Names in a Book

And a new year begins. Sure, it’s a few days early, but somehow getting a jumpstart on 2021 seems appropriate. Something about diving into Genesis, Matthew, Acts, and the Psalms that explodes with new beginnings.

There’s the beginning of all things, our beginning as those created in the image of God (Genesis). There is the origin of the Creator’s course towards entering into His creation through the womb of a virgin (Matthew). Then there’s the beginning of the church (Acts), those called to be the Bride of Him who created all things. And then, the beginning of a renewed promise of blessing for those whose “delight is in the law of the LORD” (Psalms). Each of these readings kind of a pick-me-up to be honest.

And, of all the things that could have enticed me to hover over them in this morning’s readings, a quite unexpected surprise of what captures my thoughts. . . and produces a fresh sense of awe . . . and primes the pump for an outpouring of praise. Just some names in a book.

For the past few years, when reading “the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ” in the opening chapter of Matthew’s gospel, I’ve grabbed my brown colored pencil and shaded five names in particular — Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, “the wife of Uriah”, and Mary. Shading something in brown is my way of highlighting something about grace. The fact that these five ladies appear in an otherwise all male lineup, in a genealogical culture that passes on heritage through the lineage of men, has always captured my attention as God’s bias-upsetting grace. And knowing the storylines behind some of these ladies, further jaw-dropping evidence of God’s unmerited favor.

But this morning, even as I went for the brown colored pencil, it hit me like a ton of bricks — I should be coloring every name in this list. Who isn’t here but by the grace of God?

Just start with Abraham, it’s not like he had an unblemished record. And though Isaac’s birth was grace upon grace, as God opened Sarah’s barren womb to provide the child of promise, Jacob was kind of a jerk. Striking this schemer from the list certainly could be justified, if not for the grace of God.

Sure, perhaps you could argue that Boaz deserves his place on the list, but even that this man conceived in iniquity should be raised up as a foreshadow of a Kinsman Redeemer ready to pay the price to claim a people for His own is grace beyond imagination. And though David has to make the list, if it were me I’d be inclined to omit the part that his son, Solomon, was “by the wife of Uriah.” Unless of course, my intent was to show that this genealogy is but a genealogy of God’s grace.

And don’t even get me going on some of the other kings mentioned. What’s Manasseh doing on the list?

But the list isn’t about them, is it? It’s about the King who came to establish His eternal kingdom, and that through a promised line of kings. And anyone who shows up on that list is there only because of God’s persistent purposes in fulfilling His promise — a persistent purpose which, apart from God’s abundant grace, would never see the promise fulfilled.

Just some names in a book? Don’t think so. Everyone of them evidence of God’s operative grace in sending a Savior to redeem sinners in need of redemption.

Did all those names personally respond to God’s grace? Don’t know. But I do know that, because of their place in God’s sovereign, redemptive determination, there is another book with a bunch of a names written in it who did respond.

A book where names have been written “before the foundation of the world.” The names of those purchased with the blood of “the Lamb who was slain.” Names written in “the book of life” (Rev. 13:8).

There due to no merit of their own. There despite their sin and rebellion. There only because of God’s grace.

Every name ready to be shaded with a brown colored pencil. Every name covered by the blood of the Lamb.

Every name there by God’s grace. Every name there for God’s glory.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

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