As a child I attended an old country Baptist church called Six Mile Baptist Church. I guess it got that name because no matter where you lived, you had to drive six miles to get there. I believe it was one of the original Baptist churches because we used the original King James Version of the Bible.
Our church loved Scripture memory. They took Psalm 119:11 seriously: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” I guess they thought the only hope for this rowdy boy was the Scriptures; after all, nothing else was working. Each week, my Sunday school teacher gave me a verse to memorize and expected me to quote it the following week.
I did all my memory work from the King James Version. If you know anything about this version, you know it uses words that are—well, let’s just call them archaic. I knew more verses that used the word “beseech” than any other kid on the block, like this: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God” (Rom. 12:1a KJV). You knew you were close to God when you used “beseech,” “therefore,” “brethren” and “mercies” all in one breath.
And then there was that word the King James Version used over and over, 259 times in all: begat. You could hardly read a chapter without coming upon someone begetting someone else. This all began in Gen. 4:18, “And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech.” And so it continues throughout the Bible. The only problem was that no one would explain to us children what the word begat meant. I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box, but even as a child, I thought begat was close to what happened in Gen. 4:1, “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain …” It seemed whenever lots of “knowing” and “begetting” went on, lots of children were produced.
But God in His sovereignty used all this begetting to lead to one of the greatest stories of all time. The first chapter of Matthew opens with a whole lot of these begats. They begin in verse 2, “Abraham, who begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas,” and continue through verse 5, “Salmon begat Boaz of Rachab; and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse.” Fourteen generations and 38 begats later and you come to, “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (Matt. 1:16 KJV).
All this begetting would lead to Jesus being born at the right time of the right lineage in the right place so the Scriptures would be perfectly fulfilled. In a fallen, chaotic and messed-up world, all this begetting led to the fulfillment of a promise God made in Genesis 3:15 that he would one day defeat the power of Satan. In the Matthew account of all the begetting that ends in Jesus, you will notice that He used all types of people: rich and poor, kings and paupers, young and old, moral and immoral, promiscuous and virgins, heathen and religious, liars and truth-tellers, murderers and peacemakers. He used the imperfect to accomplish the perfect. Even today, He uses the most unlikely people to accomplish His purposes.
If you look closely, you will see in that word begat both the goodness and the faithfulness of God. And that, my friend, gives me hope. His promises are always kept, and His Word is always true. And do you know what? God still is in the begetting business. You see, the Christmas story is like two sides of a coin. On one side, you have the perfect plan of God, who fulfilled all the promises of Scripture in His perfect Son, Jesus. The other side of the Christmas story includes a bunch of imperfect people like Rahab, a liar and prostitute; and King David, a murderer and adulterer, just to mention a few. So if God can use them to accomplish His perfect will, I know He can use even a rowdy boy who grew up to preach, teach, take the gospel to the nations and write this column.
So I rejoice on two levels. I rejoice in the hope of Christmas “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11 KJV) and also that I can say with the Apostle Paul, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8 KJV). No matter what version you use, that’s something to celebrate.