You often see advertisements for Ancestry.com. It’s interesting to see who’s in your family line. Are there black sheep among them? Anyone famous? The Jews were very big on keeping ancestral records. You find a number of places in the Old Testament containing long lists of children (you might be tempted to skim them). However, these lists usually contain only the names of male descendants. Women were not totally excluded, but it is uncommon to find them listed.
Ancestry was very important in one very specific instance. God had promised that a Messiah-King would one day sit on the throne of Israel and be a descendant of David. Israel was made up of twelve tribes, named for the twelve sons of Jacob. David traced his lineage from the tribe of Judah. The promise about the Messiah-King was, “The scepter [kingship] will not depart from JUDAH, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until He comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is His.” (Genesis 49:10)
When you turn the first pages of the New Testament, the book of Matthew introduces Jesus as the Messiah-King from the tribe of Judah. Though Jesus came from Heaven and had no earthly father, through Mary He fulfilled the requirements that the Messiah would be one of King David’s descendants. But when you read the list, you will notice that five women are included. Besides Mary, you and I probably would not have chosen any of these women to be an ancestor to Jesus. Let’s take a brief look at each of them.
TAMAR – as the widowed daughter-in-law of Judah, she disguised herself as a prostitute to have sex with Judah and give birth to his heir (Genesis 38).
RAHAB – she was a Gentile and a prostitute living in Jericho when Israel conquered the city (Joshua 6).
RUTH – she was not an Israelite, but a foreigner, a Moabite (Ruth).
URIAH’S WIFE – Bathsheba committed adultery with David (2 Samuel 11)
MARY – her pregnancy was clouded by suspicion because she and Joseph were not yet married (Luke 1).
It’s interesting to me that God placed these five women into the ancestry of Jesus. I think it is a clear demonstration of God’s grace and His ability to turn something bad into something good. And that’s encouraging because none of us have lived “lily white” lives. God’s choice to work with any of us is a testament to His mercy and forgiveness.
It makes me think of 1 Corinthians 1:26–29, “Brothers, 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.”
None of us were born before Jesus to be included in His ancestry, but anyone who receives Him as Savior instantly becomes a part of His family, one of His children. I’m so glad that none of us had to “clean up our lives” before we could come to God. If you feel your past is too checkered to be used by God, that’s not true. Jesus produces beauty out of the ashes of our lives, just as He did for these women.