On Saturday, I am giving a challenge at our ladies Christmas party. The challenge will be a little different as it is a little bit of a heavier subject that normal for ladies Christmas parties.
I’m going to talk about the five ladies mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy. Three of the five ladies had messy pasts. Four of the five ladies were Gentiles. Yet God mentions these ladies intentionally.
As I started to think about the ladies God mentioned in the Matthew genealogy of Jesus, I wondered, “Why does He include those ladies and not other ladies?”
The first four ladies mentioned are worthy of special note as examples of God’s grace. They show how God can take unlikely people and use them in great ways. As we look at a brief summary of these ladies lives, maybe you can relate to one of the ladies; and as you see how God cared for them, you can see how God also cares for you.
The first lady that is mentioned in the ancestry of Jesus is Tamar. I am calling her The Forsaken One.
We find the story of Tamar in Genesis 38, where Judah acquires her to be the son of his oldest son.Here is a very brief summary of what we know about her. She was probably a Canaanite woman. Her husband was killed by God because of his wickedness. The second son was then given to her in marriage, and he was killed after he refused to get her pregnant. She was then supposed to wait for the third son, which she probably would never been given to in marriage. She was trapped in a Jewish house where she would remain for the rest of her life with no children, the only way to have meaning in her life as a woman in her day and age. So she takes matters into her own hands and pretends to be a prostitute, and she gets pregnant with her father-in-law. Messy, right? Yet somehow, God includes her in the line of Jesus’s ancestry.
When I hear this story, many thoughts go through my head. What a disfunctional family! What a miserable life Tamar must have had! Her first husband was so wicked, God killed him. Her second husband probably hated her for being forced into marriage with her. Then everyone probably hated her when the two oldest sons of Judah died. Some commentaries speculate that Judah may have even suspected her of killing his two sons. She may have been living in a very solitary condition with no friends or family. She left her family to be married to this Jewish family. She must have felt so forsaken, so isolated, so unloved. Spurgeon said of these four ladies, “He (God) is akin to the fallen and to the lowly, and he will show his love even to the poorest and most obscure.” We see that with the inclusion of these four ladies. He saw her in her forsaken and lonely condition and He chose to use her. For anyone that feels forsaken at this time of life or you just are incredibly lonely, God sees you and He cares about you! He knows your name and He has a plan for you!
The second lady we see is Rahab. I am calling her The Courageous One.
Again, Rahab was not a Jewish lady. She is a Canaanite woman who is a “bad” women. She is an actual prostitute. Here is a terrific story of a woman of incredible faith. She hides the two Israelite men who are spying out the land of Jericho. Then she lies about knowing where they are. If she had been caught, she could have been killed!
She goes against her culture; she is considered a traitor to her people; yet she had faith that was worth dying for. That faith gave her life, here on this earth and eternal life. She believed in her heart, and when she believed, she was willing to forsake all she knew to follow the true God. We know this because of what she says in Joshua 2:11, “And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.” Not only did she have faith in her heart, she acted upon her faith! She showed her faith by her works. James says in James 2:25, “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” Not only does God include her in the genealogy of Christ, but he included her in Hebrews 11 as one of the heroes of faith. She married Salmon, a Jew whom tradition says was one of the spies she hid. They had a son, Boaz, who grows up to become a righteous and godly man (Ruth 2:1).
Not everyone comes from Christian homes. Rahab believed when no one around her did. Many of us have done things in our past of which we are not proud. Be courageous. Have faith to do what’s right now, even if you go against the cultural norms. Even if it means you lose friends and family. We don’t have to continue to live the way we always have. With God’s help, we can change. We can live in a way that will glorify God from here on out. Be like Rahab – trust in God alone and then start living in faith, depending on Him to help you to daily do what is right. In the end, we see how a former prostitute raises a godly son and becomes part of the lineage of Christ.
The third lady mentioned is Ruth, whom I am calling The Loyal One.
