The Renown of His Birth

“I will raise up for them a plant of renown” (Ezek. 34:29)

Our Lord Jesus Christ has renown for the manner of His coming into the world. He was renowned in His birth. Matthew, Luke, and John each tells his own story of this renown in the New Testament. One does not repeat what the other has told. There is a distinct purpose in each evangelist’s story of the coming of the Lord of Heaven to this earth of ours.

Matthew’s story

Matthew first traces the royal genealogy down to “Jesus who is called Christ” from Abraham, through David, Solomon, and the kings. In this genealogy our Lord is seen coming to “confirm the promises made unto the fathers” (Rom. 15:8). Abraham had the “everlasting covenant” concerning the land of Canaan (Gen. 15:18): while David possessed the “everlasting covenant” concerning the kingdom and the throne (2 Sam. 7:16). In Matthew 1 our Lord has the renown of being born to be the promised King.

Luke’s story

Luke first tells of His birth, then traces His human genealogy backward through Mary’s father, through Nathan and David, to Adam, the head of the race. Luke tells all that needs to be known of the deep mystery of His being conceived of the Holy Ghost; and of His being born a Man and yet the Son of God (Luke 1:30-35). In Luke our Lord has the renown of being born a Savior into the world (Luke 2:11).

John’s story

John gives no details of His birth; and records no genealogy. John commences with sublime statements of the eternal deity of His person. John calls Him “The Word.” In one brief statement the whole wondrous story is told, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). In John our Lord’s renown of being GOD is most emphatically revealed. All that the others tell of His birth, in John’s gospel is comprehended in the one word “made.” “Made flesh.” “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). These three tell a threefold story of the renown of our Lord and Savior in His coming into the world.

The Genealogy of Grace

The dark story of Judah’s profligacy in Genesis 38, with its description of the dishonorable birth of Pharez, is written to show God’s marvelous grace. It reveals also the ruin of him who fathered the royal tribe. But for Matthew’s genealogy, this dark page of Judah’s history would never have been written.

By God’s direction the royal descent was not through Judah’s son Shelah, born in wedlock; but through Pharez, who though Judah’s son, was a bastard.

The way of grace

Why did the line of royal descent, finding its way from Judah to David, run through so shameful a channel as it did, as revealed in Genesis 38, were it not to reveal the character of God’s grace?

When Judah surrendered all the ensignia of his tribal honor to the supposed harlot as a pledge, he had lost all irretrievably, but for God’s sovereign grace. When the harlot could not be found, Judah said of the sceptre, the bracelets, and the signet, “Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed” (Gen. 38:23). As far as Judah knew, the sceptre was gone forever.

Like a hypocritical Pharisee, when Judah thought some other man was guilty, he said of his daughter-in-law, “Let her be burnt” (Gen. 38:24). When the restored pledge condemned himself, then Judah said, “She hath been more righteous than I” (Gen. 38:26).


It was the son of that unholy union—Pharez, through whom the sceptre was preserved to Judah (Matt. 1:3). What triumphs of grace can be seen in these three names in Matthew’s genealogy—Judah, Tamar and Pharez!

Count ten generations back from David, and you reach Pharez. Thus David was the tenth generation of a bastard. In Deuteronomy 23:2 this word is found: “A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord: even to his tenth generation, shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” This law would have excluded David the king, and all those in the royal line between him and Pharez.

The last five verses of the book of Ruth contain the names of ten men from Pharez to David. Is it not remarkable that that book of grace to a Gentile, Ruth of Moabitish blood, should end with ten generations of Pharez?

Why generations of Pharez rather than generations of Judah? It was only grace that brought into the congregation of the Lord, any of those of the ten generations of a bastard; even David the king, for the tenth generation reached even to him.

A Moabite

The next verse in Deuteronomy 23 places the same curse upon a Moabite (See Deut. 23:3). This implies to a thinking soul—the same grace that brought into the congregation of the Lord ten generations of a bastard, can also bring in a woman of Moabitish blood. Ruth pleaded “grace” (Ruth 2:10), and Boaz the mighty man of wealth said, “I will redeem” (Ruth 4:1-12). The whole subject of Ruth, chapter 4 is “redemption.” The insertion of the name Ruth in Matthew’s genealogy (Matt. 1:5) brings that lovely little book, that bears her name, to mind.


