Luk 3:31 … the son of Nathan, the son of David,
Luk 3:32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz… English Standard Version
“My favorite part of the Bible is the ‘begats’”, said NO ONE, EVER!
I grew up reading the King James Bible, as did most everyone in my generation (and all those before me). I remember when the New International Version and the Good News Bible (Good News For Modern Man in those days) first came out. We felt like we needed to read them in hiding, because we feared using modern translations would result in us being cast out of society as heretics, possibly even burned at the stake. Those were dark days.
Just kidding, except for the growing up reading King James, that is. For the most part, it was no big deal. I say, for the most part, because there were certain sections of the Bible, namely the genealogies that were virtually impossible to get through with your eyelids still open. We called them, ‘the begats’, and avoided them like the plague.
The Old Testament is peppered with ‘begat’ chapters. The Book of Genesis is especially loaded. It’s hard, when you’re 12, to commit to reading the Bible from cover to cover when you can’t get past Genesis 5 without being assaulted by ‘begats’. Heck, it’s hard for adults, for that matter.
I was well into my 30s before I finally realized those genealogy lists are laced with fascinating nuggets of information. Seriously. Stop laughing. They really are. Let’s use Luke 3 as our example.
There are two genealogies in the New Testament; Matthew, chapter 1 and Luke, chapter 3. Both are genealogies of Jesus. With the exception of a few overlaps, they are as different as night and day. These differences cause heartburn for many people, but they shouldn’t.
As we’ve mentioned before, Matthew tells the birth of Jesus from Joseph’s perspective and introduces Jesus as the Messiah, heir to the throne of David, the hope of Israel.
Luke, on the other hand, tells the birth narrative from the viewpoint of Mary, and his gospel emphasizes Jesus as, ‘The Son of Man.’
Their genealogies follow the same pattern. Matthew gives Jesus Royal family tree through the family of Joseph. Luke gives Jesus physical family tree through Mary. That’s why there are some differences, even though in a couple places they converge.
Yip, yip yippee, did I hear you say? Well, hold on, I’m getting to the good part. Geez, you’re impatient.
The royal and physical family trees of Jesus converge completely at King David. Through Joseph, the line goes back via the kings of Israel. Through Mary, the line goes back by way of David’s son, Nathan. Still with me?
Here’s the nugget; Solomon, the king who followed his father, David; and Nathan, had the same mother, Bathsheba. Now that’s cool.
Genetically, Solomon and Nathan are identical. Jesus human and kingly lines both make Him, The son of David. He is the heir to the throne legally, spiritually and physically. God covered all the bases. Wow!
One more tidbit and I’ll let you rest. Solomon and Nathan both were born from a relationship that began in a very ugly fashion. Frankly, it was sinful and disgusting. Yet is has this incredible, glorious happy ending that only God can bring about.
Bathsheba was married to a gentile, Uriah, the Hittite. Uriah was a war hero, a close personal friend of David’s, and a neighbor. David had an affair with Bathsheba that resulted in her becoming pregnant by the king. As a part of the cover up, David arranged for Uriah to be killed, then he married the widow.
The story of David and Bathsheba is as ugly and sordid as anything that could ever come out of the mind of Hollywood. Truth really is stranger than fiction.
Anyway, God dealt harshly with David and the child died in infancy. David repented of his actions and begged God for forgiveness. You can read that repentance in Psalm 51 (my favorite chapter in the Bible). God heard David’s prayer and forgave him completely. So completely, that the next King, and ultimately the Savior of the World came from the offspring of that marriage.
If God can take a soap opera like David and Bathsheba and turn it into the salvation of the human race, just think what He can do with the soap opera that is my life; or yours. All we need to do is follow David’s example and return to Him.
See? I told you there was gold in them there hills. What other good stuff can we find in the ‘begats’? I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned and find out. Or better still, study it for yourself. The trip is worth the fare.
Outside of Joseph and Mary, the very first humans to lay eyes on the Christchile were Bethlehem’s shepherds. How absolutely marvellous and appropriate that is, and on multiple levels.
On a similar night, a thousand years before, another shepherd was called from these same fields to receive God’s message and become King of the Jews. His name; David, son of Jesse. Now, the heirs of David’s first occupation were the first to gaze upon the heir to David’s throne. This King’s reign however, would not be limited to 40 years like His ancestor. As the prophet Isaiah had said, “And of His kingdom, there shall be no end.”
In the first century, outside of Jerusalem, Israel was still primarily an agrarian society. Sheep and goats, along with cattle and donkeys, were the primary symbols of wealth. Shepherds tended to be servants, men too old to go to war anymore or the youngest sons of the landowners. They were men and boys of little station, yet given the awesome responsibility of guarding and guiding the wealth of the nation.
Sheep and goats are far from the stupid creatures they have been portrayed to be over the years. As someone who has owned many of them over the years, I can attest to the fact that they are quick learning and crafty creatures. In fact, it is said that a sheep can remember a human face for up to two years.
