“David and his Prayers”

Many of you, that are reading this devotional this morning, have sat in my Bible classes.  If so, you probably have heard me say as we looked at a letter written by the apostle Paul — I sure would like to have seen his prayer list.  It seems as if in every letter Paul lists a number of people that he is praying for, and the things that he asks for that particular church.  Studying the prayers of Paul, and the lists of people that he is praying for, is a fascinating study.

One of the most enlightening aspects of reading the Psalms, is to be able to read the prayers of the people, particularly David.  The whole spectrum of human emotion can be found in the prayers of David — praising an awesome God, pleading for direction in his life, lamenting his present condition, anger at the enemies trying to kill him, impatience with God for leaving him in the situation, asking for forgiveness for his stupid mistakes, expressing confidence in God to get him through the difficulties he faces, and everything else in between.  Eugene Petersen once said, Everything that a person can possibly feel, experience, and say is brought into expression before God in the Psalms.  Amen?

David was not perfect, but he was “seeking” the heart of God for his life.  His journey in trying to get there, getting there, and staying there; serve as a powerful learning experience for Me.

This morning’s reading, Psalm 25 jumped off the page at me.  The whole chapter appears to be a prayer from David, as he seeks direction and assistance from the Father.

In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.  (Psalm 25:1-2, NIV)

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  (Psalm 25:4-5, NIV)
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.  Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.  Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.  (Psalm 25:16-18, NIV)
Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.  May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you.  (Psalm 25:20-21, NIV)
Peace.
(This was first posted on Facebook, May 30, 2016.  It has been revised and adapted for use as one of our “Psalms on Saturday.”  It is my prayer that it will be a blessing to you.  Bill)
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“History — Part #1”

Arkansas History was the first time that I remember becoming fascinated with the study of history, when it was part of the curriculum in the 5th grade.  From that time forward, history became my favorite subject — world history, American history, church history, and restoration history — they all appealed to me.  I would suppose that my love for the Old Testament, and the stories of God and His people, can be attributed to my interest in history.  Obviously, I am not in the majority!  Many people have little, if any, interest in studying the people and places of the past.  Some probably saw the title of this devotional this morning, and decided not to read — just because of the title.

Yesterday, in my Sunday morning Bible class, we were looking at Psalm 77.  In the particular psalm, Asaph is distraught because of the condition in which he finds himself.  He laments:  Has God forgotten to be gracious?  Has He in anger withheld His compassion?  (Psalm 77:9, HCSB).  It appears to me, that he finds himself in Babylonian captivity (Psalm 74:2-8), and is distraught with what is happening, and wonders if Jehovah God cares about him, and the rest of the Jews.  I’m sure that many of us have struggled with those same feelings at various times in their lives — and there are probably people in Texas and Florida that are struggling with those same thoughts today.  So, in order to revitalize his thinking, and get the proper perspective on his God, he says — I will remember the Lord’s works; yes, I will remember Your ancient wonders.  I will reflect on all You have done and meditate on Your actions.  (Psalm 77:11-12, HCSB).

This morning, my devotional reading was from Nehemiah 9, and why we need to remember history went racing through my mind.  You may remember Nehemiah’s story — how he went back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls.  The Babylonians had leveled the city, burned the temple, and carried the people off into captivity.  King Cyrus of Persia had allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem, and to rebuild the Temple in the city (Ezra 1).  He even gave them back some of the treasure that had been looted when Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the city.  Zerubbabel, and others, went back and rebuilt the Temple, dedicating it with a multitude of sacrifices and observing the Feast of Unleavened Bread for 7 days (Ezra 6:16-22).

Nehemiah’s story begins with him serving King Artaxerxes as a cupbearer, in the fortress city of Susa.  While serving there, travelers came from Jerusalem, and Nehemiah inquired about the condition of the city (as any native Jew would have done).  The reply staggers him:

They said to me, “The remnant in the province, who survived the exile, are in great trouble and disgrace. Jerusalem’s wall has been broken down, and its gates have been burned down.”   (Nehemiah 1:3, HCSB)

In fact, his words about his reaction allow you, and me, to see just how distraught he was:

When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying  before the God of heaven.  (Nehemiah 1:4, HCSB)

His prayer to God (Nehemiah 1:5-11) is one the most moving prayers in all of Scripture, and needs to be studied and remembered.  But, what we want to know today is that God heard that prayer, and answered — Nehemiah was allowed to go back to Jerusalem, rebuild the walls, and even served as the governor of the province.

