Is it only the hope born so relentlessly in a new year’s first hours?
Or is YHWH’s purpose as unstoppable as it appears this first morning?
… and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel .. (Matthew 1:11–12 ESV)
From the conjunction of a January 1st and the first verses of the New Testament emerges a fresh glimpse of divine purpose, pushing through the bitter-sweets of the year just gone and into the face of all manner of fears about the one taking shape under our feet.
Matthew—grouping a genealogy of the about-to-be-born Jesus into an artifice of fourteen generations here, another fourteen there—molds history’s apparent chaos to make it a bit more ordered and orderly than rapid readers in the twenty-first century might understand it to be.
Between one fourteen and another, he skips over an apparent end-point: deportation, or exile. In the world of Babylonian eminence, a people did not emerge from exile. They either died in its grip or assimilated into the empire’s powerful ways and means so as to become unrecognizable among the flotsam and jetsam of once-proud peoples and nations now subjugated by the empire’s irresistible force. So was Israel’s great crisis short-handed as ‘exile’.
Yet Matthew skips over Babylonian captivity as though it were nothing. Well, not quite nothing, but nothing more than a comma in the long story of YHWH’s purpose.
Exilic calamity brands death into the bodies of less favored nations, who will die sooner or later far from home and be forgotten when they do.
Not to those who serve the divine Father of the about-to-be-born Jesus. They taste the same blood as those who are ground into dust by history. Their hearts race to the same fears. They curse the same mornings. Far from immunity to history, they have been thrust into its sweaty core.
But, just when all seems list, a new fourteen appears, a biographical cluster that promises life, progeny, and future.
And now, we are about to be told, a king is born. His name means ‘He rescues’.
And, on top of that, it is January 1st, when all things are possible.
Give us fourteen more, then.