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Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Jesus Fulfills the History of Israel

by Dr. Michael Whiting

Today's Reading

Matthew 1:1-17

Rarely do genealogies appear in devotionals. Let’s face it. A list of names just does not do much to inspire spiritual meditation like an emotional Psalm, an engaging Old Testament story, or a passionate exhortation from the pen of the Apostle Paul. 

Yet genealogies tell a story, and in the instance of Matthew 1:1-17, the most important story. For it begins with Abraham and traces through his descendants down to the arrival of Jesus Christ. In some manner, with this list of names, we basically have an outline of Israel’s history – albeit the male-dominated one. 

The genealogy is even split up into three sections with fourteen names each that mark off three different periods in Israel’s history. Starting with Abraham, we have the age of the patriarchs, the Exodus, conquest, and judges. With David, we have the period of the monarchy in Israel traced down through the divided Kingdom to the last king of Judah, Zedekiah. With Shealtiel, we have the period of Babylonian captivity that takes us up to the return of the Jews from exile and finishes with the birth of Jesus to Mary.

While the primary purpose of the genealogy in Matthew’s Gospel is to show Jesus as the royal descendant of David, it also serves the purpose of reminding us of key moments on the timeline of the Messianic covenantal narrative; from the call of Abraham in Genesis 12, the promise to Judah in Genesis 49, the choosing of David’s dynasty in 2 Samuel 7, and finally the Virgin Mary’s miraculous conception and birth prophesied in Isaiah 7.

In other words, as we have witnessed in the devotionals for this Advent season, the history of Israel is written with her future Messiah in mind. Jesus is the fulfillment and personification of the whole history of Israel.

In the patriarchal period, He is the seed of Abraham through whom all nations of the earth would be blessed. Indeed, He is given a name greater than Abraham and a nation with more descendants (Gen. 12:1-3).

He is the Passover Lamb of the Exodus, the obedient Son in the wilderness, the lawgiver and prophet with authority greater than Moses, the tabernacle of God’s presence, the high priest, sacrifice of atonement, and the warrior and conqueror mightier than Joshua (which in Greek is rendered, "Jesus"). He is the just judge and the kinsman-redeemer.

In the age of the monarchy, He is the good shepherd, the everlasting King whose throne endures forever, the wisdom of God, and the Temple of God’s glory.

In the age of exile, He is Jonah in the whale and the Suffering Servant who is punished and forsaken by God but is brought back from death and captivity to inherit the land.   

In no other person is a whole nation’s history fulfilled as in Jesus, and no merely human person could fulfill all these stories as hard as he or she tried. God’s desire to dwell with us hinges on and is fulfilled in a greater way, in the coming of Jesus. He is the perfection of all that came before and pointed to Him, and He brings God’s dwelling closer to us than ever through His life, death, resurrection, and giving of the Spirit.

Can you feel the anticipation of history building, much like Mary would in her labor pains, for the arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ, that we will celebrate just a few short days from now?

Can you revel in the favor of God, the glad tidings of His peace, and the overwhelming demonstration of His love – that He would desire so much to dwell with us to be our God and we His people?

Like an artist who pronounced his work good and delighted over it only to have it defiled, corrupted, and His image in it marred, God chose not to throw away His creation but to remake and renew it – even better than before.

This He has, is, and will accomplish to His own praise and glory through Jesus Christ. 

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