I think that this genealogy was a literal knockout punch by Matthew against the Jews.
They were legalistic. Boy, they were hot on the pedigree and the line of purity and all of this heritage stuff. And so he introduces the Messiah as descending from two harlots, one adulterous and one produced of incest. It's less than two weeks until Christmas and perhaps you still need to buy a few more presents and maybe get the turkey or ham for Christmas dinner. Exchanging presents and gathering with family are certainly joyous blessings of the holiday. But from today right through December 25th, how can you make sure Christ is the main emphasis of your celebration? Today John MacArthur helps you grasp encouraging truths in the Christmas story that are often overlooked as John continues his study called The Birth of the King here on Grace To You. If you have your Bible, turn to Matthew chapter 1 and here's John with the lesson. Take your Bible and turn with me to the wonderful gospel according to Matthew. Let's look at chapter 1. And Matthew starts by presenting the King. The King is revealed. And it all begins with Jesus' family tree. Now that is precisely what verses 1 to 17 present. You say, why in the world do we have all of this?
Well, let me tell you why. First of all, the Jews were tenacious about their pedigrees. And if anybody was going to be presented to them as a king, it was absolutely essential that he have the pedigree to prove it.
Always, always was this important to the Jews. Now, there's an emphasis in this genealogy that just thrills me. It's woven into this thing in a way that as I began to study it and I was seeking the Lord, I said, Lord, what do you want me to say about this? How do I do it? How do I hang this whole thing together, these names, you know?
What am I going to want to say? And I began to think about the fact that Jesus Christ was a king. But He wasn't a king like any other king. He wasn't a king who ruled by law.
He was a king who ruled by what? By grace. And I began to search the genealogy to see if I could find grace in this genealogy. And oh, man, it just started leaking grace everywhere, everywhere.
Got all over my desk. Grace everywhere. He is a king of grace. And you know, even in this, you know, God can't even lay down the royal credentials of Jesus without spilling grace all over everybody who reads it.
It's all over the place. He is a king. But most kings rule with an iron fist. Most kings rule by the law. Most kings don't know anything about grace.
This one does. Oh, what a gracious king. And I see it in four things. First of all, I see the king of grace in the choice of one woman, the choice of one woman. The first thing that just hit me was when I was reading verse 16. And it says, And Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
And I thought to myself, oh, there's grace. Grace to that one lady, that one little lady, Mary, became the mother of the Messiah, the mother of the Son of God, Mary. As Luke records, the child of Haley, Mary. Nobody knew about Mary before this.
I don't want to shake you up too much, but I'm going to tell you something. Mary was a sinner. Mary was a sinner. She was like everybody else. She was like all other men and all other women.
I don't mean she was worse than anybody else. She was probably better than most and no doubt a deeply devout and religious person, but she was a sinner who needed a Savior. And the Lord Jesus Christ had to be a Savior to her as well as a son to her. And yet God in His wonderful, mysterious grace chose her.
You know something? God didn't have to do that, but He chose Mary. What grace?
Beloved, let me say this to you. Mary was just a sinner lady like all other ladies, and she needed a Savior. In Mark chapter 3 and verse 31, it tells us there came then His brethren and His mother standing outside, sent unto Him, calling Him.
And Jesus was inside teaching. And the multitude sat about Him, and they said unto Him, Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren outside seek for Thee. And He answered them, saying, Who is My mother and My brother? And He looked around about and said, Behold, My mother and My brethren. In other words, You're My mother and My brethren.
Whosoever shall do the will of God the same is My brother, My sister and mother. Jesus minimized the place of Mary. Mary was a face in the crowd, that's all. Mary was nobody when it came to that issue. Mary had to come the same way anybody else had to come to be related to Jesus Christ, had nothing to do with the fact that she was His mother. She had to do the will of the Father, you see.
That's the way it had to be. And in Luke chapter 11 and verse 28, it says this, He said, this is great, yea rather...well, let's go back to 27, and it had come to pass as He spoke these things, a certain woman of the company...Jesus is speaking here...a certain woman lifted up her voice and said, Blessed is the womb that bore Thee and the breasts which nursed Thee. Blessed is Mary.
And He said, Yea, but more is the idea. Rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it. You see, He saw the real issue, didn't He? There was nothing sanctimonious about Mary. The issue was obedience to His Word and Mary needed that as much as anybody else. Mary knew it.
She knew it. In Luke 1, 28, the angel came and said, Hail, thou who art highly favored, the Lord is with Thee. You know what that is in the Greek? You who are endued with grace. Mary needed grace.
Do you see that? And grace is what kind of favor? Unmerited, given to sinners. And then when she prayed, she said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, Luke 1, 46, and my spirit...watch this...hath rejoiced in God my Savior. Mary said that. She knew...she knew. Hey, Mary was a wonderful lady.
