A dying man gives each of his best friends -- a lawyer, doctor and a pastor -- an envelope containing $25,000 in cash to be placed in his coffin. A week later the man dies and the friends each place an envelope in the coffin. Several months later, the pastor confesses he put $10,000 in the envelope and sent the rest to a mission. The doctor confesses his envelope had only $8,000 because he donated to a medical charity. The lawyer is outraged, "I am the only one who kept my promise to our dying friend. I want you both to know that the envelope I placed in the coffin contained my own personal check for the entire $25,000."
A person’s character is defined by how they keep their promises. same with God….
Today and next week are the final sermons from the series, God’s Imperfect Family. I’ve learned a lot…. In Matt. 1 the N.T. opens with a genealogy of Jesus’ family tree. The character of Jesus’ family is a mixed bag of good and bad, powerful and commoners, Jewish men and gentile women, servants and tyrants. During the ups and downs, the promise of God holds the family tree together.
- First God made a promise to Abraham that a nation would be born through his ancestors that would be a light to the nation offering restoration and salvation to all. The promise of God never died in the following generations.
- 14 generations after Abraham, the people want to be ruled by a King. King David is chosen by God to receive the promise given to Abraham. God tells David there will always be a king in the line/house of David, a savior… 14 generations of Kings. Even though some good some evil… the promise of God kept hope alive.
We know very little about most of the men in the last third of Jesus’ family tree. Next week Joseph. Only one person in this list before Joseph stands out: Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel is a great name! The “Zerub” part is “son of…” Guess what the “babel” part means… [Son of Babylon ~ he was likely born in exile in Babylon]. God has a sense of humor. God made a promise to Abraham and expanded the promise David. In a transition period for the Jews from independence to domination by foreign nations, God renews his promise to the Son of Babylon. Before we get to Z., a few thoughts about others on list in Mt. 1:12-16.
Jeconiah AKA Jehoiachin is taken to Babylon after only a few months as King in 597 B.C. In Exile he was considered to be King of the Jews for the next 37 years. The book of Kings closes with a word of grace. A new ruler of Babylon treats Jehoiachin with kindness (READ 2 Ki. 25:27-30). Even in exile there is hope. The promise of God is what gives purpose and a future. Always. The people may be in exile, but there is always hope. There is always hope for us…
Next in line is Shealtiel. Little known about him other than his father is Jehoichin and his son is Zerabbabel. He is considered the 2nd King of Judah in exile. He may have been born in Judah or in Babylon...
The rest is a list of people that would have been Kings if the nation of Judah had continued as an independent nation. They return to Jerusalem after 70 years of exile. Z appointed as governor; they never regain independence until 1948. I find hope in the name of Jesus’ grandfather…. Jacob.
Do you think as time marched on these men knew they were in the direct line of King David/the promise? I do! geneaologies are important to them. When Jacob learned stories of his namesake 1500 years earlier, I wonder if he wondered about God’s ancient promise reaffirmed in the original Jacob and his 12 sons… if you think about Genesis ~ Jacob’s favorite son is who? [Joseph] In Genesis so much space is devoted to Joseph you’d think God’s promise of establishing a great nation would go through Joseph, but it’s not, it is through Judah. Yet Joseph is spotlighted in Genesis. In the genealogy of Matt. 1 the grandfather of Jesus is Jacob, and Jacob’s son is Joseph…crazy, poetic
After Zerabbabel there is a more activity in the Bible with Ezra bringing back more exiles, Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, Esther’s heroics in saving the Jewish people in Persia, and a few prophets including Zechariah, Haggai and Malachi. Shortly after Z., the written word of God is silent for 400 years. In-between the Testaments, Persia dominates Israel, then the Greeks until Titus of Rome marches on Jerusalem and destroys Z’s Temple in 70 A.D. Z’s Temple stood from 530 – 70 B.C. The Romans are in power when the New Testament opens after 400 years of silence. It is a time of unrest, division and darkness.
Even though we do not know details of those in family of Jesus between Z. and Joseph, the fact they are there shows us God was not willing to let his promise die…even if it is hanging on by a thread… These men are not earthly Kings, but they are the bearers of God’s promise that a savior will come… God’s promises are always true.
Gods promises takes crazy twists and turns. The fact that these names of the would have been kings is kept alive is amazing. …it is during the silent years the synagogues develop as more and more Jews live apart from the land of Israel… Even in the silent years there is always hope. when you are feeling overwhelmed, keep your eyes open for even a thread of God’s promise, because his promise is real and the future is always bright. At any given moment it may seem like God is silent, but there is always a thread of hope.
