- About Us
- News & Events
In the Lineage of the Christ
December 1, 2019 Genesis 38:1-30, Matthew 1:1-3a “Tamar”
December 8, 2019 Joshua 2:1-21, Matthew 1:1-5a “Rahab”
December 22, 2019 2 Samuel 11:1-27, Matthew 1:1-6 “Bathsheba”
She Is More Righteous than I
Christmas is the time of year we focus specifically on Christ’s birth and how he was born into this world under the humblest of circumstances. Advent prepares us for this by creating the space to long for and anticipate Christ’s arrival. Because of our traditions and our distance from the historical events, it becomes all too easy for us to misperceive that Jesus was somehow born in a vacuum; a pristine, sterile bubble that shielded him from all human corruption, brokenness, and sin. But the Scriptures do not allow us to maintain that misperception.
Instead, we find in Matthew’s Gospel a genealogy which grounds Jesus in the Jewish story and inextricably binds him to a human lineage. A careful reading of this lineage reveals that, while those mentioned happen to be people of faith, they also had their own missteps in their journeys with God. And, surprisingly, this patriarchal genealogy also includes the names of several women, the first of which is Tamar (Matt 1:3).
Tamar was a Canaanite woman married to one of Judah’s sons. Because of their sinful lifestyles, Judah’s sons began dying off, specifically connected to their marital relationships with Tamar. When Judah refused Tamar his final son and relegated her to permanent widowhood in her father's household, Tamar took matters into her own hands. While we may question the morality of Tamar’s decisions, Judah sums up her actions as such: “She is more righteous than I” (Gen 38:26). In other words, Tamar was more honest in her dedication to the family and more faithful to Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham (Gen 15:1-6). Because of this, God not only blessed her with sons, he also included her in the line of the Messiah to come.
We often fail to realize, even at Christmastime, that Jesus came to save people like this. He came for people like Tamar, people who are marginalized by society, oppressed by the male authority figures in their life, and reduced to their convenience and ability to produce offspring. He also came for people like us, whatever our missteps in our journey of faith, whatever our brokenness, whatever our family dysfunction.
This Advent, may we focus on the humanness of Jesus so we might better appreciate his ability to empathize with us and save us from our sins.
“It Hinges on God”
The hinge is a simple, yet amazing, mechanism. It connects two objects together and gives them a certain range of motion while connected to a fixed axis of rotation. This gives us the ability to open and close things, like car doors, refrigerators, and cabinets. Cool as this is, there is another way to use and define the word “hinge.” According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, a hinge can also be a “determining factor,” or “turning point,” in life and circumstances. Take for example, a last-minute field goal in a football game, an interview for a job, or a big test in school. These can all be hinges in which determine the outcome of an event or situation. However, there are sometimes hinge-points in life that can have much more serious consequences.
Joshua son of Nun was the new leader of the Israelite people as they stood upon the eastern shores of the Jordan River, waiting to cross into the Promised Land. Not long before this, Moses, the man whom God had called to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt, had died. Even though God had promised them the land, they still had to be active participants in his plan, and this called for a military operation to drive out the peoples and nations living in Canaan. Therefore, Joshua sends two spies to scout out the area, including a city called Jericho (Joshua 2:1).
These spies enter the city and lodge at the home of a prostitute named Rahab. They may have done this to try to conceal themselves among the people, or to give them a hasty retreat plan (see 2:15), but unfortunately, their spy mission was blown. The king of the city hears about them and their plan and sends word to Rahab to bring the men out. Thus, word reaches Rahab (2:2-3) and she is faced with a big decision: will she give the spies up, or will she hide them? Up until this point, we are to understand that she has no reason to hide them, and if she does, she is committing treason. The lives of many hinge of her decision.
Rahab decides to lie to the men at her door and cover for the spies (2:4-5)! Why? She then goes and talks to the spies and says to them, amazingly enough, the Lord (YHWH) has already give them the land and that they are all terrified at the Israelites and their God (2:6-9)! But, how did she know this? She responds that she has already heard what the Lord had done in leading his people out of Egypt and in defeating powerful kings. Not only this, but she goes on to admit to them that the Lord their God, he is God of the heavens and earth (2:10-11)! Therefore, her decision to cover for the spies is in response to a faith in the God of Israel, as attested also in the NT books of Hebrews and James.
