Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Those Genealogies

Two facts:
  • The Bible has a lot of genealogies.

  • God gave us all the Bible, and so wants us to read it all.
One conclusion:
  • God wants us to read lots of genealogies!
What value then can we find by reading genealogies?
  • Most - almost all - appear in the Old Testament. The main purpose is Christological.

  • That is, God has taken great care to record an accurate history leading up to his Son. He gave many increasingly specific promises - son of the woman, son of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, of the tribe of Judah, son of David - and has taken corresponding care to record how it eventually happened.

  • That's why the New Testament doesn't record any more genealogies after Matthew and Luke's account of the lineage of Jesus.

  • Therefore, we must always remember that in the Old Covenant we are reading about God's preparations for the sending of his Son. We are being reminded that the coming of Jesus is the great, supreme fact of history. It was purposed, planned and accomplished with minute precision. Fantastic!

  • The genealogies therefore are continually reminding modern Christians that Christianity is not and never has been mere "values". It is not what secular people like to think of religion as - something private, personal and that should not intrude into our public lives or relationships, which would be offensive and/or medieval. Nope: from the beginning, God has been working in real human history, time and space, to prepare for the coming, dying and rising again of his Son. Christianity is something for this world, not an imaginary upstairs world that we don't live in.

  • Jesus Christ is the only one individual in modern times (where "modern" is used as a relative term!) whose entire descendency from the very beginning of human history can be traced out (except of course for his half-brothers, etcetera - but of course that's because of him). His uniqueness is exemplified by the amazing detail in which his ancestry was recorded. Who was Muhammed? Buddha? Where did they come from? Were we meant to be expecting them? In the case of Jesus Christ, we can trace him right down from Adam - we need not be in any doubt that he was the Messiah.

  • Each individual name was in almost all cases almost nothing in itself - we know nothing about almost all of them. But they all played their part in the whole. No life is without meaning or purpose - all play their part in God's plan for history, and lead to the fulfillment of his purposes.

  • The incredible historical detail and precision (especially as we see all the historical accounts tie up with each other) can give us great confidence. The Bible has the "ring of truth". It is clearly presented as something that its authors went to great pains to ensure the detailed accuracy of, that we might know with confidence in whom we have believed. No forger could produce something like the genealogies of the Bible.

  • The genealogies remind us that our names are all known, individually and personally, to God. When gone, we are not really gone and not forgotten - God will one day open the books again and call us to account for our lives in judgment.

  • The genealogies also humble us, not only by their Christo-centricity. Some of the names in them would have been very great names in their own day - but now we know nothing at all about them. So it will be one day with almost every single one of us - maybe the next US president's name, whether McCain, Clinton or Obama, will be recorded 4000 years from now should the Lord tarry and known to the specialists - but unless they start a nuclear war, that'll be about it. As for me and you, will we be thought about even once when our contemporaries have passed away?

  • Hence, the genealogies encourage us to focus on Jesus and his kingdom. Our names will perish, but his work will continue to advance. His name will be remembered, and maybe in 4000 years time someone will be saying something very much like this! Nothing we do for Christ will be in vain (1 Cor. 15:58); nothing we do for our own names will ultimately have any lasting value. So serve him!

Feel free to fill the comments with any other helps you can think of that we can get from the genealogies.

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