Nehemiah 9 tells of a day that became a “national confession of sin” for the Israelite people that had returned to Jerusalem.  In a day, when many services are geared so that we can save a minute here, and five minutes there; because we don’t want our services to run to long (because people won’t come or stay), it is a staggering thought.  They read the Law for a fourth of a day, and then worshiped and confessed their sin for a fourth of a day.  Now I don’t know what they were considering a fourth of a day, but they spent somewhere between 6 and 12 HOURS doing this!

AFTER they had done that, the Levites stood up and said — …”Stand up, Praise Yahweh your God from everlasting to everlasting.”  (Nehemiah 9:5, HCSB)

Part #2 of this devotional will be tomorrow, as we consider the actual “song” of praise that the people offered — what they said, and why they said it.  I want to close this devotional with a question:  “If you were in that same situation, what would you offer as praise to God?”  Just think about it, or share in the comments if you are so inclined.  Peace.

“Are We Losing the War”

Most Bible-believing people lament the condition that our country has degenerated to, and long for a change.  It is a time when good is called bad, and bad is called good.  Because of the nature of our government, and the freedoms that are guaranteed by the Constitution; people are free to pursue “happiness” in the way that they choose.  So, if Christian people are placing their hopes on a change for the better because of an election, I am afraid they are going to be disappointed.  Morality has made a basic shift in our country, and I’m not sure that there will be any putting it back where it was.

If change is ever going to occur, in my opinion, it will be because Bible-believing teach other people about Jesus, one at a time.  We cannot continue to under estimate the enemy that is opposing the cause of the Lord.  We have allowed Satan to paint his own portrait:  he’s a cute little red guy, with horns, tail, and a pitchfork.  We have been so enamored with how cute he is, that we have named our athletic teams after him.

Because we have under estimated him, or ignored him altogether, we have attempted to fight him with our own strength and will.  That is a battle that we cannot win!  When inspiring Scripture, God had Peter describe our enemy as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).  Paul said that our struggle was not against flesh and blood, but against …the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  (Ephesians 6:12, NIV).  He said that for us to be able to stand, we would have to put on …the full armor of God, … (Ephesians 6:13, NIV).  We are in a war, and I’m afraid that we are losing.

King David, in the Old Testament, knew what it was like to be in a war that you were not winning.  He prayed for strength, help, and deliverance against those enemies that threatened him.  Our enemy is different than his, but it is still an enemy!  Listen to some of David’s prayers, and shape them into prayers concerning our struggle with the Satan.

O Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, who shields my head in the day of battle — do not grant the wicked their desires, O Lord; do not let their plans succeed, or they will become proud.  (Psalm 140:7-8, NIV)

Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.  set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.  (Psalm 142:6-7, NIV)

Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.  He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield in whom I take refuge, … (Psalm 144:1-2, NIV)

Lord, please give us the wisdom to depend on You, for the strength that we need to win the battle against Satan, and his army of evil.  Peace,

(This was first posted on Facebook, May 24, 2016.  It is being re-used here as one of our “Psalms for Saturday.  It is my prayer that you will be challenged, and blessed, by it.  Bill)

“Awesome”

Every once in a while, something happens that I like to call a “mountaintop” experience.  It is one of those times when something that is so special happens, that you soar to the “mountaintop” of emotion and praise.  It may be a Sunday evening when 4 people are baptized (2 young couples, and the two men are now elders in that church).  It could be an assembly in a lectureship at ACU, where the large crowd sings “May the Lord Bless You, and Keep You.”  It could have been a Preacher’s Sermon Workshop in Austin, Texas; where those that are assembled sing “Our God, He is Alive” — and the hair on your arms and neck stand straight up.

I’m sure that if you think about it, you can remember a time in your spiritual journey, when you have had a “mountaintop” experience.  If you would like, you might mention in the comment section below.

Last night, in our Sunday night class — there was just such an experience for me.  We watched a DVD titled “How Great is Our God.”  The speaker was Louie Giglio, and the things that he said reminded us of just how awesome our God really is.  One sweet lady stood up, after the dismissal prayer, and said loud enough, that those around her could hear:  “I don’t know about everyone else, but I thought that was great.”  One brother commented to me, “That made me feel so small and insignificant, but at the same time made me feel so significant.”

