Have you ever counted the generations in Matthew Chapter One? Verse 18 tells us that there are three sets of fourteen generations – what do you think?
The names of three women appear in Matthew’s genealogy and a fourth woman is alluded to, by the wife of Uriah. Considering the way women were viewed in most places in the First Century, including Galilee and Judea, as well as in the Greco-Roman world, this is unusual. Is Matthew putting the reader on notice that this is not your typical genealogy? Is he giving us a hint that a new creation is on its way? I wonder if he paused writing when he came to the first woman, Tamar? Why not first mention Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel, women essentially beyond reproach? Why include Rahab? – she wasn’t an Israelite. And Ruth…well she wasn’t a biological daughter of Israel either – so why not at least include Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel, why not include these three women who form the foundation of the people of Israel?
As I scan this genealogy I can’t help but think of the forgiveness of God. Even the best of these folks were flawed; not just flawed, even the best of these folks started out in life as sinners alienated from God. That’s why they could sing and write about forgiveness, that’s why they could talk about mercy – they knew where they had come from and by God’s grace they had some idea of where they were going. The writer of the New Testament letter of Hebrews tells us that they were looking for a city, looking for an enduring country – they were on pilgrimage.
Now you would think that if Matthew wanted to put the best possible face on Jesus Christ that he’d tidy up this genealogy. Why point out that David’s son Solomon was by the wife of Uriah? And note that Solomon was conceived and born after David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, after Bathsheba had become David’s wife. Why this designation, the wife of Uriah? What’s wrong with a little spin? Or if not spin, at least there is no reason for full disclosure.
Why raise the specter of Tamar and Judah? Surely that could have been omitted – no need to raise questions.
But I’ll tell you, this gives me hope. God was faithful to all of us in His mercy and grace to these generations, and it gives me hope that in the midst of my frailty and downright sin that He will be merciful and gracious to me too. These are not people wearing their Sunday best, these are not people saying and doing the right things because they are the right things to do and say; these are people living life – and they are not always living it the way God designed it to be lived – but He is still with them in His mercy and grace…and yes…to those who continue to reject Him…well…they get their way – they wanted their own way, they got their own way.
I supposed had I observed all of this over the generations I would have thought, “There is no way God is going to pull this off.” But the fact is that God did pull it off – He was born in Bethlehem about 2,000 years ago – and He never had any doubts about it; not then, not now. Yes, I get encouraged when I view this tapestry of Matthew 1:1 – 18.