How many of us have examined our personal history? Our legacy? Have you ever visited one of those sites that explore your ancestry? Or perhaps you know stories that were handed down word of mouth. My aunt recently went to an ancestry site, and found some interesting facts about our family. Among the treasures of the past she located documents, censuses, marriage licenses, and so on. This has helped her to learn a great deal about our relatives, and to dig up a number of interesting facts.
To some a family legacy is not that important; whereas to others it is essential. To the Jews it was their identity, providing the essence of who they were. So as Christmas approaches, I would like to take a look at the genealogy of Christ. (Yes, a genealogy, but it is in the Bible so don’t ditch me now.) This is an often overlooked part of Jesus’ history, but something very meaningful to Him and His Jewish family. We as Christ’s followers, however, tend to skip over it, and leave it out of the Christmas story altogether. After all, it’s boring, irrelevant, has nothing to do with the advent of Christ. Hmm. Perhaps you can tell my opinion is different from many Christians.
While I am not going to write out the entire genealogy from Matthew chapter 1, I ask that you look carefully at some of the names in His lineage, and take note of the women who are mentioned.
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram,Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse,and Jesse the father of King David,David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
The writer mentions four women with interesting backgrounds. First of all, in Genesis 38 we find Tamar. This particular Tamar is not the one raped by her half-brother, Amnon (David’s son), but who waited by the road dressed as a prostitute in order to entrap Judah. Why had she done this? The answer is simple when you consider the culture of the day. She was Judah’s daughter-in-law (I know, ewww, but hang with me) whose husband (Judah’s son) Er, had died. Judah had promised that she could marry his son Shelah when he grew up, but failed to keep his word. And she wanted a child, hopefully a son. Having a child in those days especially a son, was essential for a number of reasons. Long story short, when Judah was confronted with the evidence, he had no choice but to admit his blunder. He was the man who had sex with Tamar and now she was pregnant. Not only that he had broken his promise to her, and admitted that he was more wrong than she.
Next woman on the list, Rahab, (Joshua 2) who the Bible frankly tells us was a harlot. She helped the Israelites to capture Jericho when they first came into the Promised Land by hiding the Israelite spies. She and all those in under her roof were protected by a simple red chord displayed outside her home. She went on to marry an Israelite named Salmon. Not only was she a woman of ill-repute but also a Gentile, but she recognized the God of Israel.
Third woman mentioned is Ruth. You may remember the story of Naomi whose husband and sons died while they were living in Moab to avoid a famine in Judah. Ruth, a Moabite, and one of her daughters-in-law insisted on going with Naomi back to the land of God’s people. Ruth’s tender words to her mother-in-law are well-known: “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17 NIV) Who was Ruth but a heathen woman from a foreign land? Yet she loved her husband’s mother so much, she literally could not leave her. The wonderful love story that follows of a man named Boaz who “spoke tenderly” to her and became her husband is a romance that touches the heart.
The fourth woman is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. It’s difficult for me to find fault with her. Some say she was raped by King David, that he was the one purely in the wrong. Others seem to think that she was a willing participant in the affair and, perhaps by bathing where David could see her, provided ample temptation (no excuse for the king in my mind). But if David as sovereign of the land, called her to the palace, she had no choice but to go and to do as he bid.
Four women listed in the genealogy of Christ: Tamar who played the harlot and becoming pregnant by her father-in-law; Rahab, a heathen prostitute; Ruth also a Gentile who loved her Jewish mother-in-law and became a follower of the one true God. And lastly Bathsheba who some would call an adulteress. No matter, she is still one who gives us a wonderful insight into God’s love.
I think we can learn from this that God esteems women. He loves them and can take broken, perhaps shame-filled lives, and redeem their past mistakes, making them into something beautiful. What a reversal—the honor of being named in His Son’s lineage!
You and I will never receive that particular prize, but isn’t this adequate evidence that God does indeed take lives that seem messed up beyond repair and love those individuals into His kingdom? You may think your hurts, your sins are outside the reach of His love. Your shame and guilt may have wreaked havoc on your conscience. You believe your deeds have done the same to your relationship with Him. But God is there, unashamedly waiting for you, wanting with all of His heart for you to know His love. His arms are open.