A Legacy Of Faith
Key Verse 1:1
“A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
Matthew tells us the beautiful story of Jesus’ life and ministry. He tells us why that Jesus came to our messed up world. God loves us and wanted to save us from our sins. And he begins his story with a genealogy of names. They trace the ancestry of Jesus all the way back to David and Abraham. Luke traces them to Adam, but Matthew stops with Abraham because he wanted us to understand something about Jesus’ ancestry. He wanted to convey that while human ancestry may at times be relevant, what’s more important is spiritual ancestry, especially when it is marked by faith. God chose one man Abraham to begin a legacy of faith and passed it on to men and women of faith, until the coming of the Lord Jesus. What’s interesting is this: That anyone who puts their faith in Christ Jesus becomes a part of that holy Christian heritage. While Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, it’s also about people of faith who pass it on to the next generation. Christmas cannot be truly Christmas, without the gift of faith passed on to us passing it on to others.
Let me tell you the reason why Christmas is so important for the human race. There was a time when our ancestors lived happily in paradise. But in his unhappiness over man’s relationship with God, Satan devised a plan to get them kicked out of paradise. He tempted them to disobey God’s one command. And when they did, they not only lost paradise, but everything as well. They lost God, and the spiritual relationship that linked them with God. And so they lost the meaning of life. Our ancestors were kicked out of paradise and made to work for their survival. After living a short life on this earth, they not only died, but they had to face God’s judgment. That’s the bad news. But here’s what the good news is. God still loved them and wanted to bring them back home to Paradise some day. But first, God needed to save them from sin which separated them from God and brought on God’s judgment upon them. And so God promised a Savior. And that was the promise our ancestors carried in their hearts and passed on from generation to generation. And that’s the promise that was kept on that first Christmas.
Time passed since Adam and Eve were ejected from Paradise. Faith was still young in the hearts of God’s people, but not strong enough to begin a history or a legacy of faith. Hundreds of years passed until two unique and outstanding men emerged on the spiritual scene. Read verse 1,. “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The first man’s name was Abraham, and the second was David. Although Jesus was not at all a man like Abraham and David, God still considered him one of the builders of the faith. In fact, the Bible tells us that Jesus is the author and perfecter of faith. But before we talk about him, let’s look at the two other men God mentions in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus.
There was the man we all know as Abraham. Abraham was an old man and his wife was unable to bear any children at a time when bearing children was crucial to the life of a tribe or family. Because of this childless problem Abraham was just a hopeless person living in a cruel world. But God visited him and gave him some promises. (Gen.12 :1-3) And what God promised him wasn’t easy at all to believe. Yet, Abraham simply believed. Faith was born into his heart and into this world. But this new born faith still needed to grow and to mature into the kind of faith God could actually use to pass on to others. In the course of 25 years, God helped Abraham’s faith to grow until his faith became something others can learn from and imitate.
We wonder why Abraham grew in faith over the years? It was surely God’s grace. But Abraham also loved God and trusted him. He believed God’s promises because he loved God and trusted him. Love and trust were the foundation of the relationship Abraham had with God. Eventually, this trust and love which Abraham had for God helped this man to know God better. He came to know that what God promises he also fulfills. The more he trusted God, the more he could see all the promises being fulfilled in his life and beyond. Finally even when God gave him a promise he could not possibly live to see, Abraham believed God and passed this faith on to his children so that they too might believe God. It was his sacred duty to pass on his faith to his children and he did! In the years that passed between Abraham and David (the other man of great faith) people of faith lived and died with the promise of God in their hearts. Each of them loved and trusted God until this faith finally came to Abraham’s descendant David.
