Chosen Not Because They Were Choice, But Choice Because They Were Chosen - To The Glory of God
The following is not meant to be misogynistic - nor to abscond the responsibility of the fathers in this narrative. A tome would be required to give an account of the foibles of their characters - and of their brothers. Indeed, such a volume has been written. It is called The Holy Bible.
For when our fallible mortality is touched by the Sovereign Hand of Eternity we become jewels in His crown. And such is the testimony of these handmaidens - their baseness has come down to us as precious and refined silver and gold.
Just as the morning star has no light of its own, only reflecting the sun which is just over the horizon yet to dawn. So also the burnished character of these mothers reflects the Glory of the Father’s One and Only Son who has not yet dawned upon the earth. The hope is yet hidden in their wombs, to which they are giving sustenance in anticipation of the fullness of time.
In Matthew’s account of the genealogy of Jesus who is called Christ there are four mothers noted - besides the Blessed Mary. The four look forward to the fifth whose number is the number of grace.
The first is Tamar: “and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar,” Matthew 1:3
The fathers here are Judah from whence the Messianic tribe receives its name and his son Perez.
Most commentators ignore Tamar and concentrate on the men, but there is one significant exception that bears quoting here: ‘she was as one who, at the risk of shame, and, it might be, death, had preserved the line of Judah from destruction, and "therefore was counted worthy to be the mother of kings and prophets." ‘ Her Messianic purpose was accomplished at the risk of death by burning.
How did she accomplish this feat? She posed as a wayside prostitute and seduced her father-in-law Judah resulting in the birth of Perez. She had been the wife of his firstborn son who was slain by God for his evil doing and then given to the second son who was also killed by God for he would not fulfill his sacred duty to his brother’s widow in providing progeny for him.
When Tamar saw that she would not be given to the third son she took off her widow’s garments and donned those of a cult prostitute. Knowing that Judah’s wife had died and that he would consider himself in need of comfort, she positioned herself by the road awaiting his passage. Her subterfuge was successful - although adultery, incest and immorality were part of its components.
Without going into further detail here once Judah became aware of the enormity of what had happened he proclaimed: ‘"She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah." And he did not have relations with her again.’ Genesis 38:26. God had chosen her and by His finger He placed eternity in her heart - and in her womb. He would not be hindered in His purpose for He had spoken prophetically by Israel in his old age: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Genesis 49:10
Yet Perez must be considered to be illegitimate for his parents never married.
The second mother is Rahab: “and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab,”
This Rahab is none other than the prostitute of Jericho fame. It is thought by many that Salmon may have been one of the two spies sent into Jericho by Joshua. As with Tamar there is no record of an actual marriage between Rahab and Salmon.
There was also the glowing ember of eternity in her heart for she proclaimed: “for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.” Joshua 2:11. This is attested to later in the New Testament she being only one of two mothers noted by name in the pantheon of faith: “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Hebrews 11:31. The other being Sarah. She is also in the book of James: “In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” 2:25
The red cord may very well have been emblematic of her profession. Not to sound crude, but by conjecture may the spies have done more than just lodge in her household? Even when she is mentioned in the New Testament, she is still referred to as a prostitute. Also, she was not of the Hebrew nation.
Yet gazing intently through the lens of sovereign purpose may we see in the scarlet cord the blood-line extending from Eve to Mary and beyond.
“and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.” Matthew 1:5-6
There is only one generation between Rahab and Ruth.
Ruth was a Moabite - the product of a drunken incestuous relationship. The intoxicated Lot had impregnated his own daughter although his stupor made him unaware. Her only connection to Israel was through her mother-in-law Naomi.
With Naomi’s complicity Ruth entered into a bit of chicanery. For she instructed Ruth in the dark of the night to lay herself at the feet of Boaz. “Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes.” Ruth 3:3. It should also be noted that Boaz “was in good spirits.” One commentator has marked that she would not have done this “unless she had been sure that the thrills that vibrated within her own heart were responsive to subtle touches, on his part, of spirit with spirit.”
(With astonishment) He said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative." Ruth 3:9. An ancient symbol of marriage. This act was an insinuation of seduction although not apparently consummated at that time - only later once they were actually married. And after he had become her kinsman redeemer.
The wedding blessing over Boaz and Ruth hearkened back to Judah and Tamar. “Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the LORD will give you by this young woman.” Ruth 4:12 In God’s purpose the ignoble becomes noble.
Naomi herself was recognized in the fertile blessing: “A son has been born to Naomi!” So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
THE WIFE OF URIAH
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, Matthew 1:6. Most translations do not mention her by name, but of course we know her as Bathsheba. This may be the most familiar account of the four.
Could we not surmise that she knew she was bathing in full view of David the King? It was the custom of the day to take a siesta and then stroll around on the roof of the dwelling. Even if so, she must be the least complicit of the other mothers for the King sent for her and laid with her. Yet, the deed was still adulterous and unclean: “and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house.” 2 Samuel 11:4
The child of this encounter did not survive. After David’s murderous dealing with Uriah he then married Bathsheba and it is written: “Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her; and she gave birth to a son, and he named him Solomon. Now the LORD loved him.” 2 Samuel 12:24
Even though married to the king at the time of Solomon’s conception and birth, Matthew still refers to her as the wife of Uriah.
And then there is Mary - pregnant outside the covenant bond of marriage. Yet also chosen of God; for the testimony of her mothers - for she was of the tribe of Judah - is summed up in her. ‘The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.“‘ Luke 1:35 She was the Father’s elect vessel to carry and to bring forth His Son.
The Virgin was choice as a result of having been chosen for the angel’s first words to her were: "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Luke 1:28
None of the above is intended to besmirch the testimony of these mothers in Zion - but only to give glory to God for His eternal plan of redemption. These women were obedient to the heavenly calling although the path did take some curious turns. As the angel also said to Mary: “For no word from God will ever fail." Luke 1:37 NIV
All of this happened to abundantly demonstrate that our salvation is - from beginning to end - owing nothing to the agency of man. We must agree with John: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13. And also Peter: “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Peter 1:23
Yet the greater testimony must be that of God who “has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,” 1 Corinthians 1:27-28. And such as are we - choice, not because of our choosing, but choice having been chosen by Him to glorify His Son.
"In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures." James 1:18 So tenderly is this declared, that a maternal phrase is used--God brought us forth in the new birth; and though "a woman" may forget "the son of her womb", yet will He "never leave, nor forsake." Charles Ellicott
In the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham God has chosen women - in those days the least - to reveal the Glory of His Grace.
Eternity resounds in the voice of the Blessed Virgin.
“For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name.”
Luke 1:48-49 The Magnificat
Lastly a contemporary voice adeptly expresses the wonder - and perplexity - of the mercy of God.
Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan.
Amy Grant - Breath of Heaven
Sola Deo Gloria! (To the Glory of God alone!)