Friday, March 14, 2014

Prostitutes, Adulterers, and Other Women in Jesus' Family Tree

The first thing written in the New Testament in Matthew chapter one is the lineage of Jesus. Normally those long lists of "so-and-so beget so-and-so" are the most boring parts of the bible; however, the one in Matthew has always interested me. 
The business of lineage and family trees for Jews back then was a big deal. Everyone had to be able to trace back their family line and prove that they were descended from Abraham; not to mention they had to trace their lineage to know which of the twelve tribes they belonged to. Women were typically never mentioned in a family tree because, well, they were women. And sometimes men had children by so many different wives it made no sense to keep up with all the women in a lineage. 

The interesting thing about Jesus' family tree listed in Matthew is that Matthew mentions five women in the lineage of Christ. He didn't have to list any to get his point across, but he listed 5. Here's a short bio on each of them:

1. Tamar
Tamar was the wife of one of Judah's sons. You've heard of Joseph and his coat of many colors? Judah was his brother...and we know what a happy nice little family that was (insert eye roll here) so you can guess at the kind of men Judah and his sons were. Tamara's husband died so she married his brother, that brother also died, so Judah sent Tamar back to her family - a disgrace in those days. According to Jewish law, after her husband and his brother died, it was his job as the father in law to marry her himself in order to father her child for the sake of his son. This sounds gross to us but it was common back then. This kept the woman from being disgraced and it allowed the dead man a chance to carry on his family name. Judah refused to do his duty. So Tamar had to disguise herself as a prostitute and seduce her father in law in order to gain back her honor. Which makes no sense to us but having a son made all the difference back then. So the first woman mentioned in Jesus' family tree had to manipulate her father in law in order to keep him from breaking the law by not giving her a son. 

2. Rahab
Almost everyone has heard the story of Rahab. She wasn't even a Jew. She was a foreigner, and if that wasn't bad enough, she was also a prostitute. And yet she had faith in this God she had heard of, the God of the Israelites. So she protected their spies and they saved her life. She married a Jew and they had a son named Boaz, which leads me to...

3. Ruth
Ruth was also a foreigner, a Moabite. She married into a Jewish family who came to live in her country. When her father in law, husband, and brother in law died she decided to accompany her mother in law back to Israel. Boaz (remember him?) extended his kindness to her by letting her pick up extra grain from his fields in order to feed herself and her mother in law. She took a bold step one evening laying at Boaz's feet asking him to be the guardian redeemer of her family - which was kind of like a marriage proposal at the time. Boaz and Ruth became the grandparents of King David himself. 

4. Bathsheba
Bathsheba is unique because she isn't mentioned by name in this lineage. She is referred to as "Solomon's mother, who had been Urriah's wife." She slept with King David even though she was married to Urriah. She got pregnant, and in a effort to cover up what he had done, David sent Urriah to the front lines of battle to be killed. 

And of course...
5. Mary
Mary, the 15 year old girl who was told by an angel that she would give birth to the Messiah - the one the Jews had been waiting for for centuries. 

The women listed here include a manipulator, a prostitute, a foreigner, an adulteress, and a young girl. Each of them played a pivotal role in God's ultimate plan to send us a Savior. The first four died without even knowing how important they were to God's plan. What an incredible example of how God uses our weaknesses to show his strength! No matter who we've been or what we've done, God can still use us. It's such an incredible example of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, my power made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I hope this encourages you today. In your weaknesses and in your screw ups, through Christ you are still strong. 

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