God’s View of Singleness
Summary: Jesus gives three reasons why people might not marry and we consider what singles should do as they wait.
From the very beginning of Creation, marriage between one man and one woman has been the norm of human relationships. The first chapter of the Bible tells us God created one man and one woman and
Gen 1:28 …God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…”
Today the institution of marriage is being challenged and redefined, it has fallen in value and virtue, and people are waiting longer and longer to get married, but according to a recent study, 90% of all adults will still get married at some point in their lives. And, if it doesn’t work out the first time, most will try again – 75% of all divorced women remarry within ten years.
Around the world and throughout history – this has been the pattern, it transcends culture – there have been small pockets of exception, but throughout history and around the world, you find men and women pairing up in a one to one relationship.
Christians are even told in 1 Tim 4, that those who forbid marriage are teaching a doctrine of demons!
As a result, we tend to spend a lot of time talking about marriage and family in church. But we all begin life single, so this morning I want to consider what that means and what the Bible says about being unmarried. It’s a subject that doesn’t come up that often –so now that singleness has come up we’re going to slow down and spend most of our time on this and then we’ll move pretty quickly through the rest of the chapter and into Matthew 20 next week.
Let me say right up front – the Bible does not teach, and I do not believe that singles are second-class citizens. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as we will see. Jesus describes singleness as a gift that enables you to spend more time with Him.
But I know this is a touchy and difficult subject for some of you and for that reason, it is also very difficult for me. I do not want to stand here and give you empty platitudes, especially those of you who really want to be married. I have been praying, asking God to comfort you and to work in your lives and I hope you will walk out of here encouraged in the Lord and His Word and anxious to see what He wants to do in your life.
Last week we read about the time when Jesus was questioned about divorce – when is it OK, and under what circumstances? If you weren’t here I encourage you to download the podcast, watch it on Facebook, or the Livestream app, or on our website, or read the transcript also available on our website because people have all sorts of opinions and ideas about marriage and divorce, but here in Matthew 19 we discover what God has to say about it. Let’s go back and review because it leads into what we’re going to discuss this morning.
Matthew 19:3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ ? 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”
8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
Jesus has a very high view of marriage, and that’s shocking, jarring for some of us. We live in a culture where marriage seems more disposable than durable. It’s often viewed as a matter of convenience and fulfillment, not a duty or a commitment, so there are many people living in Western Culture today who would agree with Jesus’ disciples when they replied to all this by saying:
Matthew 19:10 His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
They hear what Jesus says about divorce and marriage, and decide somewhat cynically – well if it’s going to be like that Jesus, then what’s the point of even getting married? And so Jesus answers them:
Matt 19:11 But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”
Jesus says, when you say it is better not to marry, that’s something that not everyone can accept – but only those to whom singleness has been given and then He lists three reasons why a person might not get married – we’ll unpack each of them in a moment.
But first, I think it is helpful for us to make a distinction between two groups. Consecrated singles are called by God to remain single for the rest of their lives – these people may or may not have ever been married before, but they do not see marriage or remarriage in their future, they are consecrated singles.
Premarital singles – include everyone from teens to silver foxes; those who have never been married as well as widowers and divorcees who hope to remarry.
These two groups of singles are on the same bus, but they’re getting off at different stops. Premarital singles are going to ride solo for a while, but when the bus arrives at the right station, they’ll get off. Consecrated singles are going to ride all the way to the end of the line. So, although these two groups have some things in common, they also have some important differences that affect how the experience the journey.
Let’s start by talking about those who are along for the whole ride. Jesus gives us three categories of people who will not marry.
First, those who were born with a physical defect or some other physiological issue affecting their ability to reproduce. Jesus recognizes it’s not their fault, they haven’t done anything wrong, but on this sin-sick planet, some people are born with a variety of challenges right out of the womb.
And then, second there are those who have had their physiology altered by other human beings. This isn’t that common today, but castration was widely practiced by ancient governments, especially for servants dealing with royal ladies or harems. Several are mentioned in the Bible including the famous Ethiopian eunuch who was led to Christ by Stephen in Acts 8 where we’re told the eunuch was a servant of the Ethiopian Queen.
The third category of people who will never marry includes those who have made themselves eunuchs metaphorically for the sake of serving the King of Heaven.
People who get married devote a good amount of their time to taking care of their spouse and children. There is nothing wrong with that – it’s good and natural – you’re serving God BY serving your family. But if you are single, you can spend some of that time serving God in other ways. Both the married person AND the single are serving, it’s just a question of when, where, and how.
