I love Matthew 1:1-17. Yes, it does not make for the most inspiring reading at times. If you don’t think, it can be the NT equivalent of reading the Book of Numbers. But when I read Matthew one, I am encouraged. I am a pastor, dad, father, etc. I fail regularly. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t intentionally fail, and I don’t glory in it. I get frustrated that I get frustrated with my son. I get so upset that I’ve said something to hurt my wife. I get discouraged when I know that I just didn’t bring the best sermon in the world on Sunday. Sometimes I just wonder if I am enough. I know it’s all of grace. I know that it is the Spirit working in me Who accomplishes God’s will and the process of sanctification. I know that my sin are removed, never to be brought up again when I confess and forsake them. But I still wonder at times…. until I come back to Matthew one.
Matthew one is the story of Christ. But it’s not just the story of Christ. It’s the story of Christ in HD, from Abraham to Christ. And it takes some interesting turns. From Abraham, the patriarch of the people of Israel (who lied about his wife, slept with her servant, and had other lapses in faith), to Jacob (you know, the one who deceived his father and had major brother issues?). But in addition to the line of men who were men of faith, but who also had feet of clay, there are four wonderful additions.
The genealogy of Christ has four women in it. Stop there. Four w-o-m-e-n. Remember, in most societies at this time women couldn’t be witnesses in court cases because they were, well, women. They were looked down on in Jewish culture (think back to the famous rabbinical prayer, “I thank you God that I was not born a woman”). But there are four of them in this record. And not just any four. These four:
- Tamar (Genesis 38): Tamar married one of Judah’s sons, but he was wicked and God killed him. So Judah’s next son Onan was supposed to father a child through Tamar to keep the family line alive, but he refused and God killed him. Tamar was supposed to marry Judah’s youngest son, but Judah went back on his word. Finally, Tamar pretended to be a prostitute, Judah had sex with her, and she got pregnant with her former father-in-law. Of course, Judah didn’t know who the prostitute was that he had slept with, so when he heard that his former daughter-in-law was pregnant, he went into a fit of righteous indignation and demanded she be put to death. That created a little problem when she proved that Judah was the father, and that they reason she had resorted to immoral conduct was to get him to do his familial duty. Doesn’t justify the behavior, but Tamar comes out looking a whole lot more righteous than Judah (yeah, THAT Judah…the one through whom the Lion of the Tribe of Judah would come. In fact, Tamar becomes the momma through whom the promised one would come).
- Rahab: Most people know who Rahab is. Her’s is a unique story because she is not an Israelite. She was a prostitute in Jericho who harbored the spies who had been sent out to survey the land. For this kindness, she was promised salvation when the walls came down. Who could have possibly known that she would later marry into the line of the Messiah? She wasn’t even Jewish!
- Ruth: Here’s another non-Israelite. Ruth was a Moabitess. That was really her only crime against society. She didn’t have any of the moral ambiguity that the other women had. But Moab was not looked upon positively in Israel. And yet through the sovereign plan of God she meets Boaz, gets married, and becomes the great-grandmother of king David.
- Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba): This story is better known. King David (the man after God’s own heart) sees a beautiful woman bathing on her rooftop. He desires her, and gets her. She gets pregnant, David tries to cover it up, and ultimately becomes responsible for Uriah’s murder. So, immorality and murder are at the center of this story. The baby produced from this union dies, but Bathsheba would have more children. One of them was named Solomon. Not only would he be the next king of Israel, but it would be through him that the line of the Promised One would run.
Four women. None of them perfect. In a line full of imperfect people who God in His wonderful kindness and sovereignty strung together to form an unbreakable link from Genesis 3 to Matthew 1. God uses imperfect, fallen people who turn to Him in faith and are willing to be used. I like that. No, I LOVE that! Praise God for the vessels He chooses to use. Let’s not ever make excuses about how God can’t use us. Instead, let’s be surrendered vessels, filled with the Spirit, spending time in the Word, communing with Him in prayer, and keeping ourselves available to His wonderfully guiding hands.