I have been co-teaching The Gospel Project on Sunday mornings during the Sunday school hour, and the subject for the past few months has been the exiles and return of the exiles. The whole time I had been preparing to help teach, I wanted to include the genealogy of Jesus recorded in Matthew 1. I never really got a chance to mention that particular genealogy, and as it turns out, it was for a good reason! We got a chance to camp out on the genealogy for a whole Sunday school class time.

It is so crazy how much this genealogy in Matthew one means to me. I am so moved by the simple inclusion of the deportation of the Israelites as they were taken captive by the Babylonians. When the exiles returned home, they were one people again. The exile is the only event recorded in the genealogy! Jeremiah predicted that the exile to Babylon would exceed/ out do/ be more significant than the deliverance of Egypt (Jeremiah 16:14; 23:7). It is a new spiritual marker.

I will never forget the moment I saw with my spiritual eyes this inclusion in Matthew. I was in the throes of writing Back From Captivity and somehow I came across it. It was one of those moments that time stopped for me. It was a moment between God and me where Scripture jumped off the page and catapulted supernaturally into the heavenlies to pierce my heart with a message of good news. I remember I stopped reading when I came to the phrase “After the exile to Babylon” (Matt. 1: 12) and looked around me as if Someone had written it just for me. It felt as if Someone was pointing at those Scriptures, highlighting them, then penetrating them in my heart and mind to reveal in my spirit that God, my Heavenly Father, knows where I have been and what I have been through. That it is all a part of my identity, but that none of it is in vain. It has served a purpose. The event – the exile – or whatever one may be experiencing – even the terribleness of it – has a divine place with divine plans and divine purposes. I suppose it validated for me that what Satan meant for harm, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).

If you feel as if your future is wasted or lost or too messed up because of your track-record; that now your life is a mistake, a complete disaster because of what you have done, take in the words of the famous hymn Amazing Grace which so profoundly testifies, “I was lost but now I am found!” Child of God, you have a new beginning! Do you see that in the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1? You have a new beginning!! You are found not to live in shame and embarrassment or humiliation, but to live nearer to the Father’s heart, to be close to Him, to look even more like Him, to be covered by His blood shed for you, to be redeemed, bought back, to be found in Him. It isn’t your story, but His story over your life. It isn’t about your mistakes. It is about you being found by God.

This is the message of the cross. This is the message from Genesis to Revelation. This is the message of salvation. This is the message of forgiveness. Jesus did not die only for the sins you committed before your time of salvation – the time before you accepted Jesus to be Lord over your life – He continues to offer His forgiveness for our sins committed overtly and covertly after salvation. This is an ongoing relationship. The Scripture, “Forgive us our sins” as recorded in the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11:4 is not to be a one-time prayer but a daily prayer. The books I, II, & III John were written for the early Christians, those belonging to the family of God. Jesus admonished the believers when He wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:8-9).

If you are not familiar with the account of the Babylonian exiles of when God allowed King Nebuchadnezzar to take captive Israelites, who were living in the Promised Land, because of their continual rebellion against God and their idolatry, but after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, God allowed King Cyrus to declare a decree issuing those captives to return home to Jerusalem to live again as one nation and people serving God together. Know that having to leave the Promised Land and being taken captive was the worst of the worst. For the Israelites it was corporately and individually the lowest time of their lives. Their identities were stripped. All that they knew of who they were as a people of God was ripped away – exposed for anyone and everyone to see their shame. It was a dark time of being isolated due to their own sins of ignoring of the prophets and believing lies. Their lives collapsed right before them as they hit rock bottom. God through Moses warned of what would happen to the Israelites if they were disobedient. This is the description of being sin-sick, of being in captivity:

“Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, “If only it were morning!” – because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see.” Deuteronomy 28: 65-67

Michael Card in The Bible Speaks Today uses the word “nadir” to represent this point of Israel’s history. It was the all-time low.

Here in Matthew 1, the very first book of the New Testament, we find this genealogy, this list of men and women in the lineage of the only perfect person to ever walk this Earth – to find individuals who were far from perfect, but who also did not continue to live in sin, but at their low times, looked up to their Redeemer, Deliverer, Savior. Within this genealogy of the generations leading up to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, beginning with Abraham, tucked away among many names is the nadir of Israel’s history. It was the Lord’s will not to omit it, skip over it, ignore it, act as if it didn’t happen, choose that it didn’t happen, or replace it with a grand event. Including this event in the genealogy of Jesus Christ means something to you and me. This is quite significant. I believe we can apply this significance personally and/or corporately. Whatever it may be that is a part of your track-record that you consider to be your lowest point in life, the thing that has humbled you, and yet has also caused many grievances to the point of you coming to the end of yourself – may be or has been the very thing God uses as a testimony in your life of His goodness, grace, love, and faithfulness. Your past, your journey, even with the dark times marked with guilt, can be redeemed and used to manifest the glory of our God and Savior. Whatever you or your family has gone through or is going through – when you feel so alone and unusable – God is revealing to you that in Him there is hope. What the Israelites came through and overcame, so you too can live and survive through this time to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13). Whatever your blot may be – divorce, bankruptcy, loss of job, prodigal child, infidelity, alcoholism, imprisonment – God is not finished with you; He has beautiful plans for you. Your calling is not null and void. God is great and awesome and will uphold you. Rest in Him and find your way in Him.

“You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning, my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” Psalm 18: 28-29