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By Jon Duncan
Special to The PREVIEW
The ancestry of Jesus the Messiah is listed for us in Matthew 1, and though we usually speed-read through that section — or skip it all together — the list contains some very unusual characters.
There are the names contained of five women — very unusual to begin with, not because women are in any way inferior or less important, but simply because lines of ancestry were recognized through the men involved. God obviously was making a very important point by breaking the customs of the day to include women’s names, and as we consider these women we are overwhelmed at the significance of each one. Their lives reveal to us that Jesus was not only willing to come to earth for us, He was interested in fully identifying with us as human beings; though sinless Himself, He entered fully into the mess of human existence, entered fully into the pain and suffering of a fallen race.
These five women picture perfectly just how far our Savior was willing to descend in order to reach every one of us, by completely identifying with every one of us in our human experience.
Tamar, daughter of pagan, ruthless and immoral warriors, was certainly not a logical candidate for the Messianic line. She married into the Jewish line of Judah — as a result of Judah’s direct disobedience to the command of God — completely oblivious to what she was getting into. Her first husband died early in their marriage, and the second followed the first in death even more unexpectedly, and Tamar found herself a young widow — twice — with very little prospect for her future security. Through a strange and twisted series of events (that you can read about in Genesis 38), this young Canaanite girl finds herself holding the child through which King David, and eventually the Messiah, would be born. Tamar speaks to us of those who feel forgotten, abandoned by God and His people, without security and hope in our mixed-up world. God included Tamar in His line to remind us that He forgets no one, no matter how much it feels that way.
Rahab was another unlikely candidate to carry on the Messiah’s line: she worked nights in the red light district of Jericho, a member of history’s oldest profession. She was a prostitute, and through her line of work had the opportunity to hear of a foreign god —the god of the Hebrews — from those travelers who passed through her doors. It is obvious that like Tamar, so with Rahab, God was at work in her heart. He brought her to a place of faith so that when the spies showed up at her door—not for her services, but for an inconspicuous place to spend the night in a part of town where no one notices faces or names. God was directing their steps, and brought them to the only resident in that entire city who had responded to the work that He was doing in her heart. She demonstrated her faith in Jehovah by turning her back on her city and country and aligning her allegiance with a new God, new country, and new extended family. Rahab reminds us that there is no sin in our past that makes us unacceptable in God’s family — no prior mistakes, misjudgments, oversights or rebellious sin that God is not able to forgive and forget. The New Testament reminds us that the sin of unbelief is the only sin that God cannot forgive — rejecting God’s provision for salvation is the only sin that will send us to hell. Rahab becomes for every one of us the promise that no matter what has happened in our past, God is able to forgive and accept us into His family. What a promise she pictures for us.
Bathsheba is the next unlikely woman in the line of the Messiah, though in Matthew she is referred to as the wife of Uriah. That whole sad story is contained in 2 Samuel 11 and 12, and though it is a story that King David would love to go back and rewrite, it is a story that will ever be part of his legacy. The great Psalm writer, the great harp player, the great warrior, a man after God’s own heart — these are the titles of one of scripture’s most beloved characters. The titles of adulterer and murderer don’t seem to fit, but they remind us that from the dark recesses of the human heart anything is possible. Bathsheba pictures for us that even the most heinous sins that we could ever commit can be forgiven by a loving and merciful God when repentance is involved. Sin makes us stupid — David totally demonstrates the insane logic that follows sin in order to try to hide it from others; our sin is never hidden from God. In an effort to hide an unwanted pregnancy that was the result of an adulterous affair David was willing to scheme, deceive and eventually murder to hide what was already known by so many. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Though we might not resort to such extremes, how many times have we schemed and deceived in order to try to hide our sins from those we most love and fear? Bathsheba’s inclusion the line of Christ tells us that there is no lapse of judgment, no giving into temptation to sin, no selfish taking of something that does not belong to us that God is unwilling to pardon. If you live in fear today that your sin is more than God can forgive, Bathsheba is the answer to your dilemma: if God can forgive David and Bathsheba, He can and will forgive you.
Ruth is another unlikely candidate in the family tree of Jesus: a member of the Moabite people who had always been the enemies of Israel. She, too, was an unsuspecting addition to the genealogy of Christ; she married into a Jewish family that had moved into her native country, and was enjoying life in all its fullness — husband, two sons and two daughters-in-law. God was unwilling to leave her there in unbelief, and so orchestrated the circumstances of her life to draw her to Himself. After the death of her husband and both sons (you can read her complete story in the book that bears her name, Ruth), she was forced to choose between her people and the people of her mother-in-law, Naomi. More importantly than that, Ruth was forced to choose between her gods and the God of Israel: she chose Jehovah. Through Ruth, God reveals to us the depth of His love for us, the lengths to which He is willing to go to bring us into His family, and a detailed painting of the Kinsman-Redeemer that Jesus would one day be for us. Though Boaz was the man in Ruth’s life who was the hero of her story, he was simply pointing to the ultimate hero of each of our stories, none other than Jesus Christ. He is our Kinsman-Redeemer; the One who would propose to us when all seemed lost; the One who would take us into His home to love, cherish, and provide for us until death would take us to heaven for all eternity. Ruth represents the foreigners who have no claim in the fortunes of God’s family; Ruth reminds us that Christ came not only for those who are near, but to those of us who are very, very far away.
Mary is the last in our line of unlikely women; she represents the favored one, blessed by God to be the mother of the Messiah. Most likely just a teenage girl, Mary was a girl of deep faith and understanding of scripture. But she was not chosen because she was in any way superior to all others — she certainly was not sinless, as she claimed in her song of praise that she, too, needed a savior. She was chosen because she was a willing servant, submissive to the will of God and obedient to His plan. She would have to endure all the false accusations, name calling, and hurtful lies of her friends and neighbors; she would have to endure the loneliness, isolation and misunderstanding from those around her, those who had at one time been her closest friends. Mary’s life would be changed forever, filled with all the emotions that fill our hearts as humans, but included the broken heart that came when watching her son crucified on a Roman cross for crimes he did not commit. Mary reminds us that there is nothing that God cannot do, no obstacles that He cannot remove, no disasters that He cannot remedy; God can and will do the impossible to accomplish His full and final plan. God even conquered death, our greatest enemy, in order to give us life when we call out to Him for salvation. Triumph, ultimate healing, deliverance from addiction and slavery to our lusts, adoption into the very family of God; these are the promises given to us by the Author of Life, the Creator of the universe, the gracious and merciful High Priest who even now is praying for us.
These five unlikely women included in the genealogy of Christ were placed there to show us how far our Savior was willing to travel to include us — messes and all — in His family.
Have you accepted His offer? Have you allowed Him to adopt you into His family? This Christmas season would be the perfect time to do just that. Though we do not always do a good job of reflecting His grace and mercy, we would love to have the chance to love and encourage you in your journey, and do our best to help you understand the joys of becoming part of the family of God.
Please join us for our special Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 6 p.m. at Centerpoint Church, and wonder with us at a God who loves us so much that He was willing—not only to come to save us, but to come through such an unlikely line of human failures—and messes, in order that we might know that He is able, willing, and anxious to save each one of us, regardless of how much of a mess we have made of our life.
Centerpoint Church is located at 2750 Cornerstone Drive.