VALLEY REFORMED CHURCH
Savoring God through literacy in His literal Word
Not A Noble Birth
Corinthians 1:20-31(ESV) ~ 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
This morning, we turn our attention to the birth of Christ, which was not, by human standards, a noble birth. When we think of noble births, we think of the current Queen Elizabeth, whose family is descended directly from Theodoric I, Count of Wettin of 916 A.D. Elizabeth is directly descended from many British royals: from the House of Stuart, from Mary, Queen of Scots; Robert the Bruce, and earlier Scottish royal houses; from the Welsh House of Tudor and earlier Irish and English royal houses stretching back as far as the 7th century House of Wessex. Due to her lineage, Queen Elizabeth prefers to be addressed as "Your Majesty", even by close friends.
Lineage is very important by human standards, because it is commonly believed that good genetic traits are passed on and contribute to the character and make-up of worthy and intelligent people. You can imagine how disappointed the Jewish people were in Jesus day, when their long-awaited King came into town riding on a donkey over palm branches spread by poor people. What I hope to point us to in this message, is the Supremeness and the Excellency of Jesus Christ, the One who the elect are celebrating this Christmas season.
Things are not as they seem nor as we expect them to be. If anything in Scripture points to the Sovereignty of God, it is without a doubt, the lineage of our Savior. Turn with me to Matthew chapter 1.
Matthew 1:1-6(ESV) 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,
Let's stop here in the genealogy and look at some notable and historical facts.
Jesus descended directly from Abraham, that common man to whom God promised to bless many through his seed, but who as a man, lied to a King in saying that his wife was his sister. This was not a noble act.
Consider the story of Judah and Tamar. Turn with me to Genesis 38:1-30(ESV):
1 It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and turned aside to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. 2 There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua. He took her and went in to her, 3 and she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er. 4 She conceived again and bore a son, and she called his name Onan. 5 Yet again she bore a son, and she called his name Shelah. Judah was in Chezib when she bore him. 6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. 8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. 10 And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also. 11 Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house, till Shelah my son grows up”—for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and remained in her father’s house. 12 In course of time the wife of Judah, Shua’s daughter, died. When Judah was comforted, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13 And when Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14 she took off her widow’s garments and covered herself with a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she had not been given to him in marriage. 15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17 He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” And she said, “If you give me a pledge, until you send it—” 1 8He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19 Then she arose and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood. 20 When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite to take back the pledge from the woman’s hand, he did not find her. 21 And he asked the men of the place, “Where is the cult prostitute who was at Enaim at the roadside?” And they said, “No cult prostitute has been here.” 22 So he returned to Judah and said, “I have not found her. Also, the men of the place said, ‘No cult prostitute has been here.’” 23 And Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, or we shall be laughed at. You see, I sent this young goat, and you did not find her.” 24 About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” 25 As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” 26 Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again. 27 When the time of her labor came, there were twins in her womb. 28 And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29 But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore his name was called Perez. 30 Afterward his brother came out with the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah.
Jesus descended from Perez, whose birth was not a noble birth.
Consider that Salmon, the father of Boaz, married Rahab, the harlot. I quote:
"but in the royal genealogy of Jesus, Rahab is referred to as being the wife of Salmon, one of the two spies she sheltered. In turn, she became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth from whose son, Obed, Jesse the father of David came, through whose line Jesus was born (Matthew 1:5, where the asv reads, “Salmon begat Boaz of Rahab”—not Rachab). Salmon was a prince of the house of Judah, and thus, Rahab, the one time heathen harlot, married into one of the leading families of Israel and became an ancestress of our Lord, the other foreign ancestresses being Tamar, Ruth and Bathsheba. The gratitude Salmon felt for Rahab ripened into love, and when grace erased her former life of shame he made her his wife. Jerome’s comment of the inclusion of the four foreign women in Matthew’s genealogy is suggestive—
In it none of the holy women are included, only those whom the Scriptures blame, in order that He who came in behalf of sinners, Himself being born of sinners, might destroy the sins of all.
Both Jewish and Christian writers have tried to prove that Rahab was a different woman from the one whom the Bible always speaks of as a “harlot.” To them it was abhorrent that such a disreputable person should be included in our Lord’s genealogy and by Paul, as a woman of faith, and so her story has been distorted in order to further a scheme of salvation based upon human goodness. Although man’s sense of refinement may be shocked, the fact remains that Rahab, Tamar and Bathsheba were sinful women who were purged by God, and had their share in the royal line from which Jesus sprang." The birth of Boaz was not a noble birth, yet Christ is descended from him, and Boaz married a foreigner, Ruth, and produced Obed, another from whom our Savior descended. Of course we are quite familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba, both of whom are included in the lineage of Christ.