I wouldn't deny that. She was probably very devout, a pure lady, a virgin, but she was a sinner who needed to save Him. Hey, do you see God's grace in that He chose a sinner to be His own mother? Second, we see the gospel of grace in the choice of one woman. We also see it in the seed of two men, the seed of two men. Look at verse 1.
This is fabulous. Verse 1, the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, and what's the second one? The son of Abraham.
Let me ask you a simple question. Was David a sinner? Was Abraham a sinner? Did God act in grace toward them?
Yes. Imagine David, David who sinned so vilely with Bathsheba and had her husband murdered. David the polygamist.
David, a rotten father. David who slaughtered multitudes of humanity, so many that his hands were too bloody to build the temple of God. And Abraham, Abraham who lied about his wife in Egypt and brought them both into shame. Abraham who disbelieved God. Abraham who committed adultery with Hagar. Abraham, again at Gerar, lied about Sarah and gave her to the king as if she was his sister. Two sinners and their seed was the son of God.
That's grace. God used these two, one to father the nation of Messiah, the other to father the royal line. Jesus, his son of David, son of Abraham. His connection with the Hebrew people is racial and royal and it's royal first and that's why David comes first. That's the point that Matthew wants to make. And by the way, grace was extended to each of those men, even in their seed. I mean, think about it. You said, well, David shaped up and so did Abraham.
All right, but what about their seed? What about Solomon and Isaac? For example, the son of David, to whom David looked for the next step in this marvelous fulfillment turned out to be a terrible, terrible tragedy.
His story is a disastrous failure. In spite of his peaceful nature, in spite of his unmatched wisdom, Solomon lived a life of appalling stupidity and folly. He sowed seeds of disruption by marrying foreign wives. He went way beyond his father and having hundreds of wives and concubines who turned his heart from the Lord, the Bible says. The son of David's flesh was a disappointment. The son of David's flesh shattered the unity of Israel.
And God would have had every right to cancel His promise right then, but He didn't. But some day there came a greater son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ who overcame the failures of David and overcame the failures of Solomon and with infinite wisdom He will build a temple that will never be destroyed. And there was the son of Abraham, the son to whom Abraham looked for the fulfillment of the amazing promise of God, the son who was born when Abraham was 100 years old, the son in whom his hope was resting. And Isaac and his name even was laughter because of the joy in their hearts when he was born and through him was to be the seed to carry the enterprise of God. But that seed failed and Israel failed and God set him aside and cut out a new channel, the church. And the story of Isaac and his seed is a story of weakness and a story of failure and a story of apostasy and a story of idolatry and a story of sin. But Jesus Christ, the ultimate son of Abraham, came to fulfill everything that Isaac couldn't do and from Him will spring forth a seed that would number as the sands of the seas and number as the stars of the heaven.
And they will carry out the purposes of God forever. So Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham, came to overcome the failures of both of those lines and their seeds and to accomplish what they could never accomplish. But He came through the line of two sinners. That's grace. That's grace. God's grace is seen in one woman and two men. And thirdly, we see the grace of God in the history of three eras, the history of three eras. Now watch this.
This is most fascinating. In verse 17, look. So all the generations from Abraham to David are 14 generations. From David to the carrying away into Babylon are 14 generations. From the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are 14 generations.
Notice that? Three eras. One woman, two men, three eras. Now the first period is the period that He mentions from Abraham to David. That's the period of the patriarchs. That's the period of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph. That's the period of the patriarchs and the period of the judges. You know, and it's in that period that you have the great patriarchs and the great judges like Deborah and Barak and Samson and Jephthah and all of those. It's that great period of heroism when Israel was made famous.
You have people even like Ruth and people like Jesse, the father of David. Ah, it was a period of greatness. The second period is the period from David to the carrying away of Babylon.
You know what happens? It's a period of decline. The first is a period of ascendancy as Israel goes from non-existence at Abraham's time and oblivion to fame because of its great heroism as the judges lead through victory after victory. The second period is the period of the monarchy. And as soon as the monarchy came with Saul, you remember what happened?
Things started to go downhill. And from David following you have glory days in Solomon. But after Solomon, tragedy upon tragedy upon tragedy. Oh, every once in a while you get a little glimpse of a Jehoshaphat in the genealogy. You get a little glimpse of a Hezekiah. You get a little glimpse of a Josiah and they were good and godly.
But what seems to dominate is Rehoboams and Ahazas and Manasses who were evil men. And it's a period of apostasy and it's a period of degeneracy that ultimately ends up in the devastation and destruction of Israel and the captivity in Babylon. You say, what's the third period? The third period is from the captivity unto Christ. You know what there is about that period? We don't know anything hardly at all. It's a period shrouded in darkness. It's 600 years of datelessness, names we don't even know. Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Achim, Eliud, Eliud, Eliezer, Eliezer, Mathen, Mathen, Jacob.