Here again the genealogy runs down the channel of free grace. The whole story of Naomi, of apostasy and recovery, is introduced by that one name, “Ruth.” Not only is the Gentile bride, Ruth, redeemed and purchased by Boaz; the fruit of that union—Obed, becomes to Naomi “the restorer of her life and the nourisher of her old age” (Ruth 4:15). The verse previous calls Obed, Naomi’s kinsman or redeemer.

In this we have a picture of our Lord being a Redeemer to the remnant of Israel, after the redemption of the Bride is complete.


Before the names of Boaz and Ruth are reached, the genealogy contains the names of Salmon and Rachab (Matt. 1:5). Why does the inspired historian introduce the name of her that had been the harlot of Jericho? Did a prince of the house of Judah stoop so low, as to lift up a woman of ill fame, and of Caananitish blood, and bring her into the royal line? Yes, Salmon did this. Was it to the tribe’s dishonor? No, the very reverse. The fruit of that union was not a son of shame, but Boaz the mighty man of wealth, and power (Ruth 2:1). The same was true of another Prince of the tribe of Judah—Jesus Emmanuel; with whom Gentile sinners have been “quickened together” and with whom we have been “raised up together and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5-6). This has been to “the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:6).

What Salmon did in bringing Rahab into the congregation of the Lord, was a sample and a type of our Mighty Prince’s acts, who “raises up the poor from the dust, and the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory” (1 Samuel 2:8). Rahab of course was a changed woman when she was brought into the congregation of the Lord. See Hebrews 11:31.

A channel of grace

This is the channel of grace down which the royal line descends. There are repeated evidences everywhere of the utter ruin of man, but just as often, the repeated introduction of the super-abounding grace of God.

This channel of God’s grace in reaching Solomon, the builder of the temple, must run by way of the names of David, and of “her that had been the wife of Urias” (Matt. 1:6). The account does not say Bathsheba, lest you might forget David’s great sin. The words, “her that had been the wife of Urias,” shew that great transgression in all its dreadful memory.

Had grace not been sufficient to meet a very great sin, in an highly honored person, the royal line never would have reached the name of Solomon. All the glory of Solomon and of his reign were the direct fruit of the irresistible grace of God.


Further down the line is the name of Jechonias, or Coniah (Matt. 1:11). God said of him, “As I live saith the Lord, though Coniah, the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence” (Jer. 22:24). Yet of Zerubbabel, the grandson of Coniah, God says, “In that day saith the Lord of Hosts will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Hag. 2: 23). This prophecy probably looks onward to that son of Zerubbabel—Joseph, the husband of Mary, who by taking Mary’s child to be his legal son, handed the crown or the title to it, down to Him.

Jesus only Joseph’s legal son

Although our Lord of course was not begotten of Joseph, when he accepted Mary’s unborn Son as his, Joseph became our Lord’s legal father. When Joseph registered the name Jesus as his son at Bethlehem, the royal line from Solomon, Jechonias and Joseph to Jesus was without a flaw.

All promises established

In the virgin born Son of Mary, Solomon had a son who was not his seed. The promise of Solomon’s throne and kingdom being forever, was fulfilled. See 2 Sam. 7:12; 1 Chron. 17:14; Ps. 89:36.

Our Lord was as truly the heir of Joseph, as Solomon was the heir of David. But all the conditional promises of God to Solomon, concerning his children and his house, were lost; for our Lord was not of Solomon’s seed. For these conditional promises see 1 Kings 2:4; 6:12; 8:25; 9:4; 1 Chron. 28:9; Psalm 132:12.

The double unconditional promise to David, concerning both his seed or house; and his throne or kingdom; is fulfilled through Nathan and through Solomon. See 2 Sam. 7:12-16; 1 Chron. 17:10-14; Ps. 89:20-37; 1 Chron. 22:9-10.

The promises concerning David’s throne descended through Solomon and Joseph to our Lord. The promises concerning David’s seed and house, descended through Nathan and Mary (Luke 3:31).

