The Seven - Thousand Year Miracle (Part 2)
John Heading, Aberystwyth
From Abraham to David
From Abraham to David
As time went on, Abraham had no son, though he had the promise that God would make of him a great nation, and that all families of the earth would be blessed in him, Gen. 12. 3. Evidently here was the royal line, having been plucked out of idolatry in Ur of the Chaldees. Later, as childless, he thought that his heir would be outside his family, 15. 3. However, the divine promise was still with him, and Abraham's faith was counted 'to him for righteousness', v. 6. He was 'strong in faith', Rom. 4. 20, but Satan tempted Sarah his wife to suggest to Abraham that he should have a son through her maid, Gen. 16. 2. Here was Satan's apparent chance to pollute the royal line-this son was Ishmael born through Hagar, likened by Paul to 'bondage', Gal. 4. 25. But God triumphed with a child of promise, and Sarah ultimately bore Isaac as the one to continue the royal line. This conception was a miracle, showing that God was in control, and 'in Isaac shall thy seed be called', Gen. 21. 12.
The birth of Isaac's twin sons is the next event necessary for consideration. Rebekah had been barren, and everything rested upon her having the correct son. The Lord heard Isaac's prayer, Gen. 25. 21, and twins were born. Of course God knew what would happen-it would appear that the sons would be born in the wrong order, but God had already stated that 'the elder shall serve the younger', implying that the royal line would pass through the younger son Jacob. Certainly there was no need for Jacob to have gained the birthright because Esau was faint and ready to die, neither was there any justification for his obtaining his father Isaac's blessing by deceit. God would have intervened without Jacob's intervention. Certainly the royal line would pass through the one with the birthright, but Rebekah and Jacob's plan brought trouble for many years to come. After that it was not clear which of Jacob's sons would be found in the royal line, since Reuben was the firstborn, Gen. 29. 32, while Judah was the fourth. Joseph appeared to have had a special place in God's economy, but it was not until Jacob's blessing given in faith that Judah was recognized as the seed, 'The sceptre shall not depart from Judah ... until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be', 49. 10.
The statement 'Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar', Matt. 1. 3, is a perfect illustration of 'where sin abounded, grace did much more abound', Rom. 5. 20. Satan was active in a general way, not knowing, we feel, that Judah was destined to be in the royal line when the events in Genesis 38 took place. He attacked all who would submit themselves to temptation, and hence Genesis 38 is seldom, if ever, read in a public meeting, for it makes shocking reading. As Phares grew up as a boy, he must have wondered how Judah could have been both his father and grandfather at the same time. But such are the sinful muddles that can arise when sex becomes an object of sinful practice. The capacity to sin was passed on through the royal line from Adam onwards, and this ceased only when the Lord Jesus was ultimately born.
A detailed list of the subsequent family of Judah is given in 1 Chronicles 4. 1-23, though the royal line itself is traced in 2. 4-15 up to David. Easy after the event to see the unfolding of God's plan, but impossible before the event to see who was who! In fact, by the time that the children of Israel encamped in the wilderness, those numbered in the camp of Judah were 186,400, Num. 2. 9. Where was the royal line to be found amongst that amorphous mass of mankind? Hence when the people were latterly in Egypt, Satan had to adopt other tactics. He worked through Pharaoh, who commanded the Hebrew midwives, 'if it be a son, then ye shall kill him', Exod. 1. 16. By this means, he hoped that the next son in the royal line would be eliminated, thereby cutting the line once for all. But he reckoned without the faithfulness of the midwives; they 'feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive' v. 17. Again, when Moses was up mount Sinai receiving God's commands for the building of the tabernacle, Satan tempted the people to ask Aaron to 'make us gods', Exod. 32. 1, and Aaron readily obeyed! The result was that divine judgment fell. Levi was the only tribe to remain on the Lord's side, and was therefore commanded by Moses to 'slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour', v. 27. About 3000 were slain, Satan no doubt hoping to trap the man at the apex of the growing royal tree, but God overruled, and the royal line was safe.
