I have a confession to make. Sometimes when I read the Bible, I skip over whole passages so I can get to the good stuff. I try not to, but I’m only human. Don’t judge me.
Usually when I do that, the passage that I leapfrog is a genealogy. Those are the long lists of who “begat” whom. Many a devoted student of scripture has dozed off trying to get through a seemingly pointless list of names they can’t pronounce.
Admittedly, they don’t make for the most scintillating reading. But when you chug a Red Bull, tape your eyelids open, and force yourself to get through them, you’ll find that these ancestral records actually hold some pretty interesting and powerful insights.
My favorite one is in Matthew 1. I love it because of the extra stuff that’s in there, the information that wasn’t really necessary, but it reminds us how God works. In that passage, the lineage of Jesus is laid out, going all the way back to Abraham, and the focus is on the fathers. But what makes this one special is the mention of some of the mothers that are named. In verse 3, we see Tamar. In verse 5, Rahab. And in verse 6, “the artist formerly known as Uriah’s wife,” Bathsheba.
Now think about it for a second. There’s absolutely no reason to throw in those references. In fact, there’s a lot of good reason not to include them. If you want to make your Messiah seem more reputable, it’d probably be better to leave some of those skeletons in the closet. There’s no reason to put them in there… other than to make a point.
Under the Spirit’s guidance, Matthew is going out of his way to remind us that there’s some rotten fruit on Jesus’ family tree!
Judah got caught in a scandal with his daughter-in-law, Tamar (Genesis 38). When she disguised herself because of her father-in-law’s reluctance to do right by her, Judah thought she was a prostitute, had “relations” with her, and got her pregnant. This was the woman who had already been married to two of his sons! He got exposed and humiliated when it all came out.
Rahab wasn’t the president of the block club. She wasn’t the chair of the PTA. She wasn’t a cookie-baking, sweater-knitting soccer mom. She was a harlot. A woman of the night. A lady of light virtue.
Bathsheba belonged to another man. But King David lusted after her and abused his power to sleep with her. When she got pregnant, he tried to pass the baby off as her husband’s by bringing him home from the front lines and encouraging him to go enjoy some “happy time” with his wife. But when Uriah proved too honorable a man to do what David hoped he would, the king just had him killed.
But it was Judah and Tamar’s son Perez, the product of a wicked and embarrassing union, who begat Hezron, who begat Ram…
It was Rahab whom Salmon married, and they begat Boaz, who begat Obed…
And it was out of that sordid and shameful situation that David created that Solomon was eventually born, and Solomon begat Rehoboam, who begat Abijah…
…all the way down to Jesus.
GOD TOOK OUR MESS AND GAVE US A MESSIAH!
It doesn’t matter how badly you’ve screwed up.
It doesn’t matter how far away you’ve drifted or how long you’ve stayed out there.
It doesn’t matter what bridges you’ve burned.
It doesn’t matter how badly you’ve embarrassed yourself or how much shame you’ve brought on your family.
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done.
God can still bring about something amazing and wonderful. Something that blesses the people around you and touches their lives in a powerful way. Something that leads to greater life and deeper love and brighter light.
Don’t give up on yourself! Don’t get stuck in a destructive downward spiral of guilt and shame. Don’t let the enemy convince you that it’s over, that there’s no coming back from this. Receive your Father’s forgiveness, and forgive yourself. Trust in the exceedingly able God who promises that He’ll work everything out for the good of those who love Him.
And stop writing other people off because they’ve messed up. Stop judging people based on their worst mistakes or their biggest flaws. Stop diminishing their value to the kingdom and to society because of where they’ve been and what they’ve done.
God has always chosen the small and the weak. The broken and the disreputable. The too old, the too young, the too sick, the too poor, the too sinful. The not-rich-enough, the not-famous-enough, the not-righteous-enough. He’s chosen people like Paul, the self-titled “chief sinner.” Because that’s the very definition of grace, and that’s how He gets His glory.
Even a rotting apple can still hold a perfectly good seed.