God may call you to be single and serve an entire church or orphanage, or be married and serve your family – which is greater? Neither. Be what God has called you to be.
Note that Jesus says there are some who have given themselves over to serving God alone, not everyone has, it is a special calling, a special decision, and they are able to accept it, others cannot.
Now, as a happily married man, as someone who cannot accept singleness, I want to affirm that marriage can be wonderful; it is, after all, designed by God. But I also need to point out some things.
For example, Jesus taught that marriage is the norm here on earth, but it is not that way in Heaven. In Luke 20 (27-38) leaders from the Sadducees, a sort of Jewish denomination, asked him a question about a woman who had been married to several brothers and want to know whose wife will she be in heaven, and Jesus told them there is no marriage in heaven. As great as marriage may be, it’s only temporary.
Also notice that Jesus was never married. And, really, you can see that as a good thing. I mean, ladies, can you imagine being married to Jesus? Oh yes, it has it’s up side – He would take good care of you, could miraculously fix dinner when you’re tired, and make things appear even if you haven’t been to the store, but every time you had a problem in the relationship, guess whose fault it would be?
John The Baptist was not married and had a spectacular ministry, but also a tragic death.
Most of the apostles were married, but Paul, the man most used by God in the New Testament was single and we have nothing more than speculation that he was ever married in the first place. God used this man to write a third of the books of the New Testament and to spread Christianity across the Mediterranean. He spoke in front of philosophers and kings as well as jailers and slaves – his entire life was poured out in service to God and His people and he was so content being single that he says in
1 Cor 7:7 “I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.”
The question you need to ask is: what gift has God given you?
If God has given you the gift of singleness, rejoice in it. If you are one of those who Jesus says can accept it, accept it and use your freedom to glorify God. And if you have those moments where you desire the companionship of marriage and family, remember, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence – there are plenty of married people who, no matter how much they love their spouses and families, occasionally wish they had your freedom and opportunities.
What Jesus says here should be good news to everyone – for some it is good news because you can accept it, you know you’re called to consecrated singleness and you have embraced it.
For the rest of you it’s good news because you can’t accept it and so you know that God hasn’t called you to that, which means you must be premarital.
So let’s spend some time thinking about what you should do while you wait for the big day.
1. Learn to depend on God. Don’t make an idol out of marriage as if it will completely satisfy you and meet all of your needs. Only God can do that. Everything and everyone else has a flaw and can only meet SOME of your needs.
I am certain that if you are single, one of the primary steps you must go through in order to eventually have a good marriage is to come to the place where you smash the idol of relationships and can really, truly say “God, if it is nothing but You and me forever, I’m cool with that.” And then, once you are entirely delighted in Him, He can bring someone else into your life.
This keeps you from drowning your spouse in expectations and it applies to the married and the premarital. Don’t look to your spouse to be your deliverer – look to God.
Once you are truly at peace with Him, ask Him to provide a spouse that you can serve God with, someone you can bless. You see, when you’re looking to God to take care of you instead of the other person, you can stop thinking about what you need from the other person and start thinking about what you can do for them. This leads us right into…
2. Prepare yourself to be a good spouse. Learn what the Bible has to say about marriage and the roles of husbands and wives so you can measure yourself and be a good judge of potential mates.
I tell people all the time I’d be happy to get rid of pre-marital counseling if I could just do mate-selection counseling. Pre-marital is too late – you need to put all your time and effort into finding a good fit and knowing what to look for, which we’ll cover in a bit.
If you are premarital, now is the time to square away your life – get your finances in order, hammer away at any debt you have and don’t get into anymore. Guys start saving for a ring and a honeymoon, even before you know who she is. Dig into Proverbs and start figuring out how to live a life packed with wisdom.
In other words, grow. Today you are becoming the man or woman that God wants to use tomorrow, and, the more you grow, typically, the more mature your spouse will be too, and two mature Christians have the best chance at a thriving marriage.
3. Guard your purity – it is a fragile glass that is easily broken. Paul advocates that people get married so that they don’t burn with passion. Desire is right and good, but there are only two legitimate options: self-control (which is a fruit of the Spirit) or marriage. You need to know that temptation is not the same as sin; Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness but did not sin. Temptation and the Tempter are both very, very, strong but you can resist! The fights will be frequent and fierce at times, but you can be victorious in Christ. Cultivate the virtues of self-control and purity of heart.
