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The Genealogy of Jesus October 7, 2017

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I’ve recently started reading through the Gospel of Matthew with the aid of a commentary by J.C. Ryle. I should note that I’ve previously read through Matthew. As in my recent stroll through the book of Lamentations, I hope to comprehend Matthew as a whole. In particular, I hope to sharpen my understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ and be spurred to obey them by stepping out of my comfort zone.

I plan to blog about this experience as I read through both the gospel and Ryle’s commentary. Each post will correspond to a specific section in the NIV translation.

For starters, here are my thoughts on Matthew 1:1-17.

Summary: In this passage, Matthew presents the genealogy of Jesus Christ, including:

  • fourteen generations from Abraham – the patriarch of the Jews – to King David
  • fourteen generations from King David to King Jehoiachin – who was exiled to Babylon
  • fourteen generations from King Jehoiachin to Jesus Himself.

Thoughts: Here, we see that Jesus’ genealogy was not devoid of sinfulness. For example, we know that Solomon’s parents had an unlawful encounter. Also, King Manasseh rejected the righteous policies of his father, Hezekiah. Yet Ryle offers some insights on this point:

Some of the names we read in this list remind us of shameful and sad histories…But at the end comes the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though he is the eternal God, he humbled himself to become man, in order to provide salvation for sinners.

This is a valuable reminder that God could have chosen to permanently reject sinful man, leaving him to his just deserts. Yet He chose to identify with sinful humanity and dwell among those who repeatedly fell short of His righteousness. Truly we can be thankful for His abundant grace and condescension to all mankind.

In verse 12, we see that Jehoiachin was an ancestor – and possibly father – of Shealtiel. Having just completed a stroll through Jeremiah and Lamentations, I am curious: did Jehoiachin have any children while he was in exile in Babylon? If so, did he have any children during his imprisonment? Did the Babylonians dismiss any potential threat to their hegemony by the children of this exiled king of Judah? Did Jehoiachin have the faintest notion that the Messiah would be one of his descendants? I am curious as to whether I will be able to meet him in the next life and query him on this point.

Jehoiachin Released September 9, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 52:31-34.

Summary: In this passage, Jeremiah notes that after a lengthy prison term, Jehoiachin is pardoned by the new king of Babylon, Amel-Marduk. Moreover, Amel-Marduk grants him a daily allowance until his death.

Thoughts: I should note that I was not particularly impressed with the Crossway Classic Commentary on this book. In particular, the commentary essentially consisted of a series of trite observations; I do not recall any in-depth discussions of a particular passage or larger theme. My experience with this commentary stands in sharp contrast to that of other Crossway Classic commentaries, especially the masterpieces originally written by Charles Hodge. Perhaps the original commentary was a sprawling text, constraining the editors, Alister McGrath and J.I. Packer. In that case, I would have preferred that the editors not attempt to include Calvin’s thoughts on most of the verses; instead, they should have focused on his in-depth discussions of certain overarching themes, including:

  • the relationship between God and His people
  • Jeremiah’s thoughts and actions
  • the depravity of Babylon.

In fairness, I have not read the original commentary, so I do not know if Calvin actually provided in-depth discussions of these larger themes in that text.

Now that I have completed my stroll through Jeremiah, I have a – potentially – better idea regarding the position of this passage in the text. On one level, this passage is a fairly mundane account of the last days of an exiled monarch. On another level, though, perhaps God used this passage to remind His people of His promise concerning their eventual deliverance from exile in Babylon. Just as Jehoiachin was released from prison, so He would eventually release them from captivity; moreover, He would enable them to return to their homeland – surpassing Jehoiachin in that regard. If my hunch is correct, then this book concludes on a positive note. While God justly punished His people for their sinfulness, He never forsook them; indeed, He blessed them and restored them to a right relationship with Himself – through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Judgment Against Evil Kings April 22, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 22.

Summary: In this passage, God speaks through Jeremiah, condemning the actions of these kings of Judah:

Indeed, He charges them with a litany of sins, including:

  • withholding the wages of the workers who built the royal palace in Jerusalem
  • flaunting their wealth
  • shedding innocent blood.

Thus, he will punish them by:

  • destroying the royal palace in Jerusalem
  • banishing Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin from their native land
  • bringing shame on Jehoiakim after his death
  • cutting off their royal line.

Thoughts: In verses 13-17, we see that God condemns King Jehoiakim for his actions towards the workers who constructed his palace. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 14:

The prophet reproves the ambition and pride of King Jehoiakim. He was not content with the moderation of his fathers but indulged in extravagant display and built for himself a palace in the clouds, so to speak, as if he did not want to live on the earth. Splendid houses are not in themselves condemned, but since they nearly always proceed from insatiable ambition, the prophets condemn sumptuous houses.

These verses remind me of one of the controversies that swirled around last year’s presidential election in the United States. Perhaps modern-day believers who reside in First World countries should assess our lives in light of this passage. For example, do we leave a proper tip for our server at the local eatery that we frequent? If we happen to own a business, are we properly compensating our employees? Do we – either consciously or unconsciously – flaunt our wealth?

Recently, our small group has been strolling through the Gospel of Luke; some have termed that book “the social concerns Gospel” due to its emphasis on less prominent characters – and God’s desire that they be lifted up. Over the last few years, I have given more thought to the role of Christians in advancing the principles of justice and fairness in this broken world; thus, these simultaneous strolls through Jeremiah and Luke have served to reinforce that point. I am curious as to whether these principles will play a prominent role in the rest of Jeremiah, though.

Here, we see that King Jehoahaz and King Jehoiachin – along with the queen mother, Nehushta – will be banished from their native land; moreover, they will never return to it. This spurred me to consider the possibility of banishment from my native land. I have never lived in another country for an extended period of time, and it is difficult for me to contemplate life as an emigre. If I were ever exiled from my country and barred from returning to it, I wonder how I would respond to that trial. Would I ever grow accustomed to life as a foreigner? Would I actually embrace my new country and completely divorce myself from my native land? Would I retain some attachment to my native land – and harbor a sense of regret concerning life in exile? Indeed, as a citizen of a First World country, I should be more thankful that God has shown His grace to me in determining the time and place of my birth.