Ordinary People Who Produced an Extraordinary Genealogy

(Author’s note: my posts from now through Christmas are from my book, Real People, Real Christmas https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 )

The whole genealogy thing is really popular right now. People are looking at their DNA to see where they came from, what their genetic makeup is. Apparently there are hidden clues for each of us that can help us understand who we are!

Looking For Clues

Well, if that’s so, think about this: have you ever wondered who Jesus of Nazareth really was? Where he came from? If you’ve ever read his teachings, you know he was something special, but I find it fascinating that his ancestry was preserved with such passion and detail. Look into it, and you will find Ordinary, Everyday People. And an Extraordinary Genealogy.

“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1, NIV) Matthew (also known as Levi, the former tax collector) begins his biography of Jesus in a logical Hebrew fashion: he recounts his genealogy. This makes sense because patriarchal lineage was incredibly important in Israel, and every schoolboy could tell you who his father’s father’s father was, going back through multiple generations. Patriarchal Lineage was important. “Who’s your Daddy?” was important in Jerusalem two thousand years ago…

genealogy tree
Why are They in There?

In Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, however, there is something very surprising. Read it and see if it stands out to you: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar… Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother (Bathsheba) had been Uriah’s wife…” (Matthew 1:3, 5-6 NIV)

What do Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and then Mary have in common? If you read Matthew 1, you’ll find they are the only women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. It’s not an aberration that there were so few; what is remarkable is that a Jewish genealogy mentioned ANY. Luke’s genealogy doesn’t mention females. Hebrew family trees were usually only traced back through the fathers, so they did not normally include any women.

More Important Than You Think

Matthew, whose gospel was written for a Jewish audience, presented Jesus as the Messiah. He had been foretold in the Scriptures, and was the promised King who would lead Israel out of bondage. Yet Matthew departs from Hebrew tradition in the opening stanza of his narrative. It might be instructive to look at their stories and ask, why does Matthew include females in a patriarchal list normally populated with only men?

Why do these women stand out? How come they are mentioned specifically and centrally in the most amazing story within the best-selling book of all time? Why are these women, who are normally marginalized and relegated to the kitchen in ancient Middle Eastern culture, placed upon center stage in Matthew’s Jewish gospel?

As we enjoy the season of Advent, it is worthwhile to consider the circumstances around the birth of Jesus. Matthew’s unique introduction gives us something to ponder as we look at the arrival of the baby whose birth in an obscure place in a relatively primitive time has absolutely changed all of human history.

His Story is Still Being Made

As you read the story of Jesus, never forget that God often chooses unlikely and little-known candidates to change history. Never forget that the next candidate might be YOU. Perhaps your influence in the unfolding drama of history is even now being scripted and will yet bear fruit beyond your wildest expectations. After all, it happened to Mary and Joseph. It could happen to you, or one of your children’s children. Remember: you read it here first.

Genealogy Matters

The mystery of history is that the genealogy
Of Jesus out of Galilee defied conventionality,
The cultural philosophy, and practice of philology.
Matthew’s careful document somehow put several women in it!
The genealogy was bent, a thing which he could not have meant
To prove the Christ was heaven-sent!

Yet there they are, genealogical sleuth:
Bathsheba, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, recorded in the book of Truth!
Perhaps, if this was meant to be, it means God changes history
With folks who aren’t celebrities, but people just like you and me.
Within your genealogy, what changes will yet come to be?
What names will people someday see, and what will be your legacy?
They say the truth will set you free: investigate this, friend, and see…

My book contains a full month of Advent reflections and interesting facts about the birth and life of Jesus. To purchase 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

A Kinsman-Redeemer Changed Ruth’s Life. He changed Yours, too!

he Book of Ruth is a testimony to stubborn love. Ruth could have deserted her mother-n-law, but instead she vowed to stay with her and love her unconditionally. Within the story of Ruth’s amazing loyalty to Naomi, there is a question I know you are asking yourself: how did a kinsman redeemer change history? (And if you are not asking that, then I’ll just ask it for both of us.)

How Did A Kinsman-Redeemer Change History?

