Friday, September 25, 2020

Matthew 3 - Part 2


Read Matthew 3

In the first service I went through all of the Old Testament scriptures concerning baptism.  It took no time at all.  Literally, it took no time.  There aren’t any.

There are some general analogies we might make, such as Jonah and his time underwater in the great fish, but upon further examination; we see Jesus use the Jonah reference with regard to resurrection.

But by the time that Jesus had come into the world, baptism was common enough that none of the religious leaders questioned the baptism part about what John was doing.  They were more focused on being called a bunch of snakes and defending their righteousness based on the fact that they had Abraham as their father.

I suppose that you could count the flood noted in Genesis as a huge baptism, but those who went under the water here did not reemerge.

There is ritual cleansing but not the baptism that we know today, at least in Christianity.  Pagan religious, mainly eastern religions, had a water purification which may have included immersion.  In fact, the Sumerian tradition from some three millennia earlier was adopted into the Greek culture and mythology and accredited to the god Ioannes which in English is John.

You might see why some consider the baptism of John a continuation of this myth.  You might also see why the religious leaders were interested in what John was doing at the Jordan.

In any case, John was real and not a myth.  He baptized with water.  He drew quite a crowd and then Jesus came for baptism. 

We don’t’ get the words that we do in John’s gospel.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

We do have a little insight into the words that preceded the baptism of the Lord.  John did not ask Jesus if he repented of his sins.  That would have been awkward.

How do you ask the one who has not sinned if he repents of his sin?

Instead, John inquires if instead of him baptizing Jesus, that Jesus should baptize him.  That would make more sense, wouldn’t it?

It would!  Absolutely it would make more sense from John’s perspective and probably from ours, except that Jesus was on a mission from his Father that was about to jump into high gear.  His baptism was like the commissioning of a ship.  The journey was about to begin in earnest and it had to begin the right way.

Jesus would not only go to the cross as a lamb that had not sinned by refraining from doing things he should not have done; he must arrive at that point doing everything that he was sent to do.

He must live a life that continued in right standing with his Father for the duration of his time in the flesh.

He would fulfill the law.  He would fulfill the prophets.  He would fulfill all righteousness.

Baptism was one of the first things on that bucket list and Jesus hit the target.  How do we know?

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Dad said, You nailed it, Kid.

Jesus did this not because he needed to repent, but so that while he was in this world, he would do what no person had ever done.  He would do everything right in the sight of his Father, not because he needed it.  It was all for us.

Let’s see how that fits into our lives.  Do we do things because other people have expectations?  Sometimes, we do.  Sometimes the expectations of others are like a prison that we build for ourselves.

Do we do things because God has called us to do them and, whether others see them or not, we want to be right with God and his expectations for us.

Yes, we will fall short, and God promises forgiveness with every confession, but we want to hit the target that God has given us.  That’s really had to hit if the expectations of the world are in opposition or even just in competition with God’s direction.

Whose expectations influence our decisions?

How can you hit a target if you can’t decide where to aim?  Which expectations influence our decisions?

Jesus told John that he had his marching orders from his Father and baptism was on that list.  Do you want to do this your way or God’s way?  Sometimes all expectations are in sync with God’s way and there is no dilemma, but often we must choose.

There is a question that should hit home with us today.  Do we want to do what we think is the best course of action or do we trust God that his way is best?

It’s a Joshua sort of question.  Choose this day whom you will serve.  You have plenty of choices of who or what you put first in your life.  Some may seem very attractive and profitable.  Some may help you blend in with the crowd.

Some may make you appear unique and feed your esteem.

Jesus had no personal need for a baptism of repentance.  He did it because it was the right thing to do before his Father and he was on a mission to do everything right.  That would ruffle some feathers along the way, but it brought a lamb without blemish to the cross.

That’s bigtime for us, so let us celebrate this simple display of doing what was right by his Father in heaven that we might have an unblemished sacrifice offered for our sins.

And let us consider our own lives.  What do we do out of the expectation of others and what do we do because God has revealed his will to us?

We did not earn our right standing but we should live up to it as best we can.  We should do our best to hit the target.


Matthew 3 - Part 1


Read Matthew 3

Let’s begin with a review of all of the Bible verses in the Old Testament about baptism.  Do you remember in which part of the Torah we find the instructions on baptism?

Exodus?  Leviticus?  Or did those instructions not come until Joshua entered the Promised Land?

