Ash Wednesday Devotion (Sorry this devotion is a few hours late!)

From the book of Matthew, Chapter 1
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham: 
Abraham was the father of Isaac, 
Isaac the father of Jacob, 
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, 
Perez the father of Hezron, 
Hezron the father of Ram, 
Ram the father of Amminadab, 
Amminadab the father of Nahshon, 
Nahshon the father of Salmon, 
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, 
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, 
Obed the father of Jesse, 
and Jesse the father of King David. 
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, 
Solomon the father of Rehoboam, 
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, 
Abijah the father of Asa, 
Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, 
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, 
Jehoram the father of Uzziah, 
Uzziah the father of Jotham, 
Jotham the father of Ahaz, 
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 
Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, 
Manasseh the father of Amon, 
Amon the father of Josiah, 
11and Josiah the father of Jeconiahand his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. 
After the exile to Babylon: 
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, 
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 
Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, 
Abihud the father of Eliakim, 
Eliakim the father of Azor, 
Azor the father of Zadok, 
Zadok the father of Akim, 
Akim the father of Elihud, 
Elihud the father of Eleazar, 
Eleazar the father of Matthan, 
Matthan the father of Jacob, 
and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. 
Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. 
Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son 
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yetdid not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.” 
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(which means “God with us”). 
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.


We know very, very little about Joseph. Some legends make him an old man who died while Jesus was growing up, but we don’t know that for sure. We know he worked in the building trade, including what we call carpentry. We know he could trace his ancestry back to the ancient royal house of David and Solomon (many first-century Jews knew their family history as well as many today know the story of their favourite soap opera, or the fortunes of their football team). And we know that Joseph faced a unique personal and moral challenge, and came through it with integrity and humility. Joseph, in this passage, provides a sharply personal angle for us to approach Matthew’s gospel.

Think how it was for him. Marriage beckons, quite likely arranged by the two families but none the less an exciting prospect. A home. Children. A new status in the community — in a small town where everyone knows everyone else and where, without television, everybody else’s life is part of a complex daily soap opera.

And then the shock. Mary has news for him, news to send a chill down the spine of any prospective husband. How can he possibly believe her strange story? What will people say? So he plans, with a heavy heart, to call the whole thing off.

Then, the dream. Mary’s story is true. What’s more, she and her child are caught up, not just in a personal challenge, but in a much older, stranger purpose. God’s purpose. God’s rescue operation, long expected and at last coming true. The child to be born will be ‘Emmanuel’, God-with-us. God with us to save us: hence the name ‘Jesus’, the same word as ‘Joshua’, the great leader who brought the people of Israel across the Jordan into the promised land. The name means ‘Yahweh saves’. God with us; God to the rescue.

Whenever God does something new, he involves people — often unlikely people, frequently surprised and alarmed people. He asks them to trust him in a new way, to put aside their natural reactions, to listen humbly for a fresh word and to act on it without knowing exactly how it’s going to work out. That’s what he’s asking all of us to do this Lent. Reading the Bible without knowing in advance what God is going to say takes humility. Like Joseph, we may have to put our initial reactions on hold and be prepared to hear new words, to think new thoughts, and to live them out. We all come with our own questions, our own sorrows and frustrations, our own longings. God will deal with them in his own way, but he will do so as part of his own much larger and deeper purposes. Who knows what might happen, this year, if even a few of us were prepared to listen to God’s word in scripture in a new way, to share the humility of Joseph, and to find ourselves caught up in God’s rescue operation?


Speak to us, Father, in a new way as we read your word. Help us to hear your voice and follow where you lead.

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