This morning, in my reading of the Psalms (133-139), there were some passages that reminded me of the message from last night.

May the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.  (134:3)

I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods.  (135:5)

Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly, …  (138:6)

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  (139:14)

Our God is an AWESOME God!  We should be in awe of all that He has done, and offer our praise to Him through the practice of our life.  May God give us the strength, courage, and wisdom to do that!  Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook, May 23, 2016.  It is being used on this site as one of our “Psalms for Saturday“.  It is my prayer that it will be a blessing to you.  Bill)

“Blessed Twice”

This morning as I was reading Galatians 4, I was reminded of what a blessed man I am.  In my lifetime I have received the blessing of being adopted twice.  In 1953 my mother did what was almost unheard of at the time, she got a divorce.  I was 2 1/2 years old at the time, and my mom faced the challenge of being a single mother in 1953.  I cannot begin to imagine how hard that was on her, and I never knew how difficult they were, and how much we struggled.  She was the office manager of a Tom’s Peanut distribution office in Little Rock, Arkansas, hired a lady to come and keep house and take care of me — I really don’t know how she did all of it.

A couple of years later, she married one of the route drivers at Tom’s, Jay Hooten.  It was a storybook marriage, all the things that she didn’t have in the first marriage; she had in the second marriage — love, loyalty, peace, happiness, etc.  About 5 years later (after my biological grandfather had passed away), Jay Hooten “adopted” me as his son.  Honestly, in my mind, I was already his son.  I do not believe he could have loved me more, if I had been his “biological” son.  God, in his heaven, looked down at this earth and saw my mom and I; and gave us exactly what we needed.  Those are the kind of things that you look back in eternal gratitude.

This morning, as I was reading Galatians 4, this passage jumped off the page at me:

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.  (Galatians 4:1-7, ESV)

I realize that not everyone has the blessing of the story that I have.  That not all adopted children were as fortunate, to have an adopted father that loved them as much as Jay Hooten loved me.  But when I read those verses, I am humbled and grateful.  Humbled to know that the Mighty God loved me enough, to make me his child!  Grateful to receive the blessings of being a son of the Most High God.  My life could have been so different, and I might not have been so blessed.  It is also possible that if life had not gone in the direction that it did, I might have never known Jesus the Christ.  How can I ever take those blessings for granted.

Thank you Father!  Thank you dad!

Peace.

“Story of the Old Testament”

The Old Testament has always been of special interest to me.  The story of God’s dealing with all of people, then a family, and, finally, a nation is just fascinating.  How Jehovah God continually loved His people, regardless of how many times they turned away.  O, yes, He would punish them, and they suffered for their sin; but, if they turned in penitent prayer, He would always rescue them.

The first teacher that I remember that captivated me with the stories of the Old Testament was Dale Brown, at the Midland Boulevard church of Christ in Fort Smith.  He had this booming deep voice (at least, that is the way I remember it 50+ years later), that just made those events come to life.  I don’t know what happened to Dale — I know that he preached in Siloam Springs for a while, and then went back to Fort Smith to work in the family business.  If I remember correctly, this family business involved auction services, and I am sure that voice was of great benefit for that.  I will forever be in his debt, for helping to create that love of the Old Testament (and it stories).

This morning, my reading was Psalms 104-106 — and it was especially interesting to me.  If you want to read the story of the Old Testament in a nutshell, you need to read these chapters.

Psalm 104 is a beautiful rendering of God’s creative power, and of what He has done.  How his creation works together, because of Him; to care for all the needs of His creation.  Verse 24 offers, How many are your works, O Lord!  In wisdom you made them all; … (NIV).  Basically, the psalmist is saying, just stop and look around, and see what God has done!

Psalm 105 is the psalmist getting on his knees and being thankful for what God has done for man.  The covenant with Abraham’s family, sending Joseph to Egypt so that the family could grow into a nation, the deliverance from slavery in Egypt, provision in the wilderness, and the giving of the promised land.

Psalm 106 is a very sad chapter, as it recounts the repeated failures of the people to maintain their relationship with God.  It begins with the psalmist lamenting this his generation has done wrong and acted wickedly, even as their fathers had (vs. 6).  One time after another, he lists the betrayals of the people in their relationship with God.  From their constant grumbling in the wilderness, to the worship of idols that they had made, to the mingling with the nations that had inhabited the promised land.  Verse 43 summarizes the story, Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in sin.  (NIV).

