It's said that the opening of a book is extremely important. The writer needs to engage his readers from the outset, filling them with a desire to read more.
When the apostle Matthew sat down to write the story of Jesus, I'm not sure that he was thinking about that. The first 14 verses of his book are a genealogy. This man was the father of that man, who was the father of some other guy. It's not the most exciting reading for most of us.
As we read through this list of fathers and sons, there are four names that ought to catch our attention. Four women made this list: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bath-Sheba. Over forty men are listed and only four women.
So these women must be especially righteous, especially virtuous women, right? They are included in the genealogy of Jesus, showing the people God used to bring His Son into the world. We would expect these women to be the examples of what women should be.
But that's not the case. One of them dressed up as a prostitute and seduced her own father-in-law. One of them WAS a prostitute. Another committed adultery, got pregnant, and married the father of that child after her own husband was murdered. The other was fairly righteous, but she was also a foreigner. The Jews weren't supposed to marry foreigners, so she shouldn't even be on this list.
But these names are here. These women are remembered, while other women have been long forgotten. Matthew had his reasons, and I won't pretend to know exactly what they were.
But I know that there is a lesson here: God can use anybody. Even when they've made mistakes. Even when they've been taken advantage of. Even when they don't come from the right family. God can use anybody.
That message is fitting for the story of Jesus. Jesus came and made it possible for everyone to be acceptable to God. He broke down barriers, creating a new nation made up of people from every nation of this world. The story of Jesus is a story of inclusion.
I can be a part. You can be a part. Everyone who is willing to truly put their faith in Jesus can be a part.
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