It’s quite common for church choirs here to make CDROMs and DVDs in part as a fund raising measure. So when recently the Cathedral hosted a visit from a Kenyan choir, it was no surprise to discover, as I was leaving the building, that there were DVDs for sale. Happy to support such ventures, I bought one.
Later that day I put it on to discover that it was a video of their carol service, a mixture of congregational carols, choir items and Bible readings. I was half-watching it whilst doing other things, when my attention was caught by a reading with a repeated word, ‘Akamzaa’. I then realized that the other words were mostly named, and deduced that I was hearing Matthew chapter 1, ‘Akamzaa’ meaning ‘begot’ (or ‘was the father of’ as the New International Version puts it). I found a Swahili Bible, looked it up and within a minute or so was following the reading along, with the same pleasant sense of having solved a problem as I get with difficult Killer Sudokus.
Meanwhile, I have finally come to an end of my time in the Old Testament – for now, anyway. Would say that the ‘NIV Application Commentary’ series is the most superb resource in supporting serious and sustainable Bible study, available on the Kindle which is just brilliant! So I’ve decided to move on to Matthew’s gospel, partly because it’s the first book of the New Testament, but also, in capitalizing on the time spent in the Old Testament, because it’s the gospel which draws on it most, so forming a bridge between the two sections.
So, of course, I start at Matthew chapter 1, the genealogy of Jesus, lots of ‘so and so begot so and so’ (or ‘akamzaa’ in Swahili). I wonder how many Christians glance over this section very quickly? Or even get discouraged from reading the Bible at all, thinking that this is how it is going to continue?
But with some knowledge of the Old Testament this genealogy gives rise to all kinds of insights into the nature and person of our Lord Jesus Christ. The fulfillment of the Old Testament in Jesus Christ comes through, with clear continuity from the Old to the New. Jesus as King is demonstrated through a number of Kings, most noticeably David, being present in the list. The fact that he is Lord of All is shown by a number of Gentiles being present – and women as well at a time when that was relatively unusual. And God’s grace shines through, the list includes some notable sinners (David again!) yet by grace they are nevertheless able to be the human ancestors of our Lord and Saviour, fully man and fully God, making perfection out of human frailty and sin.
So, all credit to the Kenyan church for including this important reading in their carol service. I trust that there was a sense of reflection, considering who the people were and what they represented, rather than just going through the motions. And let’s resolve to take the Bible seriously in its entirety, difficult bits and all, in the belief that all of it is there to communicate God’s truth to us, and that if things are obscure and difficult, this is a reason to study it more, not less.