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Part 5: Crooked Branches

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Part 5: Crooked Branches from New Covenant Fellowship on Vimeo.

Tying the series together, Pastor David Boone of New Covenant Fellowship shows that the previous stories we’ve encountered have all contributed to the lineage of Jesus. Seeing this, we can understand that God can use crooked branches to bring Christ to the world.

Part 5 crooked branches

I took my kids recently to see Despicable Me 2.  One of the previews was for Smurfs 2.  Not planning on seeing the movie, but I could ascertain a key element of the plot from the trailer.  The evil Gargamelle creates another group of Smurflike creatures called the naughties.  Their mission is to capture the smurfs by trying to turn smurfette naughty.  So therein lies the conflict.  In one scene in the preview one of the naughties who seems to have grown close to smurfette has a moment crisis, when she has to make a decision; Smurfette is encouraging her to do the right thing.  She feels bound to her naughty roots, saying, “but I’m a naughty.”  However, Smurfette says to her:

“It’s not where you come from. It’s who you choose to be.”

I thought this really captures the essence of where we are going in this sermon series.  The bottom line for today is that it’s not where you come from; it’s who you choose to be.  You may come from a family tree with crooked branches, but it’s not where you come from; it’s who you choose to be.  You may be a crooked branch; you may have a past that is tainted with sin; you may have lived a lifestyle of sin.  But it’s not where you come from; it’s who you choose to be.

I want to state that clearly up front in case somehow that message gets lost in the details.

Speaking of details, let’s open our bibles to Matt 1.

This morning, we bring our series crooked branches to a close.  In this series, we discussed the importance of Abraham and the promises God made to him and his descendants.  We have looked at a handful of stories from the lives of the children of Abraham and made some application along the way with respect to a handful of virtues including integrity, faith, lovingkindness, covenant faithfulness, and contentment.

This morning we will start by looking at the opening chapter of the gospel of Matthew, which begins with the genealogy of Jesus.  Genealogy simply means ancestry or lineage, simply put: here we have Jesus’ family tree.

There are several genealogies beginning in Genesis and scattered throughout the Bible.  It’s easy to skip over them because we can’t pronounce most of the names, it is nearly impossible to remember them and after all, what value do these genealogies add to our lives practically speaking?  However, they are in there for a reason.  I believe the primary reason is to show that God is faithful to his promises.

In the beginning, man was placed in the garden where he enjoyed LIFE – fellowship with God in his presence.  But the serpent beguiled the woman, Eve; she and Adam transgressed the command of God and ate the forbidden fruit.  As a result they were cast out of the presence of God, exiled from the garden – a state the Bible calls death.  Right away, however, God promises that a seed would come from the woman, an anointed one, who would crush the head of the serpent.  As the Scriptures develop, the promises perpetuate and build, getting more specific.

The seed would be a descendant of Adam and Eve, a child of Abraham, he would come from the line of Judah, and he would be a descendant of David.

The genealogies in the Bible work together to show that just as God promised, Jesus was the Messiah who came from the promised lineage.  That is exactly what we see here in Matthew 1, in the genealogy of Jesus.  It starts with none other than Abraham.

Matt 1:1ffThis is the genealogyof Jesus the Messiahthe son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

Solomon the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

Abijah the father of Asa,

Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,

Jehoram the father of Uzziah,

Uzziah the father of Jotham,

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,

10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh the father of Amon,

Amon the father of Josiah,

11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,

Abihud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

14 Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Elihud,

15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

This genealogy begins with Abraham.  We have been focused on his descendents in this entire series.  Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob (Jacob is Israel), Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, (the representatives of the 12 tribes – all 12 are not listed, only Judah –

 

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar In just about every genealogy in the Bible, it is the father who is mentioned.  So and so was the father of so and so who was the father of so and so.  Matthew’s gospel is unique in his mention of four specific women.  Notice this first mention of a woman in this family tree of our Lord.  Namely, Tamar.  Remember Tamar?

