Gems from a Genealogy

Bible Book: Matthew  1 : 17
Subject: Degeneration; Redemption;

Gems From A Genealogy

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,

Matthew 1:17:

"So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations."

On this Mother's Day, I want us to look at a brief but poignant bit of scripture. Look with me at Mattew 1:17 today. It may not seem like this passage relates to Mother's Day, but you will understand it better before we conclude this service.

In this passage we see several impressive gems

1. First, for example, in every case the earthly ancestors of Jesus were YOUNGER SONS.

Abraham, Jacob and even David were not the eldest sons in the family. Why is this important? This reveals that Jesus was great, not because He came through the line of the primogenitor of a princely people, but because He was the Son of God.

2. Secondly, four WOMEN are mentioned in this genealogy.

As a group, they point to the high station to which Jesus lifted womanhood. Jesus placed men and women on the same plane, equal to each other in every way. Men of Jesus’ day never placed a woman in their genealogy, but the genealogy of Jesus contains not one, not two, not three, but four women.

3. Thirdly, we must LOOK AT THESE WOMEN IN REGARD TO THEIR CHARACTER before they came to faith and redemption.

There was Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Two of these women were gentiles, showing that in Christ there would be neither Jew nor Gentile. Three of them had unsavory backgrounds, showing that in Christ all sin could and would be dealt with through mercy and grace.

Genealogies mean little to us, but to the Jews they were extremely important. They attached sinew, bones and flesh to the people in these genealogies and they became living people in the hearts and minds of the readers long after they had died. Today there is a new interest in ancestry among many people around the world. One man studied his family tree and described eight of his descendants in the following manner:

“The first was a doctor, and the second stayed out all night also. The third was a teacher and the fourth did not get rich either. The fifth was a lawyer and the sixth didn’t tell the truth either. The seventh was a preacher and the eighth would not work either.”

Someone has well said that every family tree has to have some sap in it. Most of us should be aware that we would find many a horse thief in our past if we searched our family lineage long enough and far enough. Many of the early settlers in America were godly people looking for a place to freely worship, many more of the settlers were criminals from England and Europe who were given the choice of going to prison or to travel out to the new world. It is likely that many of us have ancestors who came not to escape religious oppression but to avoid a noose. Take heart, even Jesus had a criminal element in his pedigree. Our Lord was not pure because He had a pure family background, for you will remember that David, a great sinner, was in his lineage. Jesus was pure because the blood in His body was from the Father, and the Father of Jesus was the heavenly Father. And, the mother of Jesus was a devoted young woman who found favor in the eyes of God.

I want you to see three stages in a process described in the genealogy of Jesus given to us by Matthew. This process is a representation of a process which belongs to all believers.

I. Stage One - Generation

The word "generation" speaks of the continuation of a family or perhaps even an idea of a person. In the genealogy of Jesus we see the generation of a dream and a hope. God made a promise to Abraham, which reached a certain apex in David, the King of Israel. Of course, the promise to Abraham reached full fruition in Jesus. In Abraham the dream was generated (born) because God put it in him. So a "generation" can be a person or the idea of a person.

Now I believe this is a picture, a prototype of a destiny which God places in the heart of every human breast. I love biographies and autobiographies. I noted that in each one something interesting was there. In the case of famous persons, each one spoke or wrote of having a sense of great destiny. I began to wonder if all great people, that is all who are great in accomplishments by worldly standards, have a sense of destiny when they are young and that is the reason for their greatness. Now I have come to understand that every human being on earth feels a sense of purpose above and beyond the mundane affairs of this life. It is not just the succesful people who feel destiny, rather God put that in all of us to sense that there is a path to greatness available to us. The greatness that God places in us is not simply for some position or attainment of things, rather it is the fact that He loves us and desires everyone to be saved. It is not God's will that any perish. Yet, most people travel the broad path in this world and never realize the real meaning of the life God has given. They never come to know His Son, Jesus, as Lord and Savior.

Yet, God keeps speaking to people and calls them to Himself through His Son. For example, a narrow escape from death causes even the most insignificant person to feel that he or she has been spared for a reason. Somehow, under such circumstances, we feel that God has a reason for us to be here.

When Adam was created, God told him to subdue the earth and to name the animals. Adam was given a sense of divine purpose, a sense of authority in this world. It was given to him by His Creator. Since that time all human beings have felt that same sense of destiny. God has created us and we have a purpose. Sadly, few ever come to know the Lord and thus fullfill true divine purpose.

