust God as the High King over him and started doing things his own way. Then, the Lord rejected Saul as king and he prepared a new king for the throne. This time God would not anoint a king the people wanted, but he would anoint a king that the people needed at that time. A man after God’s own heart: David.

Our 1 & 2 Kings study started with the death of David and the installation of his son Solomon as king and ended with the fall of Jerusalem: a period of about 400 years. During that time, the kingdom saw a split into two: a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom. All the kings of the north were pretty bad, some more than others. The south saw a bit more variety in the types of kings. There were some good kings, some great kings, some okay kings, some bad kings and some hellish kings. In the end, the kings and the people wandered away from God. They had placed their hope in their human king, but each of them was fallible. God removed them from the land by having them be carried off by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Jerusalem was destroyed and its people scattered and held captive in a foreign land. The kingdom was gone because the people of the kingdom had abandoned their true king, their original king. So, here we are, one year later. We have seen the prototype of a kingdom, but now we begin our study of Matthew’s gospel and we get to see the establishment of the true kingdom, going back to one where God is king.

The book of Matthew was written by one of Jesus’ disciples Matthew, who also goes by the name Levi. The name Matthew means “gift of the Lord”, and prior to meeting Jesus, Matthew was a tax collector. His day job was to extort money from his people and give it to the occupying Roman government. The people didn’t generally like tax collectors. The Jews viewed them as traitors who were compliant with the occupying army. This means that Matthew probably was not a well respected man in society. Yet, Jesus called Matthew to follow him and he did. This book is the gift of the Lord that Matthew wants to share. One of the main themes of the book is concerned with the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, particularly the prophecy concerning the Messiah. And we can see that in the first verse of our passage, “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:” (1)

The term “Messiah” is Hebrew for “Anointed One”, and sometimes we see the word translated as “Christ”, which is the Greek term. Now anointing is a practice that is done by a priest or prophet to signify God’s choice in a leader. They would pour oil on a person’s head to signify they they were accepted by God as king. However, here “Messiah” is referring to a special Anointed One, a special person who is anointed by God to be king for his people. The Messiah would be the one who would be the people’s savior. Back early in his reign, David received a message from God that said that he would establish David’s throne forever. God said that there would be one person from David’s line that would eternally sit on his throne as king. One of David’s descendants would be the Messiah: the eternal King.

So what Matthew is doing in this passage is making the connection from Abraham and David to the Messiah: Jesus. These two men have strong ties to the Messiah. They are the heavy hitters in Jewish history. Promises were made to Abraham about someone from his line being a blessing to all nations. That would be the Messiah. By presenting the genealogy in this passage, Matthew shows that Jesus the Messiah is the son of David and the son of Abraham. The Messiah was a very important figure for the Jews of the time. History had reduced the nation of Israel from a mighty nation to become a mere province in a larger nation. They had no self-rule. On top of that, their identity as a people was constantly being eroded as cultural diversity mixed in. Greek dress and language filled the streets and homes, but the thought of the Messiah gave them hope. Many took what was written in Scripture and contorted it so that the Messiah would be a king like David with the faith of Abraham. They thought that the Messiah would restore the nation of Israel and make it the dominant world power. The wanted the glory days to return, so the took this figure of the Messiah and molded it to their own ideals. So when Matthew is giving this genealogy, he has in mind the importance of the Messiah to the Jews and shows that Jesus fulfills the bloodline. Genealogies were very important to the Jews. Since their nation was overrun, their strongest sense of identity was in knowing where they came from. Knowing Jesus’ lineage would legitimize his claim that he is the Messiah. The Messiah was the eternal King descended from David and Abraham, and Matthew clearly shows that connection.

When you look at the genealogy in this passage, you can notice that is is broken up into three sections: Abraham to David, David to the exile and the exile to the Messiah. There is a standard format to the genealogy. “This person is the father of that person.” The pattern is carried through most of it with a few notable exceptions. The first exception we see is with Jacob. The passage says, “Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers”. (2) Jacob was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Judah was the son in which descended David and the Messiah, but the other brothers were so important to the nation that they warranted a mention in the genealogy. This exception also shows up right before the exile with Jeconiah and his brothers. This is the spot where the kingship kept passing among Josiah’s sons around the fall of Jerusalem that we saw last week.

Another notable exception is the inclusion of a number of women to the genealogy. In Jesus’ time, women would not be included at all and especially so in a royal lineage. It was the male line that carried the kingship. However, Matthew includes no less than five women to Jesus’ genealogy. When you look closer at these women, you might notice that most of the women included led less than reputable lives. Tamar was originally Judah’s daughter-in-law. She was married to Judah’s oldest son, but he died before they could have any children. In their culture the next son would take her as his wife to have children for the brother. This happened, but that son died, too, before they could have children. Judah’s third son was too young to marry, but Judah was afraid he would die, too, so he kept them apart. Tamar was getting upset. So she disguised herself as a prostitute and slept with Judah, and she became pregnant with twins. Rahab was a prostitute who aided the Israelites when the came to take over the land of Canaan. Bathsheba is not even mentioned by name. She is referred to as Uriah’s wife. David had slept with another man’s wife and had the man killed for it. Tamar, Rahab and Ruth were not even Israelites. They were foreign. Bathsheba was originally married to Uriah who was foreign so she was no longer considered to be an Israelite either.

