Sermon delivered December 27, 1997

by Pastor Kent Crutcher

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

The Begats

"I have undeniable proof that some of Scripture is not inspired!" I'm not making this up. That's what he told me. His wife was a member of my first church. He was a loving, cantankerous old man who came to church more faithfully than many who were members. He loved a cigar between Sabbath School and the Worship service. I wish he had let me pick out his cigars. Even though I know absolutely nothing about cigars, I'm sure I could have picked out a better smelling brand! The problem was, he was a hugger. You could see the women shy away from him in the foyer after he had just had a cigar because they didn't want to smell like him. What was even more interesting about my friend was his theology. I tended to shy away from him in the foyer (which was kind of hard when the foyer was only about the size of Elder Getty's office) because he would approach me with a new theory that would take too long to talk about when I was just about to go up on the platform. But one Sabbath he did catch me and he proposed this theory that some of Scripture was not inspired. I had to take the bait. "WHAT would make you say such a thing?" He replied with great assurance and confidence in his position: "THE BEGATS!" "The begats are simply a genealogy that need no inspiration are not inspirational." "They are not even accurate!" I didn't have time to debate with him that day or any other day. He was not the kind of person that would change his position by anyone else's prompting. But I decided to take up the challenge of the Begats to see if they were inspired or not and what better time than Christmas.

Think real hard. When was the last time you heard a sermon on the Begats? When was the last time you actually read them yourself. Most people just skim over them or skip them outright. Today, we are not going to skip over them. Strap on your seat belts and turn to Matthew chapter 1.

Matthew 1:1-17 (NIV): "A RECORD of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:

"Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.

"David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Mannasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

"After the exile to Babylon:

"Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

"Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to Christ." DULL STUFF?

What a strange way to start a book! If a modern author sent such a manuscript to the publisher it would be trashed immediately! Who would read such a boring book? A JEW!

This was not a strange way to start a Jewish book. In fact, if the book was about a person, it was absolutely essential. If the story was not about someone whose family tree was know, it was not worth reading! The family line is everything.

* Herod the Great was embarrassed that his name was not found in the official genealogies. So, in typical Herod the Great fashion, he had the genealogies destroyed.

Priesthood because some of the genealogies had been lost during the Babylonian captivity. A priest had to be able to trace his ancestry all the way back to Aaron. That would be like a pastor needing to trace his ancestry all the way back to one of the disciples!

* Josephus, a first century historian, begins his autobiography with his genealogy so that Jews would read it.

Matthew traces the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Abraham to prove that he was a proper Jew and a fulfillment of prophecy (a descendant of David). In fact, verse one starts with a very bold claim: "Jesus the Christ (Messiah) Son of David, the son of Abraham."

Luke's genealogy begins with Adam. He was not, like Matthew, writing to a primarily Jewish audience. Luke is the only Gentile author of the New Testament.

(Matthew 1:17 (NIV): "Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to Christ."

The arrangement of the three groups into fourteen each was apparently a teaching device to make the list easier to Memorize. Ease of memorization, it should be noted, was of crucial importance before the age of printed books.

The number 14 is also of interest as an aid to memorization, because it represents the numerical significance of David s name. The consonants for David's name in Hebrew (a language lacking vowels) are DWD. Not having separate signs for numbers, Hebrew letters also had numerical significance, with D standing for 4 and W for 6. Thus DWD adds up to 14. (4 + 6 + 4) The arrangement of Matthew's genealogy helps us see him as a teacher seeking to develop his Gospel as a manual of instruction for the growing Christian community.

Another thing a Bible student will quickly notice is that Matthew's genealogy is incomplete. In verse 8, three names were left out between Jehoram and Uzziah: Ahazaiah, Joash, and Amaziah. Verse 11 leaves out Jeconiah. Why? So they would come out to 14. This does not seem like an accurate, logical, or even a truthful thing to do. But we are looking from our culture into theirs. One of the most difficult things for a modern Bible student to learn is how to read the scriptures from the perspective of those who wrote and originally read them. These and other differences were acceptable to the contemporary readers who had access to the genealogies and new the rules for how they were set up and how they could be used.

