This past Sunday for the first time in my ministry, I shared a message from a genealogy in the Bible. As someone who is committed to biblical exposition in which the text of scripture drives the message, I came to this passage with some great excitement. Admittedly, this attitude is not always the case of my reading of genealogies in the Bible, especially some in the Old Testament. As I was working on a message from the genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17, “How many people skip right over these list of names to get to the ‘exciting stuff’?”
So, why should we read or teach genealogies in our Bibles?
- Historical Accuracy. Reading genealogies reminds us that the Bible is not a series of fairy tales or fables but an account of historically reliable information. The historical reliability of Scripture is essential to Christianity and the propagation of the gospel. Parents must work hard to remind their children that the Bible is filled with truths not just stories. Most importantly, we must teach the next generation that Jesus really lived, died and rose again.
- Plenary Inspiration. God decided to include genealogies in the Bible which makes them as inspired as every other portion of the Bible. We believe plenary, that is all the words, sentences, paragraphs and books of the Bible come from God. Because of all this, while we agree that there are more foundational passages in the Bible than others, we dare not assume some parts are not important.
- Authorial Intention. Because every part of the Bible is inspired, we also believe that every verse in the Bible has a reason for being there. This intention and the words to communicate it were inspired by God. So every time we read genealogies we should ask, “what point is God trying to make with the inclusion of this genealogy?” We do this in part by examining the grammar of the verses, the placement of the genealogy in the larger book and biblical framework, and some basic historical/cultural background.
- Grace of God. Every name you read in a genealogy represents a span of time in which God’s plans and purposes progress. All of these people at some level were recipients of the grace of God. Reading genealogies reminds us that God’s grace was working through the lives of each of these people and that He will continue to work in our day.
- Fulfillment of Promise. Finally, most genealogies are carefully tied to promises of God. God’s promises are commitments He makes to act and genealogies often serve to show the fulfillment of key promises. For example, the genealogy in Matthew 1 goes a long way to show the fulfillment of the Abrahamic (Genesis 12:1-3) and the Davidic (2 Samuel 7) covenant.
So, the next time you come to a genealogy, don’t skip over these important sections. Read every word.