The Lesson of the Begats

 

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong with our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do. – 2 Timothy 3:16–17 (NLT)

Are you guilty of skipping the “begats”?

The “begats” to which I refer are found in the first chapter of Matthew—you know, the long list of Jesus’ ancestors. I don’t know about you, but when I read, I like action. History never stuck with me, especially long lists of names I can’t even pronounce, let alone see why they’re important.

I, too, am guilty of passing over the begats. But one time I forced myself to read through them—only because I was following a read-through-the-Bible-in-one-year program and putting a check mark in the “Matthew 1” box without actually reading it was cheating, lying, and being deceitful. I knew it would prey on my conscience, so I plowed through.

And discovered something interesting: Jesus’ ancestors were not a saintly bunch. Up until then, I’d assumed that Jesus, who was sinless and pure, would have had a bloodline that reflected his holiness. Yet “holy” hardly describes some of the characters mentioned. I’d also assumed that his bloodline would be pure as well—all His ancestors would have been Jewish. I was wrong on that account, too.

Jesus’ ancestry includes people who lied, cheated, deceived, stole, and committed adultery and murder. Abraham lied on at least two occasions to save his own skin. Jacob, whose name means “deceitful,” lived up to his name. Judah thought nothing of sleeping with a woman he thought was a prostitute. Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, committed adultery with King David, who had her husband murdered when he discovered she was pregnant with his child.

Rahab was a prostitute from Jericho and not an Israelite. Neither was Ruth, King David’s great-grandmother. She hailed from Moab—Israel’s one-time enemy, a nation birthed in incest, whose bloodline traced back to Lot, who slept with his own daughters. Then there was the shrewd and persevering Tamar, whose twins were begotten in deceit.

Talk about skeletons in your closet! Jesus sure had plenty in His ancestry.

Another interesting note in the genealogy Matthew recorded is that he included women. It was unusual for women to be listed in Jewish genealogies. Matthew, however, lists five: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. Only two were Jewish. Three bore moral blots.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to look at the stories of these five women, the role they played in Jewish history, and what it means for us today.

Everything in God’s Word has a purpose—even the accounts of unsavory characters whom God chose to fill a slot in the ancestry of His own Son.

What’s the message you see in this? That God doesn’t choose only men to fulfill His purposes? That allowing far-from-perfect men—and women—a part in His plan to save sinners is still more evidence of His amazing grace? Nobody’s perfect, but surely there were people with better moral records than these. That God makes good on His promises, even one made 4,000 years before it was fulfilled?

For me, seeing the names of some pretty unsavory characters whose treachery and deceit are chronicled in the archives of man, gave me a sense of relief and freedom.

Relief that I don’t have to be perfect—God can use me warts and all. And freedom from guilt that my past indiscretions will cause me to miss out on God’s purpose for me.

For God, you see, “has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9 NIV).

Skeletons in your closet? Don’t fret about them. It isn’t what’s in your closet that God’s concerned about—it’s what’s in your heart.

Thank you, God, for the lesson of the begats. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 1.

 From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

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Silent Saturday

 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. –Psalm 30:5 (KJV)

Today is what I call “Silent Saturday”—the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

As a child I faithfully attended Holy Thursday and Good Friday services. One of the things I remember about this time right before Easter is that no music was played in church. The organ was silent, as were the bells and other instruments. Songs were sung a cappella.

This period of silence impressed upon me the solemnness of the time when God’s Son was betrayed, condemned, crucified, and buried, paying the price for the sins of all mankind from the dawn of creation to the end of time.

I knew, of course, what would follow—Easter! The day Jesus burst out of that Mid-Eastern tomb in all His glory—alive forever! The return of music! The return of hope and joy.

Little, if anything, is said in the Gospels about “Silent Saturday.” For the Jews of that time, it was the Sabbath, a day of rest. A day no work was to be done.

We read nothing of what Jesus’ followers did that day.

We can only imagine what they felt: Grief. Hopelessness. Despair. Terror. If the Jewish authorities could do this to Jesus, who performed all those miracles and claimed to be God’s Son, what would they do to His disciples? So they hid, their dreams for the Kingdom and their places in it shattered, their future uncertain. The plan, they thought, went horribly, horribly wrong.

Or did it?

They had no idea that actually everything was going wonderfully, impossibly, exactly according to plan—God’s plan. They didn’t know they were in the waiting room—not the hiding place—between deep despair and unbridled joy. Between apparent defeat and glorious triumph. Between terror and a holy boldness that would set the world on fire and launch the Jesus Movement.

But, oh! That first Easter morning—who could even begin to describe the wonder they experienced at the empty tomb, the joy at seeing Jesus alive? It was exceedingly, abundantly, above all they could have imagined.

But they didn’t know all that on Silent Saturday.

What about you?

Are you in a “Silent Saturday” time of your life? Are you dealing with grief, loss, bitter disappointment, discouragement, night-long weeping? Are you scraping at the bottom of the empty barrel of hope? Fighting despair and feel like you’re losing the battle? Thinking that your dreams, your future, are sealed up in a tomb of decay?

Hang on, dear one loved by God. Saturday will pass. The night of weeping will end. The Son will burst over the horizon, His rays chasing away despair and flooding your soul with hope and joy.

It’s Silent Saturday, but get ready, Pilgrim. Sunday’s coming.

Thank You, God, for Easter, when hope springs eternal. Amen.

Read and reflect on John 16:16–33.

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.