In the beginning (Matthew 1:1-17)

Introduction

Two things that have been coming up in my Bible reading and in the thoughts we’ve been sharing online over the last few weeks have been

  • The cry of ‘how long oh Lord’  expressed by God’s people in the face of suffering
  • Can we trust God to keep his promises?

These questions are deeply pertinent to our planned teaching from Matthew’s Gospel.  This is a Gospel all about God keeping his promise and fulfilling his word.  This is a Gospel which along with the other Gospels arrives at the end of 400 years of “divine silence” without revelation. 

Matthew or Levi was one of the 12 disciples.  He was a tax collector and Jesus called him away from his booth to follow him.  We can see as we read through any of the Gospels that there must have been interaction between the authors and so we can see that Matthew and Mark interact with each other.  Matthew as a tax collector was likely to have learnt a form of short-hand in order to keep records and so would have been able to keep a quick and accurate record of everything Jesus said.

We can trust God to keep his promises – and the different Gospel authors write to show that we can believe.

Luke will carefully order an account having carefully consulted with the eye witnesses. John will pick up on specific signs of Christ’s deity and Matthew constantly will show how Jesus fulfils the promises of the Old Testament prophets.

So I want to highlight a couple of ways in which the text of Matthew 1:1-17 does that before we think through some specific application for us.

The eternal Creator God will bring about new beginnings and new creation (v1)

Matthew starts with the words “the book of beginnings” or “origins.”  It’s very similar to the start of Genesis In fact in Greek Matthew is saying this is “the book of Genesis.”  In other words, this is that start of God’s new creation. The structure of Matthew seems to echo something of the 5 books of the Torah including a genealogy here just like the ones used to punctuate and structure Genesis. also like the Torah places Jesus as the new Moses speaking from a mountain (a new Sinai) and teaching the people how to know and obey God’s law in their hearts. Just as the Covenant in Deuteronomy is shaped by blessings for obedient people and curses for those who disobey, Matthew records Jesus’ words of blessing on his poor in spirit, persecuted, meek and gentle followers whilst announcing woes to the hypocritical religious leaders. Rejection of God’s king will lead to exile and the destruction of the Temple.  Yet primarily we will see that the curse falls on Jesus himself even though he is innocent.

The words and the structure point us to the creator God who in Christ, the living word is bringing about a new creation. God will keep his promise to deal with the curse of the fall.  

  • The Covenant God is faithful and will keep his promises (v2-6)

In Genesis 12, God appears to a man called Abram (later his name is changed to Abraham) and promises him land, descendants and blessing. God kept that promise. Abraham eventually had a son, Isaac and through him a nation is born. Then later on, one of Abraham’s descendants, David is anointed as king to rule God’s people in the land God has given them.

  • The Sovereign King will establish his rule and reign (v7-17)

The third part of this genealogy leads from David, the king who foreshadows Jesus to the coming of Jesus himself. David was promised that he did not need to build a house for the Lord but the Lord would establish his house forever, the promise is fulfilled in Jesus the true and everlasting . The family tree is structured in a stylised fashion to divide into three equal lists of 14 generations.  This shows that history is happen in line with God’s ordered plan. It also points us to Jesus as the fulfiller of the promises to Abraham and the rightful heir to David.

Application to Us

Obviously, we will have immediate questions to the present crisis. “How long oh Lord” is a cry as we experience suffering, bereavement and prolonged lockdown due to Coronavirus. “How long” because we are distressed at the situation. “How long” because we wonder how long we can cope. “How long” because we are concerned for God’s glory and worry about how to answer questions about suffering and so to defend God.

Well, the answer to this is that God’s timing is perfect, he works all things together for good and will keep his promise to look after his people. We can trust him.  Present sufferings are temporary.

We may also have more longer term and personal questions about our own future, job security, health and well-being. Again Matthew 1 points us to the God who is in charge and will look after us through life.

Finally, we may also be asking about the promise of salvation of forgiveness and that Christ will return. Can we trust and act on God’s promises? Yes we can because God has already kept his promise.

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