Day 3: Sunday 3rd December – Matthew 1:1-17  ‘The divine promise-keeper’

Matthew 1:1-17

Admit it – you skipped a few lines of today’s reading, didn’t you?  Most people do.  In fact, if I was able to secretly watch your reading time, I might find it was more than a few lines!

The bible is full of genealogies.  Long lists of who begat who, to use the old language – and I’m sure most of you have often wondered what the point of them is.  If the bible is first and foremost a book about God, what can we possibly learn from human family trees?  Those of you who are family history fans might derive a modest interest from this kind of thing, and others of you – you know who you are – are mostly having a chuckle at the funny names, or trying to pronounce some yourself as a personal challenge.  But otherwise, what is the point?

To answer that question you need to go back to the third chapter of the bible – to verse 15 of Genesis chapter 3.  It had all started so well.  A perfect world, and humans in perfect relationship with their Creator…. and then disaster.  The bond broken, the innocence shattered.  A fallen world.

But in the midst of this catastrophe God promises that one day Eve’s offspring would crush the serpent’s head.  You might say that the rest of the bible is The Search for the Serpent Crusher.

And as we read these long lists throughout the Old Testament, generation after generation, we can detect a voice echoing down the ages: ‘where is he? Is he here yet?’  Waiting, waiting. 

And the promises keep growing.  As God speaks and blesses one family in particular, we see a line from Abraham – through Isaac, Jacob and Judah – which carries special hope.  King David came and went, and the promise escalated: one of his descendants would inherit an eternal throne.  Then the prophets weigh in, too: this new king would outstrip anything which had gone before – a new era of peace and justice, a global reach.  Way more than just the serpent’s head!  But still the waiting…

And so we get to the first chapter of the New Testament – Matthew’s gospel.  And now the voice changes – a divine voice answering all those echoes of longing, of faith and perhaps also of doubt: ‘the serpent crusher is here.  I keep my promises.’

Jesus is the Anointed One (i.e. the Messiah or Christ of v1).  Jesus fulfils the promises of global blessing given to Abraham (v2).  Jesus inherits the eternal throne promised to David (v6).  The serpent crusher has come!

It’s big stuff.  Perhaps take a moment to breathe in the enormity of a ‘boring’ family tree.  And more than that, remind yourself of something very simple but incredibly profound: God keeps his promises.  He keeps them to the world, to his people, and also to you.  God keeps his promises to you.  And may that awesome thought lift your heart, and also your faith, today.