If you’ve been with us on this journey at You Can Read The Bible, you have just watched the nation that the LORD had created get swept away into exile, to Babylon. The kingdom dismantled; Jerusalem in ruins; the Temple burned. Yet at the end of 2 Kings, there was a glimmer of hope, as Judah’s king – David’s heir – is at least alive, and even elevated to some prominence in exile.
Today we’ll take another break from the Old Testament and begin reading two Gospels: Matthew and Luke. While many of the accounts that these authors present will overlap, they each have distinct purposes and a unique story to tell.
Matthew’s gospel begins with Jesus’ genealogy, and for him the story of Jesus begins with Abraham. If you’ve been reading along from the beginning, there are a lot of names you’ll recognize in the first two-thirds of this genealogy. Except for those born in Egypt, you can almost trace the line from Genesis through 2 Kings. There are shepherds, there are kings, and later, there are exiles.
There are also women – four of them in fact – and none who had an easy life. Tamar, who posed as a prostitute, and Rahab, who really was a prostitute. Ruth, who clung to Naomi, and Bathsheba, who is identified not by name, but by her story.
Keep these four names in the background as Matthew introduces Mary, though betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. The author has already let us know that hers will not be an easy life either.
The majority of real estate in these chapters, however, is devoted to Joseph. Try to put aside what you already know about Jesus’ birth story and focus on what holds Matthew’s attention. Today Joseph’s name is mentioned twice as often as Mary’s. The genealogy flows through him. In Matthew’s account, the angel appeared to him in a dream three times; never to Mary. And Joseph’s fears drive the plot: fears about Mary’s pregnancy, of Herod, and of Herod’s son.
Pay attention as always to how repetition reveals themes and as dialogue both pushes the story along and reveals character. Notice that there are at least four direct references to prophecy in these two chapters. And consider the purpose Matthew has in citing these prophecies: is it just his curiosity, or is he making a point?
Our verse for this week is Isaiah 40:31: “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
Matthew chapters 1 and 2. Now let’s read it!
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.