There you are, working through your daily Bible reading, when you come across a section that seems frustrating. Unending, unpronounceable names. A family lineage of unfamiliar, seemingly insignificant relations. If you’re reading in the King James Version, the word “begat” appears a lot.
Many people skip over the genealogies, assuming they have little relevance to their life, and are therefore unimportant. But doesn’t II Timothy 3:16 remind us, “all Scripture is God breathed, and useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training for righteousness…”? Paul was under the inspiration of the Spirit and knew of these passages, and yet still assures believers in every age that even genealogies are useful for Christians. But how?
Believers must learn to appreciate all parts of Scripture, even those that don’t seem immediately relevant to us. Here are several things that genealogies teach Christians to strengthen their faith today:
- The historical truth of Scripture. Genealogies show that God’s Word isn’t mythic or a fable; it is historical fact. When we read the family lineages, we are reminded this is not “once upon a time” or “long ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Instead, we read “this took place during the reign” of a certain historical king (see Daniel 1:1), “in the third day, of this month, in the sixth year” (see Ezra 6:15), or “while Quirinius was governor of Syria” (see Luke 2:2).
- Our God is a God of families. In the genealogies, we read of fathers begetting sons. The Lord of Scripture reveals Himself as a Father with a divine Son. His earliest commands to Adam were “be fruitful and multiply,” and His covenant promises were made “to you and your children.” God works in families, and He works over the generations. We are not isolated individuals, but children of a family of faith that reaches back over the generations. This forces us to ask ourselves, “Am I being faithful in my generation?” Since I am a link in an inter-generational chain, with a responsibility to receive “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) and to “teach transgressors Your ways” (Psalm 51:13), do I live in a way to faithfully transmit a living faith to others? Genealogies might not always spark our imagination, but they are God’s divine Word that summons our faithfulness.
- A fulfillment of promises & prophecies. How can Abraham have a son if Sarah is barren? How can God give David a royal wise son, even if David sinned with Bathsheba? How can God bring a Messiah from the lineage of Judah if wicked Queen Athaliah killed the entire family? The answer to all of these questions is revealed in God’s faithfulness in the genealogies. Zion, if God has kept his promises through countless generations over millenia of human history, can He not keep His promises to you as well?!
- The humanity of our Savior. Some of the most well known lineages in the Bible are Matthew 1 and Luke 3, which list out the family tree of Jesus. The differences and peculiarities of these two genealogies give pastors and theologians grist for what the Holy Spirit is teaching us, but one thing is certain: the Son of God has a human lineage. Born to the tribe of Judah, the offspring of David, our Savior Jesus Christ is nothing if He is not also fully human. The greatest mystery of all – how God almighty could become incarnate as a helpless babe – is put on full display in the genealogy. Every time you read a series of “so and so begat so and so,” remember that the King of Kings is also in such a list!
- God is working for cosmic redemption. Eve was promised it would be one of her descendents that would destroy Satan. Noah was promised one descendent would end the world and bring rest. David was promised a descendent would rule on the throne forever and ever. Every time you read a genealogy, you are reading God’s determination to bring His Messiah to redeem us. As Voddie Bauckham put it, “The New Testament opens up with a genealogy (Matthew 1). And basically that genealogy screams: the God who made a promise in Genesis 3 has fulfilled that promise!“
Do you look at genealogies differently now? I pray that you would treasure all of God’s Word as more priceless than life itself, and dig deeply into those parts of Scripture that may seem difficult to understand at first.