Sunday, June 11, 2017

Three Whores and a Gentile Walk Into a Bar...

On the umpteenth anniversary of my attempt to read through the Bible I would like to repost this entry I made six years ago on myspace. In short, there are only 4 women mentioned in the genealogy of Christ. One seduced her father-in-law, one was a prostitute, the others an adulteress and a Gentile who were detestable to the Jews. I appreciate this blog on varying levels:

One of my mom's favorite sermon's was about the four women mentioned in the genealogy of Christ.

I've always been partial to the acknowledgment, specifically because I've been a bad girl most of my life and have always felt that God almost sort of preferred me that way.

Here's the repost from a few years back. Hope you glean something from it. If you're not one for reading that much or just aren't interested, at least do me a favor and read what's after the bold print at the bottom. It's one of my all time, favorite true stories:

A. Tamar

Her story—unknown to most of us—is found in Genesis 38. Tamar was the daughter-in-law of Judah who was the son of Jacob, grandson of Abraham. All you need to know is that Judah had a son named Er who married a Gentile woman named . . . Tamar. Er died and his brother Onan rose up to do his brotherly duty by marrying Tamar. But he, too, suddenly died, leaving Tamar both husbandless and childless—a kind of twin curse in those days. So because she was impatient and unwilling to wait for God to supply her need, she hatched a scheme to cause her father-in-law Judah to sleep with her. Her plan was simple: Dressing up as a shrine prostitute, she seduced Judah into sleeping with her, whereupon she became pregnant and gave birth to twin boys—Perez and Zerah. When she confronted Judah with the truth, he said (rightly), "She is more righteous than I." Indeed, no one looks good in this story, which reeks of greed, deception, illegitimacy, prostitution, sexual lust, and even the hint of incest. Whatever you can say about Judah (and it's not very good), you cannot by any stretch of the imagination make Tamar look good. She's only less-bad than her father-in-law. But what she did was evil, wrong and immoral. She truly acted like a prostitute even if she wasn't one by trade. That's all we know about Tamar. There really isn't a happy ending to this story. She's just a footnote in biblical history—and an unsavory one at that. The story of her encounter with Judah is a story of human frailty and weakness—of the sinfulness of human flesh. That people like Judah and Tamar would be included in the line of the Messiah sends a strong message about the pure grace of God. Neither one deserved it, but both are on the list.

B. Rahab

We pass now to the second woman on the list—Rahab. Most of us know more about her. In fact, she is almost always mentioned by a certain phrase in the Bible, a phrase most of us know by heart: Rahab the harlot. But that's not all. Rahab was also a Canaanite—who were the hated enemies of Israel. Her most exemplary deed was the telling of a lie. Think about that. A Harlot, a Canaanite and a liar. You wouldn't think she would have much chance of making the list, but there she is.

Her story is tied in with the larger story of Joshua's conquest of the walled city of Jericho. When Joshua sent spies into the city, Rahab hid them in her house. In exchange for safe passage out of the city, they promised to spare her and her household when the invasion took place. All she had to do was to hang a scarlet cord from her window so the Israelites could identify her house. She agreed, hid the spies, and when the king of Jericho sent messengers asking her to bring out the men, she lied and said they had already left the city (they were hiding on the roof). She let them out of a window with a rope, whereupon they returned to Joshua.

It's a great story with many lessons, but we mustn't miss the point that Rahab was a harlot. That was her "trade." The men hid there because people would be accustomed to seeing strangers come and go at all hours of the night. We also can't deny the fact that Rahab told a bald-faced lie. Is there anything good we can say about her? Yes! She was a woman of faith. You don't have to take my word for it. Hebrews 11:31 says, "By faith Rahab . . ." She was a believer! And her lie was motivated by her faith!

When the invasion came, she was spared and in the course of time became the great-great grandmother of King David. A harlot . . . a Canaanite . . . and a liar. Also a woman of faith. She made the list and she's a part of Jesus' family tree.

