The Purpose of Genealogies

You’re probably familiar with the idea of a genealogy. Perhaps you’ve even researched one for your own family! Genealogies examine family history and lineage.

There’s an old joke I heard a couple times in seminary. If you are ever having trouble falling asleep, turn to 1 or 2 Chronicles and start reading! If you aren’t familiar, books like the Chronicles are filled with endless lists and genealogies.

There’s quite a lot of truth reveal in this joke, however, in that we don’t always know what to do with family lineage in scripture. Many times we treat them as something to skip over in order to get to the “good stuff” of the bible (stories, teachings, etc). We might not know the history of each name, or why they matter to the character in question. What is the purse of genealogies in the bible?

The topic of genealogies ties in nicely with our sermon from yesterday about cherishing our church’s history. For some, a genealogy might seem like a long list of names and dates. Yet if we approach the idea of a lineage from a Christian perspective, we find something very remarkable about who God is.

In scripture, many family trees and histories actually reveal how God has been working in the world. Let’s examine one particular example: Jesus in the New Testament.

In Jesus’ “family history” from Matthew and Luke, we read about many unsuspecting characters. There’s no further explanation, but first century readers would be reminded of how Yahweh was relentless in pursuing a relationship with Israel. Characters like Tamar and Ruth remind us of how God is inclusive, especially in a world that was particularly unkind towards women. Referencing major figures such as Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David would remind readers of those important bible stories that laid the foundation for Jesus’ coming. Even “controversial” or “bad” characters like Amon (included in Matthew’s list—a character notoriously known for his idolatry) remind readers of how humanity was lost and in need of a savior. All these names point to God’s work of salvation throughout human history.

Notice that the individual names aren’t exactly the most important part of Jesus’ genealogy. Instead, God’s power and action are what matters most. Hopefully we follow that same example in appreciating Concord’s “genealogy”, too!

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