A sermon preached at Covenant Presbyterian Church of Fort Smith, Arkansas on April 8, 2018.
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of
David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations (Mathew 1:1–17). 
The genealogy that begins the Gospel of Matthew serves not merely as a family tree but as a doctrinal genesis to the entire book. There are certain characteristics of this genealogy that reveal its theological uniqueness. You will notice that it does not begin with Adam, like the genealogy in Luke, but with Abraham. Take note. Uncharacteristically, five mothers are included in the genealogy of the Son of man: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. All gave birth to boys, but only one as a virgin. Take note. The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, includes a litany of kings, but only One continues to reign. Take note. The passage concludes with a perfect summary of three sets of fourteen generations, yet Jechoniah is counted twice, and Kings Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah are missing. Symmetry over accuracy drives this historical account, in which we are directed from King David to the King of kings. Take note.
What we discover in this Genesis of the New Testament is that it is not merely a history but a theologically-structured narrative of the earthly birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thematically, what we discover in this opening genealogy is that God is a Promise-keeper, always faithful to His promises made, yet tried, keeping His promises in Christ.
A Promise Made
Matthew’s genealogy of Christ begins with Abraham. God, according to His sovereign plan, called Abraham and promised that He would make a great nation of him. In fact, God promised to bless all the families of the world through Abraham. God made a covenant with Abraham, a bond in blood sovereignly administered, and He gave Abraham a unique sign and seal of the covenant. God further promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and kings would descend from him. Though Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was barren, God promised that she would bear a son, a son of promise: “Abraham was the father of Isaac.” So began the promised blessing.
The son promised to Abraham, Isaac, had two sons, fraternal twins, Esau and Jacob. But God’s favor was upon Jacob, not for any merit on Jacob’s part but according to God’s sovereign election. Jacob He loved, Esau He hated (Rom. 9:13). Restating His promise made to his grandfather, God gave Jacob the name Israel, and Israel had twelve sons by four wives: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher.
For no overt reason but God’s sovereign election, on his death-bed, Israel blessed Judah, prophesying, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Gen. 49:10). A promise to be fulfilled in Judah. Kingly reign, honor, and obedience might come through Judah, but in his lifetime, Judah had twin sons, Perez and Zerah, not by his wife but by his Gentile daughter-in-law, Tamar, disguised as a prostitute.
Perez, the first born of wrestling twins was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab. Rahab, unlike Tamar, did not impersonate a prostitute; she lived on the outer wall of Jericho as a city prostitute. Yet, God sovereignly used her in the defeat and destruction of Jericho and redeemed her from Gentile prostitution to a new life among God’s chosen people.
Rahab’s son, the noble Boaz, likewise married a Gentile, not a prostitute nor an imposter but a humble and faithful widow, Ruth, grafted into God’s people in the providence of God. From the unlikely union of a prostitute’s son and a pagan widow came Obed, grandfather of a king to come. God made a promise to Abraham that kings would descend from him, and Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the King.
As king of Israel, God promised David: “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever… ‘And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever’” (2 Sam. 7:12–13, 16). The promise made to David was of an everlasting kingdom. You can imagine the anticipation of the future that the kingdom must have enjoyed, of the progeny of David and a perpetual kingdom. The historical account, however, is not so enjoyable. God is faithful to the promises He makes, but in the lives of sinners His promises are tried.
A Promise Tried
The sin of the great king of Israel is not whitewashed from biblical history, nor is it hidden from the genealogy of Christ. David committed adultery with the unnamed wife of Uriah and then murdered Uriah. Nameless in this genealogy, Bathsheba went from Uriah’s wife to adulteress to widow to David’s wife to mother of Solomon. King Solomon outdid his father in many ways, and the adultery of David’s bedroom was outdone by Solomon’s polytheistic idolatry in low and high places. As David committed adultery with one woman, Solomon’s many wives led him into the worship of many gods, passing on a heritage not of blessing but of punishment to his progeny.
Under Solomon’s prideful son Rehoboam came a fall and one kingdom became two, a north and a south of animosity and civil war. Rehoboam was the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat. From bad kings to good, not one brought the reign, honor and obedience promised.
Matthew speedily moves through Joram, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amos, Josiah, and Jechoniah. Kingly reigns read in seconds. We are reminded of what King Solomon wrote, “A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever” (Eccles. 1:4). Through the reign of these kings, some long some short, but for the short revival under Josiah, if God’s promise was even known, it was consistently tried.
God had promised David, “your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). But David’s descendants had not obeyed God; not trusting in his promise made, they tried His promise. The last of kings in Judah, Jechoniah, surrendered his throne, and the children of promise were deported as slaves to a pagan land to be ruled by a pagan king, not in Egypt but Babylon. A promise made, a promise tried, would the promise be kept?
A Promise Kept
“And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary” (Matt. 1:12-16a).
God made a promise to Abraham of kings to come. God promised David an everlasting throne. The fall to Babylon brought an end to the Davidic dynasty, but to focus on Babylon is to lose hope in the promise of God. The mosaic of Christ’s genealogy includes the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Despite the consistent story of mankind’s sinfulness, the story of redemption is of God’s covenant faithfulness: “Mary of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (Matt. 1:16b). The wife of Joseph was not a conniving daughter-in-law or a prostitute; she was not a foreign pagan or an adulteress; she was a young virgin of the tribe of Judah, a child of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But the significance of this genealogy does not rest on this young virgin named Mary. It is a testimony to the faithfulness of our promise-keeping God. For God, a promise made is a promise kept, whether tried by sinners or not.
Even the genealogy of Christ is historical evidence of the consistency of human sin. We are not evolving into better specimens of modern humanity. Neither education nor wealth or health will elevate us above the universal human condition: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Artificial intelligence cannot work hard enough to solve the problem that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). We, like Abraham and Rahab and Manasseh and Mary, are sinners in need of a Savior. As promise-breakers, we need a Promise Keeper!
In Jesus who is called Christ, the promise to Abraham is fulfilled. The gospel is a message of forgiveness through faith in Christ for every tribe, tongue, and nation. In Jesus who is called Christ, the promise to David is fulfilled. By God’s grace through faith in Christ the King “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). As children of promise, we rejoice that “all the promises of God find their yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Cor. 1:20).
“Hindsight is 20/20,” so the expression goes. It is easy to look back at the perfect symmetry of Matthew’s genealogy of Christ and clearly see God’s perfect redemptive plan from Abraham to Jesus. Yet, real life is a lot less symmetry and a lot more chaos. In between the lines of each of these names is a story. Abraham lived almost a lifetime before he had children. Rahab’s prostitution was a way of daily life when Israel wandered in the wilderness. The son of the wisest king, Rehoboam, cratered the kingdom. It took supernatural intervention for Joseph not to abandon his pregnant bride, Mary. Yet, over and over again Scripture testifies to God’s faithfulness in and through the circumstances of life.
In Christ, our Promise Keeper, God is working all things together for our good and His glory. Conforming us in all things to the image of Christ our King. So, trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). For, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:24). As Scripture confirms: A promise made. A promise tried. A promise kept. He is our Promise Keeper, Christ Jesus the King!
 Unless referenced otherwise, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2001).