Olivet, May 13/07                                                                               Rev. Bob Popma

Mother’s Day

 

“Women God Uses for His Purposes”

Matthew 1:1-17

 

       Many of us when reading through the Bible and we come to a genealogy, just skip or skim over it, don’t we? They seem to be unimportant lists of names of many people we don’t know and seems irrelevant. Take our passage this morning. Matthew begins his gospel with an account of Jesus’ lineage, emphasizing His relationship to David and Abraham. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, who will be the one through whom God will fulfil His covenant promises to Abraham and David. Matthew traces Jesus’ earthly ancestry to prove he is the rightful heir to David’s throne as the King of Israel and Abraham’s descendent through whom God would bless the nations. Great.

 

       So what does this all have to do with women and Mother’s Day?

 

       Jewish genealogies rarely listed women. Matthew lists 4 women in this abbreviated list that follows the line to Jesus. If we were to mention women in Jesus’ ancestry we would think of Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca or even Abigail or some other more notable women. But here we have Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba – all of whom have something about them that a good, righteous Jewish person would be uncomfortable to have in their family line. Like that relative that no one likes to discuss in our families because we’re not very proud of them.

 

       Today is Mother’s Day, a day in which we honour mothers for their love and commitment to their families. But if statistics are true that say almost half of all marriages in North America end in divorce, then there are a lot of hurting mothers out there. There are also lots of good moms who worked, sacrificed, supported their children in love and prayer but are not pleased where their children are these days in the Lord. There are moms who grew up in difficult situations and have always struggled with their past. There are wives and moms who feel unloved and neglected but hide it well. Maybe there’s something we can learn about these 4 women in Jesus’ earthly, family lineage that can encourage you to know that God is working His plan in your life.

 

       Before we look at these 4 women, we must see the passage as a whole. There are lots of names here. They are all part of the same family. They are all mentioned for the part they plan in whose life? Who is this passage all about?

 

       A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham” (v.1).

 

       “And Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (v.16)

 

       “Thus there were 14 generations in all from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the exile in Babylon and 14 from the exile to the Christ” (v.17).

 

       The passage is all about Jesus. All these names mentioned are because they of how God used them to bring Jesus into the world. In the animated movie, Moses: Prince of Egypt, Moses meets Jethro his future father in law. Moses has run to the desert because he killed an Egyptian. He met Jethro because he rescued Jethro’s daughter Zipporah from some shepherds who threatened them and their sheep. Moses downplays his rescue because he feels ashamed of his past in Egypt. Jethro sings a song called “Heaven’s eyes” and in the song Jethro tells Moses that when we look at our life all we see is a single thread and not the whole, beautiful tapestry that God is making with us in it. We need to look at our life through heaven’s eyes.

 

       So when we read this opening list of names, we must see the big picture of God’s role in their life as well as in our own. Don’t just focus on that moment in time but  understand . . .

 

God’s Plan for Our Lives Has Eternal Purposes

(1:1, 16-17)

 

       The focus of these opening verses is not on these individuals but on their part in bringing Jesus to the world. God’s plan for our lives has eternal purposes; of how God is using us to bring Jesus to our world, our families and our neighbours, who will then bring Jesus to their families and their neighbours, who will bring, etc.

 

       Your life is not about you. My life is not about me. It’s about how God is using you and me to bring Jesus to the world. We have to keep in mind the big picture or the biblical picture of our lives. God made us. God placed us in certain homes, with certain families in certain geographical locations to do His work in helping others come to Jesus.

 

       “From one man [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the set times for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).

 

       When life’s difficulties come or even when life is going well we have a tendency to look only at that moment. We’re so focused on that moment in our lives we fail to see God’s overriding purpose. God has an eternal purpose in our lives to bring Him glory so that He and Jesus are revealed to a lost and hurting world. Jesus modelled this for us the night before He died. In John 17 Jesus prayed to God and said this about His purpose in life:

 

       I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do (v.4) . . . I have revealed You to those You gave me out of the world. They were Yours; You gave them to Me and they obeyed Your Word (v.6).”

 

       The cross was the finishing work by which Jesus would reveal God and bring Him glory. Our purpose is Jesus’ purpose: to bring God glory by revealing Him to those He gives us in our situations, friends, families and through the means He gives us.

