The Scriptorium

To Set the Captives Free

Jesus comes with liberation for His people. Matthew 1.12-17

Matthew 1: Immanuel (4)

Pray Psalm 137.4, 5.
How shall we sing the LORD’s song
In a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget its skill!

Sing contemplatively and with a heart sorry for your sins Psalm 137.4, 5.
(Gift of Love: Though I May Speak)
How can we sing, exalt Your Name, or praises bring amid our shame?
If we forget Your Church’s fame, O Lord, then let our hands grow lame.

Read
Matthew 1.12-17.

Prepare.
1. This part of Jesus’ genealogy begins in captivity in Babylon. How does it end?

2. How does Mary fit into this genealogy?

Meditate.
In Luke 4, in His first public proclamation, Jesus deliberately chose a passage that includes these words: “To proclaim liberty to the captives…” (Lk. 4.18). Jesus applied those verses from Isaiah to Himself. His coming signaled the release of the captives and the bringing of liberty to all who are oppressed.

Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus does not mention the return to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon. The message to his first readers was clear: We are still a captive people. But, as he would show, beginning in chapter 4, the people of his day were captive and oppressed by a foe far stronger than the Babylonian kings, a foe that Jesus would overthrow and one day destroy with a violence described as the crushing of his head (Gen. 3.15; cf. Ps. 137.9).

Matthew’s genealogy ends with Joseph, the legitimate heir of David’s throne. Mary is his wife, so her first-born would be in line to assume the kingship of Israel. We know this First-born as also Shiloh, the One for Whom the Kingdom of God has been prepared (Gen. 49.8-12), with Whom the Davidic dynasty ends. He receives the Kingdom from God and gives it to the saints of the Lord, as He puts all His enemies under His feet, until all nations bow and obey Him (Dan. 7.13-18, 27; Ps. 110; Phil. 2.5-11).

We should meditate a bit on Matthew’s threefold mention of fourteen generations. Three is the number of the Trinity, and it suggests that this genealogy derives from God’s plan and was sustained by His sovereign will and power. Fourteen is twice seven, the number of perfection, suggesting that the One with Whom this genealogy ends is doubly perfect – Son of God and Son of Man. Forty-two can be regarded as six sevens or “weeks” of generations, which terminates in a seventh generation that begins with Jesus, comprised of all those who, descending from Him by faith, enter the rest of God (cf. Heb. 4.1-10). Matthew’s readers would have pondered those three fourteens from every conceivable angle. Those who had come to believe in Jesus would surely have seen in them a statement concerning the Person and work of our Lord.

In the final verse, Matthew recapitulates the genealogy and its message: Jesus is the Heir of God’s promises, the King of Israel, and One Who has come to set the captives free.

Reflect.
1. Why should we slow down and meditate a bit whenever we come upon numbers in the Bible? Do all numbers have spiritual significance? How can we know which numbers might?

2. Before someone can be set free in Christ, he must first recognize that he is a captive. Explain.

3. In what sense does Jesus “crush” the head of Satan? What is the effect of this?

The reason why forty-two generations are given according to the flesh of Christ being born into the world is this: forty-two is the product of six times seven. Six, however, is the number that signifies work and toil, for the world was made in six days—it is a world made in work and toil and pain. So, appropriately, there are forty-two generations before Christ being born into the world in toil and pain, and these generations contain the mystery of work and toil.
Anonymous (no date), Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 1

Thank You, Jesus, for crushing the devil’s head and setting me free to know, love, and serve You, as I will this day by…

Pray Psalm 137.1-3, 6-9.
This bitter, angry psalm betrays a heart in deep distress for the sin that led to judgment and captivity. We can pray this psalm against the enemy of our soul, and call on the Lord to cleanse us of all our sins and bring our spiritual foes to ruin. This is why Jesus came, as we shall see in Matthew’s gospel.

Sing Psalm 137.1-3, 6-9.
Psalm 137.1-3, 6-9 (Gift of Love: Though I May Speak)
We sit beside the waters deep in broken pride, to mourn and weep
for Zion’s woes and all our sin: How great our foes, without, within!

No songs have we of joy to sing. Our enemy, to taunt and sting,
bids us rejoice, as they oppress: We have no voice to praise or bless.

If ever praise forsake my tongue, if Zion's ways no more be sung,
if greater joy by me be found, my lips destroy, no more to sound.

Remember, Lord Your boasting foes, who hate Your Word and visit woes
on your dear sheep that they may die: Cause them to weep and mourn and sigh.

How blest are You, our sovereign Lord, Who judgment true shall soon accord
to all who seek Your sheep to kill. Preserve the meek who serve You still.

T. M. Moore

The Gospel of Matthew will help us grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Two companion books can supplement our study of Matthew. To Know Him examines what it means to belong to Jesus and to love and serve Him (click here), while Be Thou My Vision enables us to gain an even larger perspective on Jesus (click here).

If you value Scriptorium as a free resource for your walk with the Lord, please consider supporting our work with your gifts and offerings. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute button  at the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore