Sunday, 5 February 2012

Word 3:45 One: Matthew 1

Matthew 1

Matthew begins his gospel with the ancestry of Jesus, all the way back to Abraham.  For a Jew, it was very important that they could demonstrate they were one of Abraham's descendants, and were therefore thoroughbred Jews.  We'll see this frequently in Matthew's gospel.

Most people reading Matthew 1 today don't see the relevance - even taking into consideration that Matthew was demonstrating Jesus' validity as a Jew.  However, Matthew was also demonstrating a key point: God always keeps His promises.  God had made promises to a number of people in the Old Testament, that one day, their descendant would be the Messiah.

Let's look at a few examples:

Genesis 12 v 2-3
'I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed'.

Genesis 49:8-10
"Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; 
   your father’s sons will bow down to you. 
You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. 
Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? 
The sceptre [a symbol of royalty] will not depart from Judah, 
   nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come"

2 Samuel 7:16 
"Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever."

And another more obscure member of Jesus' ancestors:

Zerubbabel (Matthew 1:12.  Zerubbabel  led the work on the reconstruction of Jerusalem from the rubble that was left when the Israelites returned from their exile)

Haggai 2:20-23
 20 The word of the LORD came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: 21“Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. 22 I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.
 23 “‘On that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”

The signet ring in Old Testament times was a royal symbol.  A signet, engraved with the king's seal, was used to endorse official documents.  To guard against misuse, the king wore it as a ring or on a necklace.  God declares here that He's chosen Zerubbabel and would keep him safe to fulfil his appointed purpose; since this didn't happen during his lifetime, we can see that this would extend to one of his descendants... and sure enough...

There are quite a few other interesting characters in Matthew 1... and I like to think of it as a roll of honour.

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