Let’s look at Z. He was born in Babylon; even though he never knew Jerusalem, God reaffirmed in him the promise of salvation given to Abraham and David ~ the promise will never die even though the world of the Jews is changed. BTW, unlike the Assyrians who destroyed nations, Babylon allowed nations to exist… it’s an incredible testimony to God’s promise that against all odds the people of the Israel are still a nation. Exile in Babylon was no picnic. An amazing glimpse of the emotions of Israel during the exile to Babylon is captured in the haunting words of Psalm 137:1-4 READ.
Through the tears, God kept his promises Alive! Z is used by God to bring hope to the people and to reestablish his promise of salvation! Z is a would-have-been-King in the direct line of David. We do not get a caption for his life like Kings before him, but I think God’s judgment of Z is, “He did what was good and right in the eyes of God as did his father David.”
Z. is mentioned in Chronicles. Ezra tells us that when the new Persian King allowed the people to return to Jerusalem from Babylon, Z is among the returning exiles. Probably some older folks remembered Jerusalem of old after decades of captivity in Babylon, but Z was not one of them. He only knew stories of the homeland.
The words of the prophet Haggai is key in understanding Z. READ Hag. 1:1. Haggai is the one that motivates Z. to serve God by rebuilding the temple. READ Hag. 1:3-9. Z is not perfect, definitely part of God’s imperfect family, but he listens when he is wrong. I have always loved the recurring phrase in the book of Haggai, over and over it says, “Give careful thought to your ways.” I know a 1000 people that need to hear that (me too!)… I respect a person that listen and changes their ways. This is the example of Z.
Z. rebuilds the temple from the ground up. Z’s temple (also called 2nd Temple) was a modest structure. God’s promise to bless the people is renewed through the faith of Z: READ Hag. 2:15-19. Zechariah is another prophet who God also uses to speak to Z and the exiles who had returned. I love the lesson of Z.’s character in Zech. 4:6 READ. Only by the spirit of God can anything be accomplished. That’s a powerful lesson….
Z, the would have been King, is the governor of the returned people still under authority of the Persians. He is humble, listening and learning when called to account to serve God, yet he is guided by the Spirit of God. He listens to the advice to “give careful thought.” He rebuilds the temple. Z. is a wonderful man of great character in the family ancestry of Jesus Christ. He is the bearer of the promise of God, the promise that will never die because God is the greatest promise keeper of all…
Haggai ends with an amazing word of hope about Z. This is the reaffirmation of God’s promise of protection for his chosen people. READ Hag. 2:21-23. Historically, there is some indication that some folks thought Z. was the promised Messiah and they were disappointed when he fell off the pages of history and instead a period of silence fell upon the nation. Clearly Z. was not the Messiah and was never intended to be… I believe this word about Z. through Haggai is given for the larger purpose of renewing God’s promise that he will never forget his people or let go of his divine purposes.
- Z. is called a servant, “my servant” in Hag. 2:23. Surely a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, the most amazing servant of all.
- “I will make you like a signet ring” is an allusion to authority, the king wears the signet ring – Z would have been King if Judah would have remained independent, yet God is saying that Z is like a King anyway, foreshadowing the very different sort of King in Jesus Christ.
- When Jesus hung on the cross, the soldier’s mocked him by pounding a sign on the cross saying, “King of the Jews.” Do you see what they were doing? They knew Jesus was in the line of David… Surely they thought they were bringing the ancient promise to an end that a King in the Line of David would sit on the throne forever, shutting the door on God’s promise. But the promise to Z shows us that the King who wears the signet ring will be a servant.
- “I have chosen you” is final declaration to Z…. i.e. I know what I am doing. This is my plan!
A promise is given to Abraham at the beginning of the genealogy that a great nation chosen by God will come. A promise is given to David at the beginning of the period of the Kings that there will always be a King on the throne of David. The promise is reaffirmed to Z near the beginning of the return to Jerusalem that the promise will never die but that God’s word is sure.
In all likelihood the people of Z’s day thought the end was near, but as time went on, the promise to Z was transferred to those that came after him. For 400 years the promise of God must have seemed like it was hanging on by a thread as God’s word seemed to go silent. Yet God’s promise was always present and his plan was on pace. Generation after generation the would have been kings live relatively obscure and hidden lives as history marches on with one world power after another controlling Israel. The promise hung on by a thread as the people learned to serve God while oppressed by foreign nations. They found hope in God’s reaffirmed promise to Zerubbabel.
This is all in God’s plan to prepare the world to receive the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. God’s promise is still life. His promise is still true. Believe in his promises. His greatest promise has already been fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ, and in Christ he still promises hope and a future for all who trust him and receive him as Lord. Amen!