As we are in the season of celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, for a moment I want to bring to your attention the genealogy of Jesus. In Matthew’s gospel, in the first chapter, we see a listing of the genealogy of Jesus going back to Abraham. As you read through this genealogy, there are three women mentioned. These are among the most unlikely to be included in this genealogy of Jesus. The three women are Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba. Let’s briefly look at each one of these women’s stories and then look at three lessons we learn from their inclusion in the genealogy of Jesus.
The complete story of Tamar can be found in Genesis 38, which I will encourage you to read to get the full picture, but here is an abbreviated version.
Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law and was married to his oldest son Er. The Bible says Er was wicked so God killed him. (I wonder how wicked a person has to be that God would decide to kill them.) When Er died, as was the custom in those days, his brother Onan would marry Tamar to produce children that would carry on his brother’s line.
The Bible says Onan would sleep with Tamar but would spill his semen on the ground so he would not impregnate her. Onan was enjoying the pleasure of sleeping with Tamar, but was not interested in fulfilling his responsibility. In short, he was using Tamar for his own pleasure. God thought this was evil and he killed Onan as well.
Judah had a third son Shelah, but he was too young to marry Tamar, so she lived as a widow in Judah’s house with the realization that when Shelah was old enough, he would be given to Tamar. To really shorten the story, Judah did not give Shelah to Tamar and she ended up tricking her father-in-law into sleeping with her so she could carry on the family line. When she slept with Judah, she became pregnant with twins and it is one of these twins, Perez, who was included in the genealogy of Jesus.
The Story of Rahab
“Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab” (Matthew 1:5).
Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute who lived in Jericho. Her story is found in Joshua 2. When the Israelite spies came to scout out the land, they came to her house. When word got out that spies were in the land, she hid them and directed the search party another way to keep the spies safe. Rahab recognized the God of the Israelites was the true and living God because she had heard all the things he had done for Israel, including crossing the Red Sea. Knowing this and understanding the destruction of Jericho was imminent, she asked for protection for herself and her family, to which they agreed. Here is how they would grant protection.
“Now the men had said to her, ‘This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house” (Joshua 2:17-18).
When Jericho was destroyed, everyone in Rahab’s house was saved and Rahab eventually went on to live with the Israelites. Rahab was David’s great, great grandmother.
The Story of Bathsheba
“And Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife” (Matthew 1:6).
Perhaps the most unlikely inclusion in the genealogy is Bathsheba, whose story with David is found in 2 Samuel 11. As many know, she committed adultery with David, conceived a son and David had her husband killed. The reason why this choice is most unlikely is because David had other wives that God could have chosen to include in the genealogy, yet he chose Bathsheba.
What Can We Learn from the Lives of These Three Women?
These three women – Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba – are all connected to the genealogy of Jesus. I want to offer you three reasons why these women are important as we look at the connection to Jesus.
1. This is further evidence why Jesus needed to be born of a virgin
The bible is clear that Jesus would be born of a virgin. The lives of these three women, and frankly all the people included in the genealogy, are reminders why this was necessary. Psalm 51:5 reminds us we are all born in sin and conceived in iniquity. If Jesus would have been born through natural conception, he would have carried the sins of his ancestors with him at his birth. This was not the plan. Jesus would eventually carry the sins of the world, but this would not be in his birth. He would carry the sins of the world in his death.
For Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice, he had to not only live a perfect sinless life, but he could not be conceived in iniquity like everyone else was. He had to be born of a perfect seed and carried in an uncorrupted womb. That’s why he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and carried in a virgin womb. His spiritual conception and virgin birth positioned him to be the lamb of God who would be able to take away the sins of the world.
2. Rahab is a type of the New Testament Gentile believer
Rahab’s inclusion points to the fact that Jesus didn’t just come to be the savior of Israel, but the savior of the entire world. I don’t know if we often think of her in this light, but Rahab was a type of the New Testament Gentile believer. For those not familiar with this language, a type is something in the Old Testament that points to or foreshadows something that is to come in the New Testament. Here are some bullet points from Rahab’s story.
– Rahab was a Canaanite in Jericho, which made her an enemy of God and an outsider.
– She lived as a prostitute, which means she lived a sinful lifestyle and was deserving of judgment.
– She put her faith and trust in God because she heard what he had done, and believed.
– Rahab and her family were saved under the banner of the scarlet cord.
– She was grafted into the family of the Israelites
I hope you can see how this points to you and I as New Testament believers. Here is how it compares:
– We were all enemies of God
– We were living sinful lifestyles worthy of judgment
– We had to put our complete faith and trust in Christ for salvation
– Our sins are cleansed because of the blood, and we are saved from judgment because of the blood
– We are grafted into the family of God
Rahab’s life points to a future hope and salvation that those who are Gentiles would be able to find in Christ. She experienced it then, and we get to experience it now.
3. Your past does not prevent you from being used by God
If there is a truth we find in the lives of these three women, it’s that what you were before Christ does not dictate, determine, or disqualify you from what you can be in Christ. These three women had checkered pasts just like everyone else listed in this genealogy. I will add, just like you and I do as well. Every one of us has something in our past that if it came to light, we would be sorely ashamed. Yet it is important to know these things don’t prevent you from being used by God. Obviously, you must repent and not continue in them, but your past does not prevent God from using you.
God included these women as part of the genealogy leading to the birth of Christ. He worked in them and everyone else in spite of who they were. This all points back to God’s grace. God doesn’t just save us by grace, he uses us by grace. None of us were worthy before we got saved and none of us are worthy now. We are all simply usable vessels because of God’s grace.
That’s why you should never be envious of the way God is working in someone and think he is doing it because that person is special. They are not. They may be gifted and talented, but the reason God uses them is not because of their ability, but because of their availability. When they make themselves available to God’s for his purpose, they become reflections of God’s grace because he empowers them to do what they do.
This is what you must always remember. It is God’s grace, operating through the Holy Spirit who lives within you, that gives you the ability to do and be what he wants you to be. The amount of your ability is not what matters most, it’s the amount of your availability that God is concerned with. There are plenty of able people whom God never uses because they don’t make themselves available.
Knowing this helps you understand why there is no room for arrogance in the Christian life, because everything you do is a work of God’s grace in you. If you have one responsibility, it is to become an open vessel that allows the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you. When you do this, despite where you have been or what you have done before, you become the type of vessel that God can and will work through.
I hope you have found encouragement from the lives of these three women. As you continue remembering Jesus at this time of year, I pray that you would simply make yourself available for God’s use. Just like he has done in the past, he is still looking for willing and able vessels today. When you make yourself available, all I can say is stand back because you never know how God will use your life for his glory.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.