David was only a shepherd boy— basically a nobody in history. But he was special. He only had to look at the sky and the field to know that God is behind all this glorious creation and can do impossible things! As a shepherd boy, David loved God and trusted him. As he grew up, his love for and faith in God also grew. And God saw his heart. And he saw that David was ready to do anything for God by faith. And so God trusted him to build a nation on faith. Abraham only build a tribe. But David was called to build a nation of men and women of faith. So every time David won a battle, he gave glory to God. Every time God did something wonderful among the people, David credited it all to God. He prayed to God. He wrote psalms to God. And he consulted God in everything. (Some people only consult God in serious issues of life. But all other times they make their own decisions) But David inquired of God in all things. There is something else about David’s great faith. When he realized he had sinned, he repented. (One time Nathan the prophet rebuked him in front of all his people in the king’s court. David didn’t dismiss him and punish him for it. Rather David fell down before him and repented before God— that was his great faith) He was really a man after God’s own heart. It means that he was a man always ready to live by faith and to serve God’s glory by faith. David did not calculate loss or gain. He did not do his own thing. He did not object to God’s spiritual directions neither for his own life nor for the life of his people. In the end, David lived in the promise that God would some day send a Savior to save his people from the power of sin and bring them back home to Paradise. It was his faith that did this.
Abraham and David were men of faith. They were also the examples of faith. It means that if we want to better understand what faith is all about, we can examine their lives, read their stories, observe their decisions, and we can know what faith is. Mostly their faith was established and rooted in the promises of God. They held on to God’s promises, the promises they could see and those they couldn’t see. They held them as absolute truths— truths they could rely on and pass them on to their children. But their faith also had another angle to it. They had faith in God’s promises. But they also believed that this world was no permanent home neither for them nor for their children. They knew that the short life one lives is for the testing of people’s hearts. They believed in God’s kingdom. So they didn’t live as if this world was their permanent home. They lived as if their home was in heaven. But to believe this they had to both believe in God’s forgiveness of sin. And so they trusted that God would send a Savior who would deliver them from their sins, offer forgiveness, and bring them home to God where they belong.
And we cannot ignore the faith of our Lord Jesus as well. He is very much part of that genealogy! Read verse 1 again. “The genealogy of Jesus Christ…” Abraham and David were examples of what faith is. But Jesus, is the perfector of faith. (Hebrews 12:1,2) So how can we describe Jesus’ faith? Jesus was chosen by God to sacrifice his life to ransom us from the power of sin. It wasn’t an easy command and expectation. Jesus needed to give up his heavenly glory. He had to come to earth and live among us sinners. He needed to fight temptation all his life and never give in to it. It wasn’t easy for Jesus to stand strong in faith. But he did. Even on the cross when he was tormented by his separation from God, Jesus did not doubt God. He did not shrink back from suffering. Rather Jesus gave himself fully. He did so in faith completely trusting God with all things.
Jesus’ faith had always been the shining star in our dark world. And his faith helps us and perfects our faith as well. In our struggles and hardship, if we do not think about our own situation and fall into hopelessness, and think instead about Jesus, he helps our faith grow until it is perfected. Christmas time is a good time to think deeply about Jesus, to look at him and to trust him, for he is the one who help our faith grow above our unbelief, above our sorrows, above our struggles that usually hinder us and hinder our faith, and the growth of God’s ministry. If we do that, we can be a blessing rather than a burden to ourselves and to others. Our faith should grow until we can share and plant the gospel in other people’s hearts. That is how faith grows. That is how we are part of that great genealogy of our Lord that began with Abraham, was passed on to David, and was perfected in and through Christ our Savior.
Like all other Jews of the times, there was a time when Matthew didn’t have much regard for women. But perhaps when he sat down to write the gospel of Matthew and looked closely at Jesus’ genealogy, he couldn’t but see how vital women were to that sacred heritage of our Lord Jesus— the one he was born to. The women he mentions in these verses were all women of great faith. So Matthew found himself recording their names. Who were they? Look at verse 3a. “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar…” Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law. When her evil husband (Er) died, she still wanted to conceive a child for him through whom his name would continue in his family line. So she married his brother Onan and tried to conceive from a son for her first husband through him. But this one was also wicked and God put him to death. These two brothers had another younger brother, Shelah. So Judah promised that when Shelah grew up. He would give him to her so that she could conceive a son for her first husband. (It was the custom to do that then). But Judah worried that this one would also die with her, and did not fulfill his promise to give him to her in marriage. What was she to do? Tamar didn’t give up. She was faithful to her first husband and determined to honor his name. One day she disguised herself as a prostitute and lured Judah, her husband’s father to herself, and conceived through him. She risked her reputation and her dignity. But she didn’t care much about herself, as long as she could bear her dead husband a son. What she did was terrible in human eyes. But even though no one could understand her action, God accepted what she did as faith. God honored Tamar’s faith and included her in the genealogy of his Son Jesus.
