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“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; 3 And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; 4 And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; 5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; 6 And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; 7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; 8 And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; 9 And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; 10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; 11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon: 12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; 13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; 14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; 15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; 16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations” (Matthew 1: 1-17)

The Old Testament ended with the writings of the prophet Malachi. This was followed by 400 years of silence – “the inter-testamental period” – when God held back His Word. The evangelist Matthew broke the long silence by recounting the genealogy of Christ at the start of his Gospel. The first seventeen verses of Matthew’s Gospel trace the pedigree of our Saviour from Abraham to David, and from David to “Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (Matt 1: 16).

To the casual reader – this portion of Scripture which comprises so many unfamiliar names – may appear unprofitable at first sight. A closer study of Christ’s genealogy, however, will reveal some instructive truths:

o God’s faithfulness

Christ’s genealogy starts with “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt 1: 1). In calling Christ the son of David, and the son of Abraham, Matthew “shows that God is faithful to His promise, and will make good every word that He has spoken” (Matthew Henry), even though the promise was fulfilled some 2,000 years later.

We read in Genesis 12: 2-3 that God had promised to bless all nations through the seed of Abraham: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” In I Chronicles 22: 9-10, the Lord promised to raise up a Saviour of the house of David: “Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. 10 He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever.”

God’s promises are yea and nay (Matt 5: 34-37; II Cor 1: 17-19). Every word of God will be made good; every prophecy will be fulfilled in God’s own time and according to His divine plan and purpose. We thank God that He is ever faithful; He cannot deny Himself (II Tim 2: 13). This truth is reiterated in the Old Testament: “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Num 23: 19).

o Man’s depravity

We note from our Saviour’s genealogy that despite the piety of godly kings, some of their sons turned out wicked. Commentator J C Ryle made a pertinent observation: “Observe how many godly parents in this catalogue had wicked and ungodly sons. The names of Rehoboam (“Roboam”), and Joram, and Amon, and Jechoniah (“Jechonias”), should teach us humbling lessons. They had all pious fathers. But they were all wicked men. Grace does not run in families. It needs something more than good examples and good advice to make us children of God. Those who are born again are not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (Jn 1: 13). Praying parents should pray night and day, that their children may be ‘born of the Spirit’.” Brethren, let us not only set godly examples before our children, but pray earnestly for God’s saving grace upon them.

o Christ’s condescension

There are some names in our Saviour’s genealogy that had a sad and shameful past. Examples are Rahab (“Rachab”) the harlot (Josh 2:1), Judah (“Judas”) who “begat Phares and Zara of Thamar” (Matt 1: 3) through an incestuous relationship (Gen 38: 11-30), and Manasseh who promoted widespread idolatry in the land (II Ki 21). Despite their sinful past, these people had the honour of being named in Christ’s genealogy. Ryle aptly commented: “If Jesus was not ashamed to be born of a woman, whose pedigree contained such names as those we have read today, we need not think that He will be ashamed to call us brethren, and to give us eternal life.”

We thank God for the condescension of our Saviour. Though He is the Almighty God, He humbled Himself to become man, in order to save us from our sins: “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (II Cor 8: 9). Thank God for His grace and salvation. May we respond with a heart of love and devotion toward our gracious Saviour.

– Pastor