November 28 – Matthew 1:1-17
This week the sermon was on the genealogy of Jesus (Matt. 1:1-17), so in our discussion this week we’l dig a bit more into what was going on throughout the history of Israel leading up to Jesus’ birth. We’ll start at Abraham, since that’s where Matthew starts, then skip ahead to David, and finish up with prophecies out of Isaiah. In particular, we’ll be tracing the promises of God made to Abraham, built upon with David, and culminating in Jesus.
In Genesis 12:1-4 we’ll read about God’s call on Abraham. At this point he’s still known as Abram, an up-until-now unknown resident of Mesopotamia. Unlike Noah (Gen. 6:9), no mention is made of Abraham’s faith in God, so most likely he was a pagan, worshipping any of the ancient Mesopotamian deities. God didn’t call Abraham because he was holy or noble, or because God knew he would grow up to be worthy. Time and again, between Genesis 12 and his death in Genesis 25, Abraham will prove his unfitness for God’s call—he’ll lie about his wife twice (12:10-20; 20:1-8) and get his wife’s slave, Hagar, pregnant (16:4). This was all about God’s favor. For whatever reason, God picked Abraham and decided to bless him and, through him, to bless the whole world.
In our discussion we’ll look at what all God promises to Abraham, and it’s pretty staggering. Here are the seven promises we see there.
1. God will give Abraham’s descendants the Promised Land – for a family of pastoral nomads, land to call their own was a big deal)
2. God will make Abraham’s family into a great nation – which, by ancient standards, was a massive blessing since a big family equated to wealth, stability, and legacy
3. God will give Abraham a great name – again, legacy
4. God will make Abraham himself a blessing
5. God will bless those who bless Abraham
6. God will curse those who curse Abraham – God will fight for him
7. God will bless all the families of the earth through Abraham
So, while we’re focusing on the last promise and how this points to Jesus, don’t miss how multifaceted God’s covenant with Abraham is. The promise of a Messiah isn’t merely a separable component of this covenant—it’s integrated with the other six promises. For whatever reason, God wanted to do his eternal work of redemption through a family, Abraham’s family in particular.
You can connect the dots between this and our study in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. Here we can start to see that God’s work through an earthly, temporal family was begun to make a heavenly, eternal family, that through Abraham’s physical children will come a savior who will have billions of spiritual children through his work of redemption on the cross. In Abraham we see the start, and in Jesus the completion, of God making for himself a family of people on whom he has decided to show favor.
Then we’ll skip ahead to David and see how God built on this promise to Abraham. At this point in time the first six promises on that list have been fulfilled. Israel has conquered the Promised Land and become a nation, was David as her king. In 2 Samuel 7:8-17 we find God’s covenant with David. Here David has been planning how he might build a temple for the Lord because Israel was still using the Tabernacle, essentially a big tent, for their worship and sacrifices. Interestingly, God forbids David from building the temple (though Solomon, his son, will complete the work), and instead pronounces a blessing on David.
There’s some subtle wordplay around the word house that’s easy to miss here. In 7:2 David says, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” In 7:5 God says, “Would you build me a house to dwell in?” And in 7:11 we read, “Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.” In Hebrew the word house can refer to a literal house, a temple, and a dynasty or legacy. So while David wants to give God a physical house (temple), God will give David an eternal house (lineage).
But note how God narrows focus here. It’s not just that God will give David a lineage that stretches into eternity. God speaks of a single descendant, one who will be a son to God, who will be disciplined “with the stripes of men” (i.e. whipped or flogged), but who will reign and whose kingdom will endure forever. This is none other than the Messiah, and the picture of how God will bless all the families of the earth gets a little bit clearer. From the nation of Abraham’s family will come a king, the son of David, but also mysteriously the son of God, and whose blessing will come in the form of rule and reign.
This picture was added to and clarified further by the prophets who followed David, so we’ll turn now to two passages in Isaiah that we often hear around Christmas: Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6-7.
But Isaiah isn’t the only prophet who helped us understand this coming Messiah; check out Jeremiah 31:31-37 (this Messiah will make a new covenant), Ezekiel 34:22-24 (God will set a shepherd over Israel), Daniel 7:13-14 (a human “son of man” is also called the Ancient of Days and reigns forever), Micah 5:2-5a (a ruler will be born in Bethlehem), and Zechariah 9:9 (Israel’s king will come on a donkey) and 13:7 (the shepherd will be struck). Which, as an aside, aren’t all those promises wild! There, in the Old Testament, hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth we read specific details about his origin, life, and death. That’s amazing!
And in Isaiah we’ll see even more, that this coming child, born to a virgin, will be called Immanuel, “God with us,” and that this child will rule on David’s throne and establish an eternal kingdom. This is the son of the covenant family come to bless and to reign—this is King Jesus!
And these promises should stir our hearts mightily this Advent season. From Abraham to Mary, Matthew’s genealogy spans about 2000 years, but in Jesus we see him “whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”(Mic. 5:2b) This was God’s rescue plan all along, from all eternity, his plan to bestow favor and grace on the undeserving and to give us an eternal legacy through his son rather than us falling victim to our own legacy of sin. We should stagger under the grace of it, and marvel at the intricacies through which God revealed his Son in the fullness of time.
Questions for Discussion
• Rather than reading back through Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1, we’re going to look at some history leading up to Jesus’ birth. We’ll start with Abraham, the first name in Jesus’ lineage. Could someone read Genesis 12:1-4 for us?
• What all is God promising to Abraham here?
• Why do you think God wanted to work specifically through Abraham’s family?
• How can this passage help us understand God’s plan for the world?
• Let’s turn to 2 Samuel 7:8-17. Could someone read that for us?
• By this point in history God has given Abraham’s family, the Israelites, the promised land and David is their king. What all is God promising to David here?
• How might this build on the promises God made to Abraham?
• Last one: turn to Isaiah. Could someone read 7:14 and then 9:6-7?
• How do all these promises connect with Jesus’ birth?
• How can these passages encourage you to worship Jesus this Advent?