The explanation of Luke 3:23 is that Mary’s father, Heli, had no sons, thus Joseph his son-in-law, is called his son. Compare Numbers 36:1-13.

The curse on Coniah or Jechonias (Jer. 22:24-30) is fulfilled, for the Lord Jesus was not his seed, though through Joseph He was his legal son. The curse of Jeremiah 22 said of Jechonias, “No man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.”

Virgin birth a necessity

Had our Lord not been virgin born, this curse on Jechonias would have reached Him. There could be no man of the royal line of David, through Solomon and Jechonias, who could fulfill the promises to David and Solomon, but Christ. All others by natural generation would come under the curse of Jer. 22:29-30. This was pronounced by God’s oath on all the seed of that wicked man. Joseph’s son, begotten of him, could not be the king. He would have been the seed of Jechonias. But our Lord Jesus, born of a virgin, but in wedlock, was the legal son of Mary’s husband; and so could inherit Jechonias’ title, while completely escaping his curse.

Jechonias had the signet of royalty

Jechonias had the royal signet upon his hand all right. But Jechonias was so wicked, that had he himself been the royal signet upon the hand of God, He would have plucked him thence. But Zerubbabel of the seed of Jechonias was made as a royal signet, for God in grace made choice of him. See Haggai 2:23. This looks on to Joseph, a true son of David, though descended from Zerubbabel and Jechonias, and on to Joseph’s legal Son Jesus. He receives the royal sceptre, bracelets, and—signet of Judah; through God’s marvellous working as recorded in Matt. 1:18-25.

The curse of Jer. 22 stands; but so do the promises of 2 Samuel 7, and of 1 Chron. 17, etc. By the virgin birth of our Lord, Solomon and Jechonias have a son who is not their seed; and by Him all the promises are Yea and Amen. “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out” (Rom. 11:33).

The testimony of the genealogy

The genealogy of Matthew is a testimony to the unity and to the inspiration of the Scriptures. It is a witness to the utter worthlessness of man. It bears eloquent testimony to the grace, wisdom, and power of God. That genealogy and the prophecies it connects with, demonstrate to a candid mind the necessity of the virgin birth and its accomplishment. “Thou shalt call His name Jesus for He shall save His People from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). This word is like the fruit on a tree that strikes its roots into every part of the Old Testament Scriptures.

This first chapter of the New Testament supplies the sole reason for the writing of Genesis 38 and of the whole book of Ruth. The mourning and the music all point onward to His coming. The Kings and the Prophets unite in preparing for His coming. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the answer to the prophecies, and to the problems; all the lines converge on Him. He is the One, and there can be no other: God’s words were fulfilled and Christ Jesus came.

Four reasons why Jesus was Joseph’s legal son

We can see four reasons why our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was the legal son of Joseph the husband of Mary. Here they are:

(1) Joseph did not make Mary a “public example,” nor “put her away privily” when her condition became known to him. Read Matt. 1:19.

(2) Joseph married Mary before her child was born, thereby accepting her off-spring as his own son.

(3) Joseph owned Jesus as his legal son, when he called His name Jesus, and registered Him thus in the royal genealogy in Bethlehem. This was done without a word of explanation of any kind.

(4) Joseph, until the day of his death, never disavowed these actions.

Shining characters in a day of apostasy

Down the line of the “generation” of Matthew’s story, there are rather obscure but lovely characters, appearing now and again like stars in the firmament to brighten the moral darkness of the apostasy of the times. There are such men as Salmon, Boaz, and Zerubbabel; there are such women as Ruth, and Mary, the mother of our Lord.

No day was so dark as the day when Christ our Savior was born. No two characters shine with a holier, lovelier light than Joseph and Mary, the husband and wife to whom the care of God’s precious Son was entrusted.

What a shock to Joseph’s faithful love it must have been to discover what seemed like the indisputable evidence of Mary’s unfaithfulness. What perplexity and sorrow Joseph’s heart must have felt! As Joseph thought on what he should do, the true nobility of his loving and gracious spirit comes out. He was not even “willing” to make her a public example. That would have cleared his own name from reproach, but Joseph’s tender love was still so deep for Mary that he could not endure to think of the suffering this would cause her. Joseph would sooner have shame upon himself, just man though he were, than to have one he loved, though guilty, suffer the consequences of her supposed wrong doing. Joseph was minded to put her away privily. In that case, many would have supposed that after his lack of moral restraint, he had lost his interest in his espoused wife. What a noble spirit that was to suffer himself, rather than to let the seemingly guilty one bear the shame of wrong doing!

