Story 9: The Line of Kings

Matthew 1:1-17

A model of the Temple in Jerusalem…imagine your tiny self on the bridge leading in…and looking up to  watch the holy presence of God descend.

When Matthew wrote his book about the life of Jesus, he started by showing how the ancestors of Jesus went all the way back to Abraham.  God had promised Abraham that through his descendants, He would bless all the nations of the world.  Jesus was the answer to that promise.  Matthew also wanted to show how Jesus was a descendant of King David.  God made a covenant promise to David that his descendant would rule and reign as king on an eternal throne.  The coming of Christ was the answer to that promise, too.  Today we will be reading through David’s grandsons and great grandsons. It is a list of the mighty kings of Judah, men were the anointed leaders of God’s holy nation. Some of them were very good kings who honored God’s covenant with David. But many of them were horrible men who led God’s holy people into horrific, destructive behavior that degraded the entire nation.

When King David grew very old, his son, Solomon, was anointed as the new king. King Solomon honored God by building a magnificent Temple. What honored God the most was not the Temple’s massive size, the lavish draperies, or the ornate use of silver and gold.  Solomon and his people honored God because they built it exactly as God told them to.

The inmost room of the Temple was the sacred Holy of Holies, the place of God’s special, powerful presence on earth. They placed the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies.  It was the footstool of the throne of God in this world! It was an image or a picture of God’s mighty, glorious throne in Heaven! How blessed the nation of Israel was to be chosen for such a breathtaking, sacred honor.  We are often so caught up in the ordinariness of this world that our minds don’t even go there…but if you were an angel who lived in the presence of God on His throne and experienced the Majesty of Heaven, it must have seemed like an incredible gift to the little tribal nation of Israel.

On the day of celebration when they dedicated the Temple, all the people of Israel gathered to Jerusalem to celebrate. As they worshiped and praised the Lord, they watched His presence descend as a cloud onto the Temple and into the Holy of Holies! Pause for a moment and picture it in your head.  Can you imagine the sacred awe, the elation and joy they must have felt together as one, great people? Can you imagine how they sang and danced on that day?

The sinfulness of man would cut the time of pure worship and joyful unity very short for the nation of Israel. Solomon’s son Reheboam took the throne in Jerusalem after Solomon died. He was so arrogant that his leadership tore the nation it two. He wouldn’t listen to the wisdom of his elders, and he made very selfish decisions that riled the people against him. Of the twelve tribes of Israel, ten tribes in the north split away from the two remaining tribes in the south.

These two southern tribes, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, stayed loyal to King Reheboam. Though he was a very flawed king, this was the right thing to do in the eyes of God. Reheboam was the descendant of David, the king of God’s special anointing, and God’s people were meant to follow him.   The ten tribes should have cried out to God and trusted Him to change the heart of the king. Instead, they separated themselves away in rebellion. Because of King Reheboam’s foolishness and the disobedience of the ten tribes, the rest of David’s descendants would reign over a broken kingdom. From that time on, the people of God, His holy nation, were divided. As a Jewish reader saw the name of Reheboam when they read through Matthew’s genealogy, these great national sins would have stared them in the face!

Reheboam was the father of Abijah, who was the father of Asa. The Bible says that King Asa did what was good in the sight of the Lord. He was the father of Jehosephat, who was in many ways a very good king. He did a lot of things that were right in the eyes of the Lord, too. He also made terrible mistakes when he did not trust God. Jehosephat was the father of Jehoram, who did great evil in the eyes of God. He was a terrible king. But because of God’s covenant with King David, the Lord protected him.

Do you see how the kings of Judah went back and forth between obedient trust in the Lord and rebellion? These kings held great power and responsibility as they led the people of God. Each king brought the people into greater goodness or deeper evil!

Jehoram had a great, great, great grandson named Uzziah who later reigned as king. (Uzziah’s father and grandfather and great grandfather reigned before him, but Matthew doesn’t mention them. This was often done in the genealogies of the ancient world to make them easier to memorize.) Uzziah had a son named Jotham.   Jotham had a son named Ahaz, and he was a terrible king. He led all of his kingdom into despicable sin. He sacrificed his own son to a false god and built idols on every street corner in Jerusalem.  A lot of disgusting things were done for those idols, so gross I won’t mention them here, but it was bad.   Then Uzziah put a statue of a Syrian god in the holy temple of the Lord Most High!   Can you imagine any way he could have been more unfaithful? What a traitor to the God who put him on the throne!

Ahaz was truly awful, but his son Hezekiah was one of the greatest kings in Israel’s history. He undid a lot of the evil his father had brought to Israel. He led the people to tear down all the idols that were built during Ahaz’s reign and restored pure worship to God’s holy temple.  This meant that the children of Israel were safe from being sacrificed to idols, and all the other degrading sins they did to make the false gods happy were put to an end.

King Hezekiah was a great reformer, which is why it was such a great tragedy that in the end, he blew it, too. He sinned against the Lord in a spectacular way. It was the last straw. The faithless sins of Israel had gone on for too long. The great prophet Isaiah told Hezekiah that because of his sin, God would allow a foreign army to come and conquer his kingdom and destroy the city of Jerusalem. The people of Judah would be taken captive to foreign countries and put in exile. Only a few, a righteous remnant, would ever return. Isaiah also told Hezekiah that these terrifying things would not happen in Hezekiah’s lifetime. It would be several more generations before God brought His judgment on the Southern Kingdom of Israel.  Instead of being devastated to learn this, Hezekiah had become so self-centered that he said he was just glad it wouldn’t happen in his lifetime.

Hezekiah’s son was named Menasseh, who was another terrible king. Matthew tells us that he was the father of Amon, who was the father of Josiah. Josiah was a wonderful king. The Bible tells us that he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. That was the most important quality a descendant of David could have. King Josiah was a man of great faith, but he had come after many kings who had rebelled against their Lord.   God had told Josiah’s great, great grandfather Hezekiah that he would punish His people for all their years of mistrust and idolatry. God’s purpose to punish came true during the life of Josiah’s son, Jeconiah. He and all of his brothers were taken captive when the nation of Babylon attacked Jerusalem. The city was utterly destroyed, the people suffered greatly, and the nation of Israel was broken apart. Most of the people of God were taken far off to foreign lands into exile. Only a few of them would return to the Land of Promise after seventy years.

Jeconiah would not reign as king, and neither would his sons. After the exile, no ancestor of King David ever ruled on a throne in Jerusalem. In fact, even after many of the Jewish people returned to the land and rebuilt the city, the kingdom was never fully restored. The Jews were dominated by other nations from that day until the time that Jesus came. They remained a belittled and conquered people. Yet all the more so, the faithful followers of God were looking forward to the day when someone from the line of David would become king once again. They believed God’s promises, and they kept special watch over his descendants to see who it could be!

Jeconiah’s son Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel. He was the father of Abiud, who was the father of Eliakim. He was the father of Azor who was the father of Zadok. Zadok was the father of Eliud, who was the father of Eliezer. Eliezer’s son was Matthan, who was the father of Jacob. Jacob had a son named Joseph, and this Joseph was the husband of Mary. And to Mary was born Jesus. The long awaited Messiah had come, but instead of being born in a royal palace, He was born to a common man, a carpenter.

As a Jewish person read through these names, they would read the history they had learned growing up. They would see the pattern of God’s plan through their genealogy, the failure of their nation to honor Him…and they would understand that this Jesus fulfilled the requirements of God to be their coming King!

 

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