"The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. . . .
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."
–Matthew 1:1–2, 17
Matthew 1 begins with a long family tree. I know what you're thinking: riveting! Actually, though, it is. This family tree is so screwed up that it feels more like watching Christmas Vacation than reading about the lineage of our Messiah. And people think the Bible is boring.
Abraham is an interesting character in this family tree. It's fitting to reflect on his story during Advent, because this man knew a lot about waiting. Abraham and his wife, Sarah, had waited and waited and waited to have children. Their Supper Club was full of great-grandparents, and these two just wanted to be parents. Elderly and childless, Abraham boldly and obediently followed God into the promised land of Canaan. Here, God told Abraham that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars and would have this land forever.
At the ripe age of 86, Abraham took this promise into his own hands. He decided to follow his barren wife Sarah's advice to go ahead and start this long-awaited family line by taking advantage of and impregnating their servant, Hagar. You could say there are better ways to wait on the Lord.
Despite these obvious sins and hurtful failings, God didn't abandon His covenant with Abraham. He actually reaffirmed it. God called Abraham into obedience and even changed his name to add two extra letters (originally Abram): "No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations" (Genesis 17:5). If God wants to give me two extra letters, I am now accepting M.D. or J.D.
Time goes on, the wrinkles continue to settle in, and the metaphorical AARP cards find their places in their wallets. However, Abraham and Sarah still have no baby in their arms.
"The Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
It is so unexpected of God to fulfill this promise that Sarah laughs. Isaac’s name even means “he laughs.” As surprising as it may have felt, God was faithful to His promise to them, and Abraham and Sarah’s long-awaited son, Isaac, was born. Oh, and then years later, God told Abraham to take Isaac to be sacrificed.
Can you even imagine? Waiting so long for something, gratefully receiving it, enjoying the gift, and then being asked to give it away? I'm kind of flashing back to getting my new phone taken up the day after Christmas in middle school for having a bad attitude.
But Abraham fully trusted God at this point. He knew that God would be faithful to provide, to bring a sacrifice in the place of his long-awaited son. After all, he had firsthand experience of God fulfilling His promises.
Abraham told Isaac, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:8). God sure did provide a sacrifice in Isaac's place, a ram that would instead take Isaac's fate of death. After God spared Isaac, an angel told Abraham:
"By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice."
True to His word and worthy of trust, God fulfilled His covenant to Abraham. Out of Abraham's genealogical line came another long-awaited Son. He had been waited on for years and years, and He too had a miraculous birth, a birth that never could have occurred without the hand of God. His Father also did not withhold Him, sacrificing Him as a substitution for our sins. And through this Son of God, through Jesus, the world would truly be blessed.
From the three mentions of Abraham in this genealogy of Jesus, what we find are further reminders of God's faithfulness. He was faithful to Abraham and Sarah. He was faithful to Isaac. And He's still faithful to us today.
He is faithful today even though you long for a ring on your finger or a sonogram on your fridge. He is faithful even though your timing this season does not seem to be aligning with His. He is faithful even though you can't wait for the next season to begin.
Tim Keller said, "You cannot judge by his calendar. God may appear to be slow, but he never forgets his promises. He may seem to be working very slowly or even to be forgetting his promises, but when his promises come true (and they will come true), they always burst the banks of what you imagined."
Thousands of years later, we still find ourself waiting for a promise to be fulfilled: for Christ to return to make all things new. But what we can do today is wait with the hope that God is faithful and only faithful.
That's a promise.