We need to read and know these chapters, as they remind us of what God did in trying to build a relationship with that people, and that nation.  THEN, we need to fall to our knees, and be grateful to Jesus — that He paid for our guilt at Calvary.  Thankful, that He paid a price that we could not.  I want to live in the love of the cross, and strive to be continually seeking after God, His kingdom, and His righteousness.  Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook, May 16, 2016.  It is being reposted here as part of our “Psalms for Saturday.”  It is my prayer that it will be a blessing to you.  Bill)

“Seeking God”

Does it seem to you that we spend our whole life chasing something?  How many movies have been made about the endless pursuit of “something”?  There are those that are comedies, dramas, adventures, and tragedies — but they all portray man’s pursuit of what they deem to be most important, or what will make them happy.  The Billy Crystal movie, “City Slickers”, where Jack Palance kept reminding him of the “one thing”, is one of the premier examples of that.

It is not just in movies where this pursuit is featured, it is featured in our lives.  There always seems to be something out there, that we think will make our lives a little better.  It seems to start early in our lives:  a place of acceptance in a certain circle of peers, a romantic relationship (with the one that sets our hearts to fluttering), a car (and not just any car, the right car), graduation from high school, college, and a host of other things that attract our attention.  Even as we get older, the “pursuit syndrome” is still there is still there.  We want a loving, lasting relationship; a job that pays well and makes us feel good about ourselves; a house that becomes a home for our safety; and security for the future; and, ultimately, retirement.

Have you ever wondered why we are that way, or at least most of us?  I believe that God intended for us to have this “pursuit syndrome“, and wanted us to focus it on a relationship with Him!  That we recognize, that the most important thing that we pursue in our life, is the relationship with a Holy God!

We have often wondered about “how” the Bible could say that David was a man after God’s own heart (I Samuel 13:14).  It certainly was not because of his sinless perfection!  The key word, in my mind, is “after” — that David was “seeking” God, and a relationship with Him.  Regardless of how man times he faltered and fell; he would get up, confess the wrong that he had committed, and begin to seek God again!

When you read the Psalms, there seems to be two ideas that jump off of nearly every page — the steadfast love of the Lord, and the admonition to seek God.  There is a beautiful description of what we are seeking, in Psalm 89:15-18 – – listen closely:

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
     who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
They rejoice in your name all day long;
     they celebrate your righteousness.
For you are their glory and strength,
     and by your favor you exalt our horn.
Indeed, our shield belongs to the Lord,
     our king to the Holy One of Israel.
May the “ONE THING” that we pursue be God!  Isn’t that what Jesus said, Seek first his
kingdom and his righteousness, … (Matthew 6:33, NIV).  Peace.
(This was first posted on Facebook, May 12, 2016.  It is being posted here, as one of our “Psalms for Saturday.”  It is our prayer that it will be a blessing to you.  Bill)

 

“Why the World is the Way that it Is”

Math and science are subjects that I was never a very good student.  To be perfectly honest, I struggled to be average.  That’s not something I am really proud to admit, but it is the truth.  Not only am I not very good at those subjects, but I passed that trait along to my youngest son.  When he took the ACT — if they had just used the scores off the math and science parts, no college or university would have ever taken him.  If they had just used the English part, he could have gotten into most schools.  If only the reading section had been used, he probably could have got into any school in the country.

I don’t know why the study of math and science never appealed to me.  Well, I do have a guess as to why math never appealed to me.  In my opinion, it all began about the 8th grade; because up to that point, I had been a pretty good “basic” math student.  It was in the 8th grade that they began to teach what they called “new” math.  The part I remember, was that they began to teach us to how add and subtract using a base 1 and a base 2 system; instead of our normal 0-9 numerals (and I’m not even sure that I am explaining that correctly).  In all of my intellectual prowess as a 13 year old, I decided that was the most worthless information that I ever could have been taught — so, math got marked off the list at that point.  Now, I was told that I would need to know the “new” math to understand algebra, geometry, and calculus; so I didn’t really care about any of those either.  I never did really apply myself to those subjects, because they were never going to be of any value to me.  I wish that I had applied myself to those subjects, because I believe that it set a precedent for me about study, that plagues me to this day.

