Applying Genealogies

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As part of our 2016 Challenge, we were tasked with reading Matthew 1 today.  While it is an incredible passage to read, it can be intimidating to apply.  Genealogies can be confusing and we can be tempted to skip over them.  So, I have included this excerpt from the ESV Study Bible, page 2573, to help us understand how we can make the most of this passage.

Application is a lifelong process, seeking to expand and deepen wisdom. At the simplest level, simply read through the Bible in its larger chunks. The cumulative acquisition of wisdom is hard to quantify. A sense of what truth means and how truth works is overheard as well as heard. But also wrestle to work out the implications of specific passages.

. . . [Genealogies and censuses] are directly irrelevant to your life. Your name is not on the list. The reasons for the list disappeared long ago. You gain nothing by knowing that “Koz fathered Anub, Zobebah, and the clans of Aharhel” (1 Chron. 4:8). But when you learn to listen rightly, such lists intend many good things—and each list has a somewhat different purpose. Among the things taught are these:

  • The Lord writes down names in his book of life.
  • Families and communities matter to him.
  • God is faithful to his promises through long history.
  • He enlists his people as troops in the redemptive reconquest of a world gone bad.
  • All the promises of God find their “Yes” in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).

You “apply” a list of ancient names and numbers by extension, not directly. Your love for God grows surer and more intelligent when you ponder the kind of thing this is, rather than getting lost in the blizzard of names or numbers.

I would add that thinking about the stories of each name included in a genealogy allows us to see God’s power in a wonderful way.  Allow me to point out just one in Matthew’s genealogy.  Five verses into the Gospel we see a woman by the name of Rahab as an ancestor of Jesus.  While we may be tempted to believe it is only the perfect people that are used in God’s redemptive story, the reality is that God is using imperfect people in his perfect plan.  Rehab was a prostitute used by God in Joshua 2 to protect his people from harm. Then in Joshua 6:25 she is protected from harm because of her service to God’s people and now in Matthew we found out that her service also includes her in the Genealogy of the Savior. If God can use sinners like Rahab, he can use us as well.

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