While not stupid by any stretch of the imagination, sheep and goats are, however, prone to wander. They don’t pay attention to their surroundings and are easily lost. They are also prey animals, hunted by creatures as diverse as hawks, owls, bears, wolves and lions. It was the shepherd’s responsibility to keep the flock safe from themselves and from the many predators roaming the hillsides and the skies surrounding Bethlehem.
Shepherds were not men of standing, but they were frequently courageous. David, himself, described how as a boy, he was forced to tackle both a lion and a bear in defense of his father’s flocks. And it is these men who are the very first to see the Savior and carry the good news of His arrival. They were nearly two years ahead of the Wise Men.
By the time the Magi arrived with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, Jesus was a toddler and the shepherds had already spread the message of the Messiah’s arrival to the surrounding villages.
Not much has changed in the last 2,000 years. It seems that the wealthy, the important, the positioned in society, take a little longer than the ordinary citizen to catch on to God’s truth. It’s not that they are bad people, at least not any worse than anyone else, but on occasion, money, privilege and power distract their possessors. The rest of us, having fewer speed bumps, are able to get on board a little faster.
The good news is, the Wise Men, did catch on and did follow the star and did arrive at the party. Sure they were a bit late, but it’s never too late.
God is still calling shepherds and Wise Men to meet his Son. Young and old, male and female, from all races and languages we are invited to sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will towards men.”
2012 is still new. There is still plenty of shine on it. It has all kinds of potential for good. As long as the election cycle doesn’t overshadow our opportunity.
Elections are important. They are also a necessary evil. We have a chance to participate in the process, so vote. We also get to live with the consequences of our decisions, so vote wisely.
Here’s the deal, though. Government will not fix a single real problem facing our country or our world. Their size, their needs, their divisions will forever mire them and keep us frustrated with them. Government is in the business of Government.
Inflation, unemployment, the ongoing real estate crisis, escalating divorce rates, poverty, hunger, rising costs of medical care; these are just a few of the mountains Americans are facing. We mistakenly think that somehow Washington is going to put their partisan differences aside and solve them. How foolish are we? The Republicans and Democrats have become so polarized that the party out of power will forever see their role as obstructionist. We may have lost the art of compromise forever. Wisdom has left the building.
The fact is, Washington never was, or never should have been, the answer. For people like me, the Church is much better positioned to help find solutions to our communities’ crippling economic, social and moral problems.
As individual congregations, we have agility and mobility to focus on the needs inside our fellowships, that the red tape of Govt. Bureaucracies could never allow.
Think about it for a moment. If each Family of Faith would concentrate efforts on finding creative solutions to the hunger, financial and health issues just within our own groups, we could reduce the load on Government, exponentially.
Now, let’s take that thought to the next level. If the Churches in any given community were to work together to solve mutual problems, our size, influence and wealth of our combined efforts would be a virtually irresistible force.
Let me cite just a couple of examples: 1. Let’s suppose all the Christian gardeners and farmers in a congregation united to create community gardens to help provide food security for the members of our congregations who were in need. Or, what if we tithed the produce from our gardens to our Church food pantry. What if we tithed our eggs, our chickens, our milk, our beef, our lamb, our pork; how much food could we provide?
What if we held classes in our Church buildings that taught people how to cook and prepare nutritious, whole foods and reduce the need the need for fast or highly processed foods in family diets. Now what if we taught them how to grow some of this food themselves. We could dramatically reduce poverty and health costs at the same time.
Sure, there is a certain percentage of the population who is not willing to help themselves. We have to live with that, but there is also a percentage who is more than willing, even desirous of being a part of our own solutions. We don’t stop offering a cure because some people want to stay sick.
Speaking of sick, imagine with me that all the Christian medical professionals in a given community, tithed their time to provide pro bono medical care for people in their congregations who could not afford it. How much medicaid and medicare money could be saved? Heck, how much fraud could be reduced?
Ok, one more; What if all the mechanics in a Church would devote time each week to do oil changes and basic maintenance on vehicles for the unemployed, single mothers, senior citizens and other financially challenged in the Church. How much money could be saved in the long run?
We can’t let the risk of abuse be our excuse for not following the Scriptural command to look after ‘the least of these’. A very large percentage of people Jesus himself served, apparently rejected Him or took their bread and fish for granted. In one example, Jesus healed 10 men of leprosy and only one even thanked Him. And that dude wasn’t even a Jew. It didn’t stop Him from healing or feeding though. How very radical.
Most of what I’ve described has been at a congregational level. Imagine for a moment, if Christians united to serve together. The force for change would dwarf a Tsunami. Our enemy knows that. He works overtime making sure the Church stays divided, because if we ever come together, the gates of Hell are toast.
Which brings me to a final point. The world needs Jesus much more than we need a conservative (or liberal, if that’s your orientation) Government. I don’t believe that the Republicans OR the Democrats will help us find Revival. And neither will prevent one, once it gets started. I’m just sayin’, vote, it’s an American privilege, but if you consider yourself a Christian, pray like the future depends on God and work like the future depends on you.
If you’re not a Christian, I dare you to give Jesus a fresh look. You might be surprised by what you discover.