So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
(Matthew 1:17, NASB)
At Christmas, I often tell anecdotes about my family emigrating from England sixty years ago when I was thirteen. I wish I could find some family links to the Pocock brothers who went with Stanley in search of Livingstone in Africa, but, alas, I can only go back two generations.
There are cultures that put a lot more stock in genealogies than many Americans do. But none of us could produce a genealogy as extensive as Matthew did for Jesus. We may be tempted to get past the list in Matthew 1:1–17 quickly to get to the Christmas story, but Matthew wanted to establish Christ’s credentials as the promised Messiah, relating Him to Abraham, Patriarch of God’s people; David, the king to whom God promised a future lineage; and a solid line of deliverers and faithful leaders.
Jesus’s genealogy starts with Abraham, forty-two generations before Christ. God promised to bless Abraham, make him a great nation and bless all the families (nations) of the earth through him (Genesis 12:1–3). Matthew wants us to know that what God promises He fulfills; what He starts, He finishes.
Abraham was a nomadic wanderer from what today would be Iraq and Syria. He immigrated to the Promised Land and God sustained him, gave him a family, and moved ahead with His redemptive plan. Scattered in this genealogy are refugees and asylum seekers like Ruth, kings and leaders like David and Solomon, Zerubbabel who led the exiles back to Jerusalem, and families that filled the Intertestamental Period. God often works through the movement of people, whether forced or voluntary. Jesus Himself is born on a journey to Bethlehem and is preserved when His parents fled to Egypt for safety. Today we are challenged by unparalleled migrations. May we see the gracious hand of God in all this, as Matthew did in Christ’s genealogy.