Today’s passage: Matthew 1
God is the King of all that is, was and ever will be. The good news that Jesus came preaching was that God’s kingdom was near. He called us to repent and to believe that good news. He called us to become his disciples, to come to him: the way, the truth and the life; the only way to the Father.
The Bible teaches that God is the creator of all things, and that we were made to enjoy and glorify him. To live in God’s kingdom – with him as our king – is to live the best life that there is. It is to be connected to the one who is life and who is love; it is to be in a relationship with the one who is the fountain of delights.
So why is it that so many people don’t delight in God? Even God’s people find themselves drawn to put our hope for meaning and joy and satisfaction in things (even imaginary things) rather than in the one true God. We are, as the hymn writer put it, prone to stumble, prone to leave the God we love.
Over the last few weeks, as we’ve wended our way towards celebrating the King’s arrival, we’ve seen that all humans are by nature rebels. The first King of Israel, Saul, was an unrepentant rebel who thought “real life” – his own kingdom – more pressing than a life of seeking God’s kingdom first. The next king, David, stands as the exemplar king of the Old Testament. He was a man afer God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). Yet he too was a rebel, who thought he could get away with doing what God wouldn’t approve of. As we saw a couple of weeks ago, the difference between David and Saul was David’s recognition of his sinfulness – and his repentant heart. God loves us, and delights in it when we turn back to him, no matter how broken we are. That’s why he sent his son, Jesus the Messiah. (John 3:16!)
Israel’s experience of being ruled by kings started by them seeking a human king, such as the surrounding nations had, to rule them. Their seeking a king was, we saw, a rebelling against God as their king. God allowed kings, intending them to present his will to the people and to represent the people before God. Yet “The human heart is the most deceitul of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Even the people who had seen God’s power and character throughout their national history – Israel – grew further and further estranged from him, led by kings who by and large rejected God and his ways. Even a great reformer like king Josiah was unable to produce lasting change in his people. The brokenness of sinful humanity goes too deep.
At humanity’s worst, we refuse to delight in God, rejecting His ways to dig our own (leaky) wells of joy. At our best, we are people who desperately recognise our need for God’s grace and mercy. Even our best isn’t that great. What’s amazing is that God’s plan to rescue us back to himself is big enough to use us regardless of where on that spectrum we stand. What’s even more amazing is that God in mercy reaches to us. Oh, how much he loves us!
Some might think it strange that our Christmas series has so far focussed on the historical kings of Israel. And yet there’s something right in that. Because God sent his son as the fulfilment of a long history with his people. Jesus didn’t step into a cultural or theological vacuum. He stepped in as the answer to all of God’s promises to his people. He is the fulfilment, God’s YES! to his promises to Adam, Abraham and David, Israel and us.
Today, we’re looking at Matthew 1. We’ll see that Matthew is at pains to present Jesus as the pivotal point of history – the person to whom all of God’s promises were pointing. Starting a gospel with a long list of names might seem odd – but it serves Matthew’s purpose of showing Jesus as the culmination of all that God had been doing, ever since Abraham. (Luke’s genealogy takes it as far back as creation!)
But Matthew also wants us to know that Jesus is not just an ordinary man. He is, legally, the heir of David and Abraham. But he is, supernaturally, the child conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit. He is God with us, the divine King: our rescuer.
Jesus is the one who can do what no other human ruler can do: be God with us, perfectly represent us before God, and perfectly rescue us from our sins. In him is history completed, and God and humanity united. In him is hope for humanity. He is the one King worth following. He alone lived a life fully delighting himself in the Lord, and in revealing God’s heart most fully invites us to do the same. He invites us back into the Kingdom of God, where we were made to be.