The story goes on that Rahab asks for the Israelites to spare her and her family when they come into the land, and the spies agree, as long as she keeps her word not to divulge their mission or identity. This decision by Rahab was the hinge point in the story, but not just because of her. It was ultimately hinging on God – the one who orchestrated all of these events. He had promised to bring his people into the land long before this, and he is always faithful to his promises. He used Rahab, a woman of ill-repute, a Gentile prostitute, and enemy of Israel, to be part of this story, and an even grander story then she knew. Rahab would become a direct descendant of not only the most famous king in Israel’s history (David), but also of the long-awaited Messiah (Matthew 1:5)!
This proves the awesome power, wisdom, and sovereignty of God, but also his love and grace, because Jesus came to forgive and save all people who respond in faith – even a woman like Rahab. God is the hinge, yet he also calls us to be active, faithful, participants in the story of salvation. Will we acknowledge this and live it out? May it be so!
“Rise Up From the Ashes”
2 Samuel 11
Over the last six years, God has called me to serve as a pastor of two congregations, and a volunteer police chaplain for two departments. Through these ministries, I have met many people and been able to serve them in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, there are times when I have had to sit with people through some very difficult times and situations – the loss of homes, jobs, freedom, hopes, and loved ones. Sometimes the hurt, loss, and pain come from mistakes that they themselves made, and sometimes it seems to come from nowhere, and for no reason. Whatever the cause, these experiences have taught me a few things. One, life can get hard, and life can seem out of control. Two, this can lead people to great despair and hopelessness. But, three, God can work through the worst of circumstances to bring about his purposes in restoring, redeeming, and saving what seems lost.
These realities are definitely true in the story of Bathsheba and David in 2 Samuel 11. Up to this point, Bathsheba is not known in the story, and David has been through a lot in his life. He has gone from the youngest of seven brothers, to a lowly, yet courageous shepherd, from the teenager who killed Goliath with a slingshot, to a servant of King Saul’s, and from a mighty warrior, to a man on the run. Now in chapter 11, David has been king for about 17 years, and is currently reigning in Jerusalem. Yet, as verse one notes, come springtime, David did not go out with his army like most kings usually do (11:1). Instead, he is living in the comfort of his own palace in the city of Jerusalem.
One evening he goes onto his roof to cool off and relax, when he sees a beautiful woman taking a bath (11:2). He lusts in his heart for her and sends his servants to find out who she is. Once it is known who she is, she has her brought to him and Kind David sleeps with her. After this, Bathsheba purifies herself and goes home (11:4). We do not know all of what she is feeling, but I am sure there are great emotions of fear, guilt, and shame. Not long after this, she finds out that she is pregnant. While we do not know Bathsheba’s response to this, we know David gets very worried and tries to cover up his mistake and sin, once he finds out.
Right away his sends for her husband, Uriah, a part of David’s “30 mighty men” (23:39), to come back to Jerusalem. He makes small talk with Uriah and then sends him home with the hopes that he will sleep with his wife, which might cover up whose baby it is. This does not work, as Uriah does not want to dishonor himself (11:6-13). This angers David, and he sends a letter by Uriah’s hand (!) to Joab, commander of the army, to put Uriah at the front lines so he is killed. By doing this, David more-or-less commits murder, and all of this is very displeasing in God’s sight! Therefore, Nathan the prophet comes to David and confronts him on his sin. God says that because he did these evil things, the “sword will never depart from his house,” his wives will be violated, and the child that Bathsheba gives birth to will die (vs. 10-14).
Can you imagine how awful they both must feel? Can you imagine the guilt, the shame, and the sadness? They must have felt hopeless, yet God had a plan. After Bathsheba is done mourning for his fallen husband, David takes her as his wife and they conceive another son. David names him Solomon, which sounds like the words for “peace” and “replacement” in Hebrew, but God tells Nathan to name him Jedidiah, which means “beloved of the Lord” (vs. 24-25). Not only does God love this child and restore some of the hurt and pain, but this child will go on to be king of Israel and a descendant of the Messiah!
Thus, God uses the awful mistakes and circumstances of two people to bring out hope and redemption. Bathsheba, a married woman, who is taken advantage of by the King of Israel, loses a husband by murder, and then a loses an innocent child. But she becomes part of a much grander story of redemption and hope. God uses her to bring about his purposes, and includes her in the lineage of Jesus, to show us that the salvation and the forgiveness of sins is open to all through the coming Messiah.
Maybe you have lost hope. Maybe you are hurting and in deep despair. Maybe you think God can’t fix the mess you are in. But, have hope! God is in the business of restoring and redeeming lives and circumstances, especially for those who trust in him. God can, and does, rise up from the ashes, messages of hope, peace, joy, and love. To him be the glory!
|9:45 a.m. Blended Worship Service.||1125 North 6th Street
Sheboygan, WI 53081