I don’t know how many years I’ve been doing it, but it occurs to me this morning that I’ve been doing it wrong . . . or, at the least, not completely right.
Started in on my reading plan for 2017 this morning. Genesis, Matthew, Acts, and Psalms. A great set of beginnings. And as I’ve done for a number of years now, there are four names in Matthew’s genealogy of the Christ that I shade over with my brown pencil crayon or, as my American friends say, my brown colored pencil. Because brown shading is what I use for grace.
Matthew begins his gospel by establishing the royal line from Abraham to David to Jesus, the promised King of kings. A heritage passed down through the male, by who fathered who. But four times mothers are mentioned. In a list predominated by men four women stand out.
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, . . . and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah . . .
(Matthew 1:1-6 ESV)
Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and “the wife of Uriah.” They jump off the page. They don’t fit. And it’s not like they are included because they illustrate the best of the best of Christ’s lineage. Tamar was Judah’s widowed daughter-in-law who, disguising herself as a prostitute, sells herself to her father-in-law in order to have children (Genesis 38). And one of those kids was Perez, an ancestor of Jesus. Rahab too was harlot, but one who gave birth to a son who would father a royal line . . . by the grace of God.
Then consider Solomon. Though the son of David, his mom isn’t even mentioned by name. Instead, she is included as the wife of another man. Matthew being led by the Holy Spirit to highlight that fact she was a mother in the royal line through adultery and murder . . . and because of the grace of God.
And while the parents of Obed, another ancestor of the Messiah, were noble in character, his mom wasn’t even Jewish. Ruth was a Moabite. But one who, by faith, left her people determining that Israel’s people would be her people, and their God her God. And so she became the great-grandmother of Israel’s most noted king, the one through whom Messiah would come. This too proclaiming the grace of God.
And so, I get why I pull out the brown pencil crayon every year and shade over these ladies’ names.
But what hit me this morning as I hovered over Christ’s genealogy is that those aren’t the only names meriting some “grace shading.”
Think of the dysfunction in the homes of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Or of the kingdom divided because Rehoboam was such a doofus. Jehoshaphat wasn’t a bad king but he had a tendency towards some pretty unholy alliances. And what about Manasseh? If anybody signed for the ticket to Babylon, it was him.
And what about mentioning that in the genealogy, the deportation to Babylon? Wouldn’t necessarily think that the Son of God would come out of a people which in it’s entirety was deserving of a 70 year timeout.
Shouldn’t I be shading the entire passage? Isn’t Christ’s entire lineage a testament of God’s unmerited favor? I’m thinkin’ . . .
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
(Galatians 4:4-5 ESV)
His ancestors, a lineage of grace. His first coming, a demonstration of grace. His children, trophies of grace. His coming again, the culmination of grace.
All for the glory of God.