|Ruth in the Fields by Hugues Merle 1876|
I'm reading through the gospel of Matthew this month. Matthew starts with 17 verses of genealogy... not usually the most inspiring part of the bible, eh? But by the time I was at verse 16 I was rejoicing!
A quick glance at the record of the 42 generations sweeping from Abraham to Jesus reveals men. Lots of men. But sprinkled amongst the men are a few women, women who were notable enough to garner a mention.
These are Jesus' female ancestors. His mother, yes, but also great great great (etc!) grandmothers...
Each one of these women, from a worldly perspective, was an outcast or a failure in some way.
Tamar tricked her father-in-law by pretending to be a prostitute, and conceived their son Perez.
Rahab was a prostitute who hid Israeli spies.*
Ruth was not born a Jew but was a convert, a remarkable inclusion given that Jewish descent is passed through the mother.**
Bathsheba cheated on her husband Uriah and had an affair with King David. David had her husband killed off then married her.
Mary was pregnant before she was married.
I look at these women and I rejoice! I rejoice because He makes all things new. He takes our humanness, our brokenness, and from it He brings life. He knows our situation and He sees our hearts.
Tamar longed for a child but had been denied proper treatment according to custom after she was widowed. Rahab recognized the Israelites' God as the one true God and honored Him. Ruth chose to honor God by remaining faithful to her mother-in-law, and converted to Judaism. Bathsheba was punished for her sin by the death of her infant, but her husband's repentance and God-loving heart allowed for their son Solomon to continue the family line toward Jesus. Mary was a servant-hearted young woman who joyfully accepted the stunning news that she would bear the Son of God.
God saw their hearts. He did not look at outward things. They were human, broken, but He used them for His good purposes.
Reading Matthew 1 I felt like Ruth gleaning in the fields... the genealogy parts of the bible almost seem like the leftover not-so-important bits, and yet right there was nourishment and life!
Remembering that Jesus' grandmothers were broken just like me brings me hope.
What hope has God breathed into your brokenness lately?
* There seems to be disagreement as to whether or not the Rahab listed in Matthew is the same as the Rahab in Joshua. There is reasonable evidence that she was not. One does wonder, though, why a previously unmentioned woman would show up in Jesus' genealogy.
** For a dissenting view on Ruth and Rahab, see Rahab & Ruth: Who Were They?
"Ruth in the Fields" image is in the public domain