'Booz (Boaz) begat Obed of Ruth', Matt. 1. 5. It would appear that Boaz was older and unmarried, yet the royal line was to pass through him. Here may have been Satan's attempt to corrupt the line, for the story of Ruth is well known. Boaz' wife was to be Ruth, a Moabitess, Ruth 1. 4. Strictly this was not allowed, Exod. 34. 11-17; Deut. 23. 3; 1 Kings 11. 1-2; Neh. 13. 1, 23-27. Yet here was divine grace in operation, since Ruth associated herself with Naomi, Ruth 1. 16-17, possessing the true God as her God. Thus the line continued safely up to David.
The fact that Saul the king was not in the royal line was quite clear to Satan, for he was of the tribe of Benjamin and not of Judah. Rather, David the youngest son of Jesse was anointed to be king, 1 Sam. 16. 1-13, even though Samuel had made a natural mistake at the beginning of the selection process. God was in control, and it was now obvious that the royal line leading to Christ would pass along the royal line of the Judaean kings. Satan would now do his utmost to dispose of David even before he formally became king upon Saul's death. So the king sought to kill David with a javelin, or by hunting him in the mountains. But the preserving hand of God watched over His choice, so that 'David spake unto the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul', 2 Sam. 22. 1; Ps. 18 title.
Satan tried his worst to deal with David. On three occasions there were attempts to replace David as king by false men: Absalom of whom it was said that he had killed 'all the king's sons, and there is not one of them left', implying that he was the only possibility to be king, 2 Sam. 13. 30; 15. 10; Sheba, 2 Sam. 20. 1; Adonijah, 1 Kings 1. 5. In terms of modern vocabulary, these were take-over plots or coups, whereby men attempt to overthrow a legitimate ruler. All three men met their deaths in violent ways.
But more seriously, it is tragic to realize that David fell into adultery and pre-arranged murder to satisfy his desires. Satan was working in the heart of a king whom he knew was in the royal line. Yet grace abounded, and Bath-Sheba is mentioned in Matthew 1. 6 (as the wife of Uriah) in the Lord's regal genealogy. The first son of this false union died, according to the word of Nathan the prophet, 2 Sam. 12. 14, 18. But the second son was a product of divine grace; this was Solomon, 'and the Lord loved him', v. 24. God had already predicted concerning this son: 'I will establish his kingdom ... 1 will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son', 2 Sam. 7. 12-14, this last sentence being quoted in Hebrews 1. 5, reinterpreted so as to refer to the Son of God. Once again, grace superabounded where sin abounded; the royal line would pass through Solomon.
From Solomon to the Captivity
Satan was now ready to attack Solomon, and succeeded even before he became king. Satan influenced him morally and religiously. In 1 Kings 14. 21 we read that Rehoboam (Solomon's son) was forty-one years old when he commenced to reign. Since Solomon reigned forty years, 1 Kings 11. 42, this implies that Rehoboam had already been born during the last year of David's life when he was passing on so much spiritual responsibility to Solomon, 1 Chr. 28-29. However, in the two verses 1 Kings 14. 21, 31 we are informed that Rechoboam's mother was 'Naamah an Ammonitess', and such a union was not allowed. Yet divine grace permitted this son to be in the royal genealogy leading to Christ. It was not obvious at the beginning that this son would be in the line, for king Solomon had many foreign wives, such as the daughter of Pharaoh, 2 Chr. 8. 11, and then wives from many of the nations around, who introduced him to idolatry, 1 Kings 11. 1-8. Had Satan triumphed after all? For God said, 'I will rend the kingdom from thee, and give it to thy servant (Jeroboam)', v. 11. Was this to be the end of the royal line? How good to read in verse 13, 'I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen'; again, 'lhat David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen to put my name there', v. 36. Thus came about the subdivision of the kingdom, and the royal line would pass through the kings of Judah in Jerusalem, the city of the great King.
During the long period of these kings, there were several occasions when the royal line nearly came to an end, when it. existed only by the most slender of a thread. Clearly Satan was behind this, but God was ensuring that the slender thread could not ultimately be broken.