Ruth’s declaration of love and loyalty didn’t keep Naomi from feeling despair at first. She was still a widow, and she was still grieving over the loss of her sons. Everything in her life had changed, and even Ruth’s sweetness could not compensate for the fact she had lost everything. She told her friends that they should change her name to Mara (bitter), “because the almighty has made my life very bitter…” They returned to Bethlehem in time for the harvest, and Ruth went to work as a peasant in the fields of a man named Boaz.

kinsman

The Nearest Kinsman May not Always be the Best Option

When Ruth told Naomi that she had met Boaz, and that he had spoken kindly to her, Naomi said, “The Lord bless him! He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.” (Ruth 2:20, NIV) Old Testament law stipulated that the nearest kinsman would offer to marry a brother’s widow and carry on his name, to offer redemption to relatives sold into slavery, and to avenge the killing of a relative.

You think there is drama in YOUR family? Imagine what types of unusual human interaction might have taken place under some of those circumstances! A brother-in-law might think his brother’s widow is too ugly to marry. Or, like Onan with Tamar, he might use her without fulfilling his obligation. Or an opportunistic redeemer might take advantage of those too helpless to avoid him (think: Evil Stepmother in Cinderella).

But a GOOD Kinsman…

But a good kinsman-redeemer offered hope, offered help to the helpless, and a chance to live a life changed by redemption. A kinsman-redeemer bought you back out of slavery or hopelessness and adopted you into his family. (Hmmm, just like the Messiah was going to do…) Ruth and Naomi were so destitute that Naomi encouraged Ruth to make herself vulnerable to Boaz, who could have taken advantage of her with relative impunity.

In this case, Boaz is a kind, godly man who respects Ruth and protects her reputation even when she follows Naomi’s advice. In an interesting cultural move, Ruth makes herself vulnerable by crawling into bed with the sleeping Boaz and warming his feet (which could have been interpreted as an act of service OR the actions of a loose woman). She took a risk that Boaz would not misuse or take advantage of her.

Not only does he treat her with respect but he goes on to observe all the requirements of the law with scrupulous honesty and transparency to the elders in the village, and he makes Ruth his wife in front of God and everybody. The Elders were prophetic when they said, “Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” (Ruth 4:12)

Sure enough, Ruth and Boaz’ son Obed was King David’s grandfather. Still very close to her mother-in-law, Ruth allowed Naomi to act as his nurse, giving her a family again. So what did the women of the village say about to Naomi about Ruth? The highest praise: “Your daughter-in-law, who loves you… is better to you than seven sons.” These two widows went from bitter circumstances to the comforting house of their kinsman-redeemer.

Boaz’s kindness redeemed both Ruth and Naomi, and changed their lives forever. By continuing the line of David down through Jesus, guess what? He also changed ours, too!

Ruthless is No Way to Live

A widow who was destitute was working in the field
Picking up the scraps after the workers took the yield.
The owner saw her beauty and integrity revealed,
And watched her do her job with admiration unconcealed.
He had to find out who she was as soon as he had seen her;
Some owners might abuse her, or they might just treat her meaner,
But he found out that he was nearest kinsman and redeemer;
He decided then that he would pay for and redeem her.

He spoke with all the village elders, and he made it known
That he would take this widow and reclaim her as his own.
He also said Naomi wouldn’t have to be alone,
Since he was taking both of them to live within his home.
Ruth and Boaz raised a son, and Obed was his name.
Obed had a boy named Jesse; then some Grandsons came.
David killed Goliath, and he rose to wealth and fame,
And through his life, the entire world has never been the same!
You may not be famous, but I know this is the truth:
The Lord may change the world through YOU, just like He did with Ruth.

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

Stubborn Love: We All Need It, and the Bible is Full of It

Being stubborn is not always thought of as a good thing, but sometimes the best kind of love is the stubborn kind. Stubborn love will throw its arms around the unlovable, the underdog, and the unlikely… And it won’t let go!

Just think about Ruth. Her story resonates through the centuries as a wonderful example. It starts in tragedy and ends in… Well, let’s just see where it goes!

Orpah and Ruth were sisters from Moab who married two brothers, the sons of Elimelech and Naomi. These girls left Moab and their families behind, and moved to Judea to make a life among strange people in a strange land. As it happened, both of these brothers and Elimelech up and died. (If you’re keeping score at home, that means Orpah and Ruth’s husbands died, and so did their Father-in-law.) Suddenly both the two younger women and their mother-in-law were thus tragically widowed.