Far more interesting than who was left out of this list of Jesus' ancestors is who was put in. WOMEN. While Jews would not find it strange to begin a book with a genealogy, they would have been absolutely shocked to find women in that genealogy. Women had no legal rights, they were regarded as things rather than people and were owned by either their father or their husband. Jewish males, in their morning prayer, thanked God that they were not Gentiles, slaves, or women. Are you not glad that Jesus came to make all people equal!

You would think that since Matthew used women in this list, he would choose the most upstanding women he could find in Jesus' ancestry. Women like Sarah, Rebekah, or Rachel. But NO! He used the most questionable women he could find!

The first is Tamar. This is not a woman we read to our children about during evening devotions! When was the last time that you children's division teachers told this story to the kids? If you have, we need to talk. The story of Tamar is found in Genesis 38 for those of you who are curious. Yet Matthew, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, uses Tamar in the genealogy of Jesus.

The second female is Rahab. Rahab, of course, has two things against her in the eyes of Matthew's Jewish readers. She is a prostitute and she is a Gentile!

The third woman is Ruth. Well, what on earth could be the matter with Ruth? Even though Ruth seems to be virtuous enough, she is a Moabitess. Her people were the product of the incestuous relations of Lot and his daughters. They were some of Israel's worst enemies!

The fourth female in this list is in many ways the most interesting of all. Part of that interest stems from the fact that she is not even listed by name. If Matthew had called her Bathsheba, he would have brought to mind her adulterous affair with King David. But by calling her the one who "had been Uriah's wife", Matthew raises two more points. First, the fact that Uriah is generally referred to as Uriah the Hittite implies that, although born an Israelite, legally, she was a Gentile through marriage.

Second, and more significantly, the intrusion of Uriah's name into the story as Bathsheba's former husband raises the issues of the murder perpetrated by David to cover up his sin of adultery.

So, Matthew brings his readers minds to remember these well known stories when they think of Jesus' background. Why would he do this when he could have just as easily, maybe more easily, proven Jesus as a Jew and as the Messiah without these women?

The answer to this question brings us to the fifth woman on the list, Mary. Matthew said of her in verse 21: "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, BECAUSE HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS."

Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, which means "Yahweh saves," or "God saves." But, we ask, who are "His people?" What kind of people can Yahweh save through the One born of Mary? The answer flashes through from the genealogy: Jesus can save people like Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and David. He can save anyone! Thus we find Matthew preaching the gospel even in his genealogy!

    Jesus came to enable us to conquer sin in our lives. That takes place at three levels.
  1. Through His sinless life and His death on the cross, He saves His people from the penalty of sin. Ellen white puts this thought nicely when she writes in the Desire of Ages that "Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for out sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His."
  2. Jesus saves His people from the power of sin over their lives.
  3. Jesus will eventual save His people from the presence of sin when He returns to take us home!

Let's get to the rest of the story.

Matthew 1:18 (NIV): "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit."

This type of betrothal meant that money had already changed hands (earnest money), promises had already been made. It was more than an engagement. It could only be broken by a divorce!

Verse 19: "Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly."

Joseph was a law-abiding citizen. But that law was tempered by grace. He could have made a public spectacle of Mary, could have had her stoned, but the Bible calls him a righteous man. This was also an indication of the type of person his Step Son would be! Yes! Joseph would make a good example for Jesus.

Verses 20-24: "But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' - which means, 'God with us.'

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife."

Joseph heard! Joseph did! Yes, Joseph would make a good step father for Jesus!

Verse 25: "But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. and he gave him the name Jesus."


Responsive Reading #730
Opening Song: #132 "O Come All Ye Faithful"
Closing Song: #131 "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming"

BEGATS.D97 (971227KC.htm)

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