Matthew chapter one begins with a genealogy. It’s a recollection of the lineage of Christ. I always find it very interesting God saw fit to include genealogies in Scripture. Why did He do that? I believe there is something that the Lord is trying to communicate to us.
He is telling us that he is sovereign and gracious.
God is sovereign in that he is free and able to do all that he wills; that he reigns over all creation and that his will is the final cause of all things. God is gracious in that he is able to confront human indifference and rebellion with an inexhaustible capacity to forgive and to bless.
Let’s look at four individuals that put God’s sovereign grace on display. The first one is the author of this gospel and the other three are people in the lineage of Christ.
Matthew was a tax collector. He worked as an agent of the Roman government. The Roman government ruled over the Jewish people at this particular point in history. In order to understand the major issue here, you have to understand the cultural climate and the animosity that existed between Jew and Gentile.
In a blog post co-written by Derwin Gray and Frank Viola, they highlight the deep chasm that existed between the two cultures. “In the mind of a first-century Jew, Gentiles (Africans, Romans, Syrians, Asians, etc.) were created to fuel the fires of hell. When a Jew called a Gentile ‘uncircumcised’, he spit it. It was a name of profound contempt. If a Jewish person married a Gentile, the Jewish parents held a funeral for their child. In their eyes, their child was dead.
On the flip side, Gentiles regarded the Jews to be sub-human. Historically, the Jews have been an oppressed people, living under the thumb of one Gentile nation after another (e.g., Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome). In all of human history, there has never been so much animosity, hatred, and violence between two people as there has been between the Jew and the Gentile.”
So Matthew was a man that had betrayed his people and now worked for the “enemy”. Yet he was hand selected by Jesus to be a disciple and an apostle. He was moved by the Holy Spirit to write the words of Sacred Scripture. Hardly an ideal candidate for ministry, right?
She was a Canaanite which means that she was a descendant of a cursed man named Ham. He was the son of Noah who dishonored his father. The Canaanites were the people that the children of Israel would go to war with because God in His judgment had expelled them from the land due to their great sin.
Tamar was married to a man that was so evil the Bible tells us that God killed him. The brother of the man whom God killed refused to give her children and so God killed him too for his disobedience. Tamar waited for the youngest brother to come of age but she was not given to him as a wife. Tamar then disguised herself as a prostitute and caught her father-in-law coming into the city. He lay with her, and in the process she asked him for his signet, cord, and staff (possibly his personal identification). When it was discovered that she was pregnant, she was under threat to be burned at Judah’s command. She then disclosed to Judah that the father of her child was the man who had given her his signet, cord, and staff. Judah then acknowledged her as more righteous than himself and her life was spared. She gave birth to twins and one of them was named Perez. Perez would be one of the ancestors of the Lord Jesus.
Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. Jericho was the first city to be destroyed in the conquest of Israel beyond the Jordan River. God had instructed them to destroy everything and everyone in the city. Rahab acted in faith by hiding and protecting the Hebrew spies sent out by Joshua into Jericho. Rehab and her family were rescued from destruction and she became the wife of Salmon who was the great grandfather of King David. We know from the Scriptures that the Lord would bring the Messiah through the lineage of David.
Ruth was a Moabite woman. The people of Moab were enemies of the people of Israel. The king who hired Balaam to curse the people of Israel was a king of Moab. Ruth married a Jewish man who had died, but she chose to stay with her mother-in-law. They were very poor and literally were forced to live off the generosity of other people. Despite her poverty and cultural background, Ruth was taken as a wife to Boaz, a wealthy Jewish man. She was King David’s grandmother.
What do all of these people have in common?
They were all recipients of the sovereign grace of God. They were in no way qualified. They were in no way deserving of the honor of being brought into the redemptive plan of God and be used by Him for His glory.
Maybe you feel the same way. Maybe after learning about these people and their backgrounds you can relate. If have been struggling with inferiority and your background is far from perfect, I have good news for you today. God does not choose qualified people (there aren’t any). He qualifies the people that He has chosen. There is only one perfect one and He is our righteousness.
No human being has room to boast of their own merit and ability. Outside of the sovereign grace of God, we have no merit or ability. No one can boast in his or her ethnicity, ancestry, pedigree, education, or socio-economic status. It doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, or how checkered your past is. Christ is enough for us. Instead of trying to hide our pasts and our weaknesses, we can give God glory because His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.