Tomorrow is the beginning of Advent.
Advent is a season observed as a time of expectant waiting and preparation to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Waiting…there was a time when all of humanity waited on the coming Messiah – the God of Abraham, and of Isaac and of Jacob.
This Advent season, I wanted to see this waiting for the Savior through the eyes of “the least of these” – the women in Jesus’ lineage.
And you know what?
I saw this same God, the God of Sarah and of Rebekah and of Leah.
What better place to start than the beginning?
She waited first. It had to be the most difficult of all because she knew God before sin. There was a time before she listened to the serpent, before she chose to disobey, in which she knew God in a holistic, perfect way. Then in Genesis 3, all that changed. Still, we see God stepping in to offer grace. He doesn’t just wipe the slate clean and start over, he restores what’s broken. And He gives them a promise. There is One coming who will crush the serpent’s head. She’d just have to wait for it.
This lady followed her husband, Abram, anywhere he went and waited on the children whom Abram told her were promised to them by God. So she waited, and waited and still they never came…until….Genesis 17 . God reminded her husband of His covenant to make them a great nation. Then God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and since Sarai was in on the plan, God changed her name too. Sarah had some trouble believing during her waiting, but she came around and gave birth to a son at age 90 and named him Isaac. Sarah waited at the bottom of the mountain for Abraham and Isaac to come down together. And through God’s provisional sacrifice, their only son was spared to bless the nations.
She was a Canaanite girl who was hotly sought out by Abraham’s people for Isaac to marry. After passing a kindness test involving thirsty camels, the servants were sure she was sweet enough to marry Isaac. So she became the wife of Isaac and mom to Jacob and Esau. She was also great-niece to Abraham and sister to Labon who was getting his daughters ready to marry her sons. (Talk about icky!) She and Isaac had some parenting issues as they each had a favorite son. Rebecca was an anxious mom who worked out a plan to deceive her husband into blessing her favorite boy, the younger brother Jacob. Because of this deception, she carried this sin with her the rest of her life and there are accounts of her burial being secret so that Esau did not come and desecrate her body. Waiting on the Lord was trumped by her desire to see her children prosper at all costs. But God uses even this, the blessing of Jacob, for good as Christ comes from his descendants.
Jacob, the deceptive son, grew up and went to his uncle’s house to get ready to marry the daughter who was assigned to him. There were Leah and Rachel. He worked 7 years to marry Rachel and was deceived. He got Leah instead. In scripture, Leah is introduced by describing her with the phrase, “Leah had tender eyes”. People argue whether that means kind eyes or if it means weary from crying. She sure had her mess of family drama. Her dad tricked her cousin into marrying her when everyone knew he really wanted to marry her little sister. I mean, homegirl is forever immortalized as the ugly sister. Nonetheless, she was the wife of Jacob (even if he wasn’t really into her). And you know she waited on God anyway, even with this hard marriage in which her husband put her and her kids out in front of Rachel and hers and in front of himself when he thought he was in for trouble. What a jerk! God kept his promises to Jacob whom He re-named Israel. Because God is faithful even when we’re royal screwups.
The word says God heard her cry, “saw she was unloved” and let her be the mother of Judah, the one who would father the line of Jesus. Leah was also a Canaanite as her father was from Canaan. She was a woman from outside the line of Israel…grafted into this crazy family
Her story is also one fit for a T.V. drama. She was also a Gentile and was looked down on by Judah’s family for that reason. She married Leah’s grandson, Judah’s son. Judah’s sons were terrible to her. She was supposed to have sons for them, because that’s what women were for. So, husband #1 didn’t make it too long because God struck him down for how terrible he was. Yikes! Brother #2 was supposed to step in and redeem his sister-in-law by giving her sons. And let’s just keep it PG and say he wasn’t gonna let that happen and was also wicked so God killed him too. Obviously, God cared about Tamar carrying on the name of Judah a whole lot. Judah’s wife had died and now it’s was his turn to redeem his daughter in law. He, of course, didn’t. She Tamar got creative and deceptive and the two did conceive a child. She had to wait for the truth to come out through a very shady set of circumstances. Here is another woman of the unfavorable Gentile decent….grafted in and mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew’s lineage of Jesus.
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar
:: Matthew 1:3 ::
She was a prostitute waiting for hope, living in a town of no Sabbaths, no prophets were in Jericho, no one was speaking of an Advent. She was one women alone with too many faithless men. She and her people had heard of the crazy things that God has done for Israel, and they were terrified. She was given explicit instructions by her king to turn over Joshua’s spies, God’s people. But instead of her giving them up God gives himself! He shows up in the form of a prostitute referring to the God of another people by name. The word says she called Him by the holiest of names…Yahweh, The God of Judah. Her step of faith in their being more out there than the life she knew, helped to expand the nation Israel. She married Salmon, a descendant of Judah, a warrior for Israel. She came from a Godless culture and is still grafted into the line of Promise. (I see a pattern forming)
She became the mother of Boaz, who is a pretty big deal later. And she is also mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy, a former prostitute, REDEEMED and right there in Jesus’ family tree.