There is no biblical instruction on baptism available to us from the Old Testament; yet, this chapter begins with John the Baptizer earning his title.  He was baptizing at the Jordan.

His baptism was one of repentance.  Now repentance was and is a concept that we can get our heads around with Old Testament precedent.  Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because the people there might repent and turn away from their evil ways and God would spare them the punishment and destruction that they so richly deserved.

But there is no mention of baptism.  Wearing sack cloth and putting ashes on your head might have been the thing to do, but baptism never entered the conversation. 

Repentance was a dry land experience as far as the Old Testament goes.  John does something different, but obviously familiar to the people of that age.

The Scribes and Pharisees say nothing of the fact that John is baptizing people.  Somewhere along the way, baptism became a part of Hebrew life.  The New Testament is full of baptism references, but John is the first instance that we note of this practice.

John baptized with water.  He promised one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.  John’s mission was to prepare the way for Jesus.

How do you prepare the way?  If a king was coming, you fixed the roads.  If the tin horn had washed away, you got a new one and smoothed out the crossing over the gulley.  Detours were not acceptable to the king.  He would not want to go around the problem.  You were supposed to fix the problem before he got there.

Get rid of the detour and keep the road straight. 

Today we complain about our roads and then we complain about construction when somebody starts to fix them.  While I’m sure that the new Diamond Interchange makes it easier for trucks and large vehicles to access and exit (especially left turns); I don’t think it fits the model of make straight the way.

John prepared the way for Jesus by calling all to repent of their sins.  If you want salvation, you must first repent.

We must still prepare the way to receive our Lord and Savior.  Sometimes that takes years.  Sometimes it is a moment, but however long, we must realize that our life lived only for ourselves is not one that has readied the way for our Lord.

We are not ready for grace without repentance.  The world wants that.  The world wants sin in one had and forgiveness in another.  While God is a forgiving God; we must not become cavalier to his lovingkindness. 

We are called to repent.

John called all and baptized those who came to repent of their sins.  The One greater than him who would come after him would baptize with the Holy Spirit, but would also call for repentance.  As we will see in the next chapter, Jesus called people to repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.

And I can’t leave out John’s treatment of the Pharisees and Sadducees who had come just to watch.  They were spectators and arm-chair quarterbacks but we know  of none who came to repent or for baptism.

Why should they repent?  They were sons of Abraham.  They had their ticket punched.  Or did they?

John warned these snakes—you brood of vipers—that God could take the rocks around them and make new children of Abraham if he so desired.

John warned them that they better invest less in their lineage and more in their lives proved worthy by the fruit they produce.

John came before Jesus and would continue his ministry concurrently with Jesus for a time and at different locations, but the message remains for all.

Prepare the way for the Lord.  How? Repent of your sins.

What is the message that you hear from me at Ash Wednesday?  It’s a reminder.  There is no Ash Wednesday in the Bible.  The apostles didn’t partake of Ash Wednesday.  The ashes have no power.

The message of that time which I believe is a reminder to us should be life for the world. 


We should not only hear these words but share these words with this lost world.  Amen.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Matthew 2 - Part 2


Read Matthew 2

The wise men visited Jesus after following a star.  This is not a manger scene but one that takes place in a house.  It could have been up to 2 years after his birth in a barn or cave or sheltered part of a livestock area.

What I ask you to think on just for the moment is that these wise men were warned to go back home a different way than they had come.  At the least, they would not be stopping in to give Herod a report on this newborn king.

They were warned in a dream.

Do you remember chapter 1?  Joseph was told to take Mary as his wife in a dream.  What is conceived in her is of God.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.

The wise men did return home via a different route.  Herod never got his report.  He did not want to worship this child whom men from afar knew as the King of the Jews.  He wanted to kill him.  A precise location would have made the job easy.

That didn’t happen so Herod decided to kill every male child two years old and younger.  Compare this to precision bombing and carpet bombing.  If you can’t target precisely, you just kill everyone in a certain area.

This wasn’t a new idea.  Remember at the beginning of Exodus, the Pharaoh who did not remember Joseph ordered all male firstborn killed.  Herod had different motives and increased the target area by two years, but this was simple power politics.

If your replacement is dead before he has a chance to replace you, then you might live a longer life.  It’s like Niccolò Machiavelli and William Shakespeare wrote this part. 

It might have been an effective strategy except that God had warned Joseph in a dream to pack up his family and leave.  Once again, an angel of the Lord had spoken to Joseph in a dream and Joseph had obeyed.