We don't know these people. Oblivion. So the story of Israel is the story of three eras. The national genealogy of Jesus is one of mingled pathos and glory, one of heroism and disgrace, one of renown and obscurity. But all along, even though the whole nation is going down the tubes until finally they curse and spit on their own Messiah, it is nevertheless through that nation that the Messiah comes. And again I say to you, that is grace. He's a King of grace. God's grace was given as evident in one woman, two men, and three eras in the history of a decaying nation. Finally, the grace of God is seen in the inclusion of four outcasts.
You want to hear something fabulous? There are only four women mentioned in this genealogy, just four women. I want you to see who they are. Woman number 1, verse 3. And Judah begot Perez and Zerah of Tamar. Tamar is the first lady in the genealogy.
Her children, Perez and Zerah. What about Tamar? What kind of a lady was Tamar? Let me introduce you to her from Genesis 38.
Listen. And it was told Tamar saying, and I don't have the whole time to go into all of this, Judah takes a wife for his firstborn. Judah wanted a wife for his firstborn, so he took this lady.
It was told Tamar saying, Behold, your father-in-law goes up to Timnah to share his sheep. This is Judah, her father-in-law. And she put her widow's garments off from her. Her husband had died. And she covered her with a veil, wrapped herself, got herself all dolled up, see.
Sits in an open place by the way to Timnah, for she saw that Sheila was grown. She was not given unto him as his wife. That's a whole other story.
We won't go into that. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot because she had covered her face. And he turned unto her by the way and said, Come, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee.
Come with me to the kazba. You know that little line. And he knew not that she was his daughter-in-law. And she said, What wilt thou give me that thou mayest come in unto me?
I mean, a surprise. I don't do this for nothing. She said, I'll send you a kid from the flock. She said, will you give me a pledge? Can you give me a check so I'll know it?
Do you send it? He said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Your signet, your bracelets, your staff in your hand. He gave them to her and came in unto her and she conceived by him. Nice lady, huh?
Nice lady. Tamar, harlotry and incest. You say, Mercy, what is she doing in the messianic line?
A harlot. Listen, you want to hear the worst part of it? Out of that conception came twins, Perez and Zerah.
You know what's amazing about that? They are the next people in the genealogy of the line of the Messiah. Let me introduce you to the next lady.
It goes downhill from here. Verse 5, And Solomon begot Boaz of...whom? Rahab. When you say Rahab, what are the next two words that come to your mind?
The harlot. Rahab was a Canaanitist, unclean, outcast, Gentile, pagan, idolatrous, a bad lady, a professional prostitute. Joshua chapter 2 tells us about it.
We don't need to look at it. It says that the spies, when they came into Jericho, went in and came into a harlot's house named Rahab. She was a harlot, a prostitute. But look, from her came Boaz.
And do you know something about Boaz? Oh, what a godly man. What a godly man. There's a third lady here. Look at verse 5 again. And Boaz had a son named Obed and Boaz was married to whom? Ruth. You say Ruth was not a prostitute. Ruth was a lovely little...Ruth was not guilty of incest.
No, you're right. But you know what Ruth was? She was a Gentile. She was an outcast.
I'll tell you something else. Genesis 19 verse 30 is really interesting. And Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelled in the mountain and his two daughters with him, for he feared to dwell in Zoar and he dwelled in a cave, he and his two daughters. Here's Lot in a cave with his own two daughters.
This is Lot, two daughters. And the firstborn of his daughter said unto the younger, Our father is old and there's not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth. Come, let's make our father drink wine and we will lie with him that we may preserve seed from our father. They're going to get their father drunk and try to get their father to produce seed in them, incest. They made their father drink wine that night and the firstborn went in and lay with their father and he perceived not when she lay down nor when she arose.
He was so zonked, he didn't know what was going on. It came to pass on the next day, the firstborn said to the younger, Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let's make him drink wine tonight also and you go in and lie with him that we may preserve seed from our father. They made their father drink wine that night also.
Tragic, he didn't have enough backbone to defend himself against somebody making him drunk. The younger arose, lay with him. He perceived not when she lay down nor when she arose. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father and the firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab, the same as the father of the Moabites unto this day. And you want to know who Ruth was? Ruth was a Moabite. She was born of incest.
She herself was a pure lady. She was the wife of Boaz and you want to hear something wonderful? She became the grandmother of David, but she was born of a tribe of people who were guilty of incest. In fact, in Deuteronomy 23, 3, the whole Moabite nation is cursed by God.
Deuteronomy 23, 3 literally curses the whole nation. Here God picks up a cursed lady born of an incestuous relationship with the daughters of Judah. Now that's three interesting ladies.
Those are the only three. There's only one more left. You want to meet the next lady in the genealogy? The end of verse 6. And David begot Solomon of her that had been the wife of Uriah.
