I have a confession: “I don’t typically read the genealogies in the Bible. When I come to one I usually skip past it to the ‘good stuff.'” But the other day I did read the genealogy as written in Matthew 1:3-6 and I learned some very interesting facts I want to share with you.
- Jewish genealogy almost always lists only the male’s names.
- But…four women are listed in this one: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba and there are some interesting facts about these four women:
- Tamar bore a son, Perez, fathered by her father-in-law.
- Rahab ran a brothel in Jericho.
- Ruth was a childless, widowed Moabite woman who followed her mother-in-law Naomi back to Judah and asked Boaz to marry her.
- Bathsheba was the beautiful woman David slept with and who’s husband David later had killed in order to hide her pregnancy.
All four of these women had a past that would not have been acceptable to Jewish society. Yet, in each case God chose each of these women to play a major role in His plan to redeem His people. God did not look at their past, He looked at what their future could be if they followed His plan. When Matthew wrote his gospel He included the names of these women in his genealogy, not because of their questionable past, but because of the role these women played in God’s plan.
All four of these women played a key role in the lineage of Christ. Boaz was Rahab’s son and he was a descendent of Tamar’s son, Perez. Ruth and Boaz were the parents of Obed who fathered Jesse, the father of David. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba, who had been the wife of Uriah.
These women had questionable pasts. They could have felt sorry for themselves, regretting and perseverating on past choices and the difficulties of their lives. But they didn’t. They looked toward God and they took action. And, God gave them direction and support.
What’s the message in this for us? I think it is a subtle but important lesson. When we make choices that aren’t the best, or have bad things happen to us that we couldn’t control, we can stay stuck in them and keep looking at our past, but that doesn’t do us any good. We need to move on. And we do that by learning to forgive ourselves, or by forgiving someone else and accepting that God has already forgiven us.
Rahab chose a life as a prostitute but when Joshua and his men needed someone to hide them while they prepared to take down Jericho, Rahab recognized that God was behind these men and she followed her heart and helped them. Ruth hadn’t really done anything wrong except to have lived in a time when a woman without a husband and without any sons was considered to be worthless. But she chose to follow her mother-in-law and accept a new God. She left everything behind and started a new life.
So, the bottom line is this: we all need to make peace with things in our past that we can’t change. Perhaps we need to forgive ourselves or forgive someone else. But whatever it is “that was” does not have to define “what will be.” There is still much that we can do and much more that God has for us to do. Don’t make the mistake of being stuck looking backward. Just start looking forward.
P. S. I plan to take a deeper look into Ruth in a day or two. There is much more to her story and much that can apply to us today.