My dad is a genealogy enthusiast. He’s been tracing his family, my mom’s family, for a while now. In order to keep up with his agile mind, I also try to trace family ties. I’m not as dedicated as he is, nor am I as persistent. Dad seems to love the tidbits of history on his way to the next long lost relative … and I just want to fill in the blanks.
So this year as our church leadership encouraged us to read the Bible through, I was both excited about the reading journey but put off by the long lists of genealogy. Do you just sort of skip through the names … read every other line or two? I do!
As we begin the Christmas story in Matthew, he begins with the genealogy of Jesus. But in this list, if you skip through the names, you might miss an interesting note. There are five women mentioned in this list; let’s look at the first four of them.
“Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar”
Tamar’s story is in Genesis 38. It’s a complicated story of a widow whose father-in-law, Judah, was remiss in following through with cultural expectation. Tamar took the situation into her own hands, sleeping with her father-in-law to continue the line of Judah. She even made Judah pay for her services!
“Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab”
Rahab’s story is in Joshua 2 and 6. The scripture says that Rahab was a prostitute who hid Joshua’s spies in return for safety for her and her family. She insisted that her family would be protected! Rahab is listed in Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith!
“Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth”
Ruth’s story is often told as a sweet story of love for her mother-in-law, “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God!” Ruth was an outsider, a Moabitess, of pagan heritage. She becomes part of the lineage of Jesus in her marriage to Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer! Ruth insisted that Boaz marry her.
“David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife”
Bathsheba isn’t named but she was Uriah’s wife. Bathsheba’s adulterous relationship with David, their marriage after Uriah’s murder – it’s the stuff of daytime soap operas. Interestingly, Bathsheba made David promise that her son, Solomon, would be the next king – and later saved Solomon’s life when Adonijah was trying to set himself up as the king.
This list is intriguing … women whose behavior was unconventional – unlikely candidates for recognition in Jesus’ lineage! Talk about skeletons in the closet! And yet each of these women was assertive, exhibiting strength in decision-making! They made a huge difference in history!
The author of Hebrews reminds us that our spiritual genealogy is significant. In chapter 11, he enumerates many of the faithful … and in chapter 12, says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” Our spiritual heritage, the long lost relatives in our genealogy, those that were counted among the faithful … they are our great cloud of witnesses!
In this Advent season of watching and waiting, I pause to express gratitude for all those who came before me who by their Godly lives spoke truth into my life!
Now it is our turn to be unconventional, assertive, God-fearing –
making a difference in our world!
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
(1 Peter 4:10)