Scandal! Every Family Has One – The Promise Keeper

 

During the Christmas week, tables and living rooms across the world, families gathered. Christmas eve. Christmas morning. Christmas dinner. Then they gather in the long, lazy day after Christmas sitting together sharing stories, gifts, and great food. At least this is what we want, right? Some families have this experience. Some don’t. Some of us wish we had people to be with. Some of us get to be around people.

Scandal

At Christmas, some feel joy because they are together with people they loved. Others feel sadness because they aren’t, or don’t get to be with people they love because of one reason or another.  In the Christmas season, almost everyone responds to a deep desire in our hearts. What is that desire?

To be together. To belong. To be known, embraced, accepted. Whether we find this in our Christmas celebration or not, most of our hearts are responding to this desire, like a compass needle to a loadstone. Embedded deep in our hearts is a need to be together, to be included, to be seen and known and loved.

But there are some relatives that “we are forced” to spend time with, not really being with them, whom we don’t really connect with outside some kind of obligation. These are mostly relatives who are not like us. Their perception of life may be different from ours. In fact we consider them strange. Some struggle with certain habits like alcoholism and sloth that creep under our skin. While others have in their lineage involvement in social dynamics that threaten our very own security and survival like inclinations to manipulation and witchcraft.

All of us have nuclear or extended family members that we’re not exactly proud of. Whether on your father’s or mother’s side …or even across spouses’ family. We love them but we’re glad that they might live a couple of kilometers away. In fact, if we weren’t recording, I could keep you entertained for an hour with their stories! I’m sure if I featured as a topic in their conversation, they’re somewhere talking about my dysfunctions too! Yes we enjoy the holidays, but all of us have dysfunctional characters in our clans.

 

JESUS’ DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY LINE

Jesus had dysfunctional characters in his family line too. What we have done in this series, has been to study the genealogy found in Matthew, one of only two gospels that tells the Christmas story. Interestingly, Matthew begins the Christmas Story with the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew takes the time to pause each time he mentions the “colorful” (and not in a good way) characters along the way. These are strange, R-rated and unusual characters. Matthew draws our attention quite pointedly to them. But why would he do this? Well, as has been the theme of the “Scandal: Every Family Has One” series, these individuals are all part of and even the point of Christmas.

Matthew seeks to help us understand that God invites us, to approach Him, not based on our abilities or what we have done, but what He has done for us. So, to prepare his readers for this kind of message, Matthew talks about how Jesus is Jewish and is related to historical figures like Abraham and also to David as was promised by God. But he also points out all the other people who needed God’s mercy, forgiveness and grace. What’s more, Matthew points out the faults of the man who Jesus is closely associated with. The main City of Israel is named after Him. In fact, in this message, you will know this person as a great man of God. But when Matthew gets to this person’s name, instead of passing through while mentioning the great things that this man did, he slams on the breaks and forces everyone who’s reading his gospel to see this man’s flaws. Yes, pause and see what this guy would not have wanted to be remembered for.

 

JESUS’ ADULTEROUS, MURDEROUS GREAT GRANDFATHER

This was a man who was most closely related to Jesus in terms of personal life, character and ethics. But he was, at least at one point in his life, an incredibly dismal failure. Out of insecurity and fear, this man told a lie that caused 82 to 85 priests to be put to death. This guy betrayed and even put to death one of his closest and loyal friend’s to cover up something he himself had done with the man’s wife. This was the guy that destroyed his family and whose children even went to war against him. In fact, one of his sons chose to sleep with his father’s wives and concubines in public during the day to teach his dad a lesson. There are so many embarrassing seasons in this man’s life and yet this man’s name is the one closely associated with the Messiah that had been promised.

Matthew says, this is the genealogy of the Jesus the Messiah, the son of David. You can see how Jesus is closely associated with this man and is even being called his son. Yet Jesus was actually the great, great…great grandson of David, but prophetically, he was the son of David. Listen to how Matthew positions David in the genealogy. Matthew 1:6 “…and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.” Mathew look …. Why not introduce David as the builder, David the psalmist, David the warrior or even as the little shepherd boy who killed the giant Goliath? There is so much to say about David. Why focus on a chapter of David’s life that he wishes he could undo? Why would Mathew focus on David’s biggest failure? Why open up all the issues of dysfunction in David’s life?  Maybe Matthew is reminding his Jewish and Gentile audience to follow that even David … the focal point of the Kingdom of Israel … the man who was commended by God Himself as a man after His own heart … was a sinner and a failure as a leader, as a friend, as a father and as a husband.

Here is David’s story: it begins with a story which takes place 1,000 years before Jesus is born. There is a prophet named Samuel and God nudges him to go anoint a new king of Israel, out of Bethlehem at the home of Jesse and his sons. Samuel obeys and goes all the way to Bethlehem to find Jesse’s home. When he gets there, Samuel tells Jesse to call in his sons for he has a special message from God for one them. He has come to anoint the next king of Israel. So Jesse calls in his sons … Samuel sees the first strapping young son and he says to himself, “this must be the new king”, but God says “No”. Samuel then looks at the second son and thinks to himself the “this must be he”. But God again says “No”. Samuel goes to the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh son, but each time, God will not confirm a king. Probably Samuel wonders whether he had come to the wrong house or had heard his own things and not from God! Then he asks the dumbest question … “Jesse, I know you know your family … but do you have any more sons?” Jesse says, “Yes, but it is only my youngest son, David. He is out there in the fields tending sheep with the hired hands”. Samuel beckons for David to be called and waits. The young lad comes in running, sweaty and rugged … Samuel sees him, receives God’s confirmation and anoints David as Israel’s next king. David then blows his nose and runs out to take care of the sheep and be a kid again!

Years go by and through traumatic series of events David becomes the second King of Israel. Several years later, David is in his palace. He looks out and sees this tent that had the tabernacle – which carried the box that had the Ark of the Covenant, which represented where God was believed to reside. He decides, I have all that I have and am living very comfortably … why don’t I go ahead and build a house for the LORD? So David decides to build a temple for His Lord. He begins to gather resources to build a house for God. God sends Nathan the prophet to David with good news and not so good news.

 

2 Samuel 7:8-9, 11

And now so shall you say to My servant David, So says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel. And I was with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies out of your sight, and have made you a great name like the name of the great ones in the earth. And I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them so that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more. Neither shall the sons of wickedness afflict them any more, as before. And even from the time that I commanded judges to be over My people of Israel, so will I cause you to rest from all your enemies. Also the LORD tells you that He will make you a house. And when your days are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall come out of your bowels. And I will make his kingdom sure. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the sons of men.

 

2 Samuel 7:8 declares that God took David from the pastures and made him a ruler over nations. God says He will make David a name great like the greatest names on earth.

Here is a question: “Did you know about King David before you read this?” Virtually everyone knows of King David, so essentially this promise from God came true and it was predicted 3,000 years ago. David is now remembered as one of greatest men to ever live. Nathan also tells David that when his days are over, his offspring will also have their kingdoms established. But Nathan then tells David that David won’t build a temple for God, but rather his son (Solomon) would. God says through Nathan, “I will be his father and he will be my son” which basically means that God would be the loving disciplinary of his lineage. God adds that If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the sons of men. But God’s love would never be taken away from David as it was from King Saul. God promises David that his house would forever endure with Him. This was an unconditional promise to King David.

Four chapters later, David tests the patience of God in extreme ways imaginable … in an incident of lust and passion. This is the story of David and Bathsheba. David sees his general Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, on a rooftop bathing and becomes interested in her. He asks a servant who she is and is told it is your friend’s wife, Bathsheba. He asks where Uriah is and is told he has gone out to war. David asks the servant to bring her to him … to the palace – the symbol of power and authority in Israel. They do more than talking and Bathsheba becomes pregnant with David’s child. Now David has a mess in his hands.

So, David, to cover up his wrongdoing, invites Uriah – Bathsheba’s hubby – home from a war. But no matter how hard David tries to get Uriah to sleep with his wife, each time Uriah sleeps outside of his chambers because he says: he can’t sleep with Bathsheba in the comfort of his home while his men are fighting and dying in battle. At which point you may weigh the two and say the Soldier is more righteous than the King. Maybe, Uriah the Hittite should have been King!

Frustrated and angry, David becomes a script writer straight from Hollywood! David writes a note to Uriah’s superior Joab to tell him to send Uriah to the front of the battle lines and then to withdraw his troops at the heat of the battle. David gives the note to Uriah who diligently hands to Joab his very own death sentence! How low can one go? Joab receives the message and obeys the King’s commands. Uriah dies courageously fighting for the King who has authored his death. The report comes back to David and Bathsheba. Bathsheba mourns her husband and David brings Bathsheba into his home as his wife! From his perspective, everything is fine … His sin, has now been covered. But God knew! God knew the truth that was being hidden.

Here’s how the bible describes what David had done in 2 Samuel 11:27 But the thing David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord. It would seem that God had to decide whether or not He would retract his promises made long ago to David. In light of these circumstances – in light of David’s unrighteousness – does God pull back His words of promise to David? Or is a promise a promise? So, God sends Nathan the prophet, to confront David. David falls to his knees saying he had sinned against God. His famous words of confession are found in Psalms 51 where David pours out his heart to God as he recognizes his sin. He begs God for forgiveness. God forgives him of his sin, but he brutally chastises David…”with the rods of men and with the stripes of the sons of men” – especially through his children. Bathsheba’s child … who was conceived after the act with David dies. David’s sons war against each other and some betray David. His eldest son rapes his favorite daughter. His favorite son murders his eldest son. This favorite son even plans a coup against his father David, splits the Kingdom and humiliates his father by sleeping with his father’s wives and concubines in public! This favorite son is thereafter killed by Joab. All that David suffered was simply the consequences of his own actions.

