The Bracing Power of Ancestry.God

When promises or dreams take a long time to be fulfilled, it’s easy to doubt them.

We grow weary. Others mock us for waiting. Scorn our hope. Point us to focus on “reality.” As if something is less real because it is slow to appear.

We share our days with a cynical generation. No one wants to imagine themselves fools. Pride is so treasured, we’d rather risk eternity separated from Love than be thought not to be in the know now.

This is what I was thinking this morning as I listened to the opening chapters of Matthew’s gospel on the audio in my car.

The people of Israel had been waiting so long for their Messiah to come. They’d even endured four hundred years of God’s silence. It’s not hard to understand why, after centuries, people grow weary of waiting. So weary, they miss the promise fulfilled before their eyes. Without God’s mercy, we’d all do the same.

Therefore, practical, reality-focused Matthew grounds his gospel in the solid reality of a genealogy. He firmly establishes the birth of Jesus Christ in the timeline of his people. Fourteen generations to fourteen generations to fourteen generations. Ancestry.God.

If anyone tries to tell you the disciples devised the gospels in order to create their own religion – point them to the opening of Matthew. Listed in this genealogy, meant to establish the authenticity of the Messiah, are five women no one would include if he were making it up to convince the Israelites of anything. Women weren’t usually mentioned in genealogies (as if they had no part in the line of conception!), let alone women of this sort:

First, Tamar. Poor Tamar. She was married to Judah’s oldest son, Er. Er was so wicked, God put him to death. By tradition, Tamar being left childless, had the right to bear a child by Judah’s next son, Onan. But Onan, knowing any child conceived by the union would be officially Er’s, withheld from Tamar what was necessary for conception.

This was also wicked, and Onan died. Judah then instructed Tamar to remain a widow until his youngest son, Shelah, was of age, but secretly he feared Shelah would suffer the same fate as his brothers. Tamar waited to no avail. Finally, she tricked Judah into sleeping with her, so she could conceive a son and have a place in their community. Judah held her without fault in the trickery, admitting he had withheld from her what was promised, and she gave birth to twin sons.

It’s an unpleasant tale. Not one any of us would be proud to discover in our family history. But, the birth of Christ is grounded in history, truth, and the promise of redemption despite sin. It’s also grounded in long-awaited promises. Judah, a sinful human, refused to fulfill his promise willingly, but God will always keep His promises.

Second, Rahab. Scandalous, heroic Rahab. Gentile. Prostitute. Business woman. Traitor to some. Rescuer to Joshua’s spies who came under her protection.

Joshua sent men to spy out Jericho. They lodged at Rahab’s home in the city wall and when the king of Jericho sent for them, Rahab hid them, at risk of her own life. She then expressed a very practical faith in their God and asked to be remembered during the invasion of her city. In faith, she hung a scarlet cord from her window as a sign the Israelites honored and thus, she saved her family from destruction. To include a Gentile prostitute who clearly gave birth to a child by one of the Israelite soldiers in Jesus’ blood line displays a commitment to truth and reality that ignores politics and propaganda. She waited, a Gentile, in faith, for deliverance, and it came through the God of Israel.

Third, Ruth. Lovely, faithful Ruth. Ruth is a heroine any of us would love in our family tree, but she was a Moabite.

The origin of the Moabites is an uncomfortable story in itself, and the Moabites were in and out of favor with Israel throughout their history. While it’s common for humans to gloss over any ugliness or conflict in their origin stories, God lives without fear and never does. Ruth, again, provides a beautiful example of patiently waiting for the provision and redemption that only comes from God.

Fourth, the wife of Uriah. That’s pleasant of God, isn’t it, to inspire Matthew to remind us all that King David took what wasn’t his, namely Bathsheba. David’s greatest sin – adultery and murder – ensconced forever in the genealogy of Jesus. But God has written, like a scarlet cord through the blood line of history, that His plan of redemption will not be thwarted by our sin. In fact, He faces our sin head on and rips redemption from the jaws of our greatest failures.

Finally, Mary, mother of Jesus. Heroine to us with the lens of history, but a scandal in her day. One so devout and pure found to be with child before her union with Joseph. Tsk. Tsk. You can imagine the muttering, especially over the rumors that she’d birthed the long-awaited Messiah. As if the King of the Jews would be born to a poor couple in cave filled with animals and hay!

The birth of Jesus, Messiah, long-awaited promise, a nearly forgotten dream, grounded in the reality of Roman oppression, poverty, religious judgment, inhospitable innkeepers, smelly shepherds, and the deaths of innocents. Miracles show up amidst the mess and the only One who doesn’t blink or flinch is our God.

As we enter the holidays, let us make them holy days established in the reality of our times and circumstances and sins. Let us spend more time in the gospels reminding ourselves of the real reality than with distractions and decorations. Let us love one another without flinching in the truth of our failures and sin, reminding one another that redemption is ours through Jesus.

And never, never let doubt creep in because someone scoffs at the hope of Jesus’ return. Send them directly to Ancestry.God in the opening of Matthew.

Point out the reality of those five historical women and encourage them to focus on the real reality of Jesus Christ before they themselves are history.

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12 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Bruce A Cunningham says:

    Hey Lori-

    Very insightful and encouraging!

    Thank you.

  2. Rob McCullough says:

    Thanks Lori! This one went deep in my heart and really blessed me. He IS Faithful and All of His Word IS True! Father, we stand on and in Your Word and wait in the Full assurance of Your Promise to us through Yeshua the Christ!

    Be Blessed Lori!

  3. Valerie Elliot Shepard says:

    Wonderful article Lori! You are gifted to be a “prophet” in this age, and I’m thankful!
    I love your writing.

  4. Margaret Lalich says:

    Lori, I loved this! Thank you …
    “God has written, like a scarlet cord through the blood line of history, that His plan of redemption will not be thwarted by our sin. In fact, He faces our sin head on and rips redemption from the jaws of our greatest failures.” WOW …

    Blessings, Love and Laughter to you,

  5. Virginia A Lassiter says:

    Your comments are very thought provoking and interesting. As a woman, the above story about five women from the Bible was especially
    compelling. Thank you for taking your time to inspire our thoughts.

  6. Patricia says:

    Thank you. Pleas add me to your email

  7. Jan Clough says:

    Miracles show up amongst the mess.

    How true and how awesome is our Saviour that He should look beyond our messes to show us the way to new beginnings, new life, despite of us.
    Who else is there like Him!

  8. Jan Clough says:

    Miracles show up amongst the mess.

    How true and how awesome is our Saviour that He should look beyond our messes to show us the way to new beginnings, new life, despite of us.
    Who else is there like Him!