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
:: Matthew 1:5 ::
This lady gets her own book in the Old Testament. Her story of redemption is one that God wants us to see in our waiting. Ruth was a widowed Moabite women with a sweet mother-in-law named Naomi. Ruth stuck with Naomi, even though the “wisest” thing to do was to get hopping on getting another husband. Women didn’t fare well in this culture, much less widows without sons. So Ruth and Naomi head to Bethlehem (hmmm….interesting place for her to find a Redeemer). There, Ruth waited. She waited on a Kinsman Redeemer who would come to save her and her mother-in-law. God was gracious and faithful and a wealthy farmer named Boaz, who was not even first in line to marry Ruth, stepped in and the redeemer she’s waited for. This was Rahab’s son. Though she was from a far off place that was not trusted. She was still taken into Judah’s line. Another Gentile addition to the family tree.
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth.
::Matthew 1:5 ::
Ruth and Boaz had Obed, who had a son named Jesse. Jesse was living in Bethlehem during the reign of Israel’s first king, Saul, when the prophet Samuel came to Bethlehem to anoint a new King (because Saul wasn’t working out too great). Jessie’s wife is unnamed in scripture, but most historians and Bible scholars believe her name was Nitzevet. She was a Jewish woman who would be the mother of King David. She is also an ancestor of Joseph, Mary’s husband and foster-father of Jesus. Without Nitzevet, there are not 8 sons of Jesse, one of which is David. Samuel was impressed by Jesse and Nitzevet’s sons as they were strong in stature, but God told him to look at their hearts and not their outward appearance because that’s what He’s interested in. Jesse’s family must have read through the prophesies in Isaiah. There had to be a lot of families who named their sons “Jesse” during this time. Did Nitzevet know that she had married THE Jesse? And still the family waited for the Messiah king promised in Isaiah.
And there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear.
:: Isaiah 11:1-3 ::
A Jewish woman, married to a Hittite soldier who was away at battle when King David decided to take her for himself through the act of adultery and the eventual murder of her husband (I’m telling you the people in this list are scandalous). King David married her and the son they had conceived passed away. The word records that the Lord was very displeased with David for this act, but God is gracious toward David and toward Bathsheba. He gives them a second son and they name him Solomon. He would be King Solomon, the wisest King ever to rule Israel. Through all of this God still referred to her husband David as a “Man after My own heart”. That is grace!
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.
:: Matthew 1:6 ::
During this period of time, the sons, grandsons, great grandsons and all the descendents of David had forgotten the God of their ancestors and turned from the God of Sarah, and of Rebekah and of Leah. They turned to the gods who felt good in the moment, the popular gods who were more widely accepted by culture.
But through this family tree of feuding brothers, adulterous kings, murderers, skeleton-filled closets, abusive husbands, liars, and forgotten/unmentioned mothers…Still ISAIAH 11:1 was kept by the promise-keeping God. Out of the stump of Jesse came….
Mary lived in Nazareth in Galilee, probably with her parents. Following the death of King Solomon, Galilee formed the northern part of the Kingdom of Israel, and from then on it was considered non-Jewish in the sense that it was not part of the southern Kingdom of Judah. This wasn’t a town in which the Jewish people were the majority. It was considered mostly Gentile and Galileans had a hard time shaking their post code since they were easily recognized by their distinct accents. People from Galilee were considered yokels without any education in the way of Mosaic law…interesting since the Law-Maker Himself chose to be born to a Galilean family. 🙂
Mary being a girl, didn’t get to follow a Rabbi like her brothers did. Instead, she probably listened to her father read from the Torah and speak of the coming Messiah. She likely heard stories about how this King would come and reclaim Israel from oppression. This had to be very real for her as her town was occupied by merciless Roman soldiers. The angel Gabriel told her she was to be the mother of the promised Messiah by conceiving him through the Holy Spirit. And she responded with a sweet song of praise and surrender. She and Joseph loved Jesus and raised Him as their own child.
and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is the Messiah.
The spotless, perfect sacrifice of His first coming made the way for many, many more! He was the forerunner – the first-born among many brothers (and sisters).
He is faithful! He is the Rescuer and Redeemer of all forgotten, unworthy prodigals. The Giver who knows no bounds. The Conqueror who comes in meekness and delivers with might. Out of all our impossible places, He fills these places of hopelessness with His grace!
In the line of Jesus, when only men were listed in other family trees, Jesus’ line of context mentions His women!
He mentions, not just women, but women with crooked family trees and wayward pasts. He honors them in His coming!
In this truth, we see many women who are in this family tree who are waiting anew.
They wait not for this Messiah to come, but for this same King of Kings Messiah to come again!
They are Ruth Pascal, who beget Mary Margarete, who beget Michael who beget Rebecca & Amanda Lynn,
These are some of His adopted daughters & sons, the grafted-in members of the family tree of Israel.
Some are with Him now and forever, but are waiting for the day when He’ll make all things new.
Some are still living in the not-yet Kingdom and are waiting in joyful anticipation.
So this waiting, this Advent…..it’s hereditary.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
:: Psalm 27:13-14::