Ruth is also a Canaanite. She married a Jewish man who came to her country with his family due to famine. He dies, and her mother-in-law, Naomi decides to return to her homeland in Israel. She tells her daughter-in-laws to remain with their families, but Ruth replies with the now famous verses, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. widow. (Ruth 1:16-17)
Ruth’s response is extraordinary, for she is under no obligation to care for Naomi. “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” is a radical thought because it signals that Ruth is changing her identity in a world where that was almost inconceivable. The ancient world had no mechanism for religious conversion or change of citizenship; the very notion was unthinkable. Religion and peoplehood defined one’s ethnic identity, and this could no more be changed than the color of one’s skin. A Moabite was always a Moabite, wherever he or she lived. And indeed, Ruth is referred to throughout the story as “the Moabitess.” But from Ruth’s point of view, she is becoming an Israelite. She is joining herself to Naomi not only on the private family level, but also on the national peoplehood level. She went against all cultural norms to do what she knew God wanted her to do.
Maybe you can identify with Ruth. Maybe you too have chosen to leave all to follow God. He will bless you when you follow Him! Maybe you can see yourself in Ruth because you have been loyal, staying true and obedient to what God has asked you to do. We see through the life of Ruth that obedience in everyday life pleases God. When we reflect His character through our interactions with others, we bring glory to Him. Continue to be faithful and loyal!
The fourth lady that is mentioned is Bathsheba. I call her either The Misunderstood One or The Forgiven One.
Bathsheba – Why did God choose to put her in the genealogy as “David the king begat Solomon of her of Urias”? I read different notes and there are different takes on the story of David and Bathsheba. Some say she was totally innocent of the adultery that happened between her and David – that it was basically rape by a powerful man. Some say that she knew that she could be seen by others (David) when she was washing. I don’t know. We do know that she was once again probably a Gentile woman as she was married to Uriah a Hittite who was one of David’s 30 most loyal and best warriors. So because we know so little about Bathsheba, it is debated as whether she was innocent or guilty. She has probably been one misunderstood woman throughout history. Maybe you can relate to her. You feel like no one has really seen you for you. That people misread your intentions and your actions. That people have judged you for your past or for what your family has done. Well, take hope! God took this Gentile woman and used her! He included her in the lineage of Jesus!
Not only did God use her, but He forgave her! 2 Samuel 12:24 says, “And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him.” Whether she seduced David or she was taken advantage of, God forgave her and David after David repented. He loved her son Solomon, and she and David brought him up to love the Lord more than any of David’s other sons.
We see from her life that we can rise above our past mistakes and still let God use us. We just have to allow Him to forgive us and to remember that we are forgiven. We have to be willing to accept His forgiveness and to leave our past behind. We can’t let our past define us; we have to let God’s grace and forgiveness define us!
The last lady we see mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus is Mary, his mother. I’m calling her The Trusting One or The Positive One.
What do we know about Mary? Again, we do not know much. We do know that she is a young teenager Jewess who is engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. I’ve always wondered why God picked her out of all the other Jewish young ladies. What made her “highly favored” of God?
Again, only a little bit is known about Mary, but what we do see is her willingness to trust and obey God. In Luke 1, she asks one question of the angel, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” That’s a reasonable question! The angel tells her that the Holy Spirit will impregnate her. She had to know the Scriptures and many knew that the Messiah should come around this time because of prophecy. She did not question what the angel said. Her only response was, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”
Wow! What is my response when God puts hard things into my life. Do I say, “Here I am. I will do whatever you want me to do?” She trusted God to do what was right, and she was willing to be used. Do I trust that God is good even when bad things happen? Do I trust God that He will make all things good in the end when I can’t see the end from the beginning? Mary trusted.
Mary kept her focus on the big picture, on the end result. She stayed positive. Instead of looking at the immediate rejection that would come and how she might be mocked and scorned for becoming pregnant outside of wedlock, she concentrates on how she is doing the will of God and how God will bless the world through her baby.
Listen to her testimony:
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. Luke 1:46-49
What can we learn from Mary? Magnify God even during the hard times. Remember the big picture. One day we will be with God for eternity. He is mighty. He has done great things. He is our Savior. Holy is His name.
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