Sunday, March 19, 2017

The scandalous women in Jesus' genealogy

"Judah and Tamar" (1840)
Emile-Jean-Horace Vernet

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 1:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "And Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ." Matthew 1:16

There are only five women mentioned in the Matthew genealogy of Jesus. All of them had at least a little scandal in their lives.

The widow Tamar, overlooked by her father-in-law Judah as a wife for his youngest son (the way widows were dealt with justly in those days), dressed up like a prostitute and seduced Judah. When she was discovered pregnant and he called for her to be burned (talk about a double standard!) she produced proof that he was the father. The son Perez that came of their union is in Jesus' lineage (Genesis 38:6-30).

Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho. She hid the spies, telling them how the city was paralyzed by fear of them and their God. Later the soldiers rescued her and her family — the only ones to escape the falling walls of Jericho (Joshua 2). She married Salmon and mothered Boaz.

Ruth was a Gentile from Moab. This loyal young widow chose her Jewish mother-in-law's country and God over her own. She, in turn, was chosen by Boaz to be his wife. They had Obed, the grandfather of David. (Read her story in the book of Ruth).

The next woman isn't even named in this passage. "Her (who had been the wife) of Uriah"Bathsheba—was the beautiful woman idle king David found irresistible. When he got her pregnant he tried to cover his adultery by having her husband, Uriah, killed in battle. She was the mother of Solomon (2 Samuel 11).

And then we have Mary, the young women to whom the angel said, "You have found favour with God." Despite that favour, she had to face the disgrace of being pregnant and unmarried—leading to a reputation she was probably burdened with for years.

I love these women—Tamar for her determination to get justice; Rahab for her fear of God and courage to go against her own city; Ruth for her loyalty and care for a somewhat depressed mother-in-law; Bathsheba for her mother bear qualities when later fighting for Solomon's right to succeed David as king; Mary for her attitude of complete surrender, and for her thoughtfulness. The fact that God chose and used each one (and the multitude more that aren't named) despite flaws and shortcomings tells me there's hope for me, for you, for all of us.

This motley sampling of the women of God also makes me look at the women in my life — family members, friends, the women whose books and blogs I read — with a new appreciation. No matter what our pedigrees, histories, education, weaknesses and strengths, God has a place and purpose for each one of us too, in this, our time.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for these less-than-perfect women named in Jesus' genealogy. Help me to find and fulfill my destiny as they did. Amen.

MORE: Feast of Saint Joseph

Today the church celebrates Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus in the Feast of Saint Joseph.

The liturgy for the day begins with the following Collect:

"O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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