 

       But you might be thinking, ‘I’m not perfect. My family isn’t a perfect picture. Like Moses, I’m not proud of my past.’ Welcome to the world!! Because this passage tells us:

 

God’s Plan Includes Mistreated and Imperfect People

 

       These are the ones God uses for eternal purposes. Purposes that we can’t always see – and may never see in our lifetime – but that God is weaving together to form a beautiful tapestry. And when we see the whole picture we can look back and say ‘Now I see what God was doing’. Like with Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Who were these ladies and moms? This is why they are in this genealogy, right? They are all emphasized. Matthew goes out of his way to introduce them to us. This is how you study lists by the way. Most lists are very plain and repetitive but usually something is different. Here we read, so-and-so fathered his son, his son fathered his son, etc. Except we have these few little comments about the mother.

 

       Tamar is the first woman mentioned. Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, twins whose mother was Tamar. This story is not one that you would give a whole lot of space in your scrapbook album. We find the story in Genesis 38. Judah married a Canaanite woman, not a good start because Canaanites were idol worshippers. They have 3 boys. Er, Onan and Shelah. Judah got a wife for Er whose name was Tamar. Most likely another Canaanite. Er we read in Gen. 38:7 “Was wicked in the LORD’s sight, so the LORD put him to death.”

 

       Tamar was a childless widow. According to the law, Er’s brother or closest relative was to redeem Tamar and father her children so that his brother’s line would not disappear. But Onan didn’t want that because that meant his children would not carry his name but his brother’s. He wouldn’t fulfil his duty and God put him to death too. That left Shelah, Judah’s 3rd son. Judah promised Tamar

that when Shelah was a little older, he could marry Tamar. But Judah had no intention of keeping his promise to Tamar because he was afraid God would kill Shelah too. So Tamar was neglected and lied to.

 

       Meanwhile Judah’s wife dies and Judah goes with his Canaanite friend to Timnah to sheer their sheep. Tamar finds out and disguises herself as a prostitute to lay with Judah because he lied to her thus preventing her from having children. Sadly, he does and she becomes pregnant. When Judah finds out Tamar is pregnant, he is furious and is ready to have her burned to death assuming she was unfaithful to her future husband Shelah, whom he has no intention of giving her in marriage! However, Tamar tells Judah that the father is the owner of the staff and seal that he left behind for payment. These of course belong to Judah and he is shamed and recognizes his own failure to provide for her. She has twin boys from Judah, Perez and Zerah.

 

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       Rahab we’re a little more familiar with. Her story is in Joshua 2. She is the prostitute who ran the inn that hid the two spies sent by Joshua to spy out Jericho. She had heard all about how God rescued the Israelites from Egypt and how Israel defeated two large armies. The Jerichoites were all afraid of the Israelites. Rahab, we’re told here in Matthew, becomes the mother of Boaz which means she, another Canaanite, married an Israelite. So both women mentioned are non-Israelites who shouldn’t have married Israelites, yet  they did and God used them to move the seed along to Jesus. Both of these women did things in their life that were not exactly commendable to God, yet God chose to use them.

 

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       Boaz of course would marry Ruth. Her story is a familiar one. Here again we have another non-Israelite. Ruth was a Moabite, a spin-off descendent of Israel through Lot. Remember Lot’s daughters? They got their father drunk, had sex with him and they both had sons, Moab and Amon. Israel despised the Moabites and Ammonites although at times had peaceful relations with them. Ruth was initially married to an Israelite because Elimelich and Naomi, Jews, moved to Moab for awhile where Elimelech’s sons married Moabite women. Elimilech died and then his 2 sons died leaving Naomi and her 2 daughters-in-law widows. She tells them she’s going to return to Bethlehem but that the girls should remain in Moab where they can find future husbands. Ruth refuses to leave Naomi and comes back to Israel where she eventually meets Boaz and they get married and have a son who becomes the grandfather of David, the future king of Israel.

 

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       One more lady highlighted in this genealogy. Matthew doesn’t even give us her name: “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.” Uriah the Hittite, a non-Jew yet part of Israelite’s elite armed forces. Bathsheba may have been an Israelite but we’re not sure. She of course is known for her outdoor bathing habits and is seduced by David. We’re never given the impression she fought about it, yet David was the instigator. David of course has Uriah killed, marries Bathsheba, who is already pregnant from David. God tells David that because of his evil actions, the child of their sin would die, yet in God’s grace, David and Bathsheba have another child who is Solomon.

