These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
“How can this be, since I have no husband?” (v.34) RSV
All the women mentioned over the last six weeks have been not only ancestors of Jesus, but also have had rather alarming if not shocking backgrounds. But now as we come to the last one, the mother of Jesus, surely we have at least one female ancestor who was as pure as the driven snow!
Well, she may have been personally pure, a “virgin” (v.27) and the Lord’s “favoured one” (v.28), but as far as her neighbours were concerned she was a scandal. She was nothing less than a ‘naughty girl’ and an unmarried mother. Of course we know that in law she was betrothed to Joseph before her pregnancy, and that she was married to him before the birth. However, everyone ‘knew’ the real situation, or they thought they knew.
Who would believe that God was the father? “Pull the other one” people would retort. So Mary joins the list of the other unfortunate women who, according to Matthew’s genealogical list, were part of Jesus’ ancestry. That list included Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba as well as Mary (Matthew 1:3-6, 16).
There is no hint that Jesus was ashamed of any of his ancestors. He certainly remained entirely loving and loyal to his mother. However, when he was baptized by John in the River Jordan he was taking the sins of the whole human race, including his personal ancestors with him. The past is redeemable. Whatever has gone before can, through prayer and absolution, be cleansed and brought into the redeeming purposes of God.
In no way was Jesus’ life limited or blighted by his forebears. As he walked through life by the power of the Spirit, so he was free to live a life pleasing to his Father and fruitful for the salvation of individuals and mankind. We too can have that privilege. The curses of the past need not hinder us, for he has set us free. Praise his holy name!
Thank you Lord for my mother (good or bad, alive or dead). May your love and blessing be on her. Amen.
1 To whom did Jesus entrust his mother as he died?
2 Who became more important to Jesus than his human family?
“Bathsheba … the wife of Uriah the Hittite” (v.3) RSV
This week we come to the fourth of the five women mentioned by Matthew in his ancestry of Jesus. This woman is not actually named, but there is no doubt as to who she is: “And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah” (Matt. 1:6). This wife was called Bathsheba.
If you read today’s reading you will have part of the story of this sorry event in David’s life. Bathsheba was beautiful but married. However, King David, who should have been out fighting (v.1), was idling his time in his palace. Consequently the devil found work for idle hands; he saw Bathsheba bathing on a nearby roof and invited her over. An adulterous affair ensued and soon there was a pregnancy. To make matters worse the problem was compounded by David effectively causing her husband, Uriah, to be killed at the battle front.
However, God did not dismiss David and Bathsheba forever. There was an immediate consequence, namely the death of their child. There were also long-term consequences: David would always live by the sword, and his son Absalom would rebel. However after David was confronted by the prophet Nathan (2 Sam. 12:1-15) and after he repented, the couple produced a second child. This time the child was going to be special in the history of Israel and in the lineage of Jesus, for his name was Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24)!
It never ceases to be amazing how God can weave our sins into his fruitful purposes. Bathsheba continued to be an influential wife. When David was old and dying she and Nathan made sure that David’s desire for Solomon to succeed him actually came to pass (1 Kings 1:11-31). Once again sin did not need to be the end of the story. Repentance opens up new possibilities. We should be heartened by such a recurring theme. Nothing is too difficult for our God. There is always a future and a hope.
Thank you Lord for the women of faith who have done great things for the Kingdom. May they be my challenge and inspiration. Amen.
1 Read David’s Psalm of repentance after his adultery.
2 Which sons of David nearly got the throne instead of Solomon?
“So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife (4:13) RSV
The third ‘notorious’ woman in Matthew’s Genealogy of Jesus is Ruth: “Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth” (Matthew 1:5). Not only was Ruth a Moabitess, that is a non-Jew, but Boaz was the son of a prostitute, Rahab by name!
Yes, Boaz was the son of Rahab the harlot who hid the spies in the land of Canaan. This remarkable lady of faith married an Israelite called Salmon. No doubt she brought up her boy to be non-judgemental and inclusive. After all she had been included despite her past and being a Canaanite. Thus when Boaz met Ruth, the foreigner, gleaning in his field, he did not reject her. Indeed he was able to respond to her modesty and her beauty.
Ruth had come from Moab where her mother-in-law, Naomi, had lived with her husband, Elimelech, because there had been a famine in Israel. Whilst there, her two sons had married two local girls, Ruth and Orpah. But after Naomi’s husband and two sons died she returned home.
At first the two widowed daughters-in-law wanted to go with her, but only Ruth stayed the course. She memorably said: “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (v.16). She was a true proselyte and left her old land, people and beliefs, accepting the people of God and their beliefs.
Ruth arrived in Bethlehem with her embittered mother-in-law, but her beauty of spirit and her hard work started to transform the situation. Finally the wealthy farmer Boaz spotted her, and romance ensued. He was willing to marry her and take on responsibility for Naomi. They made a noble and exemplary couple. In due course they produced a son, Obed. And later a grandson appeared who was to be called, Jesse, and finally a great-grandson called David!
Thanks you Lord that you look not on the outward appearance or background, but on the heart. Renew my heart and put a right spirit within me. Amen.
The second woman mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is Rahab: “Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab” (Matthew 1:5). Next week we shall look at Boaz and his wife Ruth, but today Rahab ‘the harlot’ is our subject.
Is it not interesting how many people in the Bible are labelled by their ‘unfortunate’ past? For instance, Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15), or Simon the Leper (Matthew 26:6). So Rahab, despite her faith in helping the spies sent by Joshua into the Promised Land, has always been called ‘the harlot’. Perhaps it is helpful, if somewhat humbling, to be reminded of where we have come from. We are what we are because of grace. Or as a modern saying puts it: “There but for the grace of God go I”; in other words, if God hadn’t intervened Rahab would have continued to be a harlot.
Of course being a harlot meant she was the ideal person to hide the spies! Many men came and went into her house, and who would be counting? Thus even in the midst of her unsavoury lifestyle she was used by God to achieve his purposes. But of course she was not just a prostitute, she was a woman in touch with what God was doing. This should not amaze us. It is often not the churchy people or the theologians who are more in tune with truth, justice and the movement of God.
As Jesus said: “the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you (i.e. the chief priests and elders of the people)” (Matthew 21:31). This does not mean that unrepentant sinners enter the Kingdom, but that those people whose lives are in a mess tend to know it and admit it. They are therefore more honest and open to the truth. Those who think they are righteous may miss the boat.
Jesus was not ashamed of his ancestry, especially Rahab. She was a perfect example of the all embracing mercy of his heavenly Father. This God is our Father too.
Thank you Lord that you know me through and through, and yet you embrace me with your eternal love. Amen.