Introduction. Read Matthew1v1to17.

The genealogy of Jesus is not the most gripping of subjects. However it does provide some surprises and it has some lessons to teach us. It is included by Matthew in his gospel for a purpose.

We can learn at least six things from Christ's genealogy:

(1) The gospel is rooted in history.

The geneaology of Jesus indicates that the LORD is the God of differing personalities, varying circumstances and succeeding generations. Jesus is a historical figure who appeals to a great variety of men and women, who is worshipped in diverse circumstances, without belief in him changing from one generation to the next.

(2) God keeps his promises.

Abraham and David both feature in the genealogy of Jesus. God made promises to both these individuals. Promises are easier to make than they are to keep - but God does not break his promises. He said to Abraham: "In your seed all nations on earth will be blessed." Gen12v1. Jesus, the direct descendant of Abraham, is mankind's universal saviour and brings untold blessings to all who believe on him.

God told King David: "When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. ..... Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever" 2Sam7v12to16.

This must have seemed an empty promise because for hundreds of years there had been no descendant of David on the throne of Judah. If Joseph and Mary were anything to go by the descendants of David lived in obscurity and poverty. Yet these two very humble folk did preserve the royal line of David and, against all odds, their son would reign over an everlasting kingdom. Nothing can thwart the will of God!

The Royal Son has, himself, made some cast iron promises as, for example, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." Jn3v36. See also Jn6v40 and Jn11v25.

(3) The importance of faith.

There are two Gentile women in the genealogy of Jesus. Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute and Ruth a Moabite widow. The Israelites were prohibited from marrying either Canaanites or Moabites yet Salmon, a Jew, married Rahab and Boaz her son married Ruth who was great grandmother to David.

Both Rahab and Ruth became Hebrews by faith. Rahab was accepted by God's chosen people because by faith she hid the Jewish spies who were on the run in Jericho; by faith she hung a red cord in her window so that when Joshua and his men took Jericho she and her family were spared. Boaz married Ruth because by faith she clave to her mother-in-law and returned to the land of Israel after her husband and Naomi's son had died. She acclaimed by faith that Naomi's God would be her God.

So even in the seemingly uninspiring genealogy of Jesus - in that list of names several of which mean nothing to us - there is clear evidence that faith is that human attribute by which God discriminates between people. Even in those early days it was possible for a Gentile to become a child of promise by faith.

Paul wrote to the Galatians: Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. ...... There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal3vs6and28.

Ruth and Rahab believed and it was credited to them as righteousness. Today, in God's sight, there are two kinds of people - those that believe in his Son and those that don't. All other distinctions - race, social class and gender are of no relevance.

(4) Good can come out of evil.

As someone has said: God's grace can flow through crooked channels. There are some very dodgy characters in Christ's genealogy. Judah had sex with his widowed daughter-in-law thinking she was a prostitute. Bathsheba was a seductress, Rehoboam a fool, Ahaz sacrificed his sons in the fire and Jehorum murdered his brothers. Yet each of them was a link in the chain that led to Jesus.

Fortunately evil ways are not inherited like red hair or blue eyes. Godly men and women can be born of wicked parents.

(5) Great men and women are often born of humble stock.

We know next to nothing about Jesus' forebears after the exile. We just have 12 names leading up to Joseph his adoptive father - who was only a carpenter notwithstanding his descent from David.

This happens over and over again. We do not know much about the parents of Paul, or Luther or William Booth. They were not noteworthy historical figures. The same is true of other fields. Charles Dicken's parents did not write novels or Handel's parents compose oratorios or Newton's parents make scientific discoveries.

Famous men and great women are not necessarily the progeny of illustrious parents. This is one reason abortion is such an evil. Who knows what great men and women never got the chance to live outside the womb.

(6) Jesus identifies with humanity.

Jesus did not burst on the scene like an angel. All the angels mentioned in the Bible come to earth as mature beings. Jesus, like every other man and woman since Adam and Eve, began life as a foetus. He was born as a baby and grew into boyhood and then manhood.

Jesus was flesh of our flesh, the second Adam - one of us. It was the only way he could redeem us. Only a man could make the sacrifice to atone for human sin that satisfies God.

          O loving wisdom of our God!
          When all was sin and shame,
          A second Adam to the fight,
          And to the rescue came.