 

       So God by His Spirit has Matthew specifically include 4 women whose character was questionable or who made some mistakes or were mistreated and looked down on. Why? First of all, Matthew is building up his audience to Mary, who will be mistreated and looked down on because people will think she was unfaithful and her child was born out of wedlock, even though Matthew pain-stakingly makes it absolutely clear in v.16 that no man ‘begot’ Mary. All through the gospel a man fathers a son.

 

       Matthew does not say Joseph fathers Jesus, only that “from Mary was born Jesus.” So all these women who had births under unusual circumstances in the earthly line of Jesus, build up towards Mary whose birth of Jesus was a very unusual birth – virgin born! So, Matthew prepares the readers not to be surprised that God used an unusual birth to bring about the incarnation of Jesus because He had already caused other unusual births in Jesus’ lineage.

 

       However, the other reason Matthew mentions these women is to remind all of us that God uses imperfect and mistreated people to accomplish His purposes. In this list there are godly men and ungodly men. The history recorded in Scripture revealing God’s plan through the ages has always included people who made mistakes, people who were less than perfect and people who were mistreated by their families and society.

 

       Picture yourself at the coffee table with a friend showing them your family history. They are asking you ‘Who’s that? Where are they? What are they doing?’ Or they’re even asking you, ‘What were you doing back here? Why were you there? Who are those people you are with?’ Some of those questions we would be uncomfortable to answer. But, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t use us or them. God specializes in using imperfect people as part of His plan. And remember, look at your life through heaven’s eyes. God is not done with you and I. God is not done with that family member we worry and pray about. When we screw up God doesn’t call Jesus and the Holy Spirit into an emergency cabinet meeting and say, ‘Oi veh, now what do we do?’ He’s in control and can use our mistakes for His purposes because He’s done it time and time again. What God does ask us to do in the present however is that . . .

 

God Calls Us to be Faithful When Others Are Not

 

       This is another reason why God had Matthew mention these 4 women. Let’s revisit their lives for a moment. Look at Gen. 38:24-26. Remember Judah? Wasn’t he the one who sold his younger brother Joseph into slavery and lied to his father that he was killed? At this point he still hasn’t changed much. He, who has slept with a woman (who he thought was a prostitute) is ready to have his daughter-in-law burned for having slept with a man not her husband! But when she presents Judah with his own staff and seal saying that the man who got her pregnant owns these, we read: Judah recognized them and said, ‘She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.”

 

       This must have been a major turning point for Judah because later on he volunteers to be Joseph’s slave in Egypt for life so that Benjamin’s life will be spared. In Gen. 49 God chooses Judah over 1st born Reuben and 2nd born Simeon to be the heir of the Messiah. For Jesus will come from the line of Judah.

 

       Back here in Gen. 38, Judah, whom God in His sovereignty has chosen to be a descendent of Jesus, by denying Shelah to Tamar almost makes his own line extinct! If Shelah has no sons, Judah has no lineage! The line of one of the 12 tribes is in jeopardy! Judah has failed to see that his line continues. Tamar has to trick Judah to ensure that his line continues. Tamar is not a prostitute nor is she a wicked woman. Judah rightly says ‘She is more righteous than I.’

 

       Look at Ruth 4:12. When the elders of Bethlehem bear witness to Boaz as kinsmen-redeemer to Ruth they bless the marriage by saying, “Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah”! Wow! Why them? Look at Num. 26:19-22. here we have a census of Israel as they prepare to enter the promised land. Guess

who has the largest family? Judah. 76,500. Had it not been for righteous Tamar, the tribe of Judah may have ceased to exist. Tamar, a Canaanite, was faithful to God’s people Israel when another Israelite (Judah) was not.

 

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       Rahab was from Canaan also. Why did she hide the spies from Israel? Joshua 2:8-12. All of Jericho had heard about the God of Israel but only Rahab does anything about it. She says Israel’s God is the true God. “For the LORD your God is God in heaven above and earth below”. She asks that Israel show her family kindness by saving them from the doom awaiting Jericho. They agree and she is rescued.