Bad to Worse

Now, the prospects for a widow in that place and time were not good. The prospects for a widow with no children was even worse. Poverty was likely at best, and at worst women were subject to misuse without a man to protect them. (Yes I hear you strong women protesting, but it was a fairly primitive time. Women had far fewer options in ancient Judea than they do in America today.)

Naomi had decided to leave Moab and go back to her own people and try to live out her days on their charity. In all likelihood, she would remain a lonely, heartbroken woman. The chances of finding a suitable husband for her younger daughter-in-laws was remote if they stayed with Naomi, so Naomi urged the girls to go back to Moab and try to find a husband.

A Surprising decision

Orpah did the sensible thing. She looked at their situation, kissed her mother-in-law and left. But Ruth ignored logic and being sensible. She took stock of her situation and made a decision that has resonated through the centuries. “Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16, New King James)

stubborn

Ruth stubbornly refused to leave Naomi, and stayed by her side for a journey back to an unknown land and an uncertain future. There she got to work in dry, dusty fields alongside beggars and slaves, picking up scraps that the harvesters left behind. This story could have gone wrong in so many ways, and yet it turned into an amazing story of redemption and hope when Ruth was noticed by Boaz, who bought the rights to both Ruth and Naomi to act as their kinsman-redeemer, marrying Ruth and reestablishing Naomi’s family name.

A Stubborn Decision

Ruth’s stubborn love for Naomi seemed destined to force her into obscurity and poverty, but instead it opened doors and changed her life completely; and did you know it also changed Israel’s future, and sent ripples through the pond of history that have touched all of its banks, and have even touched you and me?

If you like connecting the dots, Ruth had a son named Obed, who was the grandfather of King David. So, if you have ever been encouraged by a Psalm, then you have been touched by Ruth’s stubborn love. If you have ever profited from a Proverb (written by David’s son), then you have been touched by Ruth’s stubborn love. Her simple act of faithfulness to her mother-in-law turned into an eternal legacy, one that is influencing me right now. It’s also therefore touching YOU.

I have been the blessed recipient of stubborn love several times, including parents who never absolutely despaired, and an amazing wife who has loved me in spite of myself, and who never gave up on me. And, oh yeah, there was love so stubborn that a brutal whipping couldn’t stop it, the temptation to turn aside couldn’t end it, and a crucifixion couldn’t diminish it. May you, too, find stubborn love in the midst of a thoughtless, temporary and selfish world.

The Best Kind of Love

Naomi’s husband died, and then she lost her sons as well;
Her loss and grief were greater than she had the words to tell.
She told her dead sons’ widows both to leave her there behind,
So they could build a better life and find some peace of mind.
Orpah left. But Ruth said, “Mother, both of us will grieve.
But please, Naomi, in your grief, entreat me not to leave!
No matter what will come our way, there’s one thing you can know:
Wherever you stay, I’ll stay, and I will go wherever you go.

Our prospects are uncertain, and our future may be flawed,
But your people will be my people and your God will be my God.”
Naomi realized then that Ruth just could not be got rid of,
And acquiesced to be blessed by Ruth’s stubborn, stubborn love.

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
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Loyalty so Stubborn That It Led to a Surprising Redemption

Even though Matthew’s genealogy featured women, starting with Rahab the harlot, not all of the women mentioned in the Messiah’s line were prostitutes. Matthew’s genealogy refers next to a grieving widow, two destitute women, and the touching story of how a young woman’s stubborn loyalty led to surprising redemption.

The third woman mentioned in Matthew 1:5 is Ruth, a young woman from Moab who married a man from Bethlehem. Moabites descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot, so they were somewhat akin to Israel, even though they worshipped other gods and fought wars with Saul, David and Solomon. Despite their cultural differences, young Moabite women like Ruth were acceptable as brides to young Hebrew men.

Tragic Circumstances

The four Chapter book of the Bible bearing her name was set in the period of the Judges, sometime around 1200-1100 BC. When both her father-in-law and her husband died, Ruth faced the harsh reality of living in a somewhat primitive masculine culture without any male protection. Her sister-in-law Orpah’s husband also died, so the whole family was facing the same bleak prospects of life without male protection.

While the untimely deaths of two brothers and a father-in-law left Ruth and her sister-in-law in dire straits, it impacted their mother-in-law Naomi even more. She was now the head of a household without male protection or income. She (sensibly) told Ruth and Orpah to leave her and return back to their own people and their gods. Naomi reasoned that her own prospects for remarriage late in life were nonexistent (which certainly guaranteed her household a life of poverty), and so she told Ruth and Orpah that they should go back to their own people, find a husband, and make a new life. It was the practical thing to do.

