Missio Advent: What’s in a Family Tree? (Part 2)

During Advent, Missio is concurrently running two series.  On Mondays and Wednesdays Cameron Barham, lead pastor of Christ Community Church in Kennesaw, GA provides Advent devotions from the Gospel of Matthew.  On Fridays, Drew Masterson of The Washington Institute provides a series of reflections on four films for Advent.

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…and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. Matthew 1:7-11

JesseTreeIn this second section of 14 generations[1] in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, the names included again confront us with an unflattering portrait of Jesus’ lineage. The pattern for this section, unlike the first, remains consistent with the traditional “begats” formula with the exception of the concluding statement. The fact that this section of the genealogy concludes in the Babylonian exile for the people of Israel tells us something significant about the names that come before. It will also tell us something significant about the sovereignty of God and the need for a different kind of King in order to be able to live in a different kind of Kingdom of freedom, joy, and peace.

A quick survey of the names informs us that these are the Davidic kings listed in 1 Chronicles 3:10-17 with a few key exceptions.[2] The list in Matthew leaves several names out: Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah (between Joram and Uzziah) as well as Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah (between Josiah and Jeconiah). It appears that Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah are left out because of their affiliation with Ahab, Jezebel, and Athaliah, who all sought to silence the prophets of God and eclipse the line of David in order to seize control of God’s people and their hope. Matthew appears to leave Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah out because of their wicked rule that led to the Babylonian exile in 2 Kings 23-24.[3] Nonetheless, Matthew does include a number of wicked kings in the list which tells us that he is not hedging his bets by only including the faithful kings. The wicked kings include Rehoboam, Abijah, Joram, and Manasseh, potentially the worst in the history of Israel according to 2 Kings 21.  As D. A. Carson writes, “Good or evil, (these kings) were part of Messiah’s line; for though grace does not run in the blood, God’s providence cannot be deceived or outmaneuvered.”[4] This is particularly good news to us given the politics and history that is unfolding all over our world this Advent Season!

Just as the lineage of Christ contains Gentile women with shameful and interesting stories, it also contains a mixed bag of faithful and wicked kings. Though the faithful kings such as Asaph (also known as Asa), Jehoshapat, and Josiah sought to obey the Lord and lead the people to rightly honor the Lord in worship, they could not make the kingdom last. They were but finite men who could only do so much. In the same way, the wicked kings, though they sought to blot out the name of the Lord and replace it with their own over the kingdom, could not make it last. They too were but finite men who were only allowed to go so far. Charles Spurgeon writes, “A line of kings of mixed character; not one of them perfect, and some of them as bad as bad could be. Three are left out altogether: even sinners who were only fit to be forgotten were in the line of this succession; and this shows how little can be made of being born of the will of man, or of the will of the flesh. In this special line of descent, salvation was not of blood, nor of birth…. Again we say, how near does Jesus come to our fallen race by his genealogy!”[5] All of this clearly tells us that the Kingdom of God where we will dwell with Him in peace and joy for eternity requires a perfectly righteous, eternal Davidic King to bring it to glorious fruition.

Where does this leave us as we hang in the balance of a pending national election that threatens to be historic and future-altering regardless of who wins? Where does this leave us in a nation that seems to be coming apart at the seams in terms of race, free speech, trust in authority of any kind, truth in media, and civil discourse of any kind on any range of topics? Where does this leave us in a world that appears to be at great risk of sinking into the abyss of World War III as the line between ally and foe becomes as elusive as the real reasons why we are in this unfolding mess? This second section of Matthew’s genealogy leaves us with several comforting truths that apply to these (and many other) questions. Kings of all kinds will rise and fall but the Word and redemptive purposes of the Lord will endure forever. The nations will rage and kings will plot for their own selfish kingdoms but the Lord will laugh and break their plans with a rod of iron and break them apart as if they were (and they are) a potter’s vessel. We, as God’s people, need not fear the vain attempts of those who seek to replace the Lord’s Anointed as king. We have the assurance that the King who came at the First Advent to inaugurate His Kingdom will return again at the Last Advent to make all things new, ushering us into His eternal reign in peace and joy in the new heavens and the new earth. This leaves Jesus Christ alone as our only royal hope as it has always been and will always be.

 

 

Cameron Barham is the Lead Pastor of Christ Community Church in Kennesaw, GA.

Thumbnail: FreeImages.com/Filip Hallerfelt

Image: Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

[1] See Matthew 1:17 where Matthew breaks down the 3 sections of 14 generations in his genealogy of Jesus.

[2] There are several possible issues with names in Matthew’s genealogy due to spellings and various names for the same king that are beyond the scope of this post. These issues ultimately have no bearing on the conclusions drawn and applications made from this section of Scripture.

[3] D. A. Carson, “Matthew” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 67.

[4] Carson, 67.

[5] Charles Spurgeon, The Gospel of the Kingdom: An Exposition of the Gospel of Matthew accessed at http://grace-ebooks.com/library/Charles%20Spurgeon/CHS_Commentary%20on%20Matthew.PDF, 13.

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