4. Fight for fellowship – Jake lived with other men who encouraged each other in righteousness and godly living and eventually were in each other’s weddings.
5. Serve – If you’re not married you’re free to serve – do that and see if God brings someone along – it’s the best place and way to meet someone!
What if you find yourself feeling like you’re in it for the long haul, you want to be married, but you don’t know if that’s going to happen soon? Well, I have several stories I can tell you where people met and were married within a year and things worked out great. Madeleine and I went from dating to I do in 12 months to the day. It can happen sooner than you think. Tim and Elizabeth went from single over 40 to married with three kids in about 3 years. Ask them about their story.
And that brings me to share some thoughts on looking.
If you are single, and you are a Christian, you should only be considering relationships with another Christian. Ideally someone at least as mature or more mature in their walk with God than you are. But at minimum, they MUST be a believer in Christ.
And not just a casual believer, or a “I think he’s a Christian” or “She says she believes in God, she just doesn’t do the whole church thing.” No! Those are massive warning signs – do not pass Go, do not collect a wedding ring!
Why would you EVER intentionally make a covenantal commitment to someone who doesn’t share your beliefs about what love is, or what sin is, and how it should be handled, especially in light of the fact that sooner or later you’re going to be doing a fair amount of sinning against each other in that relationship!?!
If you date someone who is not a Christian, things may go alright in the beginning, but I can tell you, I can promise you, sooner or later problems will arise, especially when kids come along. The different ways you and the other person think about family, about discipline, about values, can cause so much friction that suddenly you find yourself talking about divorce. I’ve seen it happen.
Your relationship with God has an affect on your relationship with other people. And the negative of that is true too – not having a relationship with God has an impact on your relationships with other people. So, look for someone who shares your convictions about God.
And don’t look solely for outward beauty. This applies to both men and women – the Bible tells women
1 Peter 3:3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
Pr 31: 30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
If all you’re looking for is physical attractiveness, you need to know that stuff fades. If your relationship is based on appearances, it’s built on shaky ground. And if you attract someone with your appearance, you’re going to have maintain it in order to keep them. There is nothing wrong with beauty, it is a gift from God, but you want to steward that gift with wisdom and discretion. It’s much better to get a spouse, and keep them, with character. So have it, and look for it in others.
Speaking of looking – sometimes God provides for us by making something show up suddenly in our life, other times we have to go out looking. For example, God provided Adam with fruit to eat from every tree in the garden, except one, but He didn’t pick the fruit for Adam and bring it to him on a platter by the riverbank.
Sometimes God brings a spouse to you, like He brought Eve to Adam; sometimes you need to put yourself in their path like Ruth did with Boaz.
Sometimes you find a spouse nearby; sometimes you find them far away from home like Jacob found Rebecca.
Regardless of how God works in your life, you need to recognize THAT He is at work and He is your ultimate provider – there’s only so much you can take into your hands – if God hadn’t made Eve, there’s no way Adam could have found her on his own.
I’ve seen some good marriages come out of meeting people on line – that’s how Tim and Elizabeth met. But also remain open to the idea of other people helping you.
Proverbs 15:22 says “Without counsel, plans go awry,
But in the multitude of counselors they are established.”
Keep an open ear to friends and family who love the Lord. Yes, they want to play match maker, and yes, at times they pry a little too deep, but it’s usually because they love you and want to see something good happen for you. Listen to what they have to say about you and what they have to say about potential mates.
Remember, God knows the number of hairs on your head, He formed you in your mother’s womb, every one of your days was written in His book before a single one of them came to be. He knows your needs and is working for your good. Trust Him, Serve Him, and make yourself increasingly available to Him – to serve Him and the people around you no matter what relational context you’re in for the moment.
One last point to make here: while you wait there are two things you need to particularly watch out for.
1. Increased self-focus. As a single, you get to do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it, and you might even have a pretty decent job so you can afford to get and do stuff. All of that freedom can be a good thing, but it can also destroy you.
There are three ways you can spend your time – this applies to all of us: on God, on others, and on yourself. You need to ration it out so that you are putting a portion of time into each category, and you need to keep an eye on what your ratios are.
2. Getting crusty while you wait – marriage is a sanctifying experience – God uses your spouse to help you see sin in your life that you either totally avoided or ignored before, and He helps you see things in them that you need to bring into your life. Living in close quarters exposes more of who you are.
All of us, married or single, need to remain flexible and changeable. As soon as you start getting ‘set in your ways,’ unless they are ways of imitating Christ, you are going to start having problems. So watch out for these things while you wait.