Judah had 3 sons.  The first born was given Tamar as a wife.  He was wicked in God’s eyes so he was put to death.  The second born was given to Tamar to produce offspring in his brother’s absence, that kinsman redeemer concept that predated the LOM.  But he didn’t fulfill his duty so God put him to death also.  Judah didn’t give his third son to Tamar for fear of losing him also.  Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and seduces Judah.  Judah sleeps with her not knowing that she was his daughter in law and she becomes pregnant with Perez, who is one of the ancestors of Jesus.

If you keep reading you see:

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

 

Notice this mention of a woman in this family tree of our Lord.  This is RARE.  But here, we have mention of a woman – namely, Rahab.

Remember the promise of the Land?  Huge promise in the scriptures.  When the Israelites, led by Joshua began the land conquest, they came to Jericho. Joshua sent two spies into the land and they encountered a prostitute named Rahab.  This prostitute exhibited great faith, betrayed her own people to hide the spies in exchange for her salvation.  She was spared while her own people perished.  She was assimilated into the covenant community of Israel and apparently married an Israelite.  Look at who she was the mother of – Boaz an ancestor of Jesus.

Remember Boaz?  He was the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,  Notice this mention of a woman in this family tree of our Lord.  Again, RARE, But here, we have mention of another woman – namely, Ruth.

 

Remember the story of Ruth, during the time of the judges when there was a famine in Israel so Elimilek moved his family to Moab.  His sons married Moabite women.  Then Elimilek died, his sons died and Naomi, the wife of Elimilek returned to the Land with Ruth, the Moabite, the widow of Naomi’s dead son.  Then a wonderful kinsman redeemer, Boaz, a man related to Elimilek married Ruth and provided a home and protection, and offspring to her.  She was the mother of Obed an ancestor of Jesus.

 

The text tells us

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife

 

Notice again the mention of a woman in this family tree of our Lord.  Namely, well, she isn’t even mentioned by name.  It doesn’t say, whose mother was Bathsheba; it says that his mother had been Uriah’s wife.  In the way that she is mentioned, Matthew evokes the story of David’s sin.

Perhaps you were thinking at some point in this series, why these stories?  It seems like such a random selection, a random sampling of stories; if we were going to choose some key stories, why would we choose these?  As you can see, this was not a random selection, but a very intentional selection of stories about seduction, salvation, sweetness, and sin in the Scriptures in the lives of the children of Abraham who just so happen to be the ancestors of Jesus the Christ.

Isn’t it interesting that Matthew would include these women?

What is the point that Matthew is making by mentioning these women?

I believe the answer lies in the next few verses as we read in Matthew beyond the genealogy.  Now that we have gotten his pedigree out of the way, now that we have shown that this Jesus has the proper lineage to qualify as the Messiah, let’s tell the rest of the story.

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yetdid not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Even in Jesus’ parents we find the question or the suspicion of immorality.  Mary, who was a virgin was somehow pregnant.  The man who was pledged to be her husband, Joseph, poor guy – from his perspective, the only way she could be pregnant is if she had been unfaithful to him, so he opts rather than subject her to public disgrace, to divorce her quietly.  What a man of integrity, what an example of lovingkindness.  Continue reading.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

So, no, Joseph, it’s not what you think.  It is a miracle – a miracle that takes place in order to fulfill the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 that the virgin will be with child.  She was told she will give birth to a son and to give him the name Jesus, Yeshua, aka Joshua, which means “Jehovah saves.”  Why?  Because he will save his people from their sins.  He was the promised seed who would restore all that was lost in Adam.  He will save his people from death and bring them back to life, back into fellowship with God.

I believe that Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew mentions these women very intentionally to show that right here in Jesus’ family tree there are some crooked branches.

Jesus came to save his people from their sins and right here in his own family line, we see plenty of sin.  This is a messy messianic line.

So hopefully by now you recognize the importance of this genealogy and see its value.

The Jews were big on genealogies to prove their ethnic lineage – their connection to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, because after all, that was the blessed family of God’s covenant people.

Moreover, this genealogy is important because it confirms the identity of Jesus as the Messiah.