Look at verse 5. “Salmon the father of Boaz whose mother was Rahab…” Rahab was a prostitute who lived in the walls of Jericho. Jericho was the first city God’s people had to fight in their conquest of Canaan. All their future battles and successes or failures depended on whether they would capture this city or not. When Joshua sent spies to check the city’s defenses out, Rahab, didn’t surrender them to the king’s guards. Instead she welcomed them and hid them and even helped them finally escape. (Jos.2:1-21; Heb.11:31) Why did she do that? Because she had faith in God and believed that God is truly God and no one else is. She loved and feared him and longed to be accepted by him. So she stood on God’s side and planted faith in the spies’ hearts before they left. What Rahab did was she betrayed her own country and people. But God didn’t see it that way. God saw it as a beautiful act of faith and he saved her from the destruction that fell upon Jericho. Because of her faith, she became the mother of Boaz who married Ruth.
Look at verse 5b. “…Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth…” Ruth was a Moabite, a foreigner. When Ruth’s Hebrew husband died in the land of Moab, she could have returned to her family and married again as all young women want to do. But she decided to go back with her mother-in-law Naomi to the land of Israel. She gave up her identity as a foreign idol worshipper and sacrificed her youth to do that. Why? She wanted to identify herself with the only true God— the God of Israel and his people. She did this because she had faith in God and she was faithful to her dead husband. God couldn’t possibly overlook such a beautiful woman of faith. God honored her faith and made her the great grandmother of king David. In that way she too was included in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus.
Look at verse 6. “…and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.” When David was lying on his death bed, his first son, Adonijah, plotted to seize the throne. At this crucial moment, this woman, Uriah’s wife also known as Bethsheba did something incredible through her faith. She helped her husband David to honor God’s will and promise to establish Solomon as his heir. (1Ki.17) She could have feared for her life and the life of her son. But she trusted God to help her. Her faith saved God’s history from passing on to the wrong king.
Look at verse 16. “And Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Mary was only an ordinary country girl who had her own sweet plan for her life. One day an angel visited her and told her of God’s great plan and purpose for her life. (Lk.1:26-33) God wanted her to bear a very heavy cross of bearing the Son of God out of wedlock. God’s plan interfered with her own plan for a beautiful wedding and a sweet home as Joseph’s wife. If she accepts God’s plan for her life, she would be misunderstood, despised and forsaken by everyone. Still, Mary renounced her own plans of life and gave herself to the will of God. And so she came to be included in the genealogy of his Son Jesus.
These women were all ordinary women. But they were women of great faith. With their faith, they shaped up God’s history. They overcame their difficult circumstances and gave glory to God. At the time in history when women were almost nothing, these women had all the reason to feel helpless and to be useless to God. But because of their faith, they became pillars in God’s history. God was able to work out his plan of salvation because of their faith. God loved them and was willing to associate his great name with theirs, making them building stones in the genealogy of his Son Jesus. That’s our prayer too, that many women like them may live by faith and give glory to God.
Now in verses 7-15, two tragic events happened in the history of Israel. The first event is the division of the kingdom of Israel. (7-11) The second was the Babylonian captivity. These events were tragic and led the people of God astray from God. Still, God did not abandon or destroy them. God was faithful to his promises. He helped them and trained them until they could grow in faith and come back to God through repentance and faith. Finally God was faithful in sending the Savior of the world to them and to us. He sent them Jesus to be their Savior. We cannot ignore the men and women of God who shaped up God’s history with their faith. They lived by faith and pleased God. So God was pleased to honor their faith and to include them in his Son Jesus’ genealogy. We are certain that God is also pleased to include us in his Son’s genealogy when we live by faith in his Son in this our dark generation— when we are ready to overcome our situation and give glory to God in all things. God is surely faithful to us. In spite of our sins, God never abandons us. He is with us always, faithfully keeping his promises until Christ Jesus returns to bring us back to his kingdom paradise.