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Late-night news is a poor sedative.

Last night it was for me. All I wanted was the allergen count and the basketball scores. But to get them, I had to endure the usual monologue of global misery. And last night the world seemed worse than usual.

Watching the news doesn’t usually disturb me so. I’m not a gloom-and-doom sort of fellow. I feel I’m as good as the next guy in taking human tragedy with a spoon of faith. But last night . . . well, the world seemed dark.

Perhaps it was the two youngsters shot in a drive-by shooting—one was six, the other ten.

Perhaps it was the reassuring announcement that twentysix thousand highway bridges in America are near collapse.


Our surgeon general, who is opposed to tobacco, wants to legalize drugs.

A billionaire rock star is accused of molesting children. One senator is accused of seducing associates, another of tampering with election procedures.

A rising political figure in Russia has earned the nickname of Hitler.

Pistol-packing drivers give rise to a new bumper sticker: “Keep honking. I’m reloading.”

The national debt is deeper. Our taxes are higher, the pollen count is up, and the Dallas Mavericks lost their fifteenth game in a row.


“And that’s the world tonight!” the well-dressed man announces. I wonder why he’s smiling.

On the way to bed, I step into the rooms of my three sleeping daughters. At the bedside of each I pause and ponder the plight of their future. “What in the world awaits you?” I whisper as I brush back hair and straighten blankets.


Their greatest concerns today are math tests, presents, and birthday parties. Would that their world would always be so innocent. It won’t. Forests shadow every trail, and cliffs edge every turn. Every life has its share of fear. My children are no exception.

Nor are yours. And as appealing as a desert island or a monastery might be, seclusion is simply not the answer for facing a scary tomorrow.

Then what is? Does someone have a hand on the throttle of this train, or has the engineer bailed out just as we come in sight of dead-man’s curve?

I may have found part of the answer in, of all places, the first chapter of the New Testament. I’ve often thought it strange that Matthew would begin his book with a genealogy. Certainly not good journalism. A list of whosired-whom wouldn’t get past most editors.

But then again, Matthew wasn’t a journalist, and the Holy Spirit wasn’t trying to get our attention. He was making a point. God had promised he would give a Messiah through the bloodline of Abraham (Gen. 12:3), and he did.

“Having doubts about the future?” Matthew asks. “Just take a look at the past.” And with that he opens the cedar chest of Jesus’ lineage and begins pulling out the dirty laundry.


Believe me, you and I would have kept some of these stories in the closet. Jesus’ lineage is anything but a roll call at the Institute for Halos and Harps. Reads more like the Sunday morning occupancy at the county jail.

It begins with Abraham, the father of the nation, who more than once lied like Pinocchio just to save his neck (Gen. 12:10–20).

Abraham’s grandson Jacob was slicker than a Las Vegas card shark. He cheated his brother, lied to his father, got swindled, and then swindled his uncle (Gen. 27, 29).

Jacob’s son Judah was so blinded by testosterone that he engaged the services of a streetwalker, not knowing she was his daughter-in-law! When he learned her identity, he threatened to have her burned to death for solicitation (Gen. 38).


Special mention is made of Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba (who bathed in questionable places), and Solomon’s father, David, who watched the bath of Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:2–3).

Rahab was a harlot (Josh. 2:1). Ruth was a foreigner (Ruth 1:4).

Manasseh made the list, even though he forced his children to walk through fire (2 Kings 21:6). His son Amon is on the list, even though he rejected God (2 Kings 21:22).

Seems that almost half the kings were crooks, half were embezzlers, and all but a handful worshiped an idol or two for good measure.

And so reads the list of Jesus’ not-so-great grandparents. Seems like the only common bond between this lot was a promise. A promise from heaven that God would use them to send his son.

Why did God use these people? Didn’t have to. Could have just laid the Savior on a doorstep. Would have been simpler that way. And why does God tell us their stories? Why does God give us an entire testament of blunders and stumbles of his people?

Simple. He knew what you and I watched on the news last night. He knew you would fret. He knew I would worry. And he wants us to know that when the world goes wild, he stays calm.

Want proof? Read the last name on the list. In spite of all the crooked halos and tasteless gambols of his people, the last name on the list is the first one promised—Jesus.


“Joseph was the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus. Jesus is called the Christ” (Matt. 1:16).

Period. No more names are listed. No more are needed. As if God is announcing to a doubting world, “See, I did it.

Just like I said I would. The plan succeeded.” The famine couldn’t starve it.

Four hundred years of Egyptian slavery couldn’t oppress it.

Wilderness wanderings couldn’t lose it.

Babylonian captivity couldn’t stop it.

Clay-footed pilgrims couldn’t spoil it.

The promise of the Messiah threads its way through fortytwo generations of rough-cut stones, forming a necklace fit for the King who came. Just as promised.

And the promise remains.


Those people who keep their faith until the end will be saved (Matt. 24:13), Joseph’s child assures.

In this world you will have trouble, but be brave! I have defeated the world (John 16:33).

The engineer has not abandoned the train. Nuclear war is no threat to God. Yo-yo economies don’t intimidate the heavens. Immoral leaders have never derailed the plan.


God keeps his promise.

See for yourself. In the manger. He’s there.

See for yourself. In the tomb. He’s gone.


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