Genealogies are supposed to show prestige and pedigree, but with the inclusion of these women, cracks in the façade appear. This is not a normal lineage. The last woman mentioned is Mary. Now Mary was a woman who would be Jesus’ mother through extraordinary means. The Holy Spirit would come on her and she would become pregnant even though she was a virgin. The circumstances around Mary’s pregnancy would be controversial. Jesus would look like a bastard child that would need to go on Maury or Jerry Springer to get a paternity test to determine the father. Matthew knew that he would face resistance in Jesus’ virgin birth. It is extraordinary. Usually, when you see a pregnant woman, you know how she got pregnant. There is usually no other way. Most of the time, sex is involved. It looks very suspicious to have a pregnant woman say, “I don’t know how this happened. I’ve never had sex.” Mary might look like a disgraced woman, even though she wasn’t, but Matthew reminds the reader that the kingly line of the Messiah is filled with colorful women with questionable backgrounds.

Another thing to note about the genealogy is the number of people. The last verse mentions that there are fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. It seems a little too perfect, right? I mean, David is counted twice to get this symmetry. If you look at the rough timelines of each era you notice something is a little off. In the third era, from the exile to the Messiah, the time span was about 580 years. The second era, from David to the exile the time span is about 500 years. However, the first era, from Abraham to David, covers right around a thousand years or about twice as long as the other eras and yet is has the same number of generations as the other two. This looks like a problem, but the word “father” can also be translated to “ancestor”. So not every person in the genealogy is actually listed. There could be gaps between some of the men. To us, that could be really bad, but to Jewish readers the gaps can be considered acceptable because the literary symmetry could be seen as more important. It is a different literary style than we are used to, but many times we use exaggeration and hyperbole to convey a message to get our point across. We sometimes say that we are starving. We are not actually starving, but we are very hungry and want to get our point across. Matthew is doing no less in this genealogy.

Let’s get into the actual genealogy now. Like I said, there seem to be three eras or epochs in this genealogy. The first era is from Abraham to David a period of about 900 to 1000 years. Abraham is considered to be the father of faith. God called him to leave his father’s household and go to a land God would show him. Abraham went and lived as a nomad in the land of Canaan. He and his wife were old and childless, but God promised them a son and promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. Abraham saw one son from this promise: Isaac. God’s promise would pass from Abraham to Isaac and to Isaac’s son Jacob. Jacob would have twelve sons and that would be the beginning of the nation of twelve tribes. This family go to Egypt during a time of severe famine and flourish. Soon, it seems like they outnumber the Egyptians. The Egyptians take notice and enslave the Israelites and for generations, the Israelites were under the heavy yoke of slavery, and yet the people continued to flourish. Under the leadership of Moses, the people were able to escape their slavery and headed back to the promised land. Then, they had to take control of the land they were promised and settle. This first era has a lot of moving around and it is a time of people building. The nation goes from one man to hundreds of thousand and there are a lot of growing pains during the era. Their slavery in Egypt united them in one background. Jacob’s sons were always competitive with each other, but the slavery gave them a common history in which to develop one nation. But through all of it, the people learned to have faith in God like their father Abraham.

The second era is from David to the exile. This is the time of the kingdom and we should be very familiar with it. This is what we’ve been studying for the past year. You can see a lot of familiar names like David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Manasseh and Josiah. There are some good kings and bad kings here. There are ones who followed God and ones who turned tail and ran as far away from God as they could. During this time, the idea of a king became firmly etched in the people’s hearts and minds. The people of Jesus’ time were looking to this era with nostalgia. They wanted to go back to the time of David and Solomon, where Israel’s power was internationally known. It is interesting to note that there a few names missing from the list in this era. One of the most notable ones is Joash. If you remember, Joash was the king who first repaired the temple of the Lord. It was a hugely notable event in the kingdom’s spiritual history, but he is not mentioned in the genealogy. I find this striking since Manasseh is mentioned. If you remember, Manasseh was the king who created his personal hell on earth. Plus, Manasseh was the king that singlehandedly angered the Lord so much that he decided to wipe out the entire nation of Judah because of his sin and the influence it had on the people. Matthew obviously wasn’t trying to put Jesus’ genealogy in a positive light. At the end of the list is Jeconiah. Jeconiah is another name for Jehoiachin, who reigned for three months before being carried off to Babylon, along with best and brightest of the land.

