Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar).
Perez was the father of Hezron…
Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).
Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah)
Matthew 1:3a, 5-6 New Living Translation
One of the things that stands out when you read the genealogy of Jesus as recorded in Matthew is the women Matthew chose to include in the list: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. All four have stories of scandal in their day. Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and had an adulterous relationship with her father-in-law, which resulted in twins being born to Judah. Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute who protected two Hebrew spies as they scouted Jericho before its eventual destruction. Ruth was a foreigner who married into a Jewish family twice. Bathsheba was the wife King David stole from one of his soldiers. Each woman had a scandalous side to their story but each woman also is an example of God’s redemptive nature. God took their scandals and turned them around for good.
It seems fitting that Matthew would include these women in the genealogy that opens his telling of the story of Jesus. His focus in writing was to make Jesus known to a Jewish community that had turned their law into a system that kept more people out than it welcomed in. Matthew, himself, was an outsider by virtue of his job as a traitorous tax collector for the Roman Empire that now oppressed his people. Matthew’s Gospel is a story of how God turned over the social structures of his day to create a new covenant that would welcome people who were outcasts and foreigners.
As we look at our own story, the things that speak shame and scandal to us may stand out in our minds. The American society has become a shaming society that can breed anxiety that someone will out the things we would prefer no one else knew and bring us shame. It is God’s desire, though, to redeem those stories and turn them around for the benefit of others. He longs to write a new story of grace where others would write a story of shame.
Thank you, God, for your mercy and grace. Thank you that you turn our stories of shame into stories of redemption.