Monday, December 21, 2009

The Genealogy of Jesus

Have you ever wondered why certain women are in the genealogy of Jesus? Have you ever been surprised when you go back and read their stories? On Friday, I came across a post at the Christianity Today Women’s blog that caught my attention. The initial post was not about Christ’s genealogy per se, but it was about the truth regarding Mary’s shame over her pregnancy. The author seeks to argue that Mary was not shrouded with illegitimacy claims for the remainder of her life because of the nature of her betrothal to Joseph. In other words, she was not considered an unwed mother. What struck me most were the last few paragraphs that served as a rationale for why Mary was not stuck with the scarlet letter of adultery for the rest of her life.

"Finally, some argue that Matthew is emphasizing Mary’s marginality by highlighting four immoral women in Jesus’ genealogy: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (called the wife of Uriah the Hittite) (see Matt. 1:2-17). However, it is arguable that all four have histories of faithfulness in the face of troubles. Tamar is credited with doing the right thing in holding her father-in-law to account for failing to look after her. Ruth is repeatedly praised for her obedience to her mother-in-law and to Boaz. Bathsheba was taken from her home by King David, and the text places no blame on her for his misdeed. Only Rahab is identified as a prostitute, but in saving the Hebrew spies and siding with Israel, she redeemed herself and her family — she is a heroine of the story. It remains unclear to me what motivated Matthew to compose his genealogy as he did, but we can rule out the suggestion that the list reinforced Mary’s suspected sexual impropriety."

In all of these cases the text is silent regarding their actions. The Bible doesn’t explicitly say, “and Tamar committed sin by sleeping with her father-in-law.” We know enough to understand that God does not approve of adultery and deception. But God used the line of Judah to bring the Christ into the world. The Bible also doesn’t explicitly condemn Bathsheba for committing adultery (and we also aren’t told if she is forced into it or not). But we are not told exactly that there is no blame placed on her. Again, God used her son, Solomon, to carry on the line of David.

The thing that is so sad about this statement is that it implies that God used only obedient women to bring about his purposes. What hope is there for the Tamar, Bathsheba, and Ruth of today if they were not really what the text says they were? If what this author is saying is true, there is certainly no hope for me?

The reality is we can look at Bathsheba and Tamar and say that yes, they committed sexual sin, but God redeemed their lives and their families in the most amazing way—Messiah would come through them. The circumstances and family line surrounding the birth of our Christ were so unlikely, and so not king-like. But that is the beauty of it all. It’s our story, too. We are the Bathsheba’s, Tamar’s, Rahab’s, and Ruth’s. We were all once Gentiles, sinners, immoral, and outside of God’s family. But he redeemed us, just like he redeemed them.

The great part about their stories is not that they were faithful in the middle of trouble, but that God can, and does, redeem awful people for his glory. God chooses the unlikely to bear his name, so his grace and salvation is made much of. This is the Christmas story, and it is our story too.


debt said...

So true!! Where sin abounds, grace abounds more!! The grace of God is truly amazing!! Who could stand without it?

cdt said...

Thanks, Mom!