Friday, October 3, 2008

The Ancestry of the King...His Human Heredity

The Old Testament promised over and over again the coming of a great King who will rule in God’s kingdom. According to the Old Testament this great King would have the character of God Himself (Micah 5:2-4). He would be of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:8-11) and the rightful heir to the throne of King David (2 Samuel 7:12-13). This coming great King would have the righteousness, the wisdom, the power, the authority, and the right to reign not only over Israel but over the entire earth.[1]

The whole New Testament acknowledges Jesus as the promised great King and this is initially presented and explained in the gospels, beginning with Matthew. “In the twenty-seven books of the New Testament the term kingdom is used one hundred forty-four times in referring to the reign of Jesus Christ; king is used directly of Jesus at least thirty-five times; and to reign is used of Him some ten times.”[2]

Matthew’s gospel serves as the bridge that leads us out of the Old Testament and into the New Testament. “The theme of the Old Testament is given in Genesis 5:1: ‘This is the book of the generations of Adam.’ The theme of the New Testament is given in Matthew 1:1: ‘The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.’”[3] Jesus the King is the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45) and He came to save the “generations of Adam” who rebelled against His kingship.

Matthew’s gospel picks up in verse one with two Old Testament figures, David and Abraham, that God entered into covenant with and will proceed to show that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promises made in each of these covenants. Matthew will show that Jesus is the King, the sovereign Son of David and that as the King He is also the sacrificial Son of Abraham.[4] Here is an amazing truth: the sovereign Lord is also the sacrificial Lamb.

The message of the book of Matthew centers on the theme of Jesus’ kingship and His kingdom. Matthew presents the Messiah King who is revealed, rebelled against, rejected and resurrected.[5] With His resurrection, Jesus as King commissioned His subjects to bring in His kingdom by bringing others to the point of obedient service to Him through preaching His gospel that offers forgiveness through repentance and faith. And for this purpose the King has promised His power and His presence.

Matthew’s key verse, if we were to pick one out, would have to be Matthew 27:37 which says, “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” This man Jesus, grew up in the middle of nowhere (Nazareth) with a couple of nobodies (Joseph and Mary). Yet Jesus was the sole legal and rightful heir to the throne of Israel.

Matthew wasted no time in his account of proving that Jesus is the only One who has the credentials to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies of the coming great King who would rule the world in righteousness and redeem His people. Jesus’ genealogy gave proof that He was the rightful heir to the throne and that He was the promised Messiah.

Since royalty depends on heredity, it was important for Matthew to establish Jesus' rights to David’s throne. Matthew 1:1-17 gives Jesus' human heredity and legal right as King to the throne of David.

The King’s Human Heredity (1:1-17)

The first verse of the New Testament is actually stunning. “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” In this one verse Jesus is presented as the Sovereign son of David and the sacrificial son of Abraham. Jesus is not only the Sovereign Lord He is also the Sacrificial Lamb.

For us to get a good grip on what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through the pages of the Bible we need to understand these two patriarchs and the promises made to both of them by God.

First we will deal with David and the promises given to him by God in what we call the “Davidic Covenant.” The Davidic Covenant is found in 2 Samuel 7:12-16. Messiah’s royal line began with David. Through the prophet Nathan, God promised that it would be David’s descendants through whom He would bring the great King who would ultimately rule over Israel and establish His eternal kingdom.

The promise was not fulfilled in Solomon, David’s son who succeeded him, or in any other king who ruled in Israel or Judah; and the people waited for one to be born of David’s line to fulfill the prophecy. The Messiah would be the King of the Jews. He would be the sovereign son of David.

Next we will deal with the Abraham and the promises given to him by God in what we call the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant is found in Genesis 12:1-3 where God promised Abraham that He would bless the nations of the world through Abraham’s seed. Through the seed of Abraham God was going to provide the Messiah to solve man’s sin and rebellion problem by dying as their sacrificial Lamb on Calvary’s Hill. Through the seed of Abraham God would bless the families of the earth.

We are saved today because of God’s covenant with Abraham. “Even so Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham the believer” (Galatians 3:6-9).

God promised to bless the nations through Abraham’s seed and in that statement God was preaching the gospel beforehand to Abraham. God would bless the nations through Christ. “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ” (Galatians 3:16). This is why Jesus told the Jews that Abraham saw His day and rejoiced and was glad in it (John 8:56).

So today, anyone who belongs to Christ is heir to the promises given to Abraham. “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29).

Matthew has said that Jesus is the son of David and the son of Abraham and now in verses 2-17 he commenced to prove it. Jesus is linked by blood to both David and Abraham and thus giving us His human heredity. Not only is Jesus the Son of God, He is also the Son of man. Because the promised Christ must be descended from both David and Abraham in order to fulfill Scripture, the documentation of His lineage is critically important.

When it comes to kings, people want to know just where they came from. These lists serve a practical purpose. In a day before the man on the street had his own copy of the Bible, people had to rely on memory and oral history. So Matthew traced Christ’s genealogy in three sets of fourteen generations. The three sets are broken down into those generations : (1) before the monarchy, (2) during the monarchy, and (3) after the fall of the monarchy to Babylon.

Matthew did not mention every single ancestor, but traced the generations in systematic, memorable terms. If the reader wanted more detail, it was available through the temple records. Matthew’s undeniable point was that Jesus of Nazareth is the legal heir to the throne of David! The King was on the scene!

In the course of tracing the generations of the Christ, Matthew tossed in a few surprises to help us begin to see the mercy and grace of God. He included no less than four women in the lineage, a highly unusual approach for a Jewish genealogy! Some of those women were Gentiles! God’s grace is clearly seen in the inclusion of outcasts in the kingdom of God.

Jesus is the Christ, the sovereign son of David, the sacrificial son of Abraham, and the King of the kingdom of God who gave His life as a ransom to make willing subjects. “But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence” (Luke 19:27).

[1] John MacArthur Jr., Matthew 1-7 in The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985), ix.
[2] MacArthur, x.
[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, Matthew in The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 1 (Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1999), 10.
[4] Stuart K. Weber, Matthew in Holman New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1 (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2000), 9-10.
[5] Wiersbe, 9.

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