David the Faithless
I would be remiss if, in our look at Jesus' genealogy, I skipped over the name of the person who was most closely associated with the Messiah. That would, of course, be King David. Now, you can say lots of things about David. Psalmist. Warrior. Shepherd Boy. Giant Killer. King.
But, when Matthew writes him into the prologue of his version of the Jesus story, he goes out of his way to remind us that David was also the guy who knocked up another man's wife, unleashing a series of disasters for himself, his family and, ultimately, the nation of Israel.
As much as the Jewish people wanted to remember David as the man who united the people, drove the Philistines out and built Jerusalem, Matthew reminds us that he was also a failure as a leader, a friend, a husband and a father. David ran around on his wife, got a married woman pregnant and had her husband killed in the process of trying to cover the whole thing up. The baby they conceive dies, and his family comes unraveled to such an extent that his favorite son murders his oldest son. Then his favorite son stages a coup and humiliates David in a very public way that you'll just have to read for yourself. Eventually, his favorite general murders his favorite son.
Now, what's interesting to me is that four chapters before all of this mayhem begins, God made David a promise. He said, "I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth" (2 Samuel 7:9b).
Stop and think about that right there. This promise was made, like, 3000 years ago, and I'm willing to bet everyone reading this had heard of King David before now. That's a pretty impressive promise that God kept, but it got bigger and better.
In addition to fame, God also promised David a legacy: "The Lord himself will establish a house for you.... Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever" (vv. 11&16).
Four chapters after that promise is made, David sees a woman bathing on her roof. He takes a second look, likes what he sees and sends for her. He breaks a few commandments, covers his tracks, gets found out. It's ugly. The consequences of his actions ripple out in brutal ways. Innocent people die.
And, I don't know about you, but, if I had been God, I might have reconsidered my promise. There had to be someone else -- someone more acceptable -- someone who behaved better than David.
But through all the chaos and bloodshed and disaster, God never withdraws his promise. And 990 years later a man in the line of David named Joseph takes his pregnant fiance Mary to the city of Bethlehem (aka The City of David) and she gave birth to the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of King David and Bathsheba (who had been Uriah's wife).
Because God keeps his promises.
And if you're Matthew and you're about to tell the greatest story ever told -- and you know what it means to be caught red-handed and be forgiven -- and you know that you can't come to God on the basis of what you've done but only on the basis of what he's done for you -- if that's your goal and you're going to tell this story to a group of people who hold King David in high esteem -- well, you know you can't skip this part of the story because this is the story that makes the whole New Testament make sense.
When God makes a promise he keeps his promise and not even the worst sin imaginable can force him to go back on his word. That's pretty important since Matthew's about to tell a story about God making a new promise -- a different one from the one he made to David -- a promise to the whole world -- a promise sealed in blood -- but not the blood of both parties -- the blood of just one party -- an unconditional promise.
Matthew so desperately wants us to remember this story and to know that God's promises aren't based on our faithfulness -- they're based on his. He's promised to be faithful even when we're faithless.
So, rest in that this week.