"How do you know when you are finished with a piece of writing?"—Evie, age 10 Evie, you've asked a stumper. I wish I had a clear, concrete ... Read More
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 is the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church Cool Springs in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and four children. He grew up in the fields of Indiana and studied at Taylor University and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv, ThM). Russ is the author of the Retelling the Story Series (IVP, 2018) and Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017).