The angel didn’t say go rent a U-Haul tomorrow, have a yard sale to get rid of stuff you don’t need to take, and hold one last gathering with friends.  The angel said, Get em and go.

The angel also told Joseph to stay there until he gave him further instructions.  He did tell Joseph the why part.  Herod wanted to kill. Jesus. 

Herod reigned death upon countless children but eventually he died.  The angel of the Lord once again came to Joseph in a dream and told him to return to Israel. He did.

While the perceived urgency here is not evident, the instructions were to get up and go.

Can you imagine the life of young Jesus?  He gets wonderful gifts then the next thing you know they are leaving town in the middle of the night for Egypt.  Then then a few years later, they get up in the middle of the night and head back to the Promised Land.

When I was stationed in Orlando, Florida there was a drought one year and the housing area that we lived in was evacuated because of wildfires.  It was a get up and go situation in the late afternoon, but the back of my truck was full of photo albums and other things that were considered too valuable to leave behind.

Joseph picked up his family and surely few possessions and just did what he was told.  Get up and go.

When Joseph returned to his home country, he discovered that Herod’s son was on the throne.  Again, an angel of the Lord warned Joseph and told him to go to Galilee instead of Bethlehem or Judea. 

He did.

Much of this was to fulfill scripture but Joseph had to obey the angel of the Lord that came in a dream.  Unlike Luke’s gospel where angels physically appeared, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream again and again.

In a dream!

Occasionally, I have awakened in the middle of the night because of a dream.  All I remember of the dreams now is that they were the best ideas and plot construction and plot twists for the greatest novels the world has ever known.

So, I wrote it all down and went back to bed.  Some of you know that I have perfect penmanship when I am awake. It’s so perfect that I am nearly illiterate without a keyboard.

You should have seen me trying to decipher my notes from my dream.  Those great American novels will remain unwritten.

But even if your dream remains crystal clear to you, how do you know that your mind is not playing tricks on you?  It’s a serious question.  How do you know?

That brings us to John’s gospel, specifically, chapter 10.  Jesus used the example of shepherd and sheep.  The sheep know the voice of the shepherd.  In fact, they will run away from a stranger’s voice.

This is an example of using things known to the people.  The sheep know the voice of the shepherd.  There is an existing and trusted relationship.

While Joseph probably never had an angel visit him in a dream before Mary became pregnant; he had an existing relationship with God.  He trusted God.  He trusted God over his own understanding.

Joseph was predisposed to receive a message from God because he trusted God over his own understanding.  This is where I want to leave the story and venture into our time.

Do we know the voice of our Shepherd?

Do we know what to believe in this age of deception?

Will we stick to the truth when the propaganda of the world sounds enticing?

Will we trust God or our own emotional longings?

The level of deception in this world is at an all-time high.  It is ridiculous what people in this country claim to believe.  It’s not just the Antifa-types that are easy to spot.  It’s the Christians being deceived, leaving the truth for some emotional fix.

It’s those of us who seek the specks in each other’s eyes and ignore the lumberyard in our own so as not to feel the need to love one another or fulfill our commissions.  We put others down so our obligations are fulfilled. 

That’s not how it works.  We were warned against this.

I’m going to label Joseph with an attribute not mentioned—courage.  He did what the angel of the Lord told him to do each and every time.

The first time surely cost him some friends or acquaintances.

The next few times surely cost him a few looks from his wife.

We don’t know much about Joseph after Jesus turned 12 but what we do know is that he was strong and courageous much like God had called Joshua to be.

Joseph did what God required of him without doing a cost-benefit analysis.

Joseph did what God required of him without delay.

Joseph did what God required of him without regret.  Hold on.  It doesn’t say that.

It does.  You just have to look for it.  Time and again, Joseph obeyed the angel of the Lord.  You don’t do that if you regretted a previous decision to follow God’s instructions.

Regret leads you back to your own understanding.

Back to us.  Will we do what God calls us to do without estimating what it costs us?

Will we do what God calls us to do without delay?

Will we do what God calls us to do without regret?

Will we know it’s God who is calling?  Will we know his voice in whatever form he chooses to speak to us?

You will have trouble in the world.  Will we take courage in knowing that our Lord has overcome the world?

Joseph doesn’t get much coverage in the Bible, but what he does get is powerful.  It is a powerful example to us to trust in the Lord and not our own understanding.