 

       Two New Testament passages mention Rahab’s faith. One is in Hebrews 11, placing her beside Moses, Abraham, Joshua and many others. The other is in James where James uses the example of Rahab to show what real faith looks like. Real faith is when you believe what god says and act on it. She believed God was going to destroy Jericho and give Israel the land. So she asked them to save her from the coming destruction. James 2:25-26 says,

 

       In the same way was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

 

*     *     *     *

       Ruth was another non-Israelite who placed her faith in Israel’s God because she believed He was the true God. She remained faithful to her Jewish mother-in-law. In 1:16-17 she said to Naomi, “Where you go I will go. Where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” This is what God saw and rewarded her for. When Boaz meets Ruth for the first time he says,

 

       I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband . . . May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (2:11-12)

 

       Naomi saw God’s hand through Boaz and told Ruth in 2:20, “He has not stopped showing His kindness to the living and the dead.”

 

       Ruth trusted in God. She was widowed and poor yet God blessed her faithfulness to Him and blessed her through a new husband, godly Boaz, through whom they continue the Messianic line. Ruth stands out for her faithfulness because she lived in Israel while the Jews were unfaithful to God. the book of Ruth begins saying “in the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land.” The book of Judges was a dark, faithless time for Israel. Yet here we have a shining story of faithfulness to God – by a Moabite – when others (Israel) were not.

 

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       So how about Bathsheba? We hear very little about her except in 1 Kings 1. David is old and not paying attention to his sons or his kingdom. One of his sons Adonijah is going to claim the throne. So he gets a big entourage, calls one of the priests and some of David’s cabinet and holds his own press conference announcing he is the next king as David’s son. He makes all these sacrifices, making it look like this is of God. However, he didn’t invite Solomon or the high priest Zadok or Nathan the prophet, let alone inform his dad, David the King.

 

       Nathan hears about this and confers with Bathsheba because their lives are in danger if Adonijah takes the throne. Bathsheba must go see David and remind him that he swore that Solomon would be king and tell him what Adonijah has done. In 1 Kings 1:6 there is a comment that David never interfered with his children’s doings. Adonijah did what he did because he knew dad wouldn’t do anything about it. David may have been a man after God’s heart but he was a lousy father and at this point was not running the kingdom well.

 

       Taking a similar risk as Esther had, Bathsheba tells David what’s going on in his kingdom by boldly confronts him with his unfaithfulness as king as discreetly as possible: “My lord the King, all the eyes of Israel are on you to learn from you who will sit on the throne of my lord the king after him.”

 

       David tells her that he will see to it that Solomon is made king and then calls in Zadok and Nathan to announce to Israel that Solomon will succeed him on the throne.

 

       Again there is a threat to the Messianic line and God uses a woman – even though she committed adultery – to help God’s over all plan to bring Jesus to the world.

 

       Each one of these women, as imperfect as they are, even though they made bad decisions or lived in undesirable circumstances, were all used by God to fulfil His plan to bring Jesus into the world. If one of these 4 women were here this morning and they had a scrapbook made with their family history, don’t you think they would be just beaming proud and say “Look at my family and how great they are?’ No? How come?

 

God’s People Can Only Boast in Grace

(1 Cor. 1:26-31)

 

       The apostle Paul said,

 

       “Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are so that no one may boast before him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus . . .therefore as it is written: let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

 

       Moms – and dads – make sure when you boast in your family, it’s because you’re boasting in God’s grace in your life not because of how great a parent or grandparent you are. Thank God for Christian spouses, kids and grandkids. But pray they stay with the Lord. Got some family members you’re not too proud of or disappointed in? Are you discouraged because you feel unloved, neglected or unfulfilled?

 

       First, stay faithful to God no matter what. That’s what God has called you to do.

 

       Second, remember God hasn’t finished writing your story or your family’s story. Like these ladies, we will all be amazed one day and look back and see how these loose strands in our life formed a beautiful tapestry that brought others to Jesus.

 

       And, thirdly, remember who this chapter is all about? Jesus. Life is not about you or me, it’s about Jesus. Wake up tomorrow and everyday and say ‘Father, how do you want me to bring Jesus to the world I work in, go to school in, shop in, travel in, play in and minister in? Help me to consciously think about Jesus more than myself. Help me Lord to be able to say as Jesus did at the end of His life, Father, I brought you glory by completing the work You gave me to do. Through you, I was able to reveal Jesus to those You gave me.”

 

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