From Abraham to Christ: God's Indestructible Mission

Matthew 1:1-17

By Daniel Mayfield

Introduction

We are starting a new series this morning—The gospel of Matthew. Now, if you’re familiar at all with Matthew’s gospel, you’ll be aware of the contents of chapter 1. That is, the genealogy of Jesus. And as I was studying this week, I thought to God as I silently prayed, “God, what do you want me to do with the genealogy of Jesus?” You know, perhaps I ought to read it and send the people home. Well, if you know me very well, you know I won’t do that. 

 

And so, I hope you’ll join me in this study to see that this is really a very rich passage…Ha, as if that prerequisite even needs to be given. As if there were a passage uttered from God’s holy mouth that wasn’t rich. It is certainly the case that any lack of richness in God’s word is in reality a lack of perception on our parts. We only must dig to find the glory sometimes hidden beneath the layers. 

 

Now, if you were here on Tuesday night, I made the point that the future is quite naturally determined by history. In other words, future points in time are developed by the means of historical events. With God, however, it is quite the contrary. When the Almighty God determines a future event to occur, He usually dictates certain aspects of history to realize His purpose. And so, whereas the natural progression of history usually leads to a future event, with God the establishment of a future then provides a historical path to reach that end. And when we examine Israel’s national history, and the many highs and lows, desperations and triumphs, we realize that God is not even deterred in the slightest to accomplish His plan. The intervention of sin, no matter how powerful—whether it be from Satan or Stalin or Hitler—places ABSOLUTELY no deterrent on God, seeking to accomplish a plan. On the contrary, those non-idyllic events usually serve to even more powerfully amplify God’s majesty. The lineage of Christ is no exception to this rule. 

 

  1. The culmination of all Biblical history was realized in Christ 

    1. Now, genealogy’s usually begin with the furthest ancestor, and then work down to the contemporaries. 

      1. In Matthew’s genealogy, however, he begins with the contemporary, Christ, and works back to Abraham. Notice the introductory verse—“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

      2. Matthew is intentionally reversing the natural order of a genealogy. The word “genealogy” means “a line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor.” Do you see that genealogies are intended to descend from the ancestor forward? 

      3. Now, there are a couple of points of significance I want to present in this regard. 

        1. First, Matthew utilizes such a function to express the central character of his gospel. It would be unfitting to mention any name before Christ, seeing as every story in the gospel will involve Him. So, he is primary. But also, he is mentioning Christ first because Christ is not only the central figure of his gospel, but he is the realization of every act of God, both historical, and spiritual. 

        2. If it is the case that Jesus is the Son of David, the Son of Abraham, then His importance on a universal scale cannot be downplayed. Matthew wants each reader to understand Christ as the central figure of God’s eternal mission. If this is the case, then any person with a fraction of wisdom will want to pay great attention to this person, Jesus Christ. 

    2. Now, Matthew goes on to claim Jesus as the son of David, the son of Abraham.

      1. The Jewish reader would be profoundly intrigued by such a claim! Why? Because the Lord’s two most important covenants in Biblical history were made with these two individuals, and both covenants involved the promise of a predecessor who would fill a certain position on behalf of God’s people. 

      2. We don’t usually tell who we are based on our familial history. This might have something to do with shameful events in our family’s past. Perhaps a father or uncle acted in such a way so as to bring shame upon the family. And for somebody to ask who we are, it wouldn’t be quite accurate to define ourselves based on those who came before us. With Christ, however, this is really quite the opposite. Although his lineage is filled with questionable characters (and we’ll look at them today), a couple of key figures in his line help define who He is. The important point for us is that Christ, before these individuals even existed, planned for them to be in his lineage. It was by this that He would be positioned as the son of such key biblical figures in Israel’s history. 

      3. The son of David

        1. Now, we notice that Christ is introduced as the son of David, the son of Abraham. The Jews would have all seen themselves as sons of Abraham (although Matthew had a specific son in mind), but every good Jew would have been specifically looking for the Messiah to come through the line of David. 

        2. Of course, they had good reason to believe this, given the Lord’s words to David in 2 Samuel 7. 

        3. Now, before we read this passage, we need to understand a bit about prophecy. Often times in scripture, prophetic words have both a near and a future fulfillment. In other words, when the Lord prophesies to David, there would be an almost immediate fulfillment in David’s lifetime, but it also had a future fulfillment. Let’s read the Lord’s covenant with David. 

          1. 2 Samuel 7:12-17: 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity (see, because of the dual fulfillment of prophecy, the text would be able to say this, as it only pertained to the immediately fulfillment), I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ ”

          2. Notice, the text says “forever” three different times, so the Jews were expecting the Messiah to descend from this line which would exist forever. 

