God, The Faithful Promise-Keeper
14 MARCH 2021 | TRADITIONAL SERVICE
Rev Raymond Fong
Scripture Passage: Matthew 1 (NIV)
WATCH | SERMON (VIDEO)
READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary | Men make promises they do not keep, the most often broken promise being “I will always love you”. God is the only one who always keeps His promise of everlasting love for us. The genealogy of Jesus affirms that Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s promise of everlasting love.
What is the promise?
1. The Promised King – V1 points to the royal line of Jesus through the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam 7:12-16). Bible scholars postulate that the 14 generations in V17 links Jesus to David whose name in Hebrew is equivalent to the number 14 (according to numerology). Thus Matthew’s focus on 14 generations also emphasises Jesus’s kingly role as the Son of David. The genealogy shows Jesus is the promised King, the promised Saviour who has come to save and redeem us.
2. The Promised Blessing – Jesus is also called the son of Abraham (Matt 1:1) and this points to him as the Promised Blessing. As the Seed of Abraham (Gal 3:17), it will be through Jesus that all will be blessed as that was God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen 12). We are therefore blessed through Christ to be a blessing.
How is the promise kept?
1. Through unexpected persons
- women, who would usually be excluded from ancient genealogies.
- outside the faith, e.g. Ruth (Moabite), Rahab (Canaanite)
- scandalous, e.g. Tamar’s relationship with Judah
The inclusion of these women foreshadow God’s plan to include the Gentiles. It reveals God’s heart to redeem and use all, including the marginalised, to forward His purposes. God uses all persons to fulfil His promises.
2. Through obedient persons – One example is Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus.
V16 refers to Joseph as the husband of Mary instead of as the earthly father of Jesus. Joseph was an excellent husband who decided to divorce Mary quietly instead of shaming her. He knew God enough to obey His instruction through a dream to marry Mary despite scandalous talk among the neighbours. Jesus would become part of an earthly family and Joseph brought them to safety, fulfilling his part in God’s plan.
Joseph’s obedience carried forward God’s plan of salvation.
3. Despite flawed circumstances – While names were only mentioned in the genealogy, each name tells a story.
Some of these stories are that of persons who are riddled with failure. For example:
- deceit, e.g. Jacob deceived Esau of his birth-right.
- murder, e.g. David murdered Uriah, husband of Bathsheba, to cover up his adultery with her.
- idolatry, e.g. Solomon had many wives who turned his heart to idols.
- evil, e.g. Manesseh was described as doing evil in the sight of God (2 Kings 21:2).
Despite the flawed, broken and tragic circumstances, God worked in and through them to keep his promise.
4. Contrary to history’s expectations – History shows that God kept His promise even through the most challenging periods for the Jewish people. God kept His promise through covenantal failure by the Israelites, war and destruction by the Assyrians and Babylonians, exile, and then rule by foreign powers (e.g. Romans) when people experienced a sense of hopelessness and desperation. God has the final say when He sent His Son, our true Messiah at the right time (Gal 4:4-5).
If God is indeed our faithful promise-keeper, then there are three applications:
- Trust steadfastly in His perfect timing – We can be rested in God’s perfect timing for His perfect purposes. The genealogy of Jesus shows that God keeps His promises in His time. Ecclesiastes reminds us that God has made everything beautiful in His time.
- Obey faithfully for His providential purposes – Every obedience to God counts for eternity and will bear fruit in His time. Let’s look to the example of Joseph. Let’s obey faithfully as we trust that God uses that as a jig saw to piece together His glorious and sovereign purposes.
- Surrender wholly to His redemptive goodness – God is the master of redeeming what is broken, scarred and failed in our lives and turning it into something good. He is in control of our histories, our genealogies and he will take our broken hearts and lives and make something beautiful of them all. As He did for Israel, God will redeem our broken pieces that we place in His hands.
May our faith arise as we yield our hearts to Him and find rest in Him.
In all things, whether the good or bad, the beautiful or ugly, God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).
(Sermon Notes by Woo Choi Yin)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1. What do you observe about the genealogy of Jesus? What are some highlights for you?
2. Reflect on your own genealogy or family tree. Are there issues or persons you wrestle with? Surrender them to the redemptive goodness of God.
3. “Every act of obedience to God counts for eternity.” How does this encourage you to trust and obey God?
4. How has God been a faithful promise-keeper to you? Share a testimony, give glory to Him!