Let's continue on with the genealogical record from Matthew chapter one, verse seven, and note the kings listed in the lineage of Christ, most of whom had genes you wouldn't be proud to have passed on.
7and Solomon the father of Rehoboam (did evil), and Rehoboam the father of Abijah (did evil), and Abijah the father of Asaph (did right), 8and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat (did right), and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram (did evil) the father of Uzziah, 9and Uzziah (did right) the father of Jotham (did right), and Jotham the father of Ahaz (did evil), and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah (did right), 10and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh (did evil), and Manasseh the father of Amos (did evil), and Amos the father of Josiah, (did right) 11and Josiah the father of Jechoniah (did evil) and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 12And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
Not only was our Savior's lineage filled with sinful people like ourselves, but He was not born in a regal estate, as have been people of noble births. Turn with me to Micah, chapter five. This book was written 700 years before Christ's birth.
Micah 5:1-4(ESV) 1 Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek. 2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.
There were two Bethlehem's in Israel and this one, designated by Ephrathah, was the Bethlehem in Judah, and according to our text, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah. Christ, if He had come to us as the nobility of our day, He would have come from the great city of Jerusalem, but instead He came from a small obscure town.
There are two more significant things about Christ's life as a newborn baby.
Matthew 2:13-15(ESV) 13Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1)
And the second,
Matthew 2:19-23(ESV) 19But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Many in our day claim that there is no Old Testament verse that makes this claim, but St Jerome, an early church father, points out that the correct translation of Isaiah 11:1 is thus: "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots," in the Hebrew idiom it is written thus, "There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse and a Nazarene shall grow from his root." " (Jerome, Letter 47:7)
No person of claimed nobility, no great leader of any great nation, has come to the world with so humble a lineage as Christ has come, but also no current or past person of great leadership and nobility has earned the titles and names ascribed to Christ. Not only has Christ accomplished this, but it was prophesied that He would, hundreds of years before His birth.
Isaiah 9:6-7(ESV) 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
There are over 200 names and titles given or ascribed to Christ in the Bible. Here are some of the more prominent ones:
Chief Cornerstone, Firstborn over all creation, Head of the Church, Holy One, Judge, King of kings and Lord of lords, Light of the World, Prince of peace, Son of God, Son of man, Word, Word of God, Word of Life, Alpha and Omega, Emmanuel, I Am, Lord of All, True God, Author and Perfecter of our Faith, Bread of Life, Bridegroom, Deliverer, Good Shepherd, High Priest, Lamb of God, Mediator, Rock, Resurrection and Life, Savior, True Vine, Way, Truth, and Life.
No other prophet, king, leader, or noble person has ever been given names like these, and to most, these names are just names, but to the elect, those for whom Christ died, these names describe Him, His perfect role in salvation, and who He truly is to us personally.
Just as His birth was not a noble birth by men's standards, his death was not a noble death. He didn't die of old age or of an accident, but at the hands of an angry mob who rejected His coming as the Son of God and King of the Jews. His death on a cross was a criminals death, although He was not a criminal and His death was planned and ordained by God before the foundation of the world.
Only God can prepare and order the lineage of a human being. If it were possible for a human to order the lineage of a future human, you can be sure that it would be filled with great men and women, not a despised and rejected man who sought the company of poor people.
This Jesus whose birth we celebrate today, is our Jesus, our Christ, and our Savior, and He is able to intercede for us regardless of our lineage and regardless of our sin, because
2 Corinthians 5:21(ESV) 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
At that moment on the cross, Jesus bore all of the sins of the elect and became the sin bearer, so that God's justice was declared against Him. This Jesus, our Jesus, was raised from death to reign at the right hand of God and to make intercession for us.
The elect have cause to celebrate Christ, but not just His birth, not just His death, and not just His resurrection, but the fact that He is reigning now and continues to hear the pleas of His saints.
Romans 8:34(ESV) 34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
This is our hope and this is our confidence and this Christmas season reminds us that regardless of our past, regardless of the effects of our past, we have a living Savior to whom we cling and to whom we can cry out. There is room at the throne of the risen Savior for His elect children.
Hebrews 4:14-16(ESV) 14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
May this season of joy remind us to celebrate Christ by constant communion with Him. He is our life and our joy and in Him, we are safe.
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By Bob Martin | Dec 25, 2016 | 1Cor 1:20-31 |