If you remember last week’s passage, there was a glimmer of hope when Jehoiachin was released from prison and had a seat of honor at the king of Babylon’s table. It gave hope that the line of David was not wiped out and the Lord could continue the line until the eternal King could come. That brings us to the third era. It begins with Jeconiah being the father of Shealtiel. The line continued and continued on down to Joseph. During this time, there is not a lot of information on the people mentioned in this passage, but there is some interesting history going on. The Jews were exiled by Babylon, but Babylon was conquered by the Medo-Perians and the Medo-Perisans were conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great. Upon his death, the kingdom was split among four people and there was quite a bit of battling between the two kingdoms around Judea. Eventually, the Romans came in and took over the whole Mediterranean region. The land of Judea passed from one nation to another for hundreds of years and the Jews struggled to maintain their identity. Each of their conquerors sought to integrate the Jews into their society, but the Jews remained a separate culture throughout this time of turmoil. The Jews held on to their identity as God’s people because they held on to his law very tightly. The word of God kept them separate, like a drop of oil in a bucket of water.

During the third era, the Jews held tightly to the law to keep their identity but also because the prophets of God ceased to be. There is a period of 400 years that God appears to be silent. There are no prophetic books and no evidence that the Holy Sprit was active during this time. God had been sending prophets for hundreds of years, but during this time, there were none, until John the Baptist the forerunner of Jesus. It wasn’t until around the time that Jesus was born that God’s spirit appears to have awakened. There is a new Star Wars movie coming out in December and I am looking forward to it. It’s called The Force Awakens and I can only guess at the plot. At the end of The Return of the Jedi there is only one person who can wield the Force Luke Skywalker. So the Force has looked dormant since all the Jedi were wiped out by the emperor and Darth Vader. So it sounds like this new movie will have an explosion of Force-wielders as the Force awakens. Similarly, once Jesus arrives, the Holy Spirit becomes more active than in any other point in history.

So, we have this lineage that goes from Abraham to David to Jesus. That sounds really good, but it reads like history. It is history, but it is so much more. Through this genealogy, we can see so much about the nature of God. There is hardly a person in it that is completely good. Abraham, the father of faith, didn’t trust God on two occasions, where he essentially sold his wife to save his own butt. David slept with another man’s wife because he saw her taking a bath. Manasseh turned his back on God in every sense of the word. He sacrificed his children to demons and filled Jerusalem with blood. In Jesus’ lineage, there are deceivers, prostitutes and murderers. When you look at modern royalty, there is a great effort to maintain the honor of the royal family. They are supposed to represent the best-of-the-best and even marriages are scrutinized to make sure the the spouse is worthy of becoming a part of the royal family. There was controversy when Queen Elizabeth II married her husband Philip because he was foreign born. He had to denounce his foreign citizenship and join the Church of England to become a part of the royal family.

Jesus’ royal lineage couldn’t more different. Tamar, Rahab and Ruth were all foreign born and they were grafted in to the most royal of families. We might look at this genealogy and think that it does not apply to us. We are not Jews but we are grafted in to his history because of Jesus. Like Tamar, Rahab and Ruth, we can have a part and portion of Jesus and his kingdom. God used imperfect and sometimes horrible people to bring about the coming of the Messiah. It is not a grand and proud lineage. It is humble with a lot of crazy grandpas. Many time we think that we have to be perfect to come to God or be used by God, but God’s kingdom, his perfect kingdom, is built on the back of those who are imperfect. God doesn’t need perfect people to build his perfect kingdom. He takes imperfect people, sometime even the worst of people, to create his kingdom. I will say it again, Jesus is related to Manasseh, the hellion. I’m pretty sure than if you knew that you were related to Hitler or Stalin, you would keep that a secret, but Jesus’ genealogy clearly shows this evil ancestor.

God doesn’t care how broken we might be. His perfection vastly outweighs our greatest imperfections. God can bring redemption to our greatest mistakes. He brings forgiveness to our most unholy sins. Twelve years ago, my lust and complacency led to my girlfriend at the time getting pregnant and having an abortion. I was devastated afterwards, but through Jesus, I was forgiven and redeemed. I am not perfect, but God is perfect and his grace to me covers over my sins. Now, this doesn’t give me a blank check to sin. Redemption is not a “Get out of jail free” card that we can flash when we willingly sin. Redemption is a new start to live in God’s kingdom and God love redeeming people and expanding his kingdom.

The kingdoms of Israel and Judah failed because of the sin in the kings’ hearts and the sin of the people. They abandoned God, but God never abandoned them. Even when the kingdoms were gone, the Lord kept working to bring the eternal King to this world. All the human kings were dead and gone, but now God would be reigning as king once again and he brings that cure to the problem that plagued the kingdom period: sin. No matter how broken we can be, there is hope of God’s great kingdom that has come with the arrival of Jesus. He is the eternal King, the Messiah.

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