When we know the message that we have received is of the Lord, we obey.  We obey courageously without considering the personal cost to us.

Are you ready to be more like Joseph?  Are you ready?


Matthew 2 - Part 1


Read Matthew 2

The first thing that I want to do is mess up the Nativity Scene.  I’m not really going to mess it up, just clarify that it is representative of what took part over the course of a couple years not just one or two evenings.

Jesus could have been as old as 2 years at the time of the visit of the Maji.  Herod calculated this based upon the report of how long the Maji had been following the star.  We should also note that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were in a house at the time of the visit.

Is it possible that the star was visible before the birth of the Lord?  In any case, the star led the wise men to this place at this time, which was not while Joseph and his family were in the manger.

Do you know if it was a buyer’s market or a seller’s market for homes at this time?  It was usually a builder’s market.  It’s possible that Joseph had built his family a house.

It may not have taken 2 years to get a house, but they were not in the manger when the Maji came.

But who were the Maji?  There is universal agreement that these men were kings or not.  They were astrologers or not.  They were magicians or not.  The agreement on the subject is that there are many opinions as to whom these men were.

Chances are, they were not kings.  Kings normally travel with processions and sometimes protective details—army detachments if you will.

They were surely wise.  They found Jesus from who knows where they started.  All we know is that it was from the east.  Saudi, Iran, Afghanistan, India, China—who knows exactly where their journey began.  The names of where they began may have also been different than they are today.

Did they travel at night?  If they were crossing desert it would make sense.  It would surely be easier to see the star at night.  If you do the math at 25 miles per day, these Maji may have come from up to 2,000 miles away; but it could have been much closer.

They knew they were looking for the King of the Jews and that was a big thing, wherever they may have come from.

They were more clued in to this event than the local authority.  Herod had to summon the Chief Priests and Teachers of the Law to get answers.  He knew of the Messiah.  He would come someday.  He obviously did not know of a birth in a manger near Bethlehem.

Here is what I ask you to consider.  Jesus came to the lost sheep of Israel.  This was foretold through scripture.  He was the Messiah, the Anointed One promised to God’s Chosen People.  This was a Hebrew thing.

Except, it was a global thing.  Jesus came through the line of Abraham and David but he came to save the world.  The story of the Christ comes through God’s Chosen People, but this was a birth that impacted the entire world.

To which we in America would say Amen, Hallelujah, and Praise the Lord.  We are so glad to be included in his salvation.  We are so blessed to be recipients of his love.

We are glad that salvation is not limited by geography or time.

But how did people from somewhere else know about God?

Go to the end of Genesis 4.  People began to call upon the name of the Lord.  Continue through the flood.  Not every line that came from Noah went through Abraham.  Noah had found favor with God and through his family, the world was populated once again.

Consider how many times the Hebrew people had been scattered about the world by some nation bent on being an empire.  We read of synagogues as Paul and other apostles ventured west into Europe but we don’t have much information about what took place to the east.

There were people in the world other than God’s Chosen People who knew of God—the one true God.  Did the Maji know the one true God?  We don’t know but we do know that the birth of Christ was of global significance.  It wasn’t just a local thing.

These men from afar left gifts.  Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh were noted.  You know gold and most know Frankincense.  It’s used for anointing and blessing.  Myrrh is a resin that historically been used as perfume, incense, or for medicinal purposes.

Some place significance on these as gifts needed to prepare Jesus for burial.   That’s a real begin with the end in mind interpretation.

What I will ask you to consider is that these were all valuable gifts, appropriate for a king.  Before they left home, these men packed expecting to find a king.

What I ask you to think on from this part is that while prophecy came to God’s Chosen People, the birth of Jesus was an event of global importance and known beyond the Promised Land.

These men as indicated by the value of their gifts, truly came in search of a king.  They expected to find a king.

Here’s something to chew on.  Scriptures vary somewhat on the dream that these men had that caused them to leave a different way and avoid Herod and the report that he wanted.

Some say in a dream that was of God or from God and others just say they were warned in a dream.  The dream was obviously fulfilled God’s  purpose and was followed by one to Joseph that enabled him to pick up his family and seek shelter in Egypt, but the question remains unanswered if these wise men also believed in the one true God.

In any case, the birth of Jesus was not a local event and these men truly came seeking a king.

All of creation was waiting for the arrival of a Savior.

One last thing that we find in the beginning of this chapter.  Whether they knew the one true God or not, they said that they followed the star and came to worship this king.