Why don't all people come to experience the divine purpose God has for them? Satan has a substitute for everything God made. Satan tells us that we are to make ourselves great in our own strength. We seek personal satisfaction, power, pleasure and meaning from the world. Actually, there is only one way to enjoy the true destiny for which you were created, and that is to trust God’s Son, Jesus, and know the joy of a relationship with the Lord.

But, let’s go on to the next stage and note…

II. Stage Two - Degeneration

We have noted that we all have a dream of being and doing something significant in life. God "generated" that sense within our hearts and minds when we were "generated" - when we were born. That sense or dream of greatness, without the Lord, becomes a nightmare. A comedian said, "One night I dreamed I ate a five-pound marshmallow, and when I woke up the next morning my pillow was gone." Many people are swallowing the wrong message - the world's message and not God's truth.

One man asked his friend, "Have you seen any of your childhood dreams come true?" His friend replied, "Sure I have. When my mother used to comb my hair, I wished I didn't have any. You can see that dream came true!"

I love the story from the life of Abraham Lincoln, who was known for his total abstinence from alcohol. It is said that one day a colonel in the Army offered Lincoln a drink. Lincoln responded by telling the man that when his mother was on her deathbed, she called for him as a nine year old boy and asked for his promise that he would never take a drink of alcohol. Lincoln said to the colonel, “I promised my mother that I never would, and up to this hour, I’ve kept this promise! Would you advise me to break that promise?”

The colonel replied, “No, Mr. Lincoln, I wouldn’t have you do it for the world. It was one of the best promises you ever made. I would give a thousand dollars today if I had made my mother a promise like that and had kept it, as you have done.” (from: Abraham Lincoln: The Man and His Faith, by George Owen)

Yes, some dreams do come true, but sometimes nightmares come true as well. A person is truely blessed who has a godly, praying mother. You see, Christian mothers know that there is a world out there seeking from our earliest days to degenerate us from all that God's desires us to be and to do. Without God, and redemption through His Son, Jesus Christ, we all degeneration into that which God never intended.

The dream for greatness in human family always ends up in degeneration. We see God’s people in Old Testament carried away captive by their enemies. The dream of a victorious nation was corrupted through their own sin. All of us sense a kind of personal destiny but we also know that somehow the dream is degenerated - something is wrong with us and we know it deep down. That something is a "fallen nature" - degeneration - sin.

A newspaper article bore the headline: "Man Wallows in Putrid River." The Associated Press news release described this person jumping into a filthy stream. Commenting on his experience, the man said it was "almost like going through pudding." Unbelievably, some people paid $10 each to witness the spectacle. Called "The Celebration of Slime," the event featured a punk-rock band and a beer-swigging crowd, many of them wearing green nail polish, chanting, "Slime, slime, slime!" That is the message of the world: "Jump in the slime - the water is just fine!"

Paul's words in Romans 1 describe the degraded condition of people who practice perversion, knowing it is wrong. Paul said that God gave them up to "uncleanness" (v. 24), "vile passions" (v. 26), and "a debased mind" (v. 28). Those who continue to dabble in sin eventually will wallow in it. We can describe life in the following way:

  • God formed us but sin deformed us.
  • God made us but sin marred us.
  • God generated us but sin degenerated us.

One day a boy was born and the family stood by the bed and said, “Just think, this is America. One day our son could grow up to become president of the United States.” But one day that boy stood outside a building in Washington, D.C., waiting for President Reagan to emerge. As the president exited the building, John Hinckley,  who had grown into a troubled young man, pulled out a pistol and started firing. He did not become president, but rather he tried to assassinate the president - and he almost succeeded. The dream had been destroyed that day for the Hinckley family.

The dream in all of us has been crushed in one way or another because of sin. Sin has deformed, damaged and destroyed the dream of every human being. What happened to the Hinckley family physically, has happened to us all spiritually.

Paul once said, “That which I would not do, I do; and that which I would do, I do not do. O, wretched man that I am.”

People called WWI the war to end all wars. Theologians picked up the theme and began to speak of a coming golden age. Sadly, nothing could have been further from the truth. Following WWI there was domestic strife in the form of gangsters and the rise of the Mafia. The stock market crashed and plunged America into the worst economic crisis in her history. During those very years a man was rising to power in Germany who seemed to have been birthed in hell itself - Adolph Hitler. Then on December 7, 1941, the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor and America was in WWII. The generation of a dream in the League of Nations, became the degeneration of the dream in the conflagration that engulfed the whole of the world. Millions died and millions more would never be the same. The dream of world peace had actually become a nightmare.

