1 Chronicles 2:1-4 (NIV) 1 These were the sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, 2 Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 3 The sons of Judah: Er, Onan and Shelah. These three were born to him by a Canaanite woman, the daughter of Shua. Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so the LORD put him to death. 4 Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law, bore him Perez and Zerah. Judah had five sons in all.
On verses 1-55: Here the Chronicler continues to list the ancestors of King David, and eventually, of Jesus Christ, starting with Israel’s sons in verse 1 all the way to David in verse 15.
When I read these verses, it strikes me how the family that gave rise to David King of Judah and eventually Jesus Christ was, from a human perspective, the type of family that no one would expect to give birth to a king.
First, you have Abraham and Sarah, the grandparents of Israel, who were not supposed to have children in their old age. Both Abraham and Sarah wavered in their faith. Abraham lied. Sarah doubted. Both of them even agreed to execute a sinful strategy to “help God accomplish His plan” by having Abraham sleep with their maidservant Hagar. Yet, even when they were faithless, God was faithful to His promise to give them a son of their own called Isaac.
Then, in the next generation, Isaac and his wife Rebekah are barren and not able to have children. Yet God miraculously blessed them with a child.
Then, in the next generation, between Esau and Jacob, naturally one would think that God would choose Esau, who had all the rights, privileges and power as the firstborn of Isaac. Yet God chose the younger brother Jacob to be the one whom through whom He would bring forth His chosen family.
Then, in the next generation, among Jacob’s 12 sons, Judah (v1) is the one who sleeps with his own daughter-in-law Tamar while she is pretending to be a prostitute. Judah would probably be the last of all Jacob’s sons whom you would pick to be the ancestor of King David and Jesus, and yet God chose one of the twin babies that came from Judah and Tamar’s incestuous relations, Perez, to be the ancestor of King David and Jesus (v4-5).
Then, in the next generations, Perez’s son Hezron would have three sons called Jerahmeel, Ram and Caleb (v9). One would think that the king of Judah would come through Jerahmeel, Hezron’s firstborn son, or Caleb, the most outstanding of Hezron’s three sons. In fact I believe the reason why the Chronicler goes out of his way to list the descendants of Jerahmeel and Caleb in verses 18 to 55 is to show how much more outstanding they were as compared to Ram. And yet Ram would be the one God chose to ultimately bring forth Nahshon (the eventual leader of the people of Judah – v10), Boaz (the famous hero in the book of Ruth – v11-12), King David (v15) and ultimately Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Thus, given the odds and the oddities inherent within each generation from Abraham to Ram, it seems that God chose the most unlikely of families to bring forth Judah’s greatest king and our Saviour Jesus Christ. David himself becoming king of Judah was unlikely given that he was the youngest of his brothers (v13-16). Jesus being born in a little town like Bethlehem and growing up in a small town of Nazareth as a carpenter’s son – none of this was the pedigree you would expect for the King of kings. And yet that’s what God chose – the least likely.
What can we learn from this? Here are two lessons we can learn:
God chooses us as His family not because we earned that status by our righteous deeds, and not because from a human perspective it makes sense that He would pick us. Rather, God chose us strictly as a matter of His sovereignty and grace. It’s a matter of His sovereignty because in choosing the least likely of families to bear a king, God showed His power to do the impossible. It’s a matter of His grace because here God was showing undeserved kindness to a broken, sometimes faithful though often unfaithful family. God loves to use and choose the least likely of people.
Do not discount what God can do in and through you simply because of (1) your background, including the mistakes of someone else in your family; (2) your own mistakes; or (3) what you have or don’t have humanly speaking. The greatest story God wants to write in and through your life has to do with Him working His power through your weakness. Your weakness or problem is a story of God’s strength and power just waiting to happen.
Heavenly Father, thank You for showing us through these genealogies that You love to use the weak to shame the strong, the foolish to shame the wise. You love to make Your power known in our weakness. Though I might be tempted to think that my background, my past, my family or my resume disqualify me, You show that You can use anyone. Just like You showed undeserved grace to people like Judah, use me, Lord, to make Your Son Jesus known in this world. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!