Matt 19:13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.
Jesus ends a discussion about marriage and singleness by blessing children. Children, do you know that God values you? Do you know that He cares about you?
Dads – do you show them this love? Do you bless your children? You put your hands on them in discipline, but do you ever put your hands on them in blessing? Do you pray over them? It both softens and strengthens them in all the right ways. If you don’t do this – start. It might feel awkward at first, but don’t make it about you – make it about them, and do it.
Throughout this conversation Jesus has been shaking up the culture. He has elevated the status of women, stressed the sanctity of marriage while also elevating singleness, and now He emphasizes the position of children. One big lesson for us to learn here is: just be what God has called you to be, FOR HIM. He loves men and women, adults and children, married people and singles. And I’m thankful we have all of them here in this church.
No matter our age, sex, or marital status, we’re here because we’ve been brought together by Jesus.
We’re going to celebrate communion now, to remember what He has done for us, what He offers to us, and what He has promised to come. As we prepare to receive the elements, I want to encourage you to surrender yourself to Him, to recommit yourself to His service, no matter what role or relationship you fill – to remember you are His first and foremost; to commit to look to Him first for all of your needs and then, to serve whoever He brings your way.
nal name, his parents called him Levi. He was a Jew and he lived in Northern Israel in the city of Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee, near where Jesus stayed. He had money at a time when most people did not, he was able to afford things and throw parties, but Levi was not a very popular guy, in fact, he was hated and despised by many of the people in his community because Levi was a tax collector.
During the time Jesus lived, the Romans ruled their famous Empire, which stretched all the way from Europe, down to North Africa and through the Middle East. And like most governments, the Romans collected taxes. But, they did it through contractors. The Romans would establish a region for taxation and then determine how much they felt they should receive from it. And then they would hire a local to oversee the tax collection for that region.
But here’s the problem only the person they appointed would know how much he had to collect. So, there was a minimum he had to gather for Rome, but he could adjust that number a little bit to include something for himself off the top and that is how the tax collectors got paid. So when you paid your taxes, you never knew how much was going to Rome and how much was going to this guy.
So Matthew, or Levi, makes a living by squeezing money out of people for the government and his own pocket. And he’s taking that money from his own people, the Jews, and giving it to a foreign power that is occupying their land and controlling their lives. Most of his neighbors viewed him as an opportunistic traitor, the living, breathing, expression of Roman occupation and oppression in their city. As one pastor noted: “He had better make a lot of money, because he wouldn’t have a lot of friends, except among other tax collectors and Gentiles.”
Think about what his job cost him: no one wants to say hi to him on the street, he wouldn’t be welcome at community events; he wouldn’t be welcome in the synagogue where people went to worship God each week on the Sabbath. But he would have money, position, and power. Is that an OK trade? And, do you think we have people in our region making similar trades today? Trading in their family for power, position, or money? Compromising their walk with God for the sake of making a few buck or seizing an ‘opportunity’?
Let me ask: what makes you turn your back on your family and your people and your religion, all the things that give you your identity and place in the world? What was going on inside this man? What was he trying to find? What did he feel like he needed? And why did he feel like the only way to get it was to betray everyone and everything else? No one forced him to serve as a tax collector, as far as we know he chose this on his own, in fact, he probably maneuvered and schemed for it and worked to guard his appointment. Why? And did he feel like it was worth it?
Maybe he did in the beginning. Maybe he felt the trade-off was “just the price you have to pay” to reach your goals. But I think at some point he began to feel the isolation of it all, the emptiness of it all, the disappointment of it all – the kind that settles in at night when you’re trying to fall asleep and your deepest thoughts start to bubble up in burning questions – the questions you want to shut out or run away from.
I think God was pressing him with those deeper questions – stirring his soul to ask: is this really what it’s all about? Is there anything else? Is this what life is? What should I be doing? Can I ever go back? Can I ever be forgiven? Can I really change?
I believe God was agitating Matthew’s soul, just like He might be agitating some of yours, stirring you up, troubling you with deep questions and desires for deeper things.
For Matthew, it all came to head one day when he was sitting at his desk near Capernaum. Because on that fateful day, Jesus, a poor, blue-collar carpenter just beginning His public ministry walked by, looked at Matthew and simply said, “Follow Me.” In that one moment, everything made sense – Matthew was ready for it, though he didn’t know what “it” was, and he immediately surrendered – gave up his position with Rome and became a follower of Christ.
