This morning I was having my Bible reading in Matthew 1 & 2 (I'll explain my crazy Bible-reading plans and adventures some other time!). We all know that first chapter of Matthew: it starts with that long list of Jesus' genealogy. I remember from my high-school Bible classes that Matthew presents Jesus as the King of the Jews, so his genealogy traces Jesus' royal line from Abraham, through David, then down to Joseph and Mary - they had to return to the City of David, Bethlehem, to be taxed, which is how Jesus "happened" to be born in Bethlehem. And I can't help but see the grace of God in Jesus' family line.
Do you know who Judah was? He was one of Jacob's twelve sons, the fourth, in fact. Judah had a daughter-in-law named Tamar. She wasn't happy with the way the family was going, so she pretended to be a harlot and seduced her father-in-law. She conceived twins. By Judah. This man was guilty of incest, the father of his own grandchildren. But God chose one of those twins, Phares, to continue the line that was leading to Israel's first king and eventually the Messiah.
Grace . . . an incestuous relationship begins the line that will produce the Savior.
Next "big" sinner (there are no big and little sinners with God, but this would be big to us) is Rahab. She's not pretending to be a harlot; she is a harlot. God used her to protect the spies sent by Joshua to spy on Jericho before the Israelites marched in. Those spies promised Rahab that she'd be spared in the destruction of Jericho if she hung a red cord in her window. That was all she had to do - hang a cord in the window. So she trusted God and hung the cord in the window, and when all was said and done she and her family were the only survivors of the Israeli attack on Jericho. She married a guy named Salmon, and they had a little boy named Boaz.
Grace . . . a harlot's life changed to become a mother in the line of the Savior.
Which leads us to Ruth. Ruth wasn't a big sinner; she was just a normal one! ;) Her problem was that she belonged to a nation of people that God had forbidden the Israelites to have anything to do with. The Moabites had refused to allow Israel to pass through their land on their way to Canaan, so God had promised that no Moabites would even be allowed to enter the congregation of the Lord - forever. So when Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi, decided to leave Midian after her husband and sons were dead, she didn't expect Ruth or her other daughter-in-law, Orpah, to go with her. They really weren't even supposed to go. Orpah stayed, but Ruth must have heard enough about God through Naomi that she wanted to become a part of God's family, so Naomi allowed her to go. And God allowed her to become a part of His family. Ruth married Boaz, the son of Rahab, and they had a little boy named Obed, who had a boy named Jesse, who had a boy named David.
Grace . . . a forbidden woman becomes the great-grandmother of the first and greatest king of Israel, an ancestress of the Savior.
Have you ever thought about the real David? Yes, he was the psalmist, the king, the man after God's own heart. But he was also an adulterer who murdered his lover's husband to avoid being found out.
Grace . . . an adulterous, murdering king who still had a heart for God - the greatest king, the head of the earthly family of the Savior.
Grace . . . we don't deserve it. But God offers it freely, and then He cleans us up and uses us to accomplish His will in spite of our sin. How glad I am for God's grace in my life. I hope you've experienced it in yours!