Nobody likes to wait. And in our culture of Google and fast food, we often don’t have to. In the midst of lifestyles that rarely ask us to wait, we have to stop and ask ourselves: Can there be purpose in delayed gratification?
Stories of waiting appear throughout the Bible, and none is more powerful than the waiting for Jesus’ birth. His coming had been prophesied to Israel through years of war and oppression. The coming Savior, Jesus, was their ultimate hope for redemption. And yet it was through the journey of 14 generations and thousands of years before the angel appeared to Mary.
Why would God do that? It may be impossible for us to fully understand God’s ways, but clearly the journeys of the generations preceding Jesus were very important to God. And through them we can see God working mightily, even in what looks like delay.
Let’s begin with the “begats” (If you grew up in Sunday school, you know what I’m talking about). For the uninitiated, the Gospel of Matthew opens with the lineage of Jesus, starting with Abraham. It looks like this…“and Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas”… You get the idea. As a child, I found the inclusion of the “begats” puzzling, but they are more than a simple history lesson. God specifically chose each of the people in Jesus’ line, just as He does for us today.
In their stories, we get to see God’s faithfulness and promises given and fulfilled. We also get glimpses of God’s heart of redemption to all people, beginning with Abraham.
God gave Abraham a promise that through his offspring the whole world would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-13). After a period of waiting in his own life, Abraham saw the beginning of this promise fulfilled with the miracle birth of his son Isaac. The complete fulfillment would come thousands of years later in Jesus.
Waiting can be painful and hard to understand, but it doesn’t have to be passive. God wasn’t on pause during the Israelites wait for the Messiah. He was continuously moving and working.
The genealogy of Jesus is full of promises of His coming. From the covenant God made with Abraham, to his promise to David that his son (who would also be God’s son) would rule the nations (2 Sam 7:8-15). There are over 300 prophesies about Jesus across the Old Testament. And He fulfilled every one of them. The mathematical probability of that is staggering.
One person fulfilling just 48 prophecies equals one chance in ten to the 157th power. By Jesus fulfilling all 300, we see the grandeur and incredible power of the God we serve.
If we were to investigate each of Jesus’ forefathers and mothers, the insights we’d gather would be endless. Another of my favorite highlights is the inclusion of four gentiles: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Uriah. These characters leaving behind their idols and former way of life to join God’s chosen people is a foretaste of Jesus’ invitation to all people. Just the story of Rahab alone, a woman who once was a prostitute is so powerful. God redeemed her life and she becomes a piece of the puzzle leading to the blessing of all mankind.
The inclusion in Matthew of all the generations that led to the birth of Jesus shows how valuable our stories are. We follow a God who lives outside of time, yet He values our history as well as our present and future. Waiting can be painful and hard to understand, but it doesn’t have to be passive. God wasn’t on pause during the Israelites wait for the Messiah. He was continuously moving and working.
Jesus’ genealogy points us to generations worth of promises that were fulfilled in His coming. What an encouragement today for us in our own times of waiting. God works through it, and will always give us promises and signposts along the way. As Isaiah promises, (Is. 9:6-7) His kingdom is ever-expanding. Even in seasons of waiting.
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on His shoulders. These will be His royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His ever-expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David. The passionate commitment of the Lord Almighty will guarantee this!”