Finally, he felt like he had found what he was really looking for. Here’s a man who had made great sacrifices for his career, and suddenly he found something he was willing to give it all up for.
Friends, that’s who Jesus is. He is the one worth giving up everything else for. He is the one worth following. He is the one who shows up as the answer to all our questions and puts everything in order. If you’re feeling unsettled today, if you’re asking those deeper questions, listen for Jesus, because He’s coming to you and saying the same thing – with authority and tenderness, He is telling you – “Follow Me.” It’s not a question, it’s a command, but it’s a gentle command and full of promise that you can discover who you really are, in Christ.
Look at what Jesus did with Matthew’s life – He took who Matthew was, what he was good at, and gave it meaning and purpose.
In order to be a tax collector you had to have some amount of education, you had to speak both Greek and Aramaic and be able to read and write, you also needed to be well-organized and keep good records. Now, don’t those also sound like great skills for someone to capture the details of the life of Jesus and pass them on? It turns out, accuracy and details matter to a tax collector AND a gospel writer.
Friends, the same skills that made Matthew a good tax-collector were redeemed, transformed, and used for God’s glory.
And I wonder how He wants to do the same for you? What skills and abilities has God given you, what qualifications and opportunities has He given you? And how might He want to use them if you surrender yourself and say, “Lord, I am available to you”?
I hope you’re asking the question. Because God does have a plan for your life, He is building His kingdom and His church, and you have opportunity to be a part of it – to have all your abilities and your gifts used for His glory and the good of those around you.
And that might mean He calls you out of the marketplace and into the ministry, like He did with Matthew, or maybe He simply opens your eyes to see how you can make the marketplace into your ministry by seeing your job, or your team, or your school as the place where you serve Jesus with the gifts and abilities He has given you.
As your pastor, this is what I want for you, I want you to see that God is with you wherever you go that He wants to use you, if you are available to Him and if you will look at your context and ask: God what are you doing here and how do You want me to join in? What will it mean for me to “Follow You” here?
But right now we need to see how it all played out for Matthew – how God used his eye for detail to record important things about Jesus and where He came from.
I want to recognize, right away, this is more detail than you might prefer – next week will be much easier as we dig into the story of Mary and Joseph – but this is the way Matthew begins his story, so let’s read through it and then talk about what can learn from it, because it’s all here for a reason.
Matt 1:1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king.
David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. 8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.
12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
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.
Now if you take a class on communication, public speaking, or writing, they will tell you how important it is to grab the attention of your audience. This doesn’t quite seem to hit that mark for us, does it? So why does Matthew choose to start off this way?
And the answer is: because he didn’t write it just for us. This is God’s Word, it’s what God wants all people to know – people from every tribe, and language, and county and jungle and village on the planet – people who lived in the 1800s and the 800s, all over the world and all throughout time. And those people did not, and do not, live in the same media-saturated culture as we do.
To most of them, to most of the people in the history of the world, family is important. If you meet someone new, you want to know where they fit – who is their family, where do they come from, what’s their connection? Today, we meet people in total isolation, as if their past and their lineage have nothing to do with who they are. For most of the world though, and for much of history, people were understood to have a place where they fit. Matthew is showing people where Jesus fits.
And that was very important, especially for the Jews who were the first to read what Matthew had written. They knew what God had said in the past, so they expected the Messiah to come through a particular family line, to come through the line of Abraham and also be a descendant of David. This genealogy shows that Jesus does both. It proves that God kept His promises and did what He said – Jesus is the fulfillment of what Jewish people had been hoping for centuries. That’s why it’s so important to open the book with a family tree.
And actually, if you think about it, we do still care about connection and family today. Some of the most popular stories of our time are about family. Think of Star Wars, Harry Potter, even Downton Abbey, they’re about family: who is related to whom and who is the descendent of whom, who is the father of whom? What family are you in?
And then, think of the popularity of DNA kits where you take a swab of your saliva and send it in for analysis to learn where your ancestors came from, or the popularity of sites like ancestry.com. It turns out there is something in each of us that really wants to know: where did I come from, who am I connected to, and how do I fit in? Sometimes, for all of our modern independence, like Matthew, we wonder if it’s worth the cost of being alone.
Of course, the problem with families is: they’re messy. We might have some family members and ancestors that we’re proud of and get along with, but we’ve also got some people we don’t exactly like, or aren’t exactly proud of, or that we’re disappointed about or tired of. Well, you find the same thing in the line of Jesus: heroes and harlots, victims and victors, role models and rogues.
