Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Lineage

Lineage in the Bible is a big deal. I mean it's THE big deal. You can spot it even if you're no more than a casual reader of the Book, someone who barely went to Sunday school. All those "begats" give it away, don't they? Begat. Now there's a word.  A King James word, I should say. One we don't throw around in any context other than scripture any more. I certainly wouldn't say that  my dad begat my sister who begat my niece who begat her son, even though it's true and we're all thrilled as we can be about the little boy so recently breathing outside his mother, who begat him.

But the people of God paid a whole lot of attention to lineage. To which tribe a person came from, to where a person fit in the grand scheme of things.  There were the Levites, for example, who were set apart from the day of the burning bush forward to be priests for the whole people.  And when that people came into the land, and grew whiny (as they always did) and tired of God being their only king, they began to complain that "All the other kids have one," or something like that, pulling on God's apron strings, tugging this way and that for a king. Saul. A man who 'stood head and shoulders above the rest', was handsome and powerful-looking, was just about the coolest thing they'd ever seen. Yep, they could follow him, yes they could.  And they clamored for Saul until God threw up His hands and gave them what they wanted.

The thing was, Saul wasn't the king God really intended for His people. His was not the throne God meant to establish over Israel.  God's choice for His people was based on internal things that only God could see. And eternal things that only God intended. David's heart mattered to God because God intended to use David as seed for His Son.

The prophecies about the Messiah coming from David's lineage are abundant in the Old Testament.  Just this morning I jotted down about a dozen places where there are specific references to David's seed, or David's descendant or David's son being Lord. Or David's throne being established forever. 2 Samuel 7:10 says, "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever."  This promise is twofold, of course. It reveals the special relationship God had with David--whom He called beloved--and it points to Jesus Christ, through whom that throne, house and Kingdom woul,d find fulfillment. 

This is the amazing thing about those lineages in the Bible. All those 'begats' actually trace lines back so we can see that the prophecy has been fulfilled.  In Matthew, the lineage in chapter 1 is Joseph's, which makes sense because it's his point of view from which we see the events of Jesus' birth. He's the one to whom the angel speaks. He's the one who is told to take Mary and the baby and flee to Egypt.  And the lineage of the father was always more important than the mother. Sorry, but that's the way it was. And, because I have beloved adopted brothers, I love the idea that it's Jesus' adopted father through whom he is David's seed in Matthew. Jesus is King David's multi-great grandson through his adopted father Joseph, just like we're children of the King through adoption. This is what Romans tells us. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, but we're adopted by His Spirit.  There's a symmetry to this that pleases me.  

It must be noted, however, that in Luke's gospel, the lineage is Mary's. And also extends back to David.  (Actually both go all the way back past him to Abraham, and in Luke it goes back to Adam, which is quite the journey!) The gospels make it completely clear that Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, wife of Joseph, is of the lineage of David. Is his seed.  

Of this seed, David says, "The Lord says to my lord:
                                         'Sit at my right hand
                                         until I make your enemies 
                                         a footstool for your feet.'"
This is Psalm 110:1, recited by Jesus in Matthew 22: 44.  Jesus recognized that He was the fulfillment of this Messianic Psalm, and wanted the Pharisees, the other listeners, and us to recognize it as well. Jesus is the One who sits on David's throne forever, the one to whom David himself was awaiting and now is worshiping day and night. 
 
It's a great family in which to be adopted. I'm glad to add my little name to that family tree.  To know that with the fulfillment of the promise and by His Spirit, we all have a chance to be grafted in.
  
"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, "Abba, Father." Romans 8: 14-15

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