They came to worship!

Did they know they worshiped the King of Kings?   It’s something to chew on.


Friday, September 11, 2020

Matthew 1 - Part 2


Read Matthew 1

I describe the genealogy of Jesus provided in the first part of this chapter as one soap opera followed by another.  I provide a taste of the humanness of what happened on the way to Jesus, and you might think back to Genesis when God formed Adam from the dirt and thought was that the best soil he could find.

Regardless of how I frame this, the genealogy should be a good prompt for you to visit some of those Old Testament stories.

Today, we see why Matthew is seldom the selection for the Christmas program.  Nothing about Caesar Augustus and the census.  No shepherds watching their flocks by night.  No Mary visiting Elizabeth.  No angelic visit to Mary. No Mary’s Song.  No Zechariah’s Song.  Matthew has no music.

And there is no—wait for it—no room at the inn part either.

Matthew gets down to the nitty gritty.  Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph still loves Mary but isn’t buying this story.  He waited for marriage.  Why couldn’t she?

He was not going to make a big deal of it.  He could have, but just decided to end their betrothal with a simple but quiet divorce.  Back in the day, it was more than just getting back the engagement ring.

Betrothal was marriage without the consummation.  So, a divorce was needed to wrap up the whole thing.

But we know that didn’t happen.              

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Joseph did what he was told by the angel in his dream.  He didn’t question if it was the wine or the jalapenos on his nachos that he ate while commiserating with his buddies.  He didn’t wonder if this was just a stray thought that came from binge-watching too much Netflix.

He did what he was instructed. It was required to fulfill scripture.  The angel did not give him these instructions in this dream, but he had no sexual relations with his wife until after the birth of Jesus.

Maybe he understood the magnitude of what was happening.  And he gave the child the name Jesus.

OBTW—the angel referred to Joseph as the son of David.  David’s dad was named Jacob.  So, what’s up with that?  Check out the lineage that preceded this section. The angel knew Joseph’s lineage even if those around him were not quite as informed.

The account of Matthew about the life of young Jesus is different from Luke.  You don't get anything in Mark or John. 

But your journey has begun.  I spoke Wednesday night about how to get a Marine to laugh in your face.  Tell them that you almost joined the Marines.  There are plenty of other noble professions and callings, but never tell a Marine you almost joined.

I put the same challenge to you.  Don’t stand before Jesus and say, I almost read your word daily.  You do know that reading the verse of the day is not really daily reading. 

Jesus won’t laugh in your face but I think you will have an image in your mind of him on the cross.  Do you really want to tell him, I almost read your word daily?

It’s a simple thing.  It doesn’t take that long.  Whatever is competing for your time can be put aside for 10 minutes.  That’s about one-half of one percent of the time you have in any given day. 

Hopefully, you take a little longer to digest and meditate upon what you have read.

How many grew up hearing that breakfast was the most important meal of the day.  That was the mantra I heard when I was raising my kids.

They were wrong.  The word of God is the best and most important meal of the day.  Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Do the thing!  It will take us all the way to Palm Sunday 2021.

OBTW—we will have people assigned to watch the clock on New Years Eve to make sure it doesn’t go from 11:59 to 11:60. We are putting 2020 in the books.

Do the thing.  Read your Bible daily.  Share with each other.


Matthew 1 - Part 1


Read Matthew 1

The Hebrew people, mostly called Jews after the Babylonian Exile, placed great importance on their lineage.  Who’s your daddy?  That was the question of the day if you met someone new.

Think of Peter.  He was Simon bar Jonah.  He was the son of Jonah or John, but these people kept up with more than one generation.  OK then, who was his father, and his father?

It was the strength of their culture and also their stumbling block.  We are children of Abraham often was their excuse for not knowing God as he desired to be known.  John the Baptizer rebuked the very religious noting that God could make children of Abraham from the stones around them.

John was not the Messiah and he told anyone who asked.  He said one who is much greater was coming.  Now was the time for repentance. We will get to that part in a couple more chapters.

Matthew begins his gospel with a genealogy from Abraham to Jesus.  If you want to go from Jesus all the way back to Adam, you must venture into Luke’s gospel.  There are a couple of name variations, but the trip is the same.

This was important to God’s Chosen People.  They were directions to who the person was.  He was known by his father and his father before him.  Sometimes, some landmarks along the way help.

