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Monday, March 26, 2012

Knowing God: Is Such a Thing Possible?

I'm a Christian. Have been for over 20 years. But I've come to a strange and rather uncomfortable conclusion: I don't know God very well. Readers might wonder what I mean by the word "know." But really, it's not a secretive theological concept. I just mean "know" in the way that you might know anyone, a family member, a friend, a coworker. God's different, sure. I get that. The Bible itself reports that there are some aspects of God we cannot know or, even if we did, we wouldn't understand. But still, Christians are supposed to get to know God as much as possible. How else can we make Him known?

The reason I don't feel like I know God all that well is that I regularly find myself believing all kinds of weird things about Him. In any given day, I can question His goodness, His intentions, His power, even His love. So, I'm setting out to know God better. I'm starting with the book of Matthew. I have no idea where I'll stop.

Official Disclaimer: I don't claim to be a theological guru. I haven't graduated seminary. I'm not a pastor. I'm doing this series of posts just because I want to know God better. I'm sharing it online, not to teach others--though I'd be pretty happy if God used this to help others get to know Him better also. I'm not doing this to argue--though, if people have related ideas to share, I'm all ears. I'm simply posting this to explore and maybe encourage others to explore. If you are a young reader, run everything by your parents. They are your spiritual authority. See what they think. And, as the Bible tells us: If on some point, we disagree, pray about it, and may God give us clarity.

Matthew 1:1-17*

1:1 This is the record of the genealogy 1  of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
1:2 Abraham was the father 2  of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 1:3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah (by Tamar), Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, 1:4 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 1:5 Salmon the father of Boaz (by Rahab), Boaz the father of Obed (by Ruth), Obed the father of Jesse, 1:6 and Jesse the father of David the king.
David was the father of Solomon (by the wife of Uriah 3 ), 1:7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, 4  1:8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah, 1:9 Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 1:10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, 5  Amon the father of Josiah, 1:11 and Josiah 6  the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

1:12 After 7  the deportation to Babylon, Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, 8  Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 1:13 Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, 1:14 Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, 1:15 Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, 1:16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, by whom 9  Jesus was born, who is called Christ. 10 
1:17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to Christ, 11  fourteen generations.

Initial Take: This is just my knee-jerk reaction to the text. Whatever pops into my mind. Heaven help me.  

Ok, I absolutely hate genealogies. Seriously, that's why my efforts to read the whole Bible in a year always seem to get derailed just a few books into the OT. But one thing I notice is that God seems to take family history pretty seriously. They are all over the Bible. And I guess, for the first century Jew, it would have been pretty critical to establish Jesus was from the Abrahamic/Davidic line due to prophecies that claim Jesus will come from that line. Gotta love these names: Hezron (sounds like a gas station) Amminadab (sounds like an ointment), Salmon (well, you know). And Zerubbabel (Really? Bet he had fun in middle school). 

The other thing that always strikes me about genealogies is that, to me at least, their presence is a kind of proof of the authenticity of the Word of God. As a fiction writer, I know quite well, to put something like this in a book is the kiss of death. I mean YAWN. There's no fiction value here. You only put something like this in if you are writing a history. And you only put stuff like this in if you aren't worried about contradiction. After all, it's RIGHT there. You can check it fairly easily. 

Knowing God Take-Away: What do I learn about God from Matt 1:1-17? A couple of things stand out. 1) God isn't embarrassed by His family. Look at that list. There are some tough cases there. Abraham did some things that would make the tabloids today. David might not make the tabloids, but he sure would inspire a provocative miniseries. Solomon; shoot, he decided to experiment with everything under the sun before he finally figured out it was all dust in the wind without God. But God still lists their names here and many places elsewhere. And these are places of honor too. Some of us, if we had a family member who did some of the stuff these folks did, well…we probably wouldn't mention that we're related to someone at a party. 

2) The next thing I notice about God is that He has a set timing for things. Look at verse 17. Notice the beautiful symmetry of 14 years between Abraham and David, David to Deportation to Babylon, and Deportation to Christ? That's just astounding to me. How often do things just "work out" that way? Jesus is extraordinary, and so the timing of His birth needed to be extraordinary. God has a timing for everything, and it's perfect timing...every time. Maybe next time I'm wondering why God didn't come through with this or that when I thought He should have, I'll remember the number 14. 

Til next time.

Never alone.

*All Scriptures from the NET Bible:!bible/Matthew+1


Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to type your thoughts up about this! I know it would be so much easier to just keep it to yourself. I appreciate your insights and can't wait to hear more! :)

Gabe M said...

Thanks for doing this. You have some great insights. I always felt built up after reading these.

Oh, and that thing about the names was pretty hilarious. I agree.

Never alone!

Emilyn J Clover said...

I had never thought of it in those words before, that God wasn't embarrassed of his family. He isn't embarrassed by anything people do(and I know a few odd people myself). I like that.
Thanks for posting your thoughts!

Anonymous said...

Thanks! This was really encouraging....can't wait to read more!!! :)

Megan said...

Thank you for posting this. I'm glad you did, and I enjoyed it. It reminded me that God doesn't reject people today, no matter what they did.

Random Comments said...

Thanks for posting this. It was very interesting, but i think you mean 14 generations between Abraham and David, and David and Babylon, and Babylon to Jesus. 14 years isn't quite long enough for that. :)

Bookishqueen said...

My favorite thing about this chapter is kind of like what you said about claiming family but with different people. I always remember that in this family line Rahab and Ruth were included.
Rahab, a prostitute, was deemed worthy of Christ's family even after she failed so much. Her faith in helping the spies in Jericho not only allowed her a place with the Isrealites but also in the family of Christ and King David.
And Ruth was an outsider. She was not Jewish, not even close. It is somethign that I wish people would remember when they judge people because they are different. And to make it all even cooler, the woman quoted in marriage ceremonies today was married to the son of a prostitute.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Love these posts, Wayne. Really good approach to Scripture and spending time in Scripture is the best way to know God better.

You said Ok, I absolutely hate genealogies. Seriously, that's why my efforts to read the whole Bible in a year always seem to get derailed just a few books into the OT. That was me too. I finally gave myself permission to skip the parts that were bogging me down and keeping me from reading. Eventually I started reading them, too, and now I'm writing notes in the margin of my Bible in those sections! God makes it come together in His time.

OK, here's a tidbit from these Matthew verses. Four women appear on the list--not a common occurrence for the Jews, I understand. One was a prostitute (Rahab), one was a foreigner (Ruth), one was an adulteress (Bathsheba), and one was a pregnant virgin (Mary). My take away--God includes sinners, people of both genders, people of different ethnic and/or racial backgrounds, and people who are young and inexperience, who might even be misunderstood by everyone around them. His plan is not limited except by one thing: a person's acceptance or rejection of Jesus.

He is risen! Have a great Easter.


Hannah Rebekah said...

I think I should mention that the genealogy in Matthew isn't exhaustive, since (in just once instance) there were about four centuries between Rahab and David. Matthew just hits the highlights, naming those his readers would recognize. This means there aren't actually 14 generations in each group, but there are still 14 mentioned, which remains cool.