When reading the bible maybe you’ve been tempted to skip over the “begat” sections. “Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.” There are seemingly endless genealogies in the Old Testament where the lives of entire generations are summed up in the name of just one person… and some generations are not even mentioned at all. But Titus 3:9 cautions us to “avoid foolish questions and genealogies and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.” 1 Timothy 1:4 echoes this warning. So why does Matthew’s gospel of Jesus start out with His genealogy as reviewed through the lineage of Joseph who didn’t even father our Lord?
It could be very exhilarating to pursue a discussion of why Jesus is called the “Son of Abraham” and the “Son of David” and ponder the cultural customs in which these labels made perfect sense, even if they mystify us. We could question the three sets of 14 generations listed, even to delve into why some generations did not make the list but were skipped over. We could research the possible relationship of the 42 generations to Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks of years and how it represents the number of salvation and deliverance. We might get caught up in the ‘religion’ of numerology and the significance over all the numbers referenced in the bible. We could study “secret bible codes” or get caught up in Gnostic stories like The Da Vinci Code that pursue secret and mystic genealogies in attempt to find ‘hidden wisdom.’
But let’s not.
Not that study is bad, but because there is something much more basic and important we should learn first to apply to our lives.
Consider how Matthew’s genealogy of Christ demonstrates the grace of God. Ponder the inclusion of five women (very unusual in those times), all whose reputations were considered tarnished. Reflect on how God works His grace through broken lives of ordinary people (like you and me) to achieve extraordinary results. No doubt He worked through the generations of people whose names were omitted from the history lists. This should give a humble reminder that the history of man is not all about us! The passing of generations is not about prideful genealogy. Then what is the purpose of this genealogical list?
It’s about God’s purpose and plan and our faithful response to it. Biblical history is not just about the redemption of man. It is the story of God – His Story – where God’s glory is the supreme focus. History wasn’t so much about Joseph having a perfect wedding. It was about his faithful response to the revelation of the Messiah born to his wife. That’s his part in history.
And this is true for you and me today. We tend to see the world as it revolves around our life, our plans, our ambitions, hopes and dreams, our family, our job, our happiness, our comforts and pleasures, our release from pain, sorrow, and hardship of every kind. But that’s not the main point. The big news headlines is that God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life and to be part of His Story by participating in His glory.
Maybe YOU will do something great for God that will be remembered for generations to come. But that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about remaining faithful in the unwritten generations that glorify God by enjoy Him – forever. Faith expressing itself in love is what counts most.