Here is how we use landmarks in giving directions in Oklahoma.  Let’s say you were telling a stranger how to get to the Jones’s  house out in the country.

Go north along the county road until you get to where the Jackson’s barn used to be and turn east.  It burned down 20 years ago and the weeds have overgrown that patch now, but that’s where you turn.  Go a quarter mile after the road goes from blacktop to dirt, they may have graveled that by now, but after a quarter mile from where the road turns to dirt or gravel, slow down because the makeshift bridge over the tin horn sometimes washes out there, plus sometimes the sand plums along the road are ripe, then keep going another few miles until you can see the flattop mountains on the horizon.  You know you are getting close.  Turn right at the next chance you get.  Go a couple more miles.  The house will be on the right.  Go to the back door.  Nobody ever answers the front door.

You can’t miss it.

How did Matthew put landmarks in the genealogy of Jesus?

There are the obvious landmarks:  Abraham, David, the Babylonian Captivity, and Christ. There were 14 generations between each.  We can do all sorts of math to try and define this as what is to come, but in Matthew’s time to the believing Hebrew, now often called a Jew, it spoke to three periods.

The first is from Abraham to David.  David was not the first king, but the one after God’s own heart and in whose line the Savior would be born.

The second period takes us from the building of a Temple for God to its destruction. 

The third from the captivity to the Christ, a time in which a second temple would be built and we would be told of another temple in which God would dwell.

Are there other landmarks?

How about the women?  Did you notice the women?  In the age  where everything was defined by who your father was, there are 4 women who define this lineage that lead up to Mary.

Let’s start with Tamar.  Remember that Jesus is of the tribe of Judah.  He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah.  For that reason, Judah had to be upright in all regards.  He was as close to sinless as a man can get. Not!

Judah had three sons.  The first was Er.  He found a wife for him named Tamar.  Er wasn’t much of a son.  In fact the scripture said he was wicked.  He died without giving his wife a child.

Realize this is before the Law of Moses had been given.  It’s over 400 years before but Judah told his second son to lie with Tamar and give her a child in her brother’s name.  He had intercourse with her but used his own form of birth control and did not give her a child.  This was wicked in the sight of the Lord and he was not around much longer either.

So Judah told Tamar to live as a widow in his household until his third son was old enough to take a wife or at least give her a child in the name of her deceased husband.  In the meantime, Judah’s wife died.  To help him get over his grief, he slept with a prostitute, or at least he thought the woman was a prostitute.

It was in fact, Tamar, who had heard that her father-in-law was headed to Timnah to sheer his sheep,  took off her widow’s clothing and dressed in different attire with a veil to hide her face and went ahead of him.

At this point I will add, if Hollywood never produces another movie or soap opera, that’s just fine.  The stories in the Bible have more intricacy and intimacy that those west coast yahoos produce in a lifetime.

Tamar was camped out near Enaim and presented herself as a sacred prostitute or a shrine prostitute.  These were common in pagan culture and obviously acceptable to Judah.  These prostitutes offered their services as a sacrifice to some god to produce fertile crops.  Some may have raised money for their respective temples—not the temple that was yet to come through Solomon.

Yes, you can’t get away from fundraisers, even in the Old Testament.  As I mentioned, this was before the Law of Moses.  But once God began speaking to the people through Moses, he commanded that dog don’t hunt.  It came out a little differently in Hebrew.  Spend some time in Deuteronomy 23.

Back to Judah heading out to sheer sheep.  He slept with Tamar not knowing she was Tamar and promised her a young goat, but she wanted something to hold until the goat was delivered.  At least that was what she said.  Judah gave her his seal and the cord attached to it as well as his staff as a deposit on the promised livestock.

When Judah returned home he sent the goat but there was no shrine prostitute.  In fact, his messenger was told that position had not been filled for some time.

Meanwhile on the Homefront, someone noticed that Tamar was pregnant.  She was condemned as a prostitute and was to be put to death.  She was to be burned to death.

She was brought before Judah and had the seal, cord, and staff sent to him.  I am pregnant by the man who owns these she said.

OMG!  Judah had been played and he knew it but he knew he deserved it because he had not followed through with giving her to his third son.  Tamar was not a prostitute but she knew how to turn a trick.

The result of this was two sons, Perez and Zerah, which brings us back to the genealogy. The rest of which will occur after the exodus from slavery in Egypt, at least as far as the women go.

