In the first part of this article, we examined how the genealogy of King Jesus shows God’s sovereignty over His blessings and history. Now we will see that His sovereignty over individuals is also demonstrated.
The Genealogy of King Jesus Shows That God Is Sovereign Over Individuals
The individuals in this genealogy could be divided into at least four different groups: outstanding individuals, outcasts, outlaws, and obscure individuals. God is sovereign over all kinds of people.
We see some famous names in the history of Israel here, from patriarchs to kings. The first ancestors of the Jewish nation were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God called Himself their God (Ex. 3:6). David the king was known as a “man after God’s own heart.” His son Solomon had the temple in Jerusalem built. Other outstanding leaders include Asa, Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, Josiah, and Zerubbabel. The lives of these men included great military victories and the restoration of true worship.
However, none of these outstanding men were perfect. They had their blemishes, from Abraham’s deceit, to David’s adultery, to Solomon’s idolatry, to Uzziah’s intrusion into the temple to offer incense. Several of these men neglected to train up their children in the ways of the Lord. Even the best of these were still sinners who needed a Savior. God, in His sovereignty, brought the legal right to rule to Jesus through these men.
It is highly unusual that Matthew would mention women in this genealogy. It is even more remarkable when we look at the choices he includes—they are far from being ideal Jews. John MacArthur calls these “knots on the family tree” (The Miracle of Christmas, also published as God With Us, pp. 26-35). They are all outcasts, showing God’s grace to all sorts of people and nationalities.
- Tamar. Genesis 38 records the story of Judah’s daughter-in-law. Her husband, Er, died because of his wickedness, and Judah’s son Onan was also slain by the Lord. Judah promised another son to Tamar but did not keep his word. To get revenge, she disguised herself as a prostitute, and Judah committed fornication with her. What a horrible “skeleton in the closet” to find in a person’s history! Yet God, in his grace, had Tamar (and Judah) in the line of Christ, who came to save sinners.
- Rahab. This Canaanite harlot became a believer in the true God and hid the Israelite spies from her people (Josh. 2; 6:17, 25). Though she was a prostitute from a pagan nation, God changed her and incorporated her into the genealogy of King Jesus. She is mentioned favorably in James 2:25 and the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11:31.
- Ruth. The Old Testament book of the same name tells the story of this Moabitess. The Moabites were descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, by incest with one of his daughters (Gen. 19:30-38). The Moabites were despised by Israel and not allowed to enter the assembly of the Lord (Deut. 23:3). Yet, Ruth followed the true God, married Boaz (one of Rahab’s descendants), and became part of this royal lineage.
- Bathsheba. In Matthew 1:6b, she is not mentioned by name, but is called “her that had been the wife of Uriah.” Second Samuel 11 records the story of David’s seeing this woman bathing and the consequences of acting on his lust for her. He committed adultery and tried to cover up his sin. He first tried deceit to make it look like she was pregnant by her husband. When his first plan did not work, David had Uriah—one of his loyal mighty men (2 Sam. 23:39)—placed on the front lines of battle so he would be killed and Bathsheba would be free to marry. As a judgment on David’s sin, God did not allow their first child to live past infancy. But, in His grace, He allowed Solomon to be part of the royal ancestry.
God also included rankly wicked kings in this royal lineage. These included Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, who purposed to oppress the people. Others were Abijah, Joram, Ahaz, Amon, and Jeconiah. Manasseh was also a wicked king, but God worked in his life to bring him to repentance. Even the worst of these kings could not stop God from keeping His promises.
Finally, we see individuals we know almost nothing about. The names recorded after Zerubbabel are not mentioned in the Old Testament. Even Mary and Joseph are obscure. They are poor people from the despised town of Nazareth in Galilee. Yet the Son of God humbled Himself and chose to be born to people such as these. They may have looked small and unimportant to people, but they—not the mighty and renowned—were the ones God chose to use when He brought His Son into the world through the virgin Mary.
We see that Jesus, as David Holwerda writes, is “more than His ancestry could produce” (Tabletalk, December 2005, p. 11). He is greater than the greatest king, and though He is the sinless Son of God, He condescends to save the worst of sinners. This genealogy gloriously displays God’s sovereign grace.
How Should You Respond to God’s Sovereignty?
People can find some interesting things in their family trees. But greater than anything we could hope to find in our ancestry is the truth—shown in Christ’s royal line—that the sovereign God always keeps His promises. He is the fulfillment of the dominion promised to David’s seed and the blessing God promised Abraham. God keeps His promises, even through imperfect nations and individuals.
God is also sovereign over your life. Nothing can stop Him from keeping His promises. You cannot thwart His plan, intentionally or unintentionally. Your greatness does not help Him, and your sin does not defeat Him. His sovereign plan will always prevail.
He promises to save all who come to Christ. It does not matter what your background is, who you are, or what you have done. His promises are not conditioned on those things. They are only conditioned on saving faith in Christ. Your relationship to Christ is the condition that tells whether God’s sovereign plan is to your blessing and delight or to your curse and destruction.
You can always trust God to keep His promises. When you doubt that, go to His Word. See how He works in the history and the lives of sinful people. Look at places like the genealogy of King Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 to see that God is sovereign, and you can trust Him to keep His Word.
Doug Smith is a member of Cornerstone Chapel Reformed Baptist Church (Bristol, TN) and a student and preacher with the Cumberland Area Pulpit Supply, an extension of Bancroft Gospel Ministries (Kingsport, TN). You may contact him at email@example.com. His blog is located at Glory Gazer.