Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Knots in the Family Tree, Part 4

     The final female name in the family line of the Messiah found in Matthew Chapter 1 is that of "Uriah's wife." She is not named, but we know from 1 Samuel 11 and 12 and 1 Kings 1 that this is Bathsheba. Perhaps the very stigma of adultery keeps the text from naming her since Matthew's gospel was being written primarily to a Jewish audience.
     Bathsheba is presented to us as an adulteress, and later, as a plotter and a schemer, working to make sure that her son by David is placed on the throne (even though it had already been declared to David to be God's plan).
     So in the Jewish mind, she already has two strikes against her to be listed in this or any other genealogy - she is a woman and a sinner. But wait, there's more! It would seem likely that, being married to a Hittite, she was also a Hittite, which would make her, yes - a Gentile (strike 3, yer out!) How about that? Four women in this genealogy - two Canaanites, a Moabite, and a Hittite, not one Jewess.
     But God, through Matthew, is saying right from the get-go in Chapter One of the Newer Testament, that some things are going to be different with this Messiah, this God-in-the-flesh, this "Savior, who is Christ, the Lord." Perhaps the biggest new thing that the Jewish people will need to get used to is that God is and always has been interested in more than just Israel. At one time, they knew this (and we'll explore how in future blog posts). But during the years between the return from Exile and now, when God was largely silent, the Jews had gone from being a people who wanted to imitate the nations (the reason they were in Exile in the first place), to a people who wanted to isolate themselves from the nations. In their misguided attempts at reform that started out well under Ezra and Nehemiah, they had quickly gone to drawing a circle around themselves and were determined to keep everyone else out.
     But Jesus would have none of this.
     Women? Pay attention especially to Luke who includes women a lot in his gospel as supporters of Jesus' ministry and shows Elizabeth and Mary to be heroic in his birth narratives.
     Sinners? Again, Luke, but not only Luke, shows Jesus going after the ones Israel had shut out. He is called a glutton and a drunkard and is regularly criticized for eating with sinners ("sinners" meaning anyone who did not try to meticulously keep the law and traditions).But even an adulteress?
Yes, according to John 8, where he tells the woman who was caught, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."
     Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
     Thy own presence to cheer and to guide;
     Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
     Blessings all mine with 10,000 beside.
     No condemnation for the past. Strength to go forward into new life in the future. The promise of God to all who trust in Him.
     Gentiles? Read Luke 4 again carefully, and see what the people of Nazareth were really so fired up about that they tried to throw Jesus over the nearest cliff. (Hint: it wasn't that He claimed to be the Promised One. That's what I used to think, too.)
     So Bathsheba, who had an affair with King David and who stood silent while the king plotted to have her husband conveniently killed on the front lines of battle after David had gotten her pregnant, became the mother of a child who died. Yes, there are consequences to our sins. But the repentant David had the faith to say, "(the child) will not return to me, but I will go to him." He was able to commit the child into the loving arms of God.
     Consequences - but also grace. Because God gives this couple a second son, Solomon, who would become the most influential and expansive leader in Israel's history. And because of this, Uriah's wife shows up in the line of Jesus Christ. Amazing grace!
     Whatever reason you have to feel like an outsider today, Christmas brings good news. Jesus came for you. Jesus loves you. Jesus will include you, if you come to Him by faith in His finished work on the cross and let Him remake you into a Christlike follower.
      As I said last time, I grew up trusting in my own church life and moral goodness and had to have a radical transformation at the age of 19. Since then, I have done more than my share of wrong and faithless things. But I have always trusted in His grace and have never found Him lacking. To God be all the glory. Amen!

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