There are only five women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 1. They are Tamar, Ruth, Rahab, Bathsheba and Mary. In the recorded and mentioned line of Christ we have an adulterous woman (perhaps by no choice of her own), a prostitute, a foreigner who is a non-believer and has married a man from the tribe of Israel, and a daughter-in-law who is unfairly treated and deals with it in a treacherous way. And then we have the mother of Jesus. Obviously, for each generation in the line of Christ, there had to be both a mother and father bringing forth the next generation. I am sure there are some noteworthy, trumpet announcing, outstanding women of faith and trust. But God continually challenges that voice in our heads that says we are not worthy enough, and in this case chooses to include 4 out of 5 women who easily could be shunned, overlooked or considered ‘unredeemable.’ For the rest of this week, we will take a peek at the lives of three of these women—women considered by the Holy Spirit to be important enough to be the ones highlighted in the genealogy of our LORD.
Ruth—our first woman has a whole book written about her life. The book of Ruth, found in the Old Testament, tells us in a brief summary that she is someone who was welcomed into a family that had much hardship and heartache. Loved by God, but certainly not living the life of health, wealth and prosperity, she would be considered by some present-day religious leaders as unloved by God by His lack of blessing on her life. Oh, how differently God sees things! I encourage you to read through the whole book of Ruth.
“In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So, a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.” (Ruth 1:1-2)
They belong to the tribe of Ephraim, one of the 12 tribes of Israel. They are of God’s chosen people. Their move wasn’t to get away from their family, beliefs or tribal lands, but simply to find food; there was a famine in the land, and they moved to survive.1
“Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about 10 years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.” (Ruth 1:3-5)
Ruth is a Moabite; a foreigner, one that ‘belongs to’ or worships a god other than Yahweh.
She is married to her ‘Christian husband’ for about 10 years, but still does not worship the true God. Yes, we have a woman in the line of Christ who is worthy enough to be mentioned but starts out rather roughly according to the Biblical guidelines for marriage.
In Ruth 1:6 we are told that when Naomi and her two daughters-in-law (all three are widows) hear that there is food again in Moab, they set out to return to the land of Israel. And here we have the reason we see Ruth in the genealogical line of Christ.
In Ruth 1:8-14 Naomi implores her daughters-in-law to return to their father’s tents and take up life from there. Perhaps they will find a new husband to love and take care of them from within their own. She reasons that she is too old to find a husband, have more sons, let them grow up and then see them marry these girls; to redeem the situation.
Ruth’s response is ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.’
It is this faith in God and a commitment to belong to Him, whatever that looks like, that gains Ruth a spot in the lineage of Christ, and rightly so.
She doesn’t know everything about Yahweh. She says, ‘the LORD’ but also ‘your God will be my God.’ She has tasted grief (3 deaths, including her husband of about 10 years), hardship (famine and widowhood) and despair (the culture pattern of redeeming a situation of widowhood won’t work here). Yet she is willing to trust this God who doesn’t always appear benevolent, and to take the good with the bad. This family from the tribe of Ephraim must have had quite an impact on her life.
Paul Harvey would say, ‘Read the book of Ruth for the rest of the story,’ because God does redeem the situation through another family member.2 And Ruth learns much about the Lord and lives the rest of her life for Him, both in devotion and deed.
Ruth, our first woman of the lineage of Christ as found in Matthew. An unbeliever. A worshipper of other gods. Redeemed. Since God included her, we know He will do so for those finding themselves in this situation today. There is hope. And so, our application is to love, in word and deed, and to never stop praying that those around us will want to make our God their God.
1 When Naomi heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. (Ruth1:6)
2 The Hebrew word for guardian-redeemer in Ruth 4:1 is a legal term for one who has the obligation to redeem a relative who is in serious difficulty. See this requirement in Leviticus 25:25-55.