December 16, 2012

Genealogy of Jesus and Women

So many Jewish genealogies begin with Abraham. Abraham is the father of many nations, not just Isaac and Israel. He was before the law. I like that he was justified by simply believing in God.

When I sit with the Matthew 1 scripture, I see that four women are listed in Jesus' genealogy.
Historic Israel is very patriarchal, male-oriented. Genealogies never list women. And if you were a woman, your security was in bearing children and your continuity was in a son.

By God's wanting women in the list is a wake-up call to pay attention, because these are human points of God's intervention. Israel practiced exclusion of peoples whereas here God shows His initiative of inclusion. As I read between the lines and try walking in their shoes I fall in love with God more.

Tamar was a Canaanite. Hebrew law said that if your husband died without an heir you were to be given to the brother, so a seed/heir of the tribe/family could carry on. Since her father-in-law refused to follow through, she took things into her own hands, producing twins from the father-in-law. Read the story. For the first time in both the Joseph and Tamar stories Judah acknowledged his wrong. He claimed the twin sons as legally his. It's as if Tamar with the son Perez (which means "a break in the wall") created the transition for Judah to become the patriarch the Lord called him to be.

Rahab was an alien prostitute who displayed faith in God from hearing the stories that preceded the Israelites' coming. Her desire was beyond her, but to preservation for her family. She married Salmon and had Boaz. I'm imagining: being brought up by a foreigner who has to learn the faith from scratch and maybe interjecting a bit of her own pagan background into the stories. It all seems a bit scandalous, yet God blessed their union with sons. God's grace is for all.

Ruth has more 'story' in the Bible to actually read. She was a Moabite, who were hated by the Jews. Her ancestry goes back to Lot and the incestuous union with his daughter. Yet God blessed that with a son. (Conception & birth was all a mystery totally attributed to God.) God's hospitality is not decided by blood, birth, race or nationality. Ruth and Boaz seem to have healed the family tree that pre-dates the law.

Then there's Bathsheba. Adultery. I've come to maybe even call it rape. I remember a story told about a King that loved a maiden. He didn't want to force his desire of marriage because he'd always wonder if she really loved him. So he cast aside his king stuff and became a pauper so he could woo her love. That's the Jesus story. David's story is so opposite. How could she say "No" to the king!

These stories Jesus heard over and over again as a boy growing up. Much of what we find in the eyes of Jesus must first have been in the eyes of Mary. In both of their eyes was what they both believed about God - a co-believing. All these women made themselves available to God just as they were - they were real. We do not have to leave behind who we are in order to receive God's acceptance. God desires all of who we are - not perfection. Our redemption and transformation depends more on our response to God's love and desire for us.

You can see these women's stories in all the people Jesus reached out to. We still have Tamars, Rahabs, Ruths, and Bathshebas today. God still loves them and desires to redeem their stories and embrace them.
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