Unlikely Role Models
by Sharon Betters
…for He (God) Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you, nor give you up, nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake, nor let [you] down, [relax my hold on you]. Assuredly not!
Hebrew 13:5 (Amplified)
“I was sitting behind you at the Thanksgiving Eve service and I am so glad I got to see how ornery your boys are! It gives me hope as I raise our sons!”
I smiled weakly, remembering how I took the boys out to apply discipline because they were so unresponsive to my verbal exhortations to behave. I was exhausted with trying to handle four young children while my husband led the service. Failure, not an encouraging parenting role model, is how I saw myself. On a much larger world stage, the women in the genealogy of Jesus most likely did not feel much like role models either. In fact, being a role model was not on their radar screen. They were just trying to survive in a man’s world where most of these men didn’t recognize the equality or value of women. Yet, their lives encourage me to remember that the Lord doesn’t waste our mess-ups, our sinful choices or the sinful choices of others. His grace shines brighter through the cracks in our souls. Their inclusion in this “most boring chapter of the Bible” encourages me to hold on to the truth that God is sovereign and I can trust Him, even when the lights in my life go out. In my own grief journey, I hung on to every nuance of God’s presence in their life journeys, choosing to believe that He was also present in the dark night of my soul when our son Mark and his friend Kelly were in a fatal car accident.
On October 9, 1993, three months after that accident I wrote Today’s Treasure Scripture in the back of my Bible with this comment: “I am depending on Your faithfulness to keep Your promise as I learn to live without the physical presence of Mark.”
Grief was my constant companion and if my body didn’t breathe on its own, I would have just curled up and died. I imagine the five women in the genealogy of Jesus had similar feelings and prayed often for the Lord to keep the promise of His presence, especially in the dark places. Their stories encourage me to trust that our God is a promise-keeping God, He cannot lie. His sovereign love and presence is enough.
No doubt the Jewish audience, to whom Matthew wrote, was shocked by his inclusion of five women in a genealogy designed to prove that Jesus had His origins in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; that He came from the line of Judah and ultimately King David. Matthew traced the genealogy of Jesus through His legal father, Joseph, in order to validate Jesus as the King of the Jews, Israel’s Messiah and legal heir to the Throne of David. All of that would make sense to His Jewish audience, but the inclusion of five women would not have made sense to them.
Five women played a key role in the shaping of the Incarnation story. In the patriarchal society of that day, acknowledging any female, let alone five, in a Jewish genealogy was unusual, if not downright frowned upon…but they are there: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary.
Imagine Jewish women secretly smiling and fondly remembering the strength and wisdom of their spiritual mothers as they listened to a reading of Matthew 1. Those who loved Jesus down through the generations continue this genealogy. If you love Jesus, your name is in this record as well. As you journey to Christmas, along with these midwives of the Messiah, look for encouragement clues in their lives that are love notes from God, designed to help you walk by faith in the pathway He has marked out just for you. Let their lives enforce two truths that when you belong to Jesus, you are safely in His grip and that God is sovereign and you can trust Him.
Father, thank you for honoring women in the genealogy of Jesus. Thank you that their courage, wisdom and even their broken lives and sins encourage us to trust You with our own life journeys. Thank you for offering us Christmas gifts that cannot be broken. When life spirals out of control, remind me that You are sovereign and I can trust You.