Women's bible study this morning; 1st Chapter of Matthew. the first 16 verses are full of mostly hard to pronounce names and it is tempting to skip over them in favor of getting to the exciting stuff: Mary is pregnant, Joseph has a dream and shocking things are about to happen.
However.... there is much to be gained by reading that first part; this lineage of Jesus. Maybe you have already noticed this, but it's still worth repeating. The first name that jumps out at me as I read along is that of Tamar. (verse 3)
For one thing, I know this is a woman's name (because it says she was the mother) and a woman being named in the bible usually means take note! To read the full story of Tamar and Judah, see Genesis 38, but here is the brief synopsis: Tamar has been rejected and put off by her father -in -law after she has survived the death of 2 husbands-- Judah's sons. Tired of waiting for Judah to make things right by providing her his 3rd son as a husband, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and sleeps with Judah. This results in a pregnancy... twins actually, one of which is Perez, who is listed in the lineage of Jesus.
Hmmm. characters of questionable repute in the lineage of the Messiah?
Ah, but read on... Matthew, verse 5, mentions another woman... Rahab, the prostitute. She also is the one who hid the spies in Joshua 2. In exchange for sparing their lives, Rahab asks them to spare the lives of her and her family. And later we see this not only takes place but, Rahab goes to live with the Israelites, even marrying one of the men, Salmon. (I have always thought perhaps Salmon was one of the spies she hid on the roof... makes for pretty romantic stuff)
Another questionable character in Our Savior's ancestory? What's going on?
Ruth.... from the despised race of the Moabites.... yet faithful to her dead husband's family.. and in the end it brings her her Kindsman Redeemer... and she becomes the great great grandmother to King David.
And speaking of David... don't we all know the infamous story about the king and Bathsheba? Adultery, lies, murder, and more lies... yet after David repents of his sin and comes back into God's will.... David and Bathsheba have another child together (the first one dies) and this is Solomon... another in the Messianic line.
then of course, Mary. While she was pure in heart, chosen by God, she still came under scrutiny, rumors, even faced the possibility of death.
All 5 of these women are listed and each one of them has something about them that makes them not quite who you might picture when you think of Jesus!
This serves as a powerful reminder to me that God often chooses flawed, rough, unsavory characters to do His Work. Yes, even me.
How might He use you?
(for a GREAT read, author Francine Rivers has a wonderful series that offers a fictional account of these 5 women, entitled: Lineage of Grace )