Over the course of life one develops certain expectations. We develop standards and scales by which we measure everything we encounter, about people, about ourselves, about life in general. Often these expectations are not misguided or unreasonable. They are based on our personal experience of patterns that we in turn come to expect. We rely on these expectations, although at times they confine rather than liberate us. For many, the expectation when approaching the word of God is that two things will be inevitable. First, the words will be uninteresting and irrelevant. Second, the presence of God will be present only to the imagination.
At first glance of the New Testament, in Matthew 1, those expectations seem to be verified with the famous “begats.” A list of difficult names to pronounce that, without background knowledge, feels distant and unnecessary. However, upon closer examination of this list one discovers a rather different message. Found within this list of begats is a range of people who, when grouped together, make up the complete and complex spectrum of human character, background, status and record. This list is best represented with one word: “imperfection.” This list of begats, that introduces the world to the life of Jesus Christ and the Gospel, not only defies the expectations that the word of God will be uninteresting and irrelevant, but exceeds even the best of expectations implied by a gospel of blessing and salvation. This list is the open-door policy of a God who has been gathering his people long before we personally emerged into this world, a God who does not seek a people cut out of a perfect cloth. Rather, He has been seeking to gather a people honest with their imperfections and totally overcome by his perfection. This list actually defies the idea that God’s presence and influence are only of the mind by presenting a God pursuing his people personally and directly throughout the ages. The quotation from Isaiah confirms this: the son of the virgin will not only be the savior of the world but will be “Immanuel,” “God with us.” This chapter, from the list of begats to the declaration of Immanuel, shows that the God of the Heavens has always been with us. His desire is to always be a God “with us.”