 

A PROMISE KEPT

BUT throughout the chaos, throughout the disasters that overtook David, through all the mess that unfolded in his family and the shame and embarrassment that followed … God never withdraws His promise because it was an eternal promise. Even though God punishes David for his sin, His promise to David was eternal and therefore unshakeable. To the point that 990 years later, a man in the line of David named Joseph and his pregnant wife called Mary made their way to Bethlehem, even then referred to as the “City of David”. There she gave birth to the great great great….grandson of King David. The promised Messiah. Why? Because God keeps His promise(s).

If you are Matthew and you are an ex tax collector that had betrayed his people, and were the lowest of the lowest in righteousness … and had encountered Jesus and knew what it was like to have your sins forgiven, you would know the meaning of grace. If you are Mathew and you want to tell the story of the love of God that sends a savior to come into the world to save men from their sin, and you want them to know that no heinous crime or sin can keep you out of this grace of our LORD, then how can you not tell the story of David? How would you not tell the world that it is not about your personal righteousness, nor about who you are or what you have done but about who God is and what He has promised; that this Savior opens the door for men to fellowship with God’s Holy Spirit that works a newness of life in us? How could he tell this story without telling the story about David, the most revered Jewish man and not talk about David’s heinous sin and crime … and the fulfillment of God’s eternal promise to him? Matthew felt this was a perfect illustration of the story about to be told!

If you are about to tell the greatest story ever told … the story of this Savior who died a most painful and humiliating death so that the sins of men and women, young and old – would be forgiven, how would you not talk about this man who many esteem as a man of God … described by God Himself as a man after God’s own heart, and not show that he too, like all of us, has his major faults. This is the story that underscores the entire of the New Testament; that when God makes a promise, He keeps His promise. God is faithful to His promises and even the most heinous sin in the world cannot make God go back on His word.

But Mathew is about to tell of God’s new promise to mankind. A promise that was different to the one made to David. A promise that is not made to an individual but to ALL mankind, young and old, male and female, rich and poor. A promise God will keep. And is keeping to date. The promise that Jesus came into this world to forgive the entire world of sin. A promise that would be sealed with blood. The blood of one party not both parties. So when Jesus shed His blood on the cross, a new unconditional promise was made to ALL mankind by God. That whoever will believe in this promise will be saved, restored into the family of God and have eternal life. Matthew is seeking to make the point that there was a promise made by God to ALL people. An unconditional covenant. And Just as God kept His promise to David, He will keep his promise to all of us. God is not a respecter of persons!!

No one says this better than the angel who was sent to the shepherds as recorded in the book of Luke (2:10-14) (listen to this now through a new filter)

10 And the angel said to them, Do not fear. For behold, I give to you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

 

You and I are part of ALL THE PEOPLE! This is for all people, not just people of God, or Jews or good people or bad people, the in-people, the in-between people or those who know that they are ranked outsiders … yes, it is for ALL PEOPLE. This is a promise to everyone!

 

11 For to you is born today, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

 

When you hear “City of David” – David the promise breaker, David who used his power for personal gain, David the liar, David the man who put another to death to have his wife, David the family breaker – remember the promise that God made and kept with David. A Savior was born in this town. He was to be the Messiah and Lord.

 

12 And this is a sign to you. You will find the babe wrapped, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

 

THE PROMISE OF PEACE

God promises us peace. The only way He can give us peace is for Him to remove that which is between us and Him. The obstacle between man and God. Which is SIN. The main reason that we do not have peace is because we keep negotiating with God and make promises that we break over and over again and then feel unworthy of a relationship with God. “God you know I did not intend to do this”…. “God if you do this I will do that” …. We might negotiate and justify our sin, but God says it separates us from Him. As long as we keep sinning and as long as we keep negotiating our sins, we will never have peace. We might think that we have done too much to even deserve what God has done. It just doesn’t work.

The message and promise of Christmas is peace. Peace that comes when God removes the burden of sin from us. Peace that rests on us when the guilt, the shame, the weight, the fear of eternity without God – is removed once and for all by God. Peace that was paid for by the price of our Savior’s life, not through what we have done or are promising Him to do, but through our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus came to remove our sin. For God chose to once and for all remove from us the shame and weight of sin through Jesus the Prince of Peace. And do not say how bad you are for you will be reminded of the story of David in slow motion and with details … or that of Judah … Tamar … Rahab.

We just need to embrace it and believe the covenant promise of God with us, not based on what we have done or promised to do, but on what God has promised to do for us. Mathew the former tax collector who experienced this peace first hand knew, as he reviewed the Old Testament stories, that this is what God had been at work doing all along. But now through Christ, Mathew wanted us to know that in this new promise of God to ALL mankind, the final penalty has been paid once and for all.

The plea here is that we can ALL have the peace of God in spite of ourselves. But we have to see that we have forgiveness through Him. God has promised – and He is faithful as we saw in David’s story – to keep His side of the bargain! An unconditional promise of peace. A promise of forgiveness through Christ Jesus, the Prince of Peace. God invites you to come to Him. To come to the table that He has prepared for us to feast with Him: to be together again with Him. To belong. To be known, embraced, accepted. To be included in His family. For Jesus is not ashamed to call you His brothers and sisters! His brethren.

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