The Jews stored the scrolls containing the genealogies in the Temple which was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70 according to Jesus’ predictions.  This was one major sign from God to show that the genealogies served their purpose and their time of value had come to an end because God’s was bringing the OC to a close and ushering in a new covenant, in which God’s people are not defined by race, but by grace; they aren’t defined by the flesh but by faith.

In Matt 3, we find that JTB paves the way for Jesus and his message.  He calls out to the religious elite of his day and says beginning in Matt 3:9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

These are very powerful words.  Just because you can look at your genealogy and trace it back to Abraham it doesn’t mean that you are actually a true son of Abraham.  The new covenant was upon them and they were in for a rude awakening.  If they did not produce the good fruit of faith in the Messiah they would be burned in the fire (the fire of Rome in AD 70).

This message wasn’t unique to JTB.  Again, his message prepared the way for Jesus, whose message was essentially the same.  But Jesus intensified it.

John 8:37ff  37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.[b]

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would[c] do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Jesus points out that just because somebody was a flesh and blood descendant of Abraham, that didn’t make him a true descendant of Abraham and thus a child of God; in fact, if they didn’t embrace Jesus, it was indicative that they weren’t truly Abraham’s children or God’s children, but children of the devil.

SO, WHO ARE THE TRUE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM?

We are going to close this series by bringing things full circle.  I opened the first message by recalling an experience I had as a child singing a song Father Abraham, the lyrics are:

Father Abraham had many sons; many sons had father Abraham.  I am one of them and so are you.

I mentioned that this was so memorable to me because as a child that didn’t grow up in church I didn’t understand why I was saying that I was one of the children of Abraham.

This morning I want to explain to you exactly how I am a child of Abraham and how you are too provided that you are in Christ.

Galatians 3:6ff

So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[c]

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[d] So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

That’s it.  Very simple.  To be a child of Abraham, believe.  According to the Bible, we are children of Abraham by faith.  Together, we can say, as the song says, Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had father Abraham.  I am one of them and so are you through faith in Jesus, the Messiah.

So what does that mean for you and me?  What good is it to be a child of Abraham?

One of the promises to Abraham, as Paul recalls it in Gal 3:8-9 “All nations will be blessed through you.”So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

WE ARE BLESSED ALONG WITH ABRAHAM OUR FATHER

That blessedness is bound up in Christ. It doesn’t matter where you come from; it matters who you choose to be.  You and I have the wonderful opportunity to choose to be in Christ and partake in those blessings.

Joshua said to the Israelites in Joshua 24:15 Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my household we will serve the lord.”  Rahab was an outsider who served other Gods but was amidst the Israelites to hear this call.  It doesn’t matter, Rahab, that you were a prostitute serving other gods.  You can choose to serve Yhwh going forward.

Ruth, was a Moabites.  She had the opportunity to return to her people and her gods.  But she chose to cling to Naomi, saying, “your God will be my god and your people my people.”

It doesn’t matter that these people were outsiders, originally excluded from citizenship in Israel, foreigners to the covenants, without hope and without God in the world; by faith they chose to serve the God of Israel.  Like Rahab and Ruth we can choose Christ and make YHWH our God and make his people our people.

Even if you come from a family whose family tree is full of crooked branches, even if you were a crooked branch or if you ARE a crooked branch, it doesn’t matter where you come from, where you have been.  The question is: where are you going from here?  Choose this day who you will be, whom you will serve.  We have the opportunity to choose Jesus, be found in him, not having a righteousness of our own based on works, but the righteousness of God that comes through faith.

It doesn’t matter where you come from but who you choose to be.

You may come from a family of atheists or Muslims, or con artists, family members who have served time in prison, some of you came from a family of alcoholics, drug abusers, or absentee fathers and perhaps there is that nagging notion within you that says, “these are the branches in my family tree and I am connected to these branches.  I will, therefore, bear the fruit of this tree.”  You don’t have to.  You can, through faith, be grafted into the Olive tree of Israel, into the true vine, Jesus, and as a branch connected to the true vine, you can bear the good fruit of righteousness.  I know some of you who have such family trees and have found this to be true.  You have broken the pattern and live whole, happy, healthy, holy lives in Christ.

