Here’s a terrible confession for someone training to be a vicar, when I read the Bible and I get to a genealogy, I tend to skip it. If I want to read a list of names of people that I don’t recognize I will read the ‘celebrity’ section of the Daily Mail (just for the record: I don’t). The other day, for some reason, I read Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 and verse 6 hit me between the eyes.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Then I noticed verse 5
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse
And I realised something really quite amazing. You see ‘Uriah’s wife’ in verse 6 is Bathsheba. In 2 Samuel 11 we are told how King David had an affair with Bathsheba. He then compounded this sin by trying to hide it. When that didn’t work he got Uriah killed and married Bathsheba himself. 2 Samuel 11:27 tells us that ‘the thing David had done displeased the Lord.’ But (and this is the cool bit) even though their marriage was forged in sin, they still had a son together called Solomon who had and son, who had a son and so on until Joseph was born. Joseph would be the man who would act as Jesus’ earthly father, protecting the baby Jesus and bringing him up.
Similarly, I was stuck by Ruth’s inclusion in verse 5. Like Bathsheba, Ruth was a widow. We don’t know how her husband died, but he probably wasn’t murdered by the King of Israel (that’s probably the sort of thing that the Bible would have mentioned). The book of Ruth paints a pretty grim picture of what it was like to be a widow in Israel at the time. In Ruth 1:8 Ruth is given the opportunity to return to her home and find a new husband to be protected from the insecurity and hardship that came with widowhood. However, she doesn’t, she sticks it out with her mother-in-law. The story ends with her marrying Boaz. This was a marriage that was forged in pain and hardship, but, as we know from Matthew 1:5 they have a son, who has a son, who has a son etc.
It seems to me that, if there is sin and pain and hardship in Jesus’ genealogy then maybe there is a lesson for us all. In life things go wrong, whether it’s our fault (David and Bathsheba) or something beyond our control (Ruth losing her husband). But in all of these things God can bring about something amazing. Out of the David/Bathsheba debacle God created the family environment into which the savior of the world would be born.
Whatever rubbish there is in our past (self-inflicted or otherwise) God can not only ‘deal’ with it but do something amazing with it. As Paul wrote
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:27-39)