The Unbroken Line of Redemption

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You’ve just got to love a good genealogy (see Genesis 10, 11 and 46, 1 Chronicles 1-9, Matthew 1 and Luke 3). A while back I took on the task of copying the Bible by hand. I am not very far along, but the reason I wanted to do it was so that I might have the disciplined exercise of pouring over every word contained in it, and also so that my children and grandchildren might know that the word of God was dear to me—that it might be dear to them too.

In my writing, I have copied a few genealogies, and they always lead me to ask, “Why are these things here?” From them we should be amazed and humbled, because in them we learn that God keeps His words in ways no human plan could ever succeed in doing.

See. Noah begat three sons—Shem, Ham and Japheth. Ham and Japheth disgraced their father, and so God’s blessing rested upon Shem. Shem’s line begat Abraham. Father Abraham had many sons. God promised Abraham would be the father of a great nation—the people God would bind Himself to in covenant, and from whom He would ultimately provide the “Lamb” who would bear the sins of the world and usher in reconciliation with God that will last forever.

Abraham begat and begat and begat. And his sons did the same— and before you know it, Boaz (the guy who married Ruth) begat Obed who begat Jesse who begat David. David became the King of Israel, which took its name from Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel by God, and who was the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham—see how fun this is!

And God expanded the details of His Covenant with His people to David by telling him that his throne would be established forever and that from David’s line the Messiah would come and reign at the right hand of God.

While David’s descendants begat, the people of Israel summarily abandoned God altogether.

And generations later, one of David’s line, King Hezekiah, discovered the word of God on a dusty old shelf in the temple (2 Ch. 29-31), and he began to read—and the people of God heard the word of God again—after years and years of disregard. But obedience would not last, and eventually the people of God were exiled to places all over the middle-eastern world—to the extent that the line of David had become almost unrecognizable.

Until once upon a time, later, there was a girl named Mary, engaged to a boy named Joseph. They lived in an out of the way town called Nazareth. Joseph was descended from the great King David, though for his part, he was a carpenter—a blue collar man of no reputation. They were working hard toward a life they could live out together as husband and wife. All this was interrupted in a moment.

Mary and Joseph would both suffer suspicious looks from friends and relatives, questioning their virtue because Mary did, you recall, conceive out of wedlock. And ultimately, as the prophet Simeon told them, a sword would pierce their very souls. How did Simeon know this? He knew the line from which the Messiah would come—and the prophecies concerning Him.

In genealogies we are given a picture of an amazing thread that runs through redemptive history—a thread God has sewn through and for which no one can take any more credit than a man can take credit for his own birth. The thread that runs through redemptive history is God’s fidelity to His wayward people, preserving the line of blessing He promised to trace on through into eternity.

The One in whom your righteousness rests, the One who represents you before the throne of God, the One who calls you His Bride comes precisely from where God said He would.

So why does it matter that Obed begat Jesse? Because their lineage is part of the unbroken line from Adam to Christ. Christ came from the line God promised Abraham He would come from thousands of years before. And Abraham looked forward in faith. So you are called to look back in faith, and marvel at the precision and profound miracle of the unbroken line in God’s redeeming plan, and to understand that the genealogies of Scripture are telling you your story.

Russ Ramsey and his wife and four children make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church and the author of Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017), Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative (Rabbit Room Press, 2011) and Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Crossway, 2015). He is a graduate of Taylor University (1991) and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv – 2000, ThM – 2003).

Follow Russ on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.


7 Comments

  1. Matt McBrien

    This is actually something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. I find the genealogies throughout the Bible to be very interesting. In particular, the two genealogies of Jesus given in Matthew and Luke.

    The genealogy in Matthew is that of Joseph. Why should we care about Joseph’s genealogy if he was only the adoptive father of Jesus? According to Jewish law, Joseph was legally listed as head of the household, and passed on his status as belonging to the house of David on to his adopted son.

    Most believe, from what I’ve read, that the genealogy given in Luke is the ancestry of Jesus’ mother, Mary, despite that it says Joseph there in the text. (If it is actually the genealogy of Mary and Luke just wrote down Joseph as being the head of the household, it makes a lot more sense to me. How can Joseph be the son of two different men? Or is it just another time that the Bible calls the same man by two different names?)

    What do you think about the differences in the two New Testament genealogies of Jesus?

  2. Jonathan Rogers

    @jonathanrogers

    I remember reading a piece about Kosovo in which the writer described arriving on the scene after a brawl between some Muslim teenagers and Serb teenagers from a nearby village. This reporter asked, “What happened here?” and one of the boys began, “Well, in 1389 there was a battle here between the Serbs and the Turks…” This was before “open hostilities” had begun, so it was the first time the writer had understood what was at stake in Kosovo.

    I thought about that story as I read your piece Russ. Matthew sat down to explain what happened in Bethlehem, and he began, “Well, Abraham begat Isaac…” Which is to say, there’s a lot going on here.

  3. Russ Ramsey

    @russramsey

    Matt,

    I found this link which may help answer some of your questions better.

