Last summer I taught a class on the five women in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ. The list includes Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, Ruth and Mary. It’s a short list, but an intriguing one. The members include a prostitute, an adulteress, a twice-widowed woman who imitates a harlot to seduce her father-in-law, a barren heathen (also widowed), and an unmarried teenager who becomes a revolutionary. As I prepared the study, then taught the class, I continually asked God “Why these women?”
Women are typically ignored in biblical genealogies. The records followed fathers and sons, though primarily just the firstborn son. Women and daughters were obviously necessary to continue the line, but they weren’t considered important. Women didn’t make history; men did. These five women, however, did make history — even in the eyes of the men who wrote history.
The same question — Why them? — haunted me through our reading of Genesis. Why these people listed in this way? Why did this blessing pass from this person to this one? Who was significant enough to be remembered and why?
I learned (yet again and in a new way) that God rarely follows man’s rules of importance. Seldom was the firstborn blessed above all the rest. Look at Israel’s sons.
Rueben was the firstborn, but he was also the one who slept with his father’s concubine, the mother of two of his brothers. His own father cursed him as a result.
Joseph, the righteous eleventh son, was the one with prophetic dreams who saved his family and indeed the whole nation of Egypt. He seems like the front runner in God’s eyes, but even He was overlooked for the Messianic promise.
Who became the ancestor of Christ? Judah! Judah, the third son, was the one who initiated the sale of Joseph into slavery. He also married a Canaanite woman, raised three evil sons, failed to keep his promises the the widow of his sons, then took solace in a prostitute after his wife’s death. Well, he thought she was a prostitute until the daughter-in-law he rejected and condemned to poverty became obviously pregnant. This is the man God chose as the heir of the promise. This is the man God chose to honor as part of the lineage of the Messiah.
Why? I don’t know.
What I do know is that God has a plan and we’re all part of it. Israel, Rueben, Joseph, Judah … the firstborns and the first chosens, the blessed and the Bathshebas. The faithful ones waiting expectantly and the spoiled rotten ones who spit in the face of grace. We all have our place.
Genesis reminded me of 1 Corinthians 12. Here is how The Message phrases verses 13-18:
“You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.
“I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.”
Joseph saved the country, but he was no greater than Israel or Judah or Aaron. Tamar seduced her father-in-law, but this makes her no less important than Sarah or Rachel or Ruth.
The same is true for us today. I may write and teach Bible classes, but that makes me no more important than my neighbor. A missionary in Africa is no less in need of grace than the homeless man drinking in the ghetto of San Francisco. We all have our parts to play. If we heed God, we’ll all be great in the end because together we make God glorified. He’s the star of the show. None of the rest matters.
If you missed Whimzie’s post last week on Genesis, you have to go check it out. Great thoughts over there!
Genesis behind us, we’re now in Exodus, about to start Leviticus. We haven’t lost anyone – have we?
I saw someone this week who said she didn’t want to talk to me because she knew she was behind in her reading. Please don’t avoid me!! I’m still a bit behind, too, but — you know what? I’m okay with that. This year will have ups and downs, busy times and free times. Lately I seem to have a lot of busy, crazy, stressful times. When things calm down, I’ll catch up. In the meantime, I keep reading, keep trying, keep working toward our goal. That’s all you need to do, too. We can do it!
So, howya doin?