I really can’t explain my lack of success in science, other than the fact that it just didn’t interest me.  I have some suspicions, but nothing really substantial as to the why.  But, I really was fascinated and interested in history, government, economics, literature, reading, etc.  Now, as I look back on my early education, I wish that I had applied myself to some of the subjects — and, not just the ones that were of interest to me.

I’m telling you all of this, so that you will know that there are some things that I believe; that I can’t begin to explain, that I just accept by faith.  That is probably true for most of us, regardless of our academic achievements.  But my thoughts this morning are going to cause some people to say, “It’s obvious that you don’t know what you are talking about.  If you had more education in the sciences, you would not accept that.”  Well, I’m not sure that is right, because I know some really educated people in the sciences that share the same views.  But, I can understand “why” you would say that about me.

In my reading this morning, this passage stood out:

By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.  He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.  Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world serve him.  For he spoke and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm.  (Psalm 33:6-9, NIV)

I believe that with all of my heart.  I believe that by His Word, God spoke into existence all that there is.  I would not attempt to get into a scientific discussion about it, but I know that I believe it.  What I do understand about God, gives me the faith to believe what I do not understand.  There are believers, that can engage the scientific evidence and  explain what they believe and why — I’m just well-versed enough in those fields to be able to do that.

But I do understand, that once man reaches the point that he thinks that he does not need the existence of God to explain how everything (man, earth, universe) came to be — he does not need God for anything.  When we begin to explain our existence on our terms, then everything else is left up to our wants, desires, and discretion.  Without God as the creator, I am not responsible to answering to Him about anything!

David describes this condition:

…There is no fear of God before his eyes.  For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.  (Psalm 36:1-2, NIV)

If you are unhappy with the direction of our country, and of the world in general; recognize that it barrelled downhill, when we decided that we did not need God to explain how we got here.  Peace.

 

(This is a revised post that first appeared on Facebook, April 30, 2016.  It is being shared here as a part of our “Psalms for Saturday.”  It is my prayer that it will be a blessing to you.  Bill)

“Why Do I Have to do THAT?”

Have you ever been done wrong?  I mean, really wrong?  Someone told a lie about you, and it ruined your reputation, or it cost you your job.  You got fired from a job without any reason, warning, or explanation; at absolutely the wrong time in your life.  There are horror stories that can be told about the way that preachers have treated.  From getting caught in a power struggle between people, blamed for something that is not their fault, or any number of other things that could be mentioned.  If I wanted to, I could tell you about instances about things that happened, and there was absolutely no regard for the feelings of me or my family.  But preachers are not the only ones, every profession can tell the stories of how they have been done wrong.  Regardless of our walk in life, there have been those times when we have been mistreated.

The truth of the matter is, that in the grand scheme of things, all of those are just minor.  When you compare those to physical attacks, violent crime, drunk driving accidents … well, you begin to get the picture.  The hurt and anger is magnified, when these kinds of things happen to people that we love.

This morning, as a part of my reading, these words of Jesus became very powerful to me:

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  (Matthew 6:14-15, ESV)

When we have been wronged, mistreated – forgiveness is usually the last thing we want to talk about.  Our grief, anger, and desire for retribution takes over; and forgiveness is the last thing on our mind.  Depending on the level of our hurt, we scream on the inside “Why”; and, dear God, why would you want me to forgive them.

This morning, as I read the Matthew 6 passage, that is the thought that ran through my mind – “Why does God want me to forgive”; and “Why is my forgiveness tied to it”?  Generally, I have reasoned that the Father knows that feelings of anger and revenge will corrupt my spirit.  Or that if I allow grudges and retribution to control my personality, I will not be able to act in such a way to adorn my life to make the gospel attractive.

Then this thought raced through my mind:  what if God placed this “burden” of forgiveness on me, so that I could understand how difficult, and costly, forgiveness really is.  Now, I believe that God is a God of love, mercy, and grace – and that He desires for our response, so that He can forgive.  But I’m not so sure that He sees the cost of forgiveness as being easy, dispensing forgiveness like a vending machine.  I believe that it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer that described that concept as “cheap grace”.

Forgiveness is not cheap, grace is not cheap, and it does not come easy.  I believe that it was Bonhoeffer that said something like, “There was a cross at Calvary that forever dispels the myth of a cheap grace.”  So when I struggle to forgive someone, or ask God to forgive me; I need to remember, how much it cost Him for me to be forgiven.  Peace.