Joseph was poor, extremely poor. Instead of David’s royal city Bethlehem, he was living in the dirty little village of Nazareth. Instead of being a mighty man of wealth like Boaz, Joseph was a common carpenter. But Joseph was rich, rich in the treasures of the kingdom of God; rich with that rare treasure of the spirit of grace. When at last Joseph knew the blessed truth of Mary’s coming Son, and of His conception of the Holy Ghost, what shame he and Mary did bear together, even the reproach of Christ in His birth!


Mary also—what wonderful fortitude and trust in the Living God she manifested; telling Joseph nothing till God interposed on her behalf. How Mary’s heart must have pained as she watched the face of Joseph, who was to her the dearest one on earth! How strong that patient spirit, that could wait for God so long! Mary left herself entirely in the hands of God. What noble faith that was! That was the spirit that expressed itself in that lovely song of praise, “My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name” (Luke 1:46-55).

“Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch; and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name whereby He shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:5-6).

“The Branch that thou madest strong for thyself” (Ps. 80:15).

“Let thy hand be upon the Man of thy right hand, upon the Son of Man whom thou madest strong for thyself” (Ps. 80:17).

“I will raise up for them a plant of renown” (Ezekiel 34:29).

This is The Branch and The Plant that comes out of the “stem” or stump of Jesse. “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem (stump) of Jesse and a Branch shall grow out of His roots” (Isa. 11:1). Jesse’s family was a ruined house. The tree was long since cut down and only the dead stump and the roots remained. Everything was as hopeless as could be. There is a remarkable verse about a tree in the book of Job, that I think must refer to this family tree of Jesse and David. “For there is hope of a tree if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender Branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stump thereof die in the ground; Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant” (Job 14:7-9).

David’s whole inheritance for five centuries had been like this tree cut down with only its dead stump in the ground, when our Lord came to the world. Though all was so absolutely hopeless, yet out of that dead stump, and out of those roots in the ground, a living Branch came forth. That Branch was the Son of Man. That living sprout was the Lord Jesus.

“Raised up”

This coming of a Living Branch from a dead stump was a practical resurrection. The coming of the Plant of Renown from Matthew’s ruined genealogy was a being “raised up.” “And hath Raised Up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (Luke 1:69).

What did Abraham or David possess in the days of Herod the king? No more than the Plantagenets of four hundred years ago possess in England today. Everything was lost centuries before. That is, everything tangible and real in the eyes of men. Abraham’s children did not own the land, and David’s sons did not possess the kingdom. Then why call Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham? Neither of these fathers had any inheritance to be possessed by their sons now. There was one thing that yet remained; it was the root of the tree in the ground. There was one thing that these fathers still possessed and that was the Word of God.

The promises remained

The people, the land, the city, and the throne were all lost; but the promises of God remained. Matthew’s first chapter tells the story, how the last King of the line of Solomon was “raised up” by God. It was life from the dead. It was the clean out of the unclean. It was a Living Branch from a dead stump. “The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise.” Those words never needed to be said of any birth from Seth to Him. By the Holy Spirit the chasm was bridged. Joseph had a Son who was begotten of God, and whom God names Jesus Emmanuel. The seed of the royal family was vitiated and cursed forever in Jechonias. Only God and His promise remained. Virgin birth was the only possible way to escape the curse and death. In the most simple, artless way possible, the words of Matthew’s first chapter tell how it was accomplished.

“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt. 1:22-23). This is the story of how our Lord “was made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3); how The Branch, The King, was brought forth by the God of resurrection to fulfill every promise to Abraham and David concerning the land and the kingdom.

It is a marvellous story of God’s perfect weaving of the acts of His grace into the broken and otherwise ruined history of men. “Thou shalt call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Sins! Sins! this was the ruin. Jesus! Jesus! He was the remedy. Praise God forever!