Matthew 1

Happy New Year and welcome to our reading of the New Testament. These devotionals will arrive in your inbox Monday through Friday. Reading God’s word is much more important than reading my devotional thoughts, so if you are pressed for time on any given day, read the scripture passage and skip the devotional. But I trust the combination of scripture and devotional will be helpful to your spiritual life.

If you read the chapter I link to each day, you will read through the entire New Testament.

A couple of quick notes before we get into it:

  • This reading plan does not go through the books of the New Testament in the order they appear in the New Testament. Instead, I have spread each of the four gospels out over the entire year.
  • When we read through the book of Acts, we will stop after some chapters and read one or two of Paul’s letters. This corresponds to the point in Acts where scholars think those letters were written. So be aware for changeups as we read through Acts.
  • Just one more reminder: This is a Monday through Friday devotional plan. You will not receive emails on Saturday or Sunday.
  • Let’s get to today’s devotional!

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Read Matthew 1 today.

When I was growing up in the church and in a Christian school, I heard preachers occasionally say that someone was “on the shelf.”

This phrase was used to describe a Christian who had sinned in such a way that God would not use him or her again. Usually the sin the preacher had in mind was either divorce or adultery but I’m sure murder would be included and maybe other sins, too.

The implication of this “on the shelf” language was that some sins were so bad that God would never use that sinner again. God wouldn’t “throw you away” in terms of salvation because salvation is permanent. But, the thinking went, God will put you away where you can’t do any good for him and hopefully won’t do any damage.

What garbage!

Here in Matthew 1, we have a record of the genealogy of Jesus. It is a record of many people we know nothing about and a few that we know a lot about from the Old Testament. But, in addition to being a list of names, Matthew 1 is a record of God’s grace. Several people on this list would have been put “on the shelf” by self-righteous people and the preachers I’ve described above, but God used them still. Here are some examples:

  • Abraham (1:2): He believed God but he also impregnated his wife’s servant to help God out. A lot of believers would put him “on the shelf” after his sin with Hagar.
  • Jacob (1:2): He stole his brother’s birthright and deceived his father to steal his brother’s blessing. Many would put him on the shelf.
  • David and Bathsheba (v. 6): Mentioning their names together reminds you that their relationship started in adultery. David also murdered Bathsheba’s husband, so God had multiple reasons to put him “on the shelf.”

I could go on, but you get the point. It is true that some sins disqualify people from serving as elders or deacons, but nobody who is in Christ is ever “on the shelf.” God can and will use you if you trust in him, even if you aren’t qualified for an official biblical office of service.

This chapter is more than a genealogy–it is a record of the grace of God. Every person listed in this chapter, except for Jesus himself, was a sinner and no sinner is truly worthy of serving or being used by God. But God is so gracious and so powerful that he chooses to use sinners for his purposes and his glory that others would put on the shelf.

Have you concluded that God can’t or won’t use you because of your past sins? Do you have present struggles that feel make you unusable for God?

Repent of those sins and turn from them if they are ongoing, then put those thoughts out of your mind. If murderers and polygamists and adulterers and other kinds of sinners can be part of the genealogical line of Jesus Christ, then any and every sinner can be forgiven and used by God in some way to glorify him.