There may be the tendency in us to look at our own families or our own history and say that we will never amount to anything; God could never use me – look where I came from, look what I have done.  You may come from a family tree full of crooked branches; you may even BE a crooked branch.  But consider what God does.  Look what Paul declares in 1 Tim 1:15ff 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

Jesus took Paul, the chief of sinners and made him the apostle to the gentiles through whom many came to faith.  God used Paul to bring Jesus to the world!  God is in the business of using even the most crooked branches for the most noble of purposes – to bring Jesus to the world, which transitions us to my next point:

NOT ONLY ARE WE BLESSED AS THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM, BUT WE GET TO EXTEND THAT BLESSING.

Part of the plan, if not the primary plan, for the children of Abraham was to bring blessings to the nations, namely, to bring Jesus to the world.

God uses broken, fallen, flawed creatures in his plan – even in his plan to bring salvation to mankind.  Consider this messy Messianic line through which our savior came.  Consider the crooked branches God used in the plan to bring forth Jesus to the world.

Perhaps Tamar probably spent her life never knowing that she would be part of God’s plan to bring Jesus to the world.  She was probably focused on HER life and obtaining a husband so that SHE could have children.  Not to say that there is anything wrong with that, but there is a much bigger picture that she didn’t see, a much bigger plan that she didn’t realize that she was a part of.  Rahab probably spent her life never knowing that she would be part of God’s plan to bring Jesus to the world.  She was probably focused on HER life and making sure that SHE and HER FAMILY survived when God’s people came to take their land.  Not to say that there is anything wrong with that, but there is a much bigger picture that she didn’t see, a much bigger plan that she didn’t realize that she was a part of.  Ruth probably spent her life never knowing that she would be a part of God’s plan to bring Jesus to the world.  She was probably focused on HER life and making sure that SHE gathered enough barley and wheat so that SHE and NAOMI had enough food to survive.  Not to say that there is anything wrong with that, but there is a much bigger picture that she didn’t see, a much bigger plan that she didn’t realize that she was a part of.  Perhaps Bathsheba spent her life never knowing that she would be a part of God’s plan to bring Jesus to the world.  She was probably focused on HER life and trying to figure out how she was going to share David with his other wives.

Now you and I have a different vantage point looking at the whole canon of Scripture.  In light of what we have looked at, my hope for us is that we would recognize that there is a much bigger picture than just our lives and that there is a much bigger plan that we are a part of as the true children of Abraham.  We, like Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba are here, not just to live our lives focused on the moment, but we are here to be a part of God’s eternal plan to bring Jesus to the world.  If you are a citizen of the heavenly Kingdom, and a child of Abraham through faith, if you have received the precious salvation that is in Jesus, if your sins have been forgiven and you have fellowship with God, if you have partaken of the gift of life, then offer that gift to others, extend that grace to others, share your faith with others so that the blessings of God may extend to others, so that you can be a blessing to others, for all nations will be blessed through you o child of Abraham.

The blessing for the nations is wrapped up in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

All that begins in Adam culminates in Christ.  All that was lost in Adam is restored in Christ.  The life that was lost in Adam is found in Christ.  The death that came through Adam’s sin is defeated in Christ.  The sin that separates man from God is atoned for in Christ.  The access to God’s presence and fellowship lost in Adam is through Christ, the gate. He restores the garden life to believers.  The tree of life that was forbidden has been made available in Christ, who is the tree of life and its leaves are for the healing of the nations.

In Jesus we are blessed and brought into his kingdom as the true children of Abraham.  It is our privilege to know him and make him known, to offer healing to the broken and life to the dead.

While we have our daily lives, our families, our jobs – and those things are important – we have an eternal purpose to join in the work of God as a minister of the gospel; as the children of Abraham, let’s be part of bringing Jesus to the world.