C. Ruth

The most significant point about Ruth is that she, too, was not a Jew. She was in fact from the country of Moab. And that takes us back to Genesis 19 and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. On that dreadful day Lot escaped Sodom with his wife and two daughters. His wife was turned into a pillar of salt, but Lot and his daughters found refuge in a cave. His daughters evidently had been badly affected by their time in Sodom because they conspired to lure their father into sleeping with them. On successive nights they got Lot drunk and slept with him. Both sisters got pregnant and gave birth to sons - one named Moab, the other named Ammon. Those two boys—born of incest—grew up to found nations that would eventually become both incredibly evil as well as bitter enemies of Israel. The Jews hated the Moabites and Ammonites and wanted nothing to do with them.

The book which bears her name tells of the romance that blossomed between Ruth the Moabitess and Boaz the Israelite. They were a very unlikely couple but in God's providence they were brought together in marriage. They had a son named Obed who had a son named Jesse who had a son named David, making Ruth David's great-grandmother. And that's how a person from the hated nation of Moab entered the line of the Messiah.

D. Bathsheba

The last woman is not mentioned by name. She is however clearly identified as the woman "who had been Uriah's wife." The story of Bathsheba's adultery with King David is so well-known that it need not be repeated here. Suffice it to say that adultery was only the beginning. Before the scandal was over it included lying, a royal cover-up, and ultimately murder. As a result the child conceived that night died soon after birth and David's family and his empire began to crumble.

Eventually David married Bathsheba and they had another son—Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. Quite a result for a union that began in adultery. There's dirt all over this episode. But don't miss the main point: Bathsheba made the list. Her name isn't there but she is mentioned nonetheless.

Tamar: Incest, immorality, feigned prostitution, a Gentile
Rahab: Harlotry, lying, deception, a Canaanite
Ruth: A woman from Moab—a nation born out of incest
Bathsheba: Adultery

Four unlikely women:

Three are Gentiles
Three are involved in some form of sexual immorality
Two are involved in prostitution
One is an adulteress

Why would God include women like that in this list? But it's not just the women. Think about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David. They were sinners, too. Why include people like that?

I think there are three answers to that question:

1. He did it to send a message to self-righteous people.

Matthew was written especially to the Jews. Many of their leaders (the Pharisees in particular) were self-righteous and judgmental toward others. They truly thought they deserved eternal life. What a shock it would be to read this genealogy because it is filled with liars, murderers, thieves, adulterers and harlots. Not a pretty picture. Not a "clean" family tree. This list was a stinging rebuke to that kind of judgmental self-righteousness.

Do you know what this means? Jesus was born into a sinful family. He came from a long line of sinners.

2. He did it so that God's grace might be richly displayed.

If you come from a family like this, you can't exactly boast of your heritage. Sure, your ancestors were rulers and kings, but they were also great sinners.

Question: Can a prostitute go to heaven? Yes or no? Can an adulterer go to heaven? Can a murderer go to heaven? Can a liar go to heaven? You'd better say yes, because Rahab and David are both going to be in heaven—and Rahab was a prostitute and a liar and David was an adulterer and a murderer.

When you read the stories of these four women—and of the men on the list—you aren't supposed to focus on the sin, but on the grace of God. The hero of this story is God. His grace shines through the blackest of human sin as he chooses flawed men and women and places them in Jesus' family tree.

3. He did it so that we would focus on Jesus Christ.

Many people are intimidated by Jesus Christ. They hook him up with a lot of religious paraphernalia—big sanctuaries, stained glass, beautiful choir, pipe organs, formal prayers, and all the rest. When they look at the trappings, it's all very intimidating to them. To many in the world today, Jesus seems too good to be true.

This genealogy is in the Bible to let us know that he had a background a lot like yours and mine. He called himself "the friend of sinners," and he said he didn't come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.