    I do think it’s fascinating that Matthew, writing mainly to a Jewish audience knows the link to Abraham and David is the key for them to recognize Jesus as their Messiah. And for a Jewish audience, they’d be interested in where Jesus would have come from before they’d be interested interested in who He was. So Matthew bgins with Abraham and established the unbroken line all the way up to Jesus.

    Luke, on the other hand, does not begin with ancient history and work his way to present day. He starts with Jesus, the One he’s introducing to his audience, the Greeks, and He traces Jesus all the way back to the first man, Adam. The idea here is to show Jesus as coming from the same line they came from– as human beings.

    Luke and Matthew are both writing to express to their audience that Jesus is THEIR one and only Savior and redeemer, respectively (Jew and Greek)– the Only One who can represent them before God and reconcile them to God.

    Russ

  4. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Russ,

    Chuck Missler has a fascinating take on the genealogy from Adam to Noah. He says if one works out the roots of the words it amounts to a sentence: “Man is appointed mortal sorrow. The blessed God shall descend, teaching his death shall bring the despairing rest.” Most of the words work out with just a Strong’s concordance, but I think on a couple there’s got to be deeper digging. I tried this on another genealogy, from Abraham I think to David a long time ago; I’ve got it written down somewhere at home (I’m in Calif mixing a record), but the essential sentence was something like, “The sprout from the region beyond the division shall be a friend to the branches.” Missler has a gift for drawing people in to a deeper respect and desire for the written Word.

    Best,
    Ron

  5. Nate

    I too enjoy a good genealogy. I heard an excellent sermon once by Hershel York (found here: http://www.sbts.edu/resources/Audio_Resources/Chapel_Messages/Fall_2007.aspx) that spoke a little to the genealogy of Esau found in Genesis 36 and contrasted that with how Romans 9 speaks of Esau. Here’s my journal entry over it from back in September. Its a little long, but shorter than listening to the sermon, though I recommend that. Its quite an edifying sermon.

    Yesterday I heard a sermon, and I thought I should take down some of the things the preacher of this sermon said. The preacher was Hershel York. He is the professor of preaching at the SBTS. He talked about Esau of all people. In Genesis, there is an account of Esau’s family. It seems that they were so big, so rich, that they had to move to a new land. Esau got his own country which was named Edom after himself. Somehow Edom is another word for Esau. Esau even married one of Ishmael’s daughters. That would have been the daughter of his’ father’s half-brother, almost a first cousin. A little too close of a relative in my mind. But anyway, that has no bearing.

    There is also an account of Esau in the New Testament, which is much shorter. It is in Romans 9. It says “Jacob I loved but Esau I hated.” Seems to me that all Jacob got was a tent in a famine. His people ended up doing pretty good, but it was years and years later. He would never see it. His family had to relocate to Egypt because of a famine. They were strangers, aliens in Egypt. And they became slaves there in just a generation or two.

    This seems kind of odd at first. “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Esau was the one who had an entire country, seems so richly blessed. Jacob is the one who has to move because of famine and becomes father to a family of slaves. This is a quandary. Dr. York said that if Esau was alive today, he’d be on TBN talking about all his blessings. And Jacob would not be. He’s be living in a tent, probably wouldn’t even have a TV to watch TBN.

    Seems we got things a little mixed up here in America. We think the gospel, and the effects of the gospel is like financial gain. There are people all over the world – Christians – who go to bed hungry, who are slaves, who’s families, neighborhoods, countries are war-torn, who have terminal illnesses. Does God love these people less? Does he hate these people? I say no. Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.

    This subject is probably worth revisiting. We have a mixed up view of what Christianity is supposed to look like. In closing I just want to purposely meditate for a moment on Phillipians 3:8 which says “indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

    For it is Christ Jesus who is our joy, not the little so-called blessings. When we fail to see the blesser for the blessings, we fail; we just fail. But it is Christ who is our joy, not the things of this world. It is Christ who is our joy, not our health or our wealth, not our freedom or our red, white and blue. It is only Christ. So if I boast, let me boast in the cross. For there is the root of my joy, the path of my salvation. There in the suffering’s of my Lord may lie my sufferings too. And if I boast, let my boast be there, in the sufferings of Christ, to whom I owe all.

    – Nate

  6. Nate

    By the way, there’s this really cool singer, maybe you’ve heard of him, maybe not, named Andrew Peterson (or something like that) and he has this song called “Matthews Begats” taken from the genealogy in Matthew. Its really cool. (some sarcasm is intended).

    I hear there’s a book too, I dont know…

  7. euphrony

    I’ve read that the name of David is of significance in the Matthew genealogy. To the Hebrew, the names also rrepresented numbers, with David being 15 (if I remember, that number is also significant somehow). Thus, in the genealogy, you have 15 generations from Adam to Abraham, 15 from Abraham to David, and 15 from David to Jesus; the mentions were specifically selected, with some omissions, to give the 15’s.

    I also love other genealogies; you can put together all sorts of interesting thigs if you pay attention. For example, when Absolom revolted against David, one of David’s most trusted advisors, Ahithophel (whose advice was like that of God) went with Absolom. Why? Well, connecting a few dots, you find he is Bathsheba’s grandfather! It seems he was none too happy with David’s action’s with his granddaughter.

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