        4. Now, Matthew is very clearly trying to draw attention to David in this passage…

          1. First of all, David’s name is mentioned more than any other name, even Abraham’s name. Whereas Abraham is mentioned 3 times, between verses 1 and 20, David is mentioned 6 times.

          2. So, by this alone, Matthew is pulling our attention to “MESSIAH!” 

          3. However, there is something rather peculiar that Matthew is doing in this passage, and we need to understand it. 

          4. Matthew deliberately makes the genealogy of Jesus fit into three categories of 14 generations. It was very common for Jewish genealogies to leave out certain figures, and only mention figures of prominence. So, any good Jew would, for example, see that certain kings in the line of David were not mentioned between verses 6 and 11. Matthew is NOT trying to dupe his reader into believing that there were precisely three dispensations of 14 generations leading to Christ. 

          5. The question we must ask, then, is this: Why did Matthew choose to use groupings of 14, and then explicitly make mention that there were 14 generations in each grouping? 

          6. Well, as many of you know, numerology was an incredibly important aspect of Jewish theology and study. Many Jews were consumed by numbers, and this is why there are so many significant numbers in our Bibles. 

          7. Well, here’s what’s so cool. Matthew, writing to Jews, was actually saying the name “David” by the number 14. And here’s how. 

            1. The Hebrew name for David was only three letters—DVD. There were no vowels in the Hebrew language. Well, the Jews had a numeric value for each letter of the Hebrew language. And wouldn’t you know, the letter D (Dalet) had a value of 4. The letter V (Vav) had a value of 6. And the letter D (Dalet), again, had a value of 4. So, what number do you get when you add 4+6+4? 14! The value that every good Jew had associated with David was explicitly mentioned by Matthew! He’s now whispering David. Well, Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise to David. Matthew wants his reader to very clearly see his point. Then, of course, he will spend the remainder of the genealogy proving that Christ descended from the line of David, and the remainder of his gospel proving that Jesus is, indeed, the Messiah. 

        5. This is really just so totally AWESOME. 

      4. The son of Abraham 

        1. Now, in Genesis 12, the Lord established a covenant with Abraham (although we don’t see the word “covenant” in the context of Abraham until chapter 17). The Lord said in Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 

        2. Now, the scope of such a promise to Abraham was such that every family on earth would be blessed through Abraham. And although the details are a little murky in this particular passage as to how that would play out, the Lord provides even greater detail in Genesis 22 when he says, “And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” 

        3. Now, we need to understand that the “offspring” in view here is singular in the Hebrew language. He is very definitely talking about one individual. Immediately that seed or “offspring” would be Isaac. However, the Lord had much larger plans for Abraham, and Matthew wants his Jewish audience to understand that Jesus Christ is this “seed” through whom all would be blessed. 

        4. If Matthew is correct in what he’s saying, then Christ is the realization of the promise made to Abraham 2100 years earlier. And every honest Jew, being a child of Abraham, would immediately recognize that they needed some part in Jesus, being that all would be blessed through Him. 

      5. And so, with just a few words, Matthew is at least claiming that Jesus is the culmination of God’s eternal plan, shown in his lineage. Matthew, very obviously, is telling us a great deal by just these first few words! 

  2. The mission of God is totally unhindered by the scheming of Satan and the sinfulness of man 

    1. Now, Satan is a smart cookie. Even men, in their limited understandings, were able to conclude that God would send the Messiah through David. So, Satan, as the ultimate enemy of God—Do you suppose he might have sought to snuff out the line of David so as to keep God’s plan from happening? Well, of course! Now, it would be to no avail, but Satan believes he’s more powerful than he really is. Let’s look at the scheming of Satan as it pertains to a queen named Athaliah. 

      1. We won’t read the text for the sake of time, but I’ll briefly cover the particulars. 

      2. In 2 Kings 11 we read of a queen named Athaliah who goes on a rampage after her son is killed. She decides that she’s going to try and snuff out the line of David. And we’ve gotta see past the surface to understand that this is the will of Satan. 

      3. Well, in her killing spree, she doesn’t realize that her daughter took her dead son’s baby (Athaliah’s grandson) and hid him. For several years she hid him until he could be placed as king. If he had been killed, there would be no line of David. The devil did not succeed in his attempt to thwart God’s plan! 

    2. Now, from a purely human perspective—imagining how we might expect God to bring the Messiah into the world—wouldn’t it make sense to carve out a line of purely righteous heroes, kings, and upstanding people? I mean, wouldn’t it seem fitting to utilize righteous men and women throughout the line of Christ so as to make even clearer his divinity? 

