Christmas with Paul, David, and Matthew
In Acts 13, preaching to a Jewish audience and thus drawing on the Old Testament pointers to Christ, Paul remarks that God’s estimation of David is this: ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will’ (v. 22). This is a remarkable statement to be said about any human; but we observe that having a heart after God is a commitment to do all his will.
Further, Paul notes that David ‘served the purposes of God in his own generation’ (v. 36). God is always on the move, and within any generation, we are either serving the purposes of God, or we are serving some other purposes. To what degree is your life focused on the purposes of God? Or have you been reoriented to an alternative purpose, with God on the side? In sum, David is remarkable for his capacity to have a heart after God and to prioritise God’s generational agenda.
Which all brings us to Matthew 1 and the introduction to the Christmas story. As we know, Matthew begins with a genealogy – not the most interesting of introductions – but the details are fascinating. First, he goes out his way to highlight women (e.g., Rahab, Ruth) – and women who were not Jewish – to indicate that the Saviour is not just the Jewish messiah, but the saviour of the world. Second, he lists the genealogies in groups of fourteen, obviously skipping out some people along the way.
He summarises his conclusion in verse 17:
So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
This is significant because the numeric equivalent of David in Hebrew equals 14. So this genealogy is Matthew saying, ‘David, David, David’. Thus, Matthew 1 is all about Jesus being the offspring of David, as Paul indicated in Acts 13:23. So Jesus is the offspring of David, and this offspring has a dodgy past.
Which bring us to the power statement of the angel in Joseph’s dream: ‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21). The obvious point is that Jesus’ people – those he came to save – are sinners, and need saving.
And this brings us back to David, who along with having a heart after God, is one of the capital sinners in the Old Testament. In 1st Samuel 11 we read about David’s double-whammy foray into adultery and murder. This is countered in 1st Samuel 12 with Nathan’s rebuke through story of a greedy rich man, culminating in the statement, ‘You are the man!’. David was a great sinner, and he was a great repenter; Psalm 51 teaches God’s people in every generation how to repent.
But back in 1st Samuel 11:1, we read about the context in which David’s sin occurred:
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
David was a warrior/king/poet, and his place was with his army. More than suggesting that bad things happen when we retire, this verse is a reminder that when we are serving God’s purposes, things go well, partly because we don’t have time, place, or occasion to sin. But when we remain at Jerusalem instead of going out to battle, we’re setting ourselves up for a big fail. There are generational purposes unfolding, and God is continually inviting us to join him in the family business.
As a ministry, we are deeply committed to not staying in Jerusalem but rather going to the nations on the Jesus agenda of reconciliation through the gospel. It’s easy for us to think, ‘I’ve done enough, I’ve made my contribution, now it’s time to chill and relax’. We don’t have that luxury.
The time will come when we all chill and relax – like Paul told the synagogue audience in Acts 13, David ‘fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption’. We’re all going to be fertilizing daisies eventually … but not yet. David’s body did not see corruption until ‘he had served the purposes of God in his own generation’. We have this brief moment on planet earth to serve God’s purposes, and then we fall asleep.
This is why our CBU Global Partners are so inspiring. We are a get it done people; who, like David, have made a commitment to serve God’s purposes in our generation. Rather than succumbing to the seductive voice that beckons us to ease and frivolity, you have said, ‘No … now is the time when kings go out to battle, and I will do my part so God’s purposes can prevail’. Every prayer we pray, every gift we give – every time we go above and beyond the call of duty of standard generosity to do something extraordinary, we enable great things to happen in the nations.
And this brings us back to Matthew 1, and the hall of sinners. The ancestors of Jesus were a bunch of messed up sinners, and chief on that list was David. This means that we don’t serve God’s purposes because we’re perfect; we serve God’s purposes in spite of our sin and because through Christ, we’ve been forgiven. This is what Christmas is about, God’s so loving the world that he gave his Son. For us, Christmas is that reminder that the good news is the God saves sinners.
Here at CBU we hope that you and your family have a blessed and beautiful Christmas season. We are so thankful for all you do to advance the gospel through generous giving, and we are deeply grateful for your ongoing commitment to generational influence. Like David, we want to keep saying ‘yes!’ to what God is doing in our generation.