We continue our study with king Jehoram, being the firstborn of the previous king Jehoshaphat, 2 Chr. 21. 1-3. Because of his evil in walking in the way of the opposing kings of Israel, the Lord took action. The Philistines and Arabians came and took away 'his sons also, and his wives', v. 17. But the Lord was watching over the slender thread in this process of judgment, and 'there was never a son left him, save Jehoahaz, the youngest of his sons'. The royal line was thus safely reduced to one. This youngest son also had the name Ahaziah, 22. 1. Later, Jehu from the Northern Kingdom slew 'the sons of the brethren of Ahaziah', and then killed Ahaziah as well, vv. 8-9. This means that only the sons of Ahaziah were left in the royal line. In anger, Ahaziah's mother, Athaliah, then 'destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah', v. 10. Such a statement suggests that the royal line had come to an abrupt end, but God was watching over this royal line, and Joash the youngest son was preserved by the faithful high priest Jehojada in the house of God for six years, v. 12. At the end of this period, the Levitcs were gathered together to announce the great fact that Joash was king, in spite of Athaliah's cry 'Treason, Treason'. Thus the royal line leading to Christ was preserved according to the purpose of God.
We now turn our attention briefly to the good king Hezekiah (Ezekias in Matthew 1. 9). He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and after another fourteen years he still had no son who would form part of the royal line, 2 Kings 18. 2. In fact, he was 'sick unto death', and the prophet Isaiah said, 'Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live', 20. 1. But in the purpose of God, the king lived another fifteen years, v. 6. After three more years, Hezekiah had a son Manasseh, who therefore commenced to reign at the age of twelve, 21. 1. In spite of his wickedness, he was in the royal line to lead to Christ.
The last good king in Jerusalem was Josiah. He had four sons, and it is interesting to note that Matthew records, 'Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon', Matt. 1. 11. We may ask, why are 'his brethren' mentioned? This is important when we consider what happened in the Old Testament, for a less-than-careful reading may suggest that the royal line came to an abrupt end (if we did not have the preserved genealogies to inform us otherwise).
The first son to reign was Jehoahaz; after three months he was taken captive at the age of twenty-three by Pharaoh-nechoh, and brought into Egypt where he died, 2 Kings 23. 31-34. No sons are mentioned to carry on the royal line. Pharaoh then made Josiah's son Eliakim king, changing his name to Jehoiakim, v, 34. He at least had a son, and after eleven years Jehoiachin commenced to reign, 24. 6; his other names were Jeconiah and Coniah. However, he was taken captive into Babylon, and his evil was such that God said through Jeremiah the prophet (using his name Coniah}, 'Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah', Jer. 22. 30. Thus it appears that the royal line would not pass through Josiah's second son.
The king of Babylon then 'made Mattaniah his father's brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah', 2 Kings 24.17, namely the third son of Josiah. But after eleven years, he and his sons were taken captive to Babylon, where his sons were killed, 25. 7. And there in Babylon Zedekiah also died as a prisoner, Jer. 52. 11. It seems therefore that the royal line had come to an end, with the sons and grandsons of Josiah either dead or ineligible to continue the line. (The fourth son of Josiah, Shallum, recorded in 1 Chronicles 3. 15, was out of the running for some unspecified reason.) Had Satan after all triumphed?
From the Captivity to Christ
We return to Jeremiah 22. 30, where the Lord spoke to Josiah's grandson Coniah. The verse must be taken as a whole, and not in parts. Just to read, 'Write ye this man childless', gives a wrong impression of what the Lord was saying. What is intended is the whole verse, namely that [Jehoiachin would not have a son to sit on the throne of David in Judah. That is an entirely different matter. Thus after thirty-seven years captivity, Jehoiachin was released, 2 Kings 25. 27-30, and the growth of his family tree is given in 1 Chronicles 3. 17-24. Various suggestions have been made to explain the position of Zerubbabel in this tree, but Ezra 3. 2; Haggai 1. 1; Matthew 1.12 are quite clear: Zerubbabel was the son of Shealtiel, who was the son of Jehoiachin. But the throne of David remained unoccupied. Indeed there was a return from captivity to Jerusalem, and Zerubbabel was a faithful leader and builder amongst the Jews, but he was not king.
