Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why Would Matthew Point Out King David's Faults?

All of us have extended family members that we're not exactly proud of. We love them but we're glad that they might live a couple of states away. We enjoy the holidays, but all of us have dysfunctional characters in our clans. "I'm sure somewhere they're talking about my dysfunctions too." says Andy Stanley as he opens "Promise Keeper", the fourth of his "Unexpected Christmas" series.

Jesus had dysfunctional characters in his family line too. What Andy has done in this series is 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. What Andy points out to us is that 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 is the theme of the "Unexpected Christmas" series, these individuals are all part of and even the point of Christmas.

Matthew seeks to help us understand that God invites us, not based on what we have done, but what He has done for us. So, to prepare the people for this kind of message, Matthew talks about how Jesus is related to Moses and David, but he also points out all the other people who needed God's forgiveness. What's more, Matthew points out the faults of the men closest to Jesus. 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, he slams on the breaks and forces everyone who's reading his gospel to see this man's flaws. This was a man who was most closely related to Jesus in terms of character and ethics, but he was, at least at one point, an incredibly dismal failure. Out of insecurity, this man told a lie that caused 82 to 85 priests to be put to death. This guy put to death a friend to cover up something he himself had done. This was a guy who ran around on his wife and this was a guy whose children even went to war against him.

The man we are talking about is King David. Matthew says, this is the genealogy of the Messiah, the son of David. Jesus was actually the great, great...great grandson of David, but prophetically, he was the son of David. Listen to how Matthew introduces 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." Why not introduce David as the builder, as the psalmist, as the warrior or even as the little shepherd boy? He is a man that Jews most closely associated with Jesus. Why focus on a chapter of David's life that he wishes he could undo? Why would he focus on David's biggest failure? Andy suggests that Matthew is reminding his Gentile audience that even David was a sinner and a failure as a leader, as a friend, as a father and as a husband.

Second Samuel 7:8 begins a story which takes place 1,000 years before Jesus. There is a prophet named Samuel and God wants him to go anoint a new king of Israel, out of Bethlehem at the home of Jesse and his sons. Samuel tells Jesse to call 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 same, but God again says "No". Samuel goes to the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh sons, but each time, God will not confirm a king. "Do you have any more sons?", asks Samuel. Jesse says, "Yes, but it is only my youngest son, David. Samuel beckons for David, 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.

Years later, David is in his palace. He looks out and sees this tabernacle, which represented where God was believed to reside and David decides to build a temple for His Lord. God sends Nathan the prophet to David with good news and not so good news. Nathan says 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. To make a point, Andy asks, "How many of you already knew about King David before you got here today?" 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 (later 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. His 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.

Four chapters later, we see the story of David and Bathsheba. David sees his general Uriah's wife, Bathsheba, on a rooftop bathing, becomes interested in her and invites her to come be with him in the palace. Bathsheba becomes pregnant with David's child. So, David, to cover up his wrongdoing, invites Uriah 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. Frustrated and angry, David calls Uriah's superior Joab to tell him to send Uriah to the front of the battle lines and then to withdraw his troops, which will basically give Uriah a death sentence. After Uriah dies courageously fighting, David brings Bathsheba into his home as his wife.

What David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord. God had to decide whether or not He would retract his promises made long ago to David. So, God sends Nathan to confront David. David falls to his knees saying he had sinned against God. God forgives him, but he punishes David through his children. His sons war against each other and several betray David. Even Bathsheba's child dies in all this. BUT God never withdraws His promise because it was an eternal promise. In fact, 990 years later, a man named Joseph and his wife Mary made their way to Bethlehem, even then referred to as the "City of David". God kept his promise. All that David suffered was simply the consequences of his own actions.

If you are Matthew and ex tax collector who knew what it was like to have his sins forgiven, you would know the meaning of grace. Here, Matthew is trying to tell the story of how Jesus came into this world to forgive the entire world of sin. How could he tell this story without telling the story about David and God's eternal promise to him? Matthew made the point that there was a promise made by God to ALL people. It was a promise and an unconditional covenant. How could Matthew not focus on the most revered Jewish man in all of history? Just as God kept His promise to David, He will keep his promise to all of us. Matthew felt this was a perfect example!

In the book of Luke (2:10), the angel says (listen to this now through a new filter) " I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people..." This is for all people, not just people of God, or Jews or good people or bad people it is for ALL PEOPLE. I hope that when you hear "city of David", that from now on you will think of the promise that God made and kept with David. A Savior was born in this town . He was to be the Messiah and Lord.
God promises us peace. The only way He can give us peace is to remove that which is between us and Him. We might negotiate and justify our sin, but God says it separates us. We might think that we have done too much to even deserve what God has done. But we have to see that we have forgiveness through Him. We just have to embrace it and believe the covenant 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. Now through Christ, the final penalty has been paid, but it is not a covenant of two parties, but just one: God. We can all have the peace of God in spite of ourselves.

As long as we keep sinning and as long as we keep negotiating our sins, we will never have peace. It just doesn't work. The promise of Christmas is peace, which is the price of our Savior's life, not through what we are doing but through our Lord, Christ Jesus.

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