The next is Rahab.  Yes, Rahab the prostitute—not a pretend prostitute but most likely the real deal—helped define the lineage of Jesus.  God’s Chosen People were entering the promised land and she was their ally.  She was not one who endured over 400 years of slavery in Egypt.  She likely did not worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but she knew the Lord was with these people who were coming to claim the land promised to them.

The next was Ruth.  She was a God-fearing Hebrew girl who always kept the law and never worked on the Sabbath.  Wait!  That’s not exactly correct.  She was from Moab and there was a lot of pagan worship there.  Ruth married one of Naomi’s sons.  Both of her sons died and Naomi was heading back to Bethlehem.  She told her daughters that their odds of finding another husband were better in Moab than in Judah.  That brings us to words that resonate.

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.

It also leads us back to the genealogy and Boaz the father of Obed whose mother was Ruth.

You have heard of those television shows called the Real Wives of Somewhere in California or Omaha or Army Wives or maybe the next one will be the Wives of the Pandemic.  I’m going to tell you they have nothing on Old Testament Wives.  Forget Hollywood.  The good stuff is already written.

Which brings us to Bathsheba.  She was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who apparently was an exceptional warrior.  Bathsheba on the other hand had her own attributes and they were on display for King David as she bathed on her roof.

You know the story.  Bathsheba comes to see the king.  There is a little fling and Bathsheba is pregnant.  That brings us to the problem of her belonging to another man, Uriah.  David called Uriah back from the front of the current war and asked for a report.  Surely, he is honored that the king has called for him personally.

David doesn’t want a report.  He wants an excuse to send Uriah home to his wife so he thinks the child that is coming will be his.  Uriah won’t go see her while his fellow warriors are still in the field.  That shot a hole through that plan.

On a side note, these are not warrior codes.  Had Uriah gone back to a modern-day unit they would have laughed him off the battlefield.  They called you home and you didn’t spend the night with your wife.  Are you crazy?  You could die tomorrow.

Which is in fact close to what happened.  David sent orders to the field commander to put Uriah in the toughest area.  It accomplished what David wanted.  Uriah was killed.

This story has everything to make it a best seller in our times—sex and violence.

David took Bathsheba as his wife.  The kid conceived out of wedlock died but their next child was perhaps the wisest man ever.  His name was Solomon and Solomon would build the first Temple.

It’s men all the way up to Mary.  Mary found favor with the Lord, yet what she was asked to do would make her look unfaithful.  She would have a child who would be the Savior of the world, not by her betrothed husband, but by the Holy Spirit.

Joseph had a problem with this story, but an angel of the Lord came to him at night and told him to take Mary as his wife.  What was conceived in her was of the Lord.

Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

I recently came across this posting online (original source unknown) about how many people it took over 12 generations to produce you.  The number was 4,094 over about 400 years.  If we extended the same model to 14 generations, it would be over 16,00.  It’s sort of an inverted pyramid scheme to get to you.



There are two points that I want you to take away from this.  The first deals with Matthew’s gospel.  For all of the human contributors to the line of Jesus, only these few were the direct line to him.  Of over 8,000 people who might have contributed to the gene pool (remember that Joseph didn’t make a contribution), only these few define the lineage and it leads to Joseph.

You would think out of that many, God could have selected a little better breeding stock than characters from ancient soap operas.  But consider that Jesus was not only God with us, but fully human as well.  He resisted temptation, but in the human flesh which he lived for over 30 years, temptation was there.

Jump ahead to Hebrews for just a moment.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

Matthew gives us a human lineage to our Savior though there are no genes passed on to Jesus by this genealogy.  But this is the human lineage to which he belonged.  The Son of David would minister to the Children of Abraham.  The Lion of the Tribe of Judah would know the same temptations of his ancestors but would not sin.

Most of those who doubted Jesus never took the time to consider his human lineage.  It might have been an eye opener, but perhaps with their eyes fully opened the religious leaders would have never sought to kill Jesus, who gave himself willingly to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

This lineage is important, but not exclusive of one that is greater.  Jesus was the only begotten Son of God.  That’s a very succinct lineage.

I said that I had two points from the Ancestral Math posting.  Here is the second.  Whether you look back to your great grandparents or back 14 generations and consider all the people it took to make you, ask yourself this question.

What am I going to do with all of these contributions?

We will get to a similar question in 24 more chapters, but for now, ask: What am I going to do with what I have?

Read Matthew 2 every day this week.  The journey has begun.