Not Your Average Genealogy. Not Your Average Result

The Bible is the story of the coming Messiah, but average person in 7 BC  certainly didn’t see THAT Coming! Heck, even the above average Bible scholars missed it, too! I mentioned recently that Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus was distinctly different than most Hebrew scholars would have expected. Here’s why:

The fact that Matthew’s genealogy included women was highly irregular in a patriarchal society. Since their inclusion was such an unusual thing to do, we are going to take a closer look at those women to see why on earth Matthew flaunted convention to mention their names…

Tamar was the first woman mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy, and has perhaps the most unusual story, from Genesis 38. She was a Canaanite woman married to Judah’s son Er, who died prematurely (it says the Lord ended his life because he was evil). In that culture, it was incredibly important to honor God by having offspring to carry on the family name.

Your average family today would have a hard time relating to what came next: Judah instructed Er’s brother Onan to fulfill his duty by impregnating Tamar. He had sex with her but stopped short of impregnating her. Apparently God took this very seriously, because He ended Onan’s life then and there. Judah had a young (remaining) son Shelah, but he didn’t want to risk him, so he sent Tamar home, hoping she’d forget all this and go away.

The young widow Tamar– alone, traumatized, used, rejected by Judah and his sons, separated now from Yahweh’s people, and mistreated in the eyes of the law — could have slunk home and into obscurity. But she apparently wanted God’s blessing and favor so much that she’d do anything to get it.

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So she veiled herself, posed as a prostitute, and got Judah to stop while traveling and have sex with her. Apparently it was not unusual for an average guy to take a “rest stop” while traveling. Because she was veiled, he did not recognize her, and she required him to leave his ring, his corded belt and his staff as payment. (I said it was an unusual story).
Normally for her to act as a prostitute would be punishable by death. But Tamar’s motives were pure, and in this circumstance she was acting to fulfill God’s law and honor God’s intent. Upon being found pregnant, she revealed her actions to Judah: “As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.” Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again. (Genesis 38:25-26 NIV)
Tamar was restored to honor, and her son Perez is listed among Jesus’ forefathers. Long story to say this: by including women at all, Matthew has broken more than just traditional genealogical lines. He has served notice that the coming Messiah is not necessarily what the Elders expected. His lineage not only involved a woman, but a NON HEBREW woman. It was not a random, pristine royal birth, but an incredibly complex series of events, woven into a human history replete with evil men and messy circumstances. God’s preparation for the coming one was amazing in its details and astounding in its intent. This Jesus, born in Bethlehem, did not have your “average” genealogy. But then, he was not your “average” guy.

Tamar

This story in the Bible has me just a bit confused;
It seems to be about a girl who’s sexually abused.
There’s cheating and betrayal, there is intrigue and there’s lying;
Men are out on business trips with hookers! Men are dying,
And this story’s in the BIBLE! The Messiah’s family tree!
The Bible says some stuff that I just didn’t expect to see!
It’s honest and it’s real, and I believe it must be true;
I wonder, when you read, what does the Bible say to YOU?

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Remain in Me: What if the Christian Life was as Easy as Just Staying in One Place?

A lot of people work hard at being religious. But what if you only have ONE Job…to REMAIN? Consider this unusual challenge from Jesus: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:1-4 NIV).

In the last of the seven great “I am” statements that John recorded for posterity, Jesus claims to be the true vine. In an agricultural society, this may have resonated more deeply than it does today, but it DOES sound more personal than “I am the Wi-Fi, and you are the device.” So step back into a somewhat simpler analogy and consider for a moment that you are a branch on the vine. Perhaps you can picture a vineyard (like Jesus’ listeners would have), with orderly rows of plants that have been cultivated and cared for.

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Left to themselves, the vines would be wild and unkempt, but the perfect symmetry of the vineyard suggests planning and hours of work. Focus in on one plant. The vine is about as thick as a man’s arm, and grows to a height of about 4 feet, with the branches going up another two to three feet from there. From the ground up, your vine has clean lines that are unmarred by unruly shoots or stragglers until it spreads out in glorious abundance at the top.

The branches extend in an orderly fashion, and every one of them is laden with rich, colorful fruit. Just picture the clusters of deep Concord blue grapes that hang seductively from the branches, bursting with flavor and promise. This is what everyone in the audience would have been thinking, and they would be hanging on Jesus’ words almost like the grapes they were picturing in their minds…

Jesus tells them that he is the root and trunk, and is therefore the true source of all life, nourishment, and growth. Without being connected to him you cannot grow, and you cannot bear fruit. The Vine and the branches have a natural, harmonious relationship.

Our status: connection
Our purpose: bear fruit
Our job: remain

Seems almost too easy that our only job is to “remain” in him… We are connected, we have access to intimacy with one who loves us, and we are just supposed to stay that way, right? But stop and think: Before you say “that’s not too hard”, think of the difficulty we humans have with loving relationships—high divorce rates, estranged family members, fractured friendships…we have a hard enough time staying connected with those we are closest to, without even counting politics or all of the people we don’t even know…

So perhaps it’s not really all that easy to do what Jesus commanded us to do: “Remain in me”. Because there are distractions, aren’t there? The world calls us away from his abiding presence, and we stay too busy to remain in contact with him. And as if those distractions weren’t enough, we have our OWN interests and passions to lead us away from him. We get impatient with his slow and subtle guidance, we get a little selfish, and we… Separate.

Find a few minutes to connect today. Think about your vine, and picture it bursting with succulent grapes! What fruit do you want your life to bear? Reflect on the fact that Jesus said (John 15:5), “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” Graft your dry, impatient, selfish branches back into the vine. Feel his strengthening words flow into you, endure the pain of productive pruning, and bear fruit. It’s what you were created to do.

The One Job the Branches Have to Do

You are the branches; I am the Vine.
Your fruit will result in the finest of wine,
As your grapes find expression in succulent growth:
Rich flavor or color? I offer them both!
Seductive, however, the world can distract;
You must stay productive, and keep fruit intact,
For the world would destroy it or steal it from you,
To hinder what you were created to do!
There’s also some pruning that you must endure
For that maximum growth that is fully mature.
For you to survive both temptation and pain
This reminder will serve as a simple refrain:
I am the Vine. Stay connected. Remain.

To purchase my newest book Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread