by Bruce Strom
No greater gift has been given than the gift of Jesus. We celebrate that gift every Christmas. The gift came wrapped in human flesh in ordinary circumstances. Why? Because Jesus is the Savior of all. If he’d been born in a palace, not all could identify with Him. But as the people’s rabbi, He moved among us and showed us the power of love in the ordinary. God’s ways are not our ways. God uses unlikely people to accomplish his purposes. We usually think of that in terms of the 12 unlikely disciples. But at Christmas, let’s look at the five unlikely women who were part of God’s gift to us.
The Christmas story really begins in Matthew 1 with the lineage of Jesus which purposefully includes five women God used to accomplish His plans.
Tamar (Mt. 1:3). The first woman we meet is Tamar. We find her story in Genesis 38 which is an interesting break in the Joseph narrative. The break in the Joseph story is important to demonstrate that while Joseph will be the deliverer of Israel, Judah will be the deliverer of all mankind through the Messiah (Gen. 49:10). But Judah sought to thwart God’s plans by not providing a son to his daughter-in-law Tamar. Tamar knew the line of Judah needed preserving and with little options she wound up disguising herself as a prostitute. Judah recognized his error and her righteousness after discovering she was pregnant with twins (Gen. 38:26). From her unusual actions the line of Judah was preserved.
Rahab (Mt. 1:5). The second woman we meet in Jesus birth story is Rahab (Joshua 2). She was a foreigner and a prostitute. An unlikely person to be used by God, but God never looks at the outside. He looks at the heart. And Rahab had a heart that feared God. She encouraged the spies entering Jericho and risked her life to save them. She showed wisdom and obeyed the word of the spies which saved her entire household. For this faith she is listed in the great hall of faith (Heb. 11:31) and in James 2:25.
Ruth (Mt. 1:5). The third woman is Ruth. We know her story as she has an entire book in the Bible. Ruth was an illegal immigrant. Moabites were despised even more than today’s Mexicans. Israel was frequently at war with Moab. This young woman was a poor widow. Yet she was rich in love. She loved her mother-in-law Naomi and Naomi’s God. She worked hard in the fields to support Naomi and God saw her heart. She married Boaz and was blessed by the elders – “Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” (Ruth 4:12). She became the great grandmother of King David.
Bathsheba (Mt. 1:6). The fourth woman is Bathsheba. She is called Uriah’s wife in the text but we know her story. A beautiful woman she was simply taking a bath when her beauty inflamed the passions of the peeping Tom King resulting in the King taking her and killing her husband. Despite this abuse, Bathsheba demonstrates great wisdom and humility. Her actions saved her son Solomon and the line of Jesus (2 Sam. 11; 1 Ki. 1).
Mary (Mt. 1:16). The final woman is Mary. A simple peasant girl from Nazareth. She was an unlikely person to be the mother of the Messiah. But God saw her heart. Mary was a humble, obedient servant. She would be the only person present at Jesus birth and death. She suffered ridicule for having a child out of wedlock (Mk. 6:3; Jn. 8:19) but never wavered in her love of God.
We don’t usually think of how God used ordinary and unlikely people to deliver his gift to the world. But doing so allows us to understand God’s heart. God loves all people. He looks to the heart and he identifies with the suffering of ordinary people like you and me. Whether a prostitute, illegal immigrant, abused woman, or poor girl, God delights in all people.
In a world continually being divided by hate, race, status and economics, let’s pause this Christmas to remember not only the greatest gift of all time, but how God chose to deliver that gift to us. Let’s be more like the women in Christ lineage as we seek to
Go and Do Likewise.