From that stage onwards, it was not clear to men or to Satan who constituted the royal line. Only God knew the particular men who are named in Matthew 1. 13-16. Thus Satan had to adopt tactics that hit hard upon a mixed mass of humanity, and this took place during the intertestamental period. Many events of this period were predicted prophetically in Daniel 11. In particular, Antiochus Epiphanes invaded Jerusalem and slaughtered its inhabitants. The sufferings of faithful Jews are described in the two books 1 & 2 Maccabees in the Apocrypha. By this means Satan used the evil Syrian king to attempt to wipe out the royal line. Perhaps he thought that he had succeeded, until the events of the New Testament started to unfold. God had preserved the royal line as He always had intended to do.
Joseph was to be the legal parent of the Lord Jesus to establish His right to the throne of David. Matthew 1. 16 presents the safe ending of the genealogy, and is carefully worded, 'Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ'. The word 'begat' is used throughout the genealogy, but not here as far as Joseph was concerned; the doctrine of the virgin birth is carefully preserved. Luke 1. 32 informs us that this One, Jesus would have the throne of His father David, 'and of his kingdom there shall be no end'. In other words, the safety granted throughout the Old Testament had come to a glorious conclusion. The Messiah and King of the Jews had been born.
But Satan was still active even at this stage. Without going into details, we note that in Revelation 12. 1, Israel is described as 'a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet'. She was ready to bring forth a Man Child, but Satan, described as 'a great red dragon' is seen ready 'to devour her child as soon as it was born'. We believe that this describes Satan's effort to destroy the One who had been born, and whose preceding royal line he had been so desperate to disrupt or to destroy. As far as inspired history is concerned, we find the event that answers to this intention in Matthew 2.1-18. The political and religious leaders in Jerusalem were used by Satan in his effort to destroy the Man Child. The magi from the east properly recognized the sign that implied the birth of the King of the Jews. The chief priests and scribes properly interpreted their Old Testament Scriptures, by quoting Micah 4. 2. But their interpretation meant nothing to them; only the magi went to .Bethlehem to find the Man Child, there to worship Him. King Herod, fearful of his own position (certainly not in the royal line), determined to end the possibility of a rival King rising up to displace him. But he could not, of course, locate the Young Child in Bethlehem, since he had no miraculous guidance that God had afforded to the magi. Like Pharaoh before him, there was only one solution to his problem, namely, to slay 'all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under'. Matt. 2. 16. By this means he certainly would have eliminated the rightful King of the Jews, but of course he could not succeed. Joseph had the vision in a dream, and he and Mary, with the Young Child, departed into the safety of Egypt for a season, before Herod could instigate his evil plan. Thus Satan's intention was broken.
Satan was ready to act, either directly or through men, as often as possible. It was now not only the Lord being King of the Jews, but He was to be the Saviour and Redeemer of men of faith. Although it was the Spirit that led Him into the wilderness, Luke 4. 1, yet Satan was ready with a plentiful supply of temptations, both during the forty days and at the end. Of course the Lord could not sin and did not sin. His quotations from the Old Testament showed Satan exactly where He stood regarding the will of God, and as completely defeated he had to leave Him for a season, v. 13, What Satan could not do directly, he now used the evil propensities of men to seek to achieve.
He resorted to direct physical attacks. Thus in Luke 4. 29, men who were filled with wrath at the Lord's teaching in the synagogue led Him to the brow of the hill on which Nazareth was built to 'cast him down headlong'. Of course they did not succeed. In John 8. 59 the Pharisees took up stones to cast at Him, but He passed by since His hour was not yet come. In John 10. 31 they sought to do the same thing, again with no success.
