Summary: Through the genealogies found in the first chapter of Matthew, we gain an overview of salvation history, one which portrays how God was orchestrating throughout history His plan of salvation; a plan that unfolds in the birth of Jesus.
Christmas is upon us, and I’m sure that many of us are familiar with Handel’s Messiah. In one of the pieces from The Messiah, Handel quotes a well-known verse from the prophet Isaiah, which is oftentimes used around Christmas: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The Old Testament is full of prophecies like this; prophecies that foretell the coming of the Messiah and Savior, Jesus Christ.
All of the Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus as found within the gospels of Matthew and Luke. But what I find interesting is that we have a reminder and summary of many of these prophesies in an unexpected place – the genealogies found in the first chapter of Matthew. Through this list of names and the mention of a few select events, we gain an overview of salvation history, one which portrays how God has been orchestrating throughout history His benevolent plan of salvation; a plan that unfolds in the birth of Jesus.
The genealogies are, to many Christians, just a list of “begats” that are often overlooked; but they are actually significant. One of my seminary professors from years ago (Paul House), said that the “begats” are a way to portray large segments of historical background in a very short space. This morning, as we take a look at the genealogies, I am only going to hone in on a few key names, not all of them; but as we look at this list of names, we are going to expand our understanding of salvation history, concerning how God’s plan of redemption was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Jesus, Son of David, Son of Abraham (v. 1)
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
We see David mentioned here in verse 1. In 2 Samuel 7:16, David received a promise from God spoken by Nathan. The promise was this: “Your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” Jesus, being the one who could bring everlasting life, and being the preexistent and ever-existing one, is the only person through which David’s lineage could continue forever; so this was a prophesy of the Messiah.
The Messiah was first eluded to back in Genesis 12:1-3, in what has been called the Abrahamic Covenant, when the Lord told Abraham to leave Haran to embark on a sojourn. Just to reacquaint ourselves, allow me to read these verses: “Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing . . . And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Abraham was promised a land (v. 1), a nation (v. 2a), and a blessing (v. 2b). The “blessing” is the primary emphasis of the covenant with Abraham. The blessing is none other than the Messiah. You see, it is not only a blessing that will affect Abraham and his direct seed, but one that will affect all the families of the earth; meaning that both Jews and Gentiles will receive this blessing.
Isaac, Jacob and Judah (v. 2)
2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.
There is one account in particular with Abraham and Isaac that brings to light God’s plan of redemption. In Genesis chapter 22, the Lord told Abraham to sacrifice his son on the altar. So, Abraham, in obedience, went through the motions of preparing the sacrifice; including having Isaac carry the wood, which foreshadowed Jesus carrying His own cross for the crucifixion. But just on the verge of Abraham plunging the knife into Isaac, the Lord provided salvation by placing a ram caught in a thicket. In doing so, God revealed a piece of His plan, especially as Abraham confidently declared to Isaac, “God will provide a lamb” (v. 8, NRSV).
In Genesis chapter 32, Jacob is said to have struggled with both God and men (Genesis 32:28). We read here that he begot Judah and his brothers. I think we all know how Judah and his brothers turned out, as they sold their baby brother Joseph into slavery. Jacob’s struggling with God and men, which was purely a matter of sin, was passed on to his sons. But once again, God showed forth His mercy and compassion by having Joseph ascend to second in command of Egypt. And during a time of famine, Joseph provided salvation for his people Israel and demonstrated forgiveness towards his brothers. Joseph, himself, typified the undeserved kindness and salvation that God would one day offer through the coming Messiah.