17 April, 2024

Lesson for Dec. 6, 2020: Fulfilled through Generations (Matthew 1:1-17)

by | 30 November, 2020 | 0 comments

Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the December 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)

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COMPANION RESOURCES

“Why Begin with Begats?” by David Faust (Lesson Application)

Discovery Questions for Dec. 6, 2020

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Lesson Aim: Let Jesus bring you into his family.

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By Mark Scott

The New Testament begins with a genealogy. Is that an odd place or perfect place to start? The tax collector from Capernaum (Matthew, also called Levi) thought it was the perfect place to begin. For he and the other disciples had found in Jesus of Nazareth the desire of the nations (Haggai 2:7) and the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). The Old Testament began in Genesis and the Hebrew Bible ended (in 2 Chronicles) in the same manner as the New Testament begins—with a genealogy.

Fulfillment and discipleship are two themes from Matthew’s Gospel that we will study in December and January. Fulfillment was a major theme for Matthew. The word appears 15 times in the Gospel (the most of any of the Synoptic Gospels). Jesus fulfilled the Law, the Prophets, and the Scriptures at large. Jesus came to save us, to forgive us, to die on the cross, and to bring us life and peace, but he also came to fulfill God’s promise to Israel. God is true to himself and always keeps his word. If he said he would bring a messiah to the world, then he would do it. In addition, this fulfillment was effectual in that it brought connections from Jesus’ family to ours.

Family of Promise
Matthew 1:1-6

Jesus had the right roots. He had human roots (Matthew 1:1-17) and divine roots (vv. 18-25). Both sets of roots legitimized him as the Messiah. Jesus’ story started long before he arrived on the scene. It began with the patriarchs. Abraham was the father of (literally “begat”) Isaac. Whenever we read the Old Testament, we must always ask, “What is happening to the promise of Genesis 12?” Is it being advanced? Is it being compromised? Is it being derailed? In many ways, the Bible is a “theology of promise.”

This promise came down through people who “needed a therapist,” according to John Ortberg. I mean, look at these people: Abraham lied about his wife, Isaac loved one son over the other, Jacob had a poker face, and the list goes on. The place of women is quite significant in this first section. The listing of women’s names in genealogies for that time was not unheard of, but it was rare. Four women are mentioned in this section: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba (though, technically, Bathsheba was referred to as Solomon’s mother . . . formerly “Uriah’s wife”). These were not ladies you would put in the front row for a family reunion photo. All had issues of some sort—immorality, deceit, or were considered outsiders. But these names demonstrate that God can hit a “straight lick with a crooked stick.” The promise flowed through grace.

Family of Royalty
Matthew 1:7-11

As soon as Matthew named David, the genealogy took a “kingly” turn. In fact, the whole genealogy turned on the gematria (numeric values that are assigned to letters of the Jewish alphabet) associated with David’s name. David’s name had three consonants. Their numerical value equaled 14, and Matthew noted the significance of that (v. 17). Some of David’s descendants were good kings (e.g. Asa, Uzziah, Hezekiah, and Josiah). Others compromised their royalty by their waywardness (Rehoboam and Jeconiah, also called Jehoiachin). But once again, God’s grace worked through broken people to advance his messianic mission.

Some people have wondered about certain names being left out of Matthew’s genealogy. Some names are missing when we compare Luke’s genealogy (Luke 3:23-37) with the names in Chronicles. But, as John F. Walvoord says in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, “Jewish reckoning did not require every name in order to satisfy a genealogy.” The royal part of the genealogy showed that “Jesus Christ is the only Jew alive today who can prove the rights to the throne of David” (Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the New Testament).

Family of Exiles
Matthew 1:12-17

In this last section there were no patriarchs and no kings. Why? Because God’s people were in exile during that time. They were being punished by God and certainly were not in charge of their own destiny. Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem in 586 BC and burned the temple. He hauled many of the Jewish people into captivity. Would God’s plan to rescue creation come to naught? No, God would preserve a faithful remnant. In fact, God’s people often returned from exile (think Egypt, Babylon, and sin).

God raised up a pagan king named Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1), who allowed the Jews to go home in three waves with Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. It was through the faithful people in exile, some of whom are named in Matthew’s genealogy, that the Messiah would come. Ultimately this genealogy came down to a man named Joseph who was the husband of Mary from whom came the Christ. Theology may have been God’s purpose in the Christmas story, but history was his method.

Mark Scott

Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. He also serves as minister with Park Plaza Christian Church in Joplin.

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