He also used the method of inciting the religious leaders to plot the death of the Lord Jesus. Thus in Mark 3. 6, the Pharisees and Herodians took counsel 'how they might destroy him'. In John 5. 18, 'the Jews sought the more to kill him', while in John 11. 53, the chief priests and the Pharises 'took counsel together for to put him to death'. All this came to nothing until the Lord's hour was come.
But when His hour was come, Satan was more active. He caused Judas to betray Him; he caused the Jewish Sanhedrin to condemn Him for blasphemy and false teaching; he caused the people to desire Caesar rather than the Lord as King, and to cry 'Crucify him, crucify him'; he caused Pilate to condemn Him to be crucified.
And thus the Lord died on the cross; from Satan's point of view, the King of the Jews was at last dead, after all his unsuccessful attempts to destroy the royal line previously. Had Satan triumphed through the hands of men? He must have heard the Lord often referring to His resurrection on the third day, hence the Pharisees with Pilate at his instigation arranged a guard at the tomb, sealing the stone, 27. 62-66.
But Satan's triumph reckoned without the supertriumph of God, who used the Lord's death as the means of accomplishing the redemption of all believers. For it was the power of God that raised up Christ, setting Him at His own right hand, Eph. 1. 20. In fact, Satan's efforts had been completely defeated, with the greatest work of Cod accomplished at the same time.
But if Satan could no longer attack the royal line of the King Himself, then he could still attack the work of Christ as it continued here on earth, for Satan was both an angel of light and a roaring lion. So he attacked both believers individually and the church collectively. Persecution, imprisonments and killings formed the first method of attack. Stephen was martyred, Acts 7. 60; the church was scattered, 8. 1, while Saul brought believers to Jerusalem and some were put to death, 9. 2; 26. 10. But the church, as the body of Christ, continued to expand throughout Judaea, Samaria and the uttermost part of the earth under Paul's evangelistic ministry. In other words. Satan's efforts at persecution failed. Admittedly he has used this method over the centuries, both today in some countries, and in the past to prevent the translation and distribution of the Holy Scriptures. All such methods have failed to remove the church from off the earth, even though some countries have declared themselves to be entirely atheistic.
Satan's other method has been to spread the tares amongst the wheat. Matt. 13. 25, by the introduction of false doctrine, false teachers, false prophets, false evangelists, and false translations of the Scriptures. Paul came face to face with all this in his day, and today heresy and cults abound, denying the essential Deity of Christ and the holy doctrines of salvation. But the truth of the Word of God remains; the body of Christ and the house of God remain, whatever the false doctrine raised by propaganda within it or outside it may or may not achieve, Rom. 16. 17-18; Gal. 1. 6-9; 2 Pet. 2. 1. For example, the theory is advanced in some places that the Lord did not rise again on the third day, asserting that He never really died, or that the one who died on the cross was a substitute for the Lord Jesus. People are more willing to listen to the voice of Satan than to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
It will be in the future when Satan's next direct attempt against the Lord Jesus will take place. The nations of the world will be locked in battle, when the Lord will step forth as King of kings and Lord of lords; every eye shall see Him. Men will turn their weapons upon Him (how sophisticated will they be then?), as Revelation 17. 14 says, 'These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them'. The wrath of the Lamb is dreadful to contemplate, for here is the One who 'taketh away the sin of the world', John 1. 29, yet in the future He will be engaged in fearsome judgment, when Satan who instigated the warfare will be bound for a thousand years, Rev. 20. 1-3, to deceive the nations no more. Upon his release there will be plenty of men ready to engage in battle again, when 'the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire', 20. 7-10. But the Son of God lives for evermore.
In other words the purpose of God triumphs from the beginning to the end. The ongoing seven-thousand year miracle that we have traced has preserved the royal line, Christ Himself in His Manhood, the church subsequently as the body of Christ and as the bride of Christ, and the Lamb in the final battle. All Christians today still have their part in this ongoing miracle; they should rejoice and be glad in it. 'What hath God wrought!' we should exclaim, Num. 23. 23. We should listen to the words of the Lord Jesus, 'With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible', Mark 10. 27.