Matthew 1

Welcome to 27in52, a daily Bible reading plan. Today is Day 1 of the plan, even though it is day 6 of 2020.

Read Matthew 1 today.

When I was growing up in the church and in a Christian school, I heard preachers occasionally say that someone was “on the shelf.”

This phrase was used to describe a Christian who had sinned in such a way that God would not use him or her again. Usually the sin the preacher had in mind was either divorce or adultery but I’m sure murder would be included and maybe other sins, too.

The implication of this “on the shelf” language was that some sins were so bad that God would never use that sinner again. God wouldn’t “throw you away” because you’re always saved once you’ve been saved. But God will put you away where you can’t do any good for him and hopefully won’t do any damage.

What garbage!

Here in Matthew 1, we have a record of the genealogy of Jesus. It is a record of many people we know nothing about and a few that we know a lot about from the Old Testament. But, in addition to being a list of names, Matthew 1 is a record of God’s grace. Several people on this list would be put “on the shelf” by self-righteous people and preachers but God used them still.

  • Abraham (1:2)? He believed God but he also impregnated his wife’s servant to help God out. A lot of believers would put him “on the shelf.”
  • Jacob (1:2)? He stole his brother’s birthright and deceived his father to steal his brother’s blessing. Put him on the shelf.
  • David and Bathsheba (v. 6)? Mentioning their names together reminds you that their relationship started in adultery. David also murdered Bathsheba’s husband so he had multiple reasons to be “on the shelf.”

I could go on, but you get the point. Some sins disqualify people from serving as elders or deacons but nobody who is in Christ is ever “on the shelf.” God can and will use you if you trust in him, even if you aren’t qualified for an official biblical office of service.

This chapter is more than a genealogy–it is a record of the grace of God. Every person listed in this chapter, except for Jesus himself, was a sinner and no sinner is truly worthy of serving or being used by God. But God is so gracious and so powerful that he chooses sinners that others would put on the shelf for his purposes and his glory.

Have you concluded that God can’t or won’t use you because of your past sins? Do you have present struggles that feel make you unusable for God?

Put those thoughts out of your mind. If murderers and polygamists and adulterers and other kinds of sinners can be part of the genealogical line of Jesus Christ, then any and every sinner can be forgiven and used by God to glorify him.

Matthew 1

Today’s reading is Matthew 1

Every story has a beginning and we read the beginning of Jesus’ story today in Matthew 1. But think about some of the biographies you may have read. They typically begin with the birth and early life of the person whose life is being profiled. You learn about that person and his or her parents and that’s about it. If any other ancestor is mentioned, that person must have been famous or contributed to the story of the person in the biography.

The four Gospels of the New Testament are not biographies. They focus on Jesus, of course, but with a much greater purpose than any biography ever written. Yet Matthew spent the first seventeen verses of his Gospel tracing the family tree of Christ all the way back to Abraham. Why?

There are several reasons for this. One is that Matthew is a Jewish man writing to Jewish people. The Old Testament contains several genealogies in order to connect God’s people to God’s promises over many generations. A second reason Matthew included this long genealogy was to connect Jesus through Joseph to David. This was necessary because God had promised Messiah would come from David’s line.

I want you to consider a third reason why Matthew included this genealogy: to establish Jesus Christ as a real member of the human race. Right after this genealogy, Matthew described the virgin conception of Jesus (vv. 18-25). This was the first of many, many miracles connected to the life of Christ. Were it not for these genealogical records–which could be checked–many people might dismiss Jesus as a mythological character rather than a real person who lived in human history. In fact, people throughout history and today try to do this! They try to deny that Jesus existed as a historical person, despite Matthew (and Luke’s) attempts to trace the ancestry of Christ, specific the name of his parents, the place and circumstances of his birth, and tell us enough historical facts to certify his place in humanity. The truth of the matter is that we have far more evidence that Jesus existed than we do for guys like Plato and Socrates and others. Nobody denies that they were genuine historical people. But because of the uniqueness of Jesus, the testimonies about his divine power, and his death and resurrection for us, unbelievers would like to relegate him to the land of mythology.

As we start our journey through the New Testament this year, I hope it will strengthen your faith and cause us all to greater understanding, worship, devotion, and obedience to Jesus. That begins today by understanding that Jesus is real. The things he did and said happened in human history and have been recorded in scripture with enough historical detail to erase any questions about him. People may try to deny his virgin birth or his healings, or that he rose from the dead but only a fool would question whether he really lived on earth. Let this give you confidence as we learn more about him in the days ahead.