Matthew chapter 1

“David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.” – Vs 6b

I usually blow through these genealogies, skipping right to the good stuff. But I have learned that there is more here than usually meets the eye. For instance, take verse 6. Here is the middle of Matthew’s list of Jesus’ family tree, he includes the name of David, which is pretty important to his attempt to prove Jesus to be the long-awaited Messiah. But why does he choose to describe David’s fathering of Solomon the way he does? In almost every other case he simply says So-in-so was the father of What’s-his-name. But with David he includes a little descriptive addendum, “by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.”

Now if you anything about David, this was NOT one of his more stellar moments. The story of this event is recorded quite graphically in 2 Samuel 11. It seems that when David should have been doing his kingly duty by leading his men in battle, he had decided to stay home. One morning he spies his neighbor’s wife bathing on her rooftop. He immediately falls in lust with her and demands that she be brought to him. Even though he knows she is married, and to one of his own commanders no less, he sleeps with her. She becomes pregnant, and now the intrigue really begins. In an effort to cover his sin, David has Uriah, her husband, brought back from the war. David’s plan is to get Uriah, who has been away for some time fighting the king’s battles, to go home and sleep with his wife. That way it will appear that the child, when it is born, is Uriah’s and not his. But David didn’t take into account the faithfulness of Uriah, who refuses to go home and enjoy the pleasures of marriage while his brothers are still fighting. Even when David plies him with alcohol, Uriah refuses to give in. So David comes up with plan B. He sends Uriah back to the front carrying his own death warrant, a note to the commander to put Uriah on the front line and then pull everyone else back, ensuring his death. When the news reaches David that Uriah has been killed, he sends for Bathsheba and marries her. But the child that David fathered would die – a punishment from God for his disobedience and sin.

So why in the world does Matthew include this dark moment in David’s life in his genealogy? Why couldn’t he have just said, “and David was the father of Solomon?” Well, for one thing, he included it because the Holy Spirit inspired him to. But I think another reason is so that we could see the sovereignty of God in the birth of Jesus. Matthew is writing to a Hebrew audience, most of whom would have known well the exploits of David and all the other patriarchs in this list. But Matthew includes some additional comments that subtly, yet clearly show that God was behind the entire genealogical line of Jesus. When he says, “Abraham was the father of Isaac,” they would have recalled the story of Ishmael, and how Abraham and Sarah tried to “help” God by coming up with their own plan for a descendant. Sarah came up with the idea of having Abraham father a child by sleeping with her hand-maiden, Hagar. But that was not God’s plan. He would give them a child on His terms and in His timing.  And so Abraham became the father of Isaac.

How about this one? Matthew records that “Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar” (Vs 3). Now here’s an interesting story. It’s recorded in Genesis 38. It seems that Judah had chosen Tamar to be the wife of his firstborn son Er. But Er was evil and God took his life. So then Judah told his son Onan to take Tamar as his wife and “perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and rise up offspring for your brother” (Genesis 38:8). You can read for yourself how Onan got around this request in Genesis chapter 38. But suffice it to say that God was not pleased, so He took Onan’s life as well. So Tamar finds herself widowed twice. Judah asks her to stay in his house and wait until his son, Shelah, grows up. But Judah probably has no intention of ever having another one of his sons marry Tamar, because “he thought, ‘I am afraid that he too may die like his brothers’” (Genesis 38:11).

The next part of this story is like something out of a soap opera. Tamar put two and two together and sees that “Shelah had grown up, and she had not been given to him as a wife” (Genesis 38:14). So when she finds out that Judah is going up to shear sheep, she disguises herself and sits by the gate of the city, waiting for Judah to pass by. When he does, he thinks she is a temple prostitute and starts to bargain with her for her services. He offers her a young goat from the flock, but she demands a pledge to guarantee payment. She asks for his seal, worn on a cord around his neck, and his staff. She will hold onto these very important items until he returns with payment. Judah agrees, he has sex with her, and unbenownst to Judah, she becomes pregnant.

Three months later, Judah is informed that Tamar is pregnant. He demands that she be burned for her indiscretion. When Tamar is brought before Judah, she says that she pregnant by the man who owns these items: the seal and the staff.  Judah is exposed. He spares her life and Tamar gives birth to twin boys, Perez and Zerah, the two names found in Matthew’s genealogy.

I could go on. But what’s the point? I think Matthew is showing that God was at work, behind the scenes, all along the way, ensuring that Jesus would be born just as He had planned. Even the screw ups and selfish sins of men could not prevent God from working out His divine redemptive plan. David’s indiscretion and Judah’s sinful activities with what he thought was a temple prostitute could not derail God’s plan. In fact, God used their mistakes, their sins, to accomplish His righteous will. In this list of names are those of the kings of Israel who we are told each “did evil in the site of the Lord.” This list contains the names of flawed men who failed time after time, yet God includes them in the genealogy of His Son.

God uses the imperfect to accomplish His perfect will. He used David. He used Judah. He used Abraham, Manasseh, Amon, and Jeconiah. And He uses you and me. I think that’s one of the reasons why this genealogy is included. It’s a reminder that God is sovereign. He is in control. He is willing, ready, and able to use men and women who are flawed to accomplish His will. He is using us in spite of us.

Father, thank You that Your plan is bigger than my biggest mistake and my greatest sin. Thank You for using me in spite of me. I am so grateful that you included the dark moments of the lives of men like David and Judah as a reminder to me that You are in control. If You can bring about the Messiah through men like these, You can and are accomplishing great things through me life. Your faithfulness is unbelievable. Thank You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men