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.
- 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”.
- 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.