When Samuel was sent to find Israel’s new king from among the sons of Jesse in 1 Samuel 16, God gave him this one command: do not focus on what he looks like, because I know the state of his heart. So, when God revealed that it was David who would be the next king, Samuel may have been a little confused— David was the youngest and smallest, a simple shepherd boy—but Samuel anointed David, showing trust in God’s wisdom and plan.
The Bible doesn’t tell us whether Samuel knew that this decision would have eternal messianic implications for the redemption of mankind. But the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel emphasizes how David’s kingship was a part of God’s plan to call a people to himself and to bless the nations through them, the plan he set into motion when he called Abraham to follow him.
As we read the list of names in the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew, we may be tempted to skim over it to get to the “good stuff,” the stories about Jesus and his life. But let’s not miss the rich beauty that is woven into this genealogy. The word “genealogy” comes from the Greek word genesis, which means beginning or origin. The genealogy in the first chapter implies that, much like the book of Genesis, the book of Matthew is a book of beginnings; God is doing something new among his people.
And Matthew sets the stage for this new beginning by detailing this list of ragtag men and women—liars, prostitutes, adulterers, and foreigners—that led up to “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). Matthew established Jesus’s messianic identity by demonstrating how his lineage was intertwined with the covenants God made with Israel. When Matthew called Jesus “the son of David,” he linked Jesus’s identity to the Davidic covenant and the promise that David’s offspring would have an eternal throne. Then, he linked Jesus to Abraham and the promise that Abraham’s descendants would be a chosen people set apart to bless the whole world.
In doing so, Matthew shows how God had a plan from long ago to graciously redeem his wayward people. From the promise to Abraham of a chosen people to the promise to David of an anointed ruler, God was setting apart a people for himself through whom he would send a Messiah, the anointed one, who would rescue his people from their sins.