Who's this? Bathsheba. Bathsheba. According to 2 Samuel chapter 11 and chapter 12, she was up on a roof sunbathing and David was up there looking around. He said, that's the one I want, brought her over, had a sexual relationship with her, produced a child. She was an adulteress. You've got two harlots, one born out of incest and an adulteress and they're the only four ladies mentioned in the entire genealogy of Jesus Christ. Now what do you think the message is?
God is a God of what? Grace. Are you glad about that?
I'm glad about that. Grace. And you know, I think...I think that this genealogy was a literal knockout punch by Matthew against the Jews. And by that I mean those antagonistic hateful ones. They were legalistic. Boy, they were hot on the pedigree and the line of purity and all of this heritage stuff. And so he introduces the Messiah as descending from two harlots, one adulteress and one produced of incest. Coming through a nation whose history was a degenerative history, coming from two sinful men and born to one sinful lady was the King of all kings. Let it be known to Israel and anybody who listens, Jesus Christ is the friend of sinners.
Did you get that? He's the friend of sinners and He Himself said it. I have not come to call the righteous, to what? Sinners to repentance.
Let's pray. Oh God, how devastating this genealogy is when we see it for what You intended it to be. You were just striking a blow in the face of legalism, a blow in the face of self-righteousness, a blow in the face of a works-righteousness system. Grace just oozes from the pages. It's always been sinners that you identified with through whom you came to save sinners.
We feel like Paul who said, of whom I am chief. Thank you for your gracious salvation. Thank you for being a gracious king who would forgive.
You lift up your knee. Amen. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.
Thanks for being with us. Along with teaching each day on this radio station, John also serves as Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. The lesson you just heard is part of his Christmas series called The Birth of the King. John, the background you covered today is fascinating, and it's a classic example of how having a clear picture of the physical setting of Jesus' birth helps just bring this story to life. So tell us, when you're looking for details that add texture and color to the meaning of whatever passage you're studying, where do you start digging? Well, I start digging in commentaries, and I have throughout the entire ministry of my life. And these commentaries go back sometimes hundreds of years ago. There were faithful commentators explaining the meaning of Scripture, and they studied the history, the language, the background, the context, and wrote their commentaries.
So I've always leaned on them. I think it's probably safe to say that when I preach on a given passage, somewhere around a dozen commentaries I'll consult. Yes, I remember once I walked into your office while you were studying, and you had books set up in a 360-degree circle around yourself. Your chair could spin around, and you had all these books open on book holders. It was fascinating to see that. Yeah, I had these little metal wire holders, and I'd stack the books in them.
And that's exactly right. I would spin around and go from commentary to commentary to commentary and write down the notes. So as a result of that, obviously I preached through the entire New Testament, kind of drawing down all from these sources of other commentaries. And then as a result of that, I produced the MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series. And you might say that the MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series is the distilling down of all those commentaries, going back sometimes hundreds of years that I read. So I tried to draw down the best of all commentators available on a given passage, pull it all together and sum it up, and that's the content of the MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series. In Matthew alone, there are four commentary volumes. You can order four volumes on Matthew and go through the whole marvelous Gospel of Matthew. The first volume contains in print this current study called The Birth of the King. And together, the four volumes cover so many other important subjects like the Beatitudes, Church Discipline, the Sinfulness of Sin, and Christ's Own Sermon on His Second Coming.
To say nothing of His obedient sacrificial substitutionary death, so much more. Great to begin with the Gospel of Matthew and those four volumes, but of course there are 33 volumes on the entire New Testament. You can get the whole set, and you will receive a discount on each volume, or you can order whatever books you would desire. For the most cost-effective shipping option, speak directly with our staff during normal business hours.
In the U.S., that's weekdays from 7.30 to 4 Pacific time. Outside the U.S., contact your local Grace to You office. Yes, and don't settle for a surface understanding of Scripture, especially when it comes to the life of Christ. Get one or all four volumes from the Matthew Commentary and dig deep into the richness of God's Word.
Place your order today. Our toll-free number is 855-GRACE and our web address, gty.org. These commentaries are not just for pastors to use. Sunday School teachers, Bible study leaders, anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the New Testament will benefit. Again, to order the Matthew Commentary series, call 855-GRACE or go to gty.org. And when you visit our website, that's gty.org, make sure to download the Study Bible app. It's a free app that gives you the full text of Scripture in the English Standard, King James, and New American Standard versions. And it also allows you to link instantly from whatever passage you're studying to John's sermons, as well as related online resources like the Grace to You blog. And for a nominal price, you can add the notes from the MacArthur Study Bible.
To download the app, visit gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for tuning in today and be here tomorrow when John looks at why the virgin birth is an essential element of the salvation that Christ brings. John is continuing his study from Matthew Chapter 1, titled, The Birth of the King, with another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
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