Take a look at the ladies in this list. Now, first of all, you have to know that it was extremely rare for women to be included in a genealogy, but these ladies are, and when you get to know at a little more about them, you might be shocked that this is line of Jesus.
First you have Tamar, you meet her in Genesis 28 where she put on a disguise and sold herself as a prostitute to her father-in-law Judah because he wasn’t keeping up his responsibility to take care of her, in the process she got pregnant and gave birth to the twins Perez and Zerah. So yeah, you’ve got a bit of a mess right there.
Then you have Rahab who really was a prostitute, and she wasn’t a Jew, she was a Canaanite, a different ethnicity. We meet her in Joshua 2 where God takes extraordinary measures to save her and her family from the destruction of Jericho and bring them into His blessing and promises for Israel. And this is a common thing, to see God adopting people in, bringing people that you would not expect into His family.
It’s the same thing that happened with Ruth who we meet in the book of Ruth – she was from Moab, a nation the Jews hated. She had been married to a man who was a Jew, but he died along with all the other men of the family leaving Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi in a precarious position. But God changed her life and her destiny through the kindness of Boaz, and the woman who once felt as though she had nothing, eventually had a grandson who sat on the throne of Israel: King David, Israel’s most beloved king.
Of course, David didn’t always make the best choices. He’s famous for things like slaying the giant Goliath, but he’s also infamous for stealing the wife of another man. Bathsheba “had been the wife of Uriah” until David used his position of power to take advantage of her, which you can read about in 2 Samuel 11.
Each of these women were in a vulnerable place – Tamar couldn’t get the support she was entitled to, Rahab was a citizen of a city facing destruction, Ruth had lost her husband and all economic security along with him, and Bathsheba was the victim of a predator. Some of them brought difficulty on themselves, others were just victims of circumstance or the choices of others, but God redeemed them all and turned their stories into part of the lineage of Christ.
And then you have the kings – they’re a mixed bag as well. From King David on you have a list of rulers who had a spotty record of righteousness and debauchery. We just mentioned David’s highlights and humiliations, but then you have men like his grandson Rehoboam who was a wicked ruler – so bad in fact that it led to a split in the Kingdom. His son Abijah was wicked like dad, but then things turned around with Asa who was good, and so was his son, Jehoshaphat, but Joram his son was wicked and then he had Uzziah who had some good moments, but was also struck down with leprosy for attempting to enter the temple and burn incense, something only the priests were allowed to do (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).
What’s the lesson here? It’s this: politicians will never be our saviors, it doesn’t matter what party they represent, they’re still human beings and human beings are tempted to make bad choices because of power. They don’t, and can’t know everything, do everything, or fix everything. And even if things are good for a season, they’re going to be bad again sooner or later because human beings are still involved. No political party is ever going to save us or be 100% reliable.
The flip and flop of the character of the kings also shows us that good parents can have bad kids and bad parents can have good kids because we all, every generation, need to have our own relationship with God. You can’t ride on your parent’s coattails on the one hand, but neither are you doomed by your parents on the other. We all need Jesus and we can all have Jesus.
So, what we find in the genealogy is God fulfilling His promises – doing what He said He would do: provide a savior through Abraham and David who would be a blessing to all humanity.
But we also find a sample of the kind of people Jesus came to save: Jews like Jacob, Jesse, and Josiah, Moabites like Ruth and Canaanites like Rahab, men like Solomon and women like Tamar, saints like Boaz and sinners like Uzziah, rulers like David and carpenters like Joseph. People like you, and people like me. We all need Jesus.
This genealogy shows us that no one has it together enough, no is popular enough, no one is powerful enough to create their own forgiveness and salvation.
But it also shows us that no one is too far gone, no one has too much or sinned too big to be forgiven. We all need Jesus who came to call sinners to salvation, and to give us a new identity in Christ.
This genealogy presents God’s extravagant grace on display and we see it again in the life of the man who wrote it down. There is a God who brings the outsiders in.
This morning if you will turn to Jesus He will include you in His family – where your sin abounds grace abounds much more. And if you will make yourself available to Him, He will go to work in your life like He did in Matthew and redeem and transform your skills and abilities for His glory. Will you do that?
We’re about to celebrate communion, and as the men distribute the elements, I want to encourage you to take a moment and pray. Confess your sins to God, ask for forgiveness, and offer Him your life once again – to make of it whatever He pleases. For His glory, and your satisfaction and joy.