Yeah, I know everyone pretty much glosses over the “Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah” stuff and so on. And why not, right? I mean, it’s pretty much like reading through an Old Testament phone book.
BUT, when it comes to Jesus’s lineage, there’s actually a really awesome story in there.
First, a few premises to set the backdrop:
#1 Old Testament prophesies declare that the long-awaited Messiah will come from the line of King David. (2 Samuel, 7:12-16)
There are actually a ton of similar prophesies. You can check them out here, or just take my word for it.
#2 Reminder for those who don’t know, Satan is a created being. It’s not “God vs. Satan on an even playing field”, it’s “God rules over Satan, but He allows him some latitude of free will.” And one of the devil’s tactics allows him to achieve destruction without inflicting damage on man himself. Instead, he just convinces man to sin, so God in his righteousness must judge man, and then man suffers God’s punishment. To Satan, that’s good enough. Also, Satan is smart (he’s been around for a few thousand years), but he doesn’t have perfect knowledge like God does.
#3 Jesus’ lineage, according to Matthew (ch. 1).
I’ll focus on just a couple names: David, one of his sons and heir Solomon, Solomon’s 13th generation great-grandson Jeconiah, and Jeconiah’s 12th generation great-grandson Joseph, Jesus’s adopted father.
I recently heard a pastor talking about Joseph. Among other things, he praised Joseph for being one of the few people in the Bible who received an angel’s visit and immediately said, “Yes, I’ll do that.” A lot of people wavered and tested before reluctantly agreeing. Also, the pastor explained that in the Koine Greek of the original New Testament, Joseph’s occupation is “tekton”, (think: “tectonic plates”), which translates to “builder”, or “mason”. The pastor also cited a massive quarry 3.5 miles north of Nazareth and an obvious lack of trees in the area as evidence that Joseph was actually a mason. While I haven’t had time to research this fully, nor am I ready to wholesale commit to changing my understanding of Jesus’s occupation, I think it’s interesting. And it’d explain all the “stone” references throughout the Bible. Regardless, when you consider the child-raising work that Joseph put into the young Jesus, his occupation as a builder (whether he worked in stone, timber, or character) was spot-on.
#4 Jesus’ lineage in Luke (ch. 3).
Here, we only need to talk about three names: David, his other son Nathan, and his many-times great-granddaughter Mary.
Cool fact: counting God as #1 and Adam as #2, Luke’s lineage lists Jesus as the 77th generation of Life.
Now for the fun part – putting together the pieces.
So, Old Testament prophesy was that the Messiah (who would reign over Jerusalem, and the whole world) would be a king from the line of David. David had several wives and a few concubine. Apparently, when he was around 50 years old, that wasn’t enough. Stepping out onto his balcony one evening, he saw a beautiful young woman bathing in (a very visible part of) her courtyard. The woman, named Bathsheba, was the wife of one of his generals, named Uriah.
While Uriah was off fighting on behalf of David, David began an affair with Bathsheba, and she became pregnant. To try and cover up his sin, David sent for Uriah to come home and visit his wife, hoping the two would “reconnect”, and everyone could pretend the child was Uriah’s. But Uriah refused to abandon his post. So, David sent orders to Uriah’s commanding officer to pick a battle they couldn’t win and put Uriah at the front of the fighting. Uriah’s commanding officer did as he was told, and Uriah was killed, along with the other soldiers who were “sacrificed” to make this whole plot look believable. After Bathsheba finished her period of mourning (possibly as short as a week), David took her into his palace as a wife. And somewhere along the way, David promised that their child would succeed David to the throne. That child’s name? Solomon.
Solomon ends up taking 700 wives and 300 concubines, and as a lot of these women were from countries outside of Israel, they worshipped pagan gods. Solomon allowed them all to continue the practice, and a lot of the pagan idolatry entered his kingdom. Fast-forward 13 generations to King Jeconiah. The line of kings (from David, through Solomon) had become so wicked and corrupted that God cut off the line, saying “Record this man [Jeconiah] as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah.” [Jer. 22:30]
Titles of nobility always follow from father to son, and so King David’s successor would have been a son of his descendants. But, Jeconiah’s curse cut off that line from the throne. Jesus’s adopted father Joseph (and thus Jesus) would have been in the line for the prophesied throne, were it not cursed.
So at this point, the Devil was probably mighty pleased with himself. In just 13 generations, he had managed to so corrupt the line of one of God’s most loyal and loving servants that God, being just, fair, and good, had to withdraw His blessing from the line, and by His own will, depose the Davidic kings from their throne. (Again, Satan didn’t have to reach out and destroy these men himself – he just tempted them into doing what was wrong, and then slyly stepped aside when God came to judge. If that sounds familiar, maybe you’ve heard of a man named Adam and his wife, Eve.) But remember, Satan doesn’t have perfect knowledge, and he couldn’t outsmart God.
Jesus wasn’t a blood relation to Joseph. He was a blood relation to Mary, and Mary’s lineage back to David was uncorrupted. While Solomon and his descendants were living in the public eye as kings of Jerusalem, the descendants of Solomon’s brother, Nathan, quietly slipped off into obscurity. It was within this obscurity that God protected that lineage – Mary’s line to King David by Nathan – from corruption and the blood curse on the line of Jeconiah.
In the end, the Messiah, who was prophesied to come from the line of David, did. Both by blood (through Mary, uncorrupted and uncursed by way of Nathan) and by the king-to-son hierarchy of the time (through Joseph adopting Jesus as his son). And at the same time, God did it all while (seemingly paradoxically) upholding His curse that no one of Jeconiah’s line would sit on the throne. He set up two parallel lineages, through 42 generations, to bring together Joseph and Mary.
Sounds like God knew what He was doing the whole time.
So why is this my favorite Christmas story? Because sometimes, things in my life don’t seem to be going as I’d expect them to. And this story is a reminder of God’s amazing ability to plan better than we can. He had a way to allow Satan to attack the corruptible, and after 13 generations of assault, Satan, I’m sure, had thought he won. But another 29 generations in the future, God’s plan plays out exactly how He wanted it to. And even more amazing to me is that God laid out the whole thing without stifling anyone’s free will. No one was coerced into any of this, for better or worse, and yet, it all went like clockwork.
It might seem a bit whimsical to say that God can do my planning anytime, but it’s true. I have my life, my goals, and my aspirations, but when I think about the God that brought forward a plan like this, I have no trouble saying, “I’ll defer to You. Even if I don’t see it now, I trust that You know what’s best.” And to be blunt, my life is much, much better because of it… but more on that later.