I’m thankful for the examples of the women in the Bible. When I’m particularly aware of my own sins (to my shame that isn’t often enough), I’m encouraged to see how God used sinful women to accomplish His plans.
There are four women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. Two were prostitutes, one was an adulterer and one was pretty wonderful. All of them lived in a world dominated by men and had to find a way through some ugly circumstances.
Tamar was married to one of Jacob’s grandsons who was so wicked God killed him. That left her a childless widow, which meant she had no standing in her society. She was dependent on the men of her husband’s family to support her. They did a really bad job of it and she ended up playing a prostitute in order force her father-in-law- Judah - to support her. When she was wronged and felt helpless, she did the wrong thing, but in the end Judah said she was more righteous than he. God worked it all out to further His plan for the kingdom and she is an ancestor of Jesus. You can read her story in Genesis38.
Rahab was an out and out prostitute. She not only wasn’t an Israelite, she was one of the enemy that God intended to destroy. But she recognized God’s servants when they came to Jericho and hid them when they came to spy. Then she lied to the king about it so they could escape. In return she and her family were the only ones spared when Jericho was conquered and the Israelites took her in. In spite of not knowing God, lying to her king, and her sinful profession, Hebrews 11:31 says she did it by faith and James 2:25 says she was shown to be right with God by her actions. She too was part of God’s plan for the His kingdom. You can read her story in Joshua 2.
Ruth is a refreshing light among Jesus’ female ancestors. She wasn’t an Israelite either, but she embraced their culture and acted like a true child of God. She was a childless widow like Tamar, with the added responsibility of her mother-in-law. She was also dependent on men to care for her, but she didn’t resort to prostitution (although I’ve heard some interesting speculation about what happened on the threshing floor one night). She came to the attention of Boaz, her family redeemer, because of her faithful actions. I think it’s fitting that there’s a whole book to tell her story. You can read about her in the book of Ruth.
Bathsheba was an adulteress. I never know what to think about her. On the one hand, she was probably at the mercy of the men in her life too. I can’t decide how guilty she was. After all, it was the king who sent for her. But did she even try to say no? And what was she doing taking a bath on the roof below the king’s palace? Either way, her story is tragic. Her lover killed her husband; her baby died. But God redeemed her life too. Her other baby grew up to be king and she’s also an ancestor of Jesus. You can read about her in 1 Kings 1.
There’s a lot I could learn from these women and their stories, but there’s one thing that stood out when I read the genealogy today. God’s story is about ordinary women. All were sinful. Some responded better than others. Only one was born an Israelite (or was she? Bathsheba’s husband was a Hittite). The Bible tells us some had faith, but is silent about the others. All of them struggled to make the best of their circumstances.
I’m an ordinary woman too. I’m not caught up in great events with patriarchs and kings, but I’m part of Jesus’ genealogy too – on the other side. I’m His sister. And as a child of God, I pray that He will use me to further His kingdom too.