The Anointed King

The Anointed King

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Just as Genesis 1 sets the tone for all of the Old Testament, so Matthew 1 sets the tone for the entire new covenant given to mankind. In Matthew 1:1 our Lord Jesus is introduced to us as the God who Saves (that is what “Jesus” means), God’s anointed one (that is what “Christ” means), the promised King (that is what is meant by “the son of David”), and the fulfillment of the ages (that is what is alluded to by “the son of Abraham”). To add weight to these things, the writer, Matthew, proceeds to offer an important genealogy—a review of the legal status of Jesus in relation to King David—tracing Jesus’ ancestry beginning with Abraham. Read it carefully:

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 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.

A few observations are worth bringing forward. First, as Jesus himself would later say, “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). The whole of Matthew 1:1-17 is thoroughly Jewish in character. Matthew 1:2 highlights the famed original Hebrew patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah. King David is mentioned in verse 6. References to the Babylonian Exile, a significant Jewish event, are offered in verses 11-12. The list itself echoes many important genealogical passages found in the Old Testament. The Jewishness of this passage reminds us that salvation is from the Jews.

Secondly, though salvation is from the Jews, it has a universal appeal. This is because Jesus himself has a universal appeal. As “the son of Abraham” (verse 1), Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises God made to Abraham in which God said, “and in your offspring, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). Or, as the Apostle Paul puts it in Romans 3:29: “Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also. . . .” Indeed, in the list Matthew pens there are at least four different non-Hebrew people mentioned: Tamar (verse 3; see Gen. 38), Rahab (verse 5; see Joshua 2), Ruth (verse 5; see Ruth 1-4), and Uriah (verse 6; see 2 Sam. 11). Salvation may come from the Jews, but it is available to all.

Thirdly, all who are dysfunctional or disenfranchised have hope for redemption. Did you pay careful attention to the list Matthew offers? Numerous are incredibly hardened sinners, the foolish, the forgotten, and so forth. The mention of the wife of Uriah (verse 6) instantly brings to mind David’s adultery (see 2 Samuel 11). The mention of Manasseh brings to mind over-the-top idolatry (see 2 Chronicles 33:9). Rahab and Tamar, referenced above, were both prostitutes. Ruth was a widow, and Mary a pregnant teenager. Indeed, that women are mentioned at all is a sign of the empowerment and care Jesus brings to a brutal society. Jesus’ pedigree is not filled with spotless saints, but those for whom shame, wounds, wickedness, and failure are the most apt descriptions. But Jesus, whose name means “God saves,” overcomes these things, giving hope to all.

Lastly, Jesus is the Ultimate King, worthy of our allegiance. How do we know this? Perhaps the best way is to consider a simple literary device known as gematria, which gives numerical value to the consonants of particular words. Matthew 1:17 says there are three sets of fourteen generations listed in Matthew’s genealogy. King David’s shadow lingers over much of the list, as many of those who follow him are descending kings. In the Hebrew language the word “David” is דוד. The first and last letters of this word, which is the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is ד, or “d”. The middle letter of this word, which is the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, it is ו, or “v”. Putting these three letters together with their corresponding numerical values yields the number 14 (4+6+4=14). Indeed, David is the fourteenth person listed in the list. Matthew clearly wants us to identify Jesus with King David; to particularly see him as the greater King David whose sovereign rule is real and lasting. No doubt Matthew has the Prophet Isaiah in mind, who wrote in Isaiah 9:6-7:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Salvation comes from the Jews, has universal appeal, offering hope to all who are disenfranchised and broken, and found in an Eternal King worthy of our complete allegiance. No wonder Christmas is full of such mystery and joy

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