Matthew’s genealogy contains more than meets the eye. Why, for instance, in verse 1, does Matthew refer to Jesus as being the son of Abraham, and David, out of all the people in Jesus’ line?
We can conclude, for one, that it’s because of sin and suffering. This theme runs through the chapter. Abraham was the father of Israel, and a spineless twirp at times, especially to his wife. Jesus also descends from Boaz, and Ruth, who came together under both sin and suffering – Ruth being the Moabite that clung to Naomi, when Naomi’s sons foolishly left their home during a famine.
And Jesus also descends from Solomon, the son of “the wife of Uriah” (v. 6) – Bathsheba, the wife that David stole from Uriah, and then had him killed.
Things descend so quickly after that. Manasseh (v. 10) was so evil that Scripture records that he led the people into more evil than that of the nations that Israel originally displaced in the conquest of Canaan (2 Kings 21:9). That’s bad. It got so bad that later Josiah (v. 11) has to rediscover God’s Word, when construction workers find it in the wall of the temple. But this provides only temporary relief from Manasseh’s ways, and the people eventually go into exile. God cannot tolerate outright, abominable rebellion forever.
Molech Never Had It So Good
Some things never change. With each turn of the page, in, say, the books of Kings, we jump ahead – every time – about the time our country has been in existence – about 100-200 years. And how our generation resembles Manasseh’s! Our leaders are now enshrining, encouraging and funding the blood sacrifice of children, not only in our country, but around the world. Molech never had it so good. They deface the image of God, especially in girls, through a predatory sexual culture, which exalts what our genitals supposedly tell us, above all else. Thus they celebrate and call it righteous when 13-year old girls demand to receive testosterone treatments, against their parents wishes – or worse, encouraged by their parents! – such that they are permanently, painfully mutilated. Disagree with this, in love, and you are called hateful – you are illegal. With such a culture, who needs Manasseh’s literal Asherah poles?
Long does Manasseh’s reign live. Despite what political correctness tells you, history records unmistakeable savageries in the practices of the Native American tribes.* But perhaps you would point to comparable savageries by colonizing Europeans. Fair enough. Let’s grant any or all the above, and this truth remains: no people group – native or European – in any part of North or Central America is ever recorded to have sunk to the levels of depravity, abuse and self-mutilation – savagery – as our present generation. Our practices are abominations before God. We are the worst savages to have ever occupied North American soil. And He will not abide us forever. As with the blood of Abel, crying out to God from the ground for justice, so He will answer the blood spilled on our soil, in our time. He is merciful, but He is also just.
But there is one answer – only one – found in Matthew 1. In a world filled with such abominations, God demands righteousness. And yet there is none. But in Abraham’s story we read that God in mercy substitutes faith for righteousness. Abraham believed God, and God counted that faith as righteousness.
And then God gave a king, to reign over His people, one who would have a heart after God’s own heart. But David would only serve as a dim picture of the real King who was to come. Jesus, who was born into our real world of sin – descending from a bunch of sinners and sufferers – and who walked through our dim woods of rebellion. Immanuel, God with us, God come close to us, despite our depravity.
He came to reign, and bring justice, and yet at the same time save people from their sins. This he did in the most ironic and ignoble way possible – by dying on a bloody Roman cross. Which means that, no matter how deeply our depravity has descended, there is forgiveness, because justice was done on him; there is cleansing, because his life was given; there is escape, because he chose to have none; there is freedom, because he was crushed, for us.
But then He was raised. Which makes Him the King over all. The only way this generation can escape and be saved from its own insanities is by taking him up on his offer of his own cleansing blood, and then bowing its knee to him as King, and submitting ourselves to His ways. There is no neutral third way. We either follow the way of Joseph – waking up from our sleep, and following the Word of the messengers of God (v. 24) – or we follow our own insane appetites, to Manasseh’s end.
No If, Only Which
It is Christ or chaos. Babylon below or Jerusalem above. Corruption or Calvary. He is either an idiot or Immanuel. There is no neutral ground. We cannot tolerate with one foot our own abominations in order with the other to have stability. In truth we have no stability before God, without bowing our knee to Christ. All the generations of the world have passed by, and now here we are. It’s time to choose – to choose life, not just for our slaughtered little ones, but for ourselves. God has come close, to save us. But will he find faith, in him?
* Two that come to mind: James Michener’s vivid portrayal, in the book “Centennial”, of the Ute tribe’s practice of taking all the worldly possessions of the spouses of warriors killed in battle. One by one the widow’s neighbors come and take her possessions, leaving her exposed, destined for starvation. Or the people sacrificed alive to the sun-god, by Central American peoples.