    3. Although that might be our expectation, Matthew doesn’t even try to clean up the genealogy of Jesus! 

      1. For one, he doesn’t try and leave out the bad kings. King Rehoboam (v. 7) was an incredibly evil king who caused great division in Israel because of his harsh leadership. But secondly, Matthew places in his genealogy certain Gentiles—not to mention that they were women! And I don’t mean that in a chauvinistic sense! I mean, this was not normal. Matthew is not trying very hard to make his genealogy fit the bill of what was the norm. He has a very real agenda that he’s trying to press. 

      2. Let’s examine some of the women who appeared in Christ’s genealogy

        1. Tamar (v. 3)

          1. Posed as a prostitute, practicing incest, so that she might continue her dead husbands line.

          2. Now, even through such an act of sinfulness, the Messiah would come! She’s in the line of Christ! 

        2. Rahab (v. 5)

          1. Rahab didn’t pose as a prostitute, as did Tamar, but she was a prostitute! Although even in such a sinful lifestyle she was more righteous than most of Israel’s leading men during the conquest of Canaan. 

        3. The wife of Uriah (v. 6)

          1. This terminology is particularly interesting to me. Whose wife did Bathsheba become? Well, David’s, of course. But, whose wife does Matthew say that she is? He says she’s Uriah’s wife! 

          2. It seems as though Matthew is intentionally directing our attention to the scandalous nature of Jesus’ lineage. 

          3. What’s interesting is that Matthew intentionally only uses 14 generations in each of the 3 sections. He deliberately chose the individuals he did to be in this genealogy. 

      3. The question is, why does God choose imperfect people to carry out His perfect plan, especially in the context of Christ’s genealogy? 

        1. I believe Matthew is trying to point out the eventual inclusion of both men and women, Jew and Gentile, murderer or upstanding citizen, into the kingdom of Christ. 

        2. The scope of Christ’s reign would involve the diversity of his lineage, which, for all practical purposes, involves anybody and everybody who wants to be a part of his kingdom.

  3. Christ’s centrality to every Divine movement demands that He occupy a central position in our lives

    1. Matthew is expressing in undeniably clear terms that Christ is the center of every divine movement. He is the culmination of God’s grand scheme. Every theological event has led to the person of Jesus Christ. Does this say anything about what type of place He ought to occupy in our lives? If every working of God has climaxed in Christ, then He ought to be the center of our everything. 

    2. Christ’s mission was eternally in the mind of God. 

    3. God made the world with the knowledge that Christ would come 

    4. Every act of God was designed to ultimately bring Christ. And so, for us to demote Christ to a second place position would be a catastrophically fatal error on our part. 

    5. Now, some may object to this statement, saying, “Well, I live outside of Christ, and I’ve got quite a pleasant life! How then, are you saying that He is the center of all things?” 

      1. Here’s the thing: Some may live a life where Christ has absolutely no position within them. And further, they may live such a life experiencing great pleasure. Well, what they don’t realize is that they are simply dancing around the most glorious place in the universe! So, certainly! They may experience great joy! And why is that? Because the glory and radiance of Christ extends every direction within this universe! 

      2. The problem is, that glory will really only be short-lived for those who have chosen to reject him.

      3. Why do you suppose God said that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow? Well, because He’s the center of all things. Being that He’s the center, we may very well run around him in circles, in this momentary passing of time in which we find ourselves, denying His centrality, but there will be a point when God freezes every runner who is dancing in the outfields of God’s glory and they will be forced to stand before Him, seeing Him in His eternal glory, and at this point they will be totally unable to run any longer. In their momentary gaze upon His glory, they will bow down proclaiming Him as king. And the sad part of this is, that any glory they experienced outside of him was only an after effect of his glory, and now they must live an eternity in such a place where his glory will not ever even be so much as hinted at!

Conclusion

 

Make Christ the center of your everything. Get into Christ if you’re outside of Him. If you’re in Christ, take courage knowing that when God has a will and an established plan to accomplish, nothing will stand in his way as a hindrance. And so, for those in Christ, He has declared that you will be with him in glory one day. It may be that your life is surrounded by the evil workings of Satan. Or maybe you have a lineage (mothers, grandparents, siblings) that seeks to disable your allegiance to Christ. Let not those things be a crippler. God used the sinfulness of mankind to bring a perfect gift to us all. Take solace in that fact! 

© Finding Canaan. All rights reserved. "Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another" -- Jeremiah 23:30