 

(This is the 3rd post that I every did on this blog.  Of course, that was only about 6 months ago.  I have an early morning appointment, and then that is followed by a visitation and funeral a little later in the day.  So, I decided to go back and share these thoughts with you.  I hope that it is a blessing to you.  Bill)

“Record of our Ancestors”

Within 6 months after my mother’s passing, her surviving 2 brothers and sister had also passed away.  We lost a whole generation of our family in a really short period of time.  One of those who passed away was my uncle, Jerry.  Jerry was my uncle, but he was more like an older brother.  From the time I was about 8, until I was about 13, Jerry lived with my family; when he was not on the road working as a welder on the pipeline.

What we remember about a man, or a woman, is the stories of their life.  You see, the very fabric of our lives are the stories that make them.  My uncle was a man of stories, and I never realized that more, than when my sister and I went to visit him about 2 weeks before he died.  He told us that “every time an old man dies, his stories die with him.”  Well, we lost a lot of stories with Jerry.  Even in his weakened and painful condition, he fascinated us with stories of our ancestry, his family, and his life.  I did not know it, but in the last few years Jerry had become interested in the genealogy of our family; and had done some research into the family history.

One of the more interesting stories that he told was about the first family member to come to the colonies from Europe.  He came as a part of a Hessian army that had been hired by England to fight against the colonies.  The story goes that when he got here, he deserted from the Hessians (and the English) and joined the colonial forces in the rebellion.

Jerry, and his stories of our family, came to my mind this morning as I was reading in Matthew 1.  You probably already know that Matthew 1 is the chapter that traces the ancestry of Jesus back to Abraham, the father of the Jewish people.  This morning, as I read this chapter, I thought how interesting it would have been to hear some of the stories about this “family tree.”  But there were four (verses and people) that I would love to have heard the proud Jewish father explain to his children.

Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar).  (Matthew 1:3, NLT).

Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).  (Matthew 1:5. NLT).

Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).  (Matthew 1:5, NLT).

David was the father of Solomon (whose mother Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).  (Matthew 1:6, NLT).

Other than Mary, the woman who gave birth to Jesus, these are the only four women that are mentioned by Matthew in the ancestry of Jesus.  Have you noticed any thing about those four women?  All four of them have a somewhat “checkered” past.  For what was the royal lineage (the house of David), these were some that might have been considered “black sheep.”

First, Tamar, the mother of Perez and Zerah, was not the wife of Judah — she was his daughter-in-law!  Judah had not done what he said he would do for Tamar, after her two husbands (and his sons) had died (as far as providing a husband for her); so, she tricked him into have sexual relations with her, and she became pregnant with the twins.

Secondly, Rahab, the mother of Boaz, would not have had a sterling reputation among the people of Israel.  Sure, she had the faith to hide the spies that were in the city of Jericho, and ask that her and her family be spared when the city was conquered; but she would forever live with the reputation …of a prostitute named Rahab … (Joshua 2:1, NLT).

Next, Ruth, the mother of Obed, was not an Israelite (in fact, I don’t think any of these four women were Israelites).  Her husband, Boaz, was the son of Rahab, which might explain his willingness to marry the Moabite widow.  What makes this especially interesting, that means that King David’s grandmother was a Moabite; one of the repeated enemies of Israel.

Finally, we don’t even need to tell the story of Bathsheba, and the adultery that was committed by her and David; because it is one of those stories that we have all heard.

Do you think the proud Jewish father, as he talked about the lineage of King David, might have glossed over those stories, just a little bit?  Would it have raised questions from his children, that he might rather not answer?  Why would God include these women, and their stories, in the most important genealogy ever recorded?

Well, far be it from me to attempt to speak for God; but I do see some lessons that we can learn.

  1. God’s plan does not require “perfect” people.  This plan, the redemption of man through Jesus, and through the lineage of King David, was planned from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5), and it included “flawed” individuals.  We can be encouraged by this, and not despair because of our own “flaws”.
  2. God’s plan was never limited just to the Jews.  These four women are illustrations that our God has always been concerned about all people.  If God’s concern had been just for the Jews, do you really think God would have included these women in the most important family tree ever?

Let’s learn from the stories of our own family tree, and from the family tree of Jesus.  Let’s realize that God can use all kinds of people to accomplish his purposes, if we are willing to be used.  Let’s resolve today, to be the kind of people that God can use.  Peace.