There is a dream in us, but we cannot realize it alone. That is the problem in our age - and in every age of humankind. We have a dream of cities without crime, of schools without violence, of a military without war, a gender-based society without the brutalization of women, of a community without racism, of a world without hunger, war and poverty, but all our attempts fail. We have the dream but we lack the power to make it a reality. The "generation" of every human dream "degenerates" into nightmares.

In Manchester England in 1808 a man came to the door of Dr. James Hamilton. The man revealed to the doctor that he was deeply sad and contemplating suicide. Dr. Hamilton told the man that what he needed was to get outside of himself and get some new interest. He said, "There is a circus in town, go and see the funniest clown in all the world. His name is Garibaldi. Go see Garibaldi and you will be better.” The patient said to the doctor, “But sir, I am Garibaldi.” The man who made others laugh was incapable of having peace in his own heart.

We cannot heal ourselves. We must have something only God can provide. That leads us to…

III. Stage Three - Regeneration

I preached my first sermon when I was twenty-three years of age, exactly 54 years ago. I was married and my wife and I had a beautiful daughter. I had already been in the US Army and had served a tour of duty in Vietnam. What I am saying is, I was not just a young preacher-boy at that time. After I preached that night, my mother came up to me and said, “Son I have something to tell you. The night you were born, they rolled me out of the delivery room to lay on a bed in the hallway for few minutes. Overhead was a series of skylights and I could see the night sky above. Just then, I saw a falling star go streaking across the heavens. God spoke to my heart and told me that my son would have a heavenly ministry.” I said, “Mom, why have you never told me about this before?” She replied, “I knew God had to call you. I never wanted you to question that your calling was from God. Tonight,” she added, “I have seen His promise come true.”

Now let me assure you that my mother had seen some actions in my life that did not portend of a heavenly ministry. I ran from God for a long time and my behavior gave no sign that I was going to preach God’s Word. But, you see, I had gone from the generation of my mother’s dream, to my degeneration of that dream, to God’s regeneration, reality and fulfillment of that dream. That is what God can do when we surrender to Him.

Furthermore, when I surrendered to preach, I told my wife that I felt God's call to be a preacher when I was a small boy and had confessed that to my church when I was very young. That is when she admitted that she also had shared with her preacher that she felt called as a young girl to serve the Lord as a missionary or in some capacity. Wow! We had not admitted that to each other until that night. God is amazing, isn't He? He can make dreams come true – if they are HIS DREAMS for us and not our own. When we surrender to Him, we discover what we’ve been looking for all our lives - what we were born to be.


Let me close with a story about a London merchant named Henry Goodyear. He often scoffed at the Bible. But one Sunday, just to please his niece, he went to church. The young lady was greatly disappointed when she learned that the pastor's message was based on the fifth chapter of Genesis. As she listened to the monotonous list of names being read, she wondered why God had permitted him to pick such an uninteresting passage. She feared that her uncle would close his mind to those gloomy verses. As they walked home, little did she know that every tread of her uncle’s feet, every throb of his heart seemed to repeat the doleful refrain, "And he died! And he died!" The next day he could not concentrate on his work. That night he searched for a half-forgotten family Bible. Finding it, he read once again,

"And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died

And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died

And all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years: and he died."

The simple story was the same for the good as well as the wicked: "He lived - and he died."

Henry Goodyear thought, “Now I'm living, but someday I too must die, and then where will I spend eternity?” That very night he asked the Lord Jesus to forgive him and make him His child. His niece rejoiced when she heard of his conversion and was reminded again that the Holy Spirit can use even the most unlikely passage, such as a genealogical table, to bring conviction to a sinner's heart.

You were generated when you were born, and no doubt your mother had great dreams for you.

You were degenerated because of sin, sin into which you were born and sin which you chose to commit.

You can be re-generated, if you will come to Christ today. He will make your dreams come true – He will make your Christian mother's dreams and prayers for you to come true - better than that, He will make His dreams for you to come true, and they are better than words can tell. Turn to Him in faith today.

Perhaps there is mom or dad for in this service who has never trusted Jesus as your Savior. Your family line can change ... for eternity ... if you willing to turn from sin and place your faith in Jesus, the One who died and rose to offer you eternal life.

And, for those of us who know Christ, let us renew our commitment to the One who has given us REGENERATION. It is more than a dream - it is forgiveness, salvation, truth, peace, purpose - it is eternity with Christ.