Lamentation and Love

Orpah agreed with Naomi’s sad but practical advice and went home. But Ruth made a decision that changed everything. She decided to stay with Naomi.
Ruth’s statement to her mother-in-law after making this decision is one of the most oft-quoted Old Testament statements about love and loyalty:

“And Ruth said,
Entreat me not to leave thee,
or to return from following after thee:
for whither thou goest I will go,
and where thou lodgest, I will lodge;
thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
if aught but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17, NKJV)


Rather than returning to her own people, Ruth expressed such love for Naomi that she was willing to stay by her side even though they faced hardship and a very questionable future.

loyalty

A Turn of Events

Ruth’s story takes an amazing turn when she is gathering leftover ears of grain with other paupers. Generous farmers allowed poor people to follow the reapers and harvest the scraps they missed. Her industry (and probably her beauty) caused her to be noticed by Boaz, the owner of the field.

Boaz was a kinsman of Naomi’s deceased husband, and custom allowed destitute relatives to gather leftover scraps of the harvest in order to survive. Naomi seems to know something of Boaz, and she may have had more than a little bit of a scheme going on by getting Ruth into Boaz’ field. By the same token, Boaz is aware of Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi, and very favorably impressed not only by this familial loyalty but by Ruth herself.

Redemption: from Lost to Loved

This love story has a beautiful ending. Ruth and Naomi are rescued from poverty when Boaz, acting in his role as a kinsman redeemer, pays the costs to secure the right to marry Ruth and start a family. The law allowed the nearest kinsman to rescue a relative from poverty. As Boaz observed Ruth, he was very favorably impressed with her work ethic as well as her beauty. He fell in love with her. Naomi actually exercised some feminine wiles to help facilitate the romance, but in the end it did work out for Ruth and Boaz. They were married and their son Obed was King David’s grandfather.

Let’s make a couple of observations: Naomi’s somewhat transparent scheming was not subverted or rejected by God. She thought about things, made decisions and took action, and yet still somehow found herself guided by the Lord’s hand. I would say that discovering God’s will does not always require us to sit passively by while we wait for Him to act. In fact, I think He even honors those who pursue His favor with passion in an imperfect way.

Kinsman Redeemer

Second, the role of kinsman redeemer was apparently common knowledge to Naomi, Boaz, and the other people in their village. The women even sing about Naomi’s good fortune in having a kinsman in 4:14. We are going to take a deeper look at Boaz and his response as Ruth’s (and Naomi’s) redeemer tomorrow, but suffice it to say that this love story built on humility, loyalty, perseverance (and perhaps Naomi’s feminine wiles) is not put in Christ’s lineage by accident.

This series of events points to David—who obviously got some of his passion and love from his great-grandmother—and to Jesus the Messiah, who would both preach about and be characterized by these qualities. The inclusion of a Moabite woman points to the coming Messiah’s inclusion of people outside of Israel (which, as we noted, started with Rahab from Jericho). The story of her being rescued by a kinsman redeemer is a flashing neon sign announcing that the Messiah’s work will redeem the disadvantaged, the dispossessed, the downcast… If you’ve ever been in one of those categories, or are now, take heart: the Redeemer has come, and he wants to rescue you.

Naomi’s Redemption

Naomi’s life was stripped of joys:
Her husband died, and then her boys;
She faced a future full of grief without much prospect of relief…
She told her daughters-in-law to leave
And build their lives; Yes, she would grieve,
But they should go and carry on while she remained behind, alone.

And one of them took the open door;
It just made sense. They’d be so poor,
And living would be a daily grind: but one of them remained behind.
Naomi had told the girls the truth, so now she really questioned Ruth:
She said she shouldn’t waste her youth
By living on a widow’s mite. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t right.
But Ruth could only shake her head. She hugged Naomi. Then she said:
“Please do not entreat me to forsake or ever leave Thee.
I’ll stay with you forever, though the valley be so low;
Though this life may break you, this my love will not forsake you.
I will love Thy God, and there is one thing you should know…
So listen to what I have to say: Whither thou stayest, I will stay,
And from this moment, come what may, whither thou goest, I will go.”

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