Four Mothers and God’s Amazing Grace

In the minds of many Christians, the most boring sections in the Bible are the genealogies.

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat Judah and his brothers. Judah begat Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begat Hezron, and Hezron begat Ram. Ram begat Amminadab, Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon. Salmon begat Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begat Obed by Ruth, Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David the king. David the king begat Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.

Matthew 1:1-6

But these genealogies are inspired.

Luke gives the genealogy of Jesus through His mother Mary, showing He was a blood descendant of King David. The Hebrew custom though was to trace the line through the father. And so Matthew begins his gospel through the family tree of Joseph—His legal father. And through Joseph’s line, Matthew shows that Jesus was the legal heir of David’s throne.

However the most striking difference between the two genealogies is the names Matthew includes. In his gospel, there are four women—mothers—mentioned.

It’s nothing short of remarkable!

Then when you study out those four women, you see them all as outcasts, and three out of four were immoral. That’s hardly what we would expect to find in the royal heritage of the King of kings! But the fact that these four women are included is a commentary on God’s amazing grace.

Let’s take a closer look at the biblical record of these four mothers.

1. Tamar: the incestuous mother

The Genesis 38 account is one of the darkest chapters in the Bible. Tamar was a Canaanite, but she initially was married to one of the sons of Judah, Er. Through a series of unfortunate deaths, levirate remarriages, broken promises, and ultimately sinful events, Perez—both the son AND grandson of Judah—was born.

God’s grace however is manifested through this messed up family of Judah.

And one of the elders saith unto me, “Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.”

Revelation 5:5

In this account, we see the remarkable truth that Jesus certainly made Himself of no reputation (Philippians 2). This story is not to magnify the sin involved, but it is to magnify the grace of God. 

It’s not about Tamar’s sin. It’s all about God’s grace!

You may have a dark past that you would rather forget. Maybe there’s a previous failed marriage, a sordid event, a past failure you’d rather just forget, a sin that haunts you—remember Tamar.

Remember that God will not cease to love you and to forgive you of your sin (Psalm 103:12).

Aren’t so you glad that Jesus is not like Judah? Judah was willing to have his daughter-in-law burned, but Jesus mercifully said to the woman taken in adultery, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

The greatest incentive to holiness is not fear of judgment but assurance that you have been freely forgiven by the grace of Jesus Christ!

What infinite grace on the part of God that Tamar should be included in Jesus’ family tree!

2. Rahab: the idolatrous mother

In the book of Joshua, we meet Rahab—a Canaanite woman living in the city of Jericho. When Joshua sent two spies to scout the city before the Israelites’ invasion, Rahab hid them and helped them escape the city safely. She did this because she believed in the power of the Israelites’ God and feared His judgment on Jericho.

She told the spies,

“The reputation of your God has preceded you—nobody has any courage anymore; our hearts have melted within us as we’ve heard the reports of your God” (Joshua 2:9-11).

In return for her assistance, the spies promised to spare Rahab and her family when they conquered Jericho. Rahab’s courageous actions demonstrated her faith and led to her salvation when Jericho fell.

God’s grace is manifested in transforming her from false faith to genuine faith. In order to place her faith in the God of Israel, Rahab had to repudiate her past and her people. She had to renounce the gods of the Canaanites and embrace the One True God—JEHOVAH.

Hebrews 11:31 emphasizes her faith which resulted in works. Her genuine faith produced a dramatic change in her life. She was assimilated into the culture of Israel, eventually married Salmon of the tribe of Judah, and became the great-great grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus.

Has your life been changed because you put your trust in Jesus? Do you have a credible testimony before your family? Rahab did. She got all her family into the house with her, and they were spared.

God answers the prayers of believing mothers.

3. Ruth: the foreign mother

Then in the book of Ruth, we find a tremendous rags-to-riches love story that reads like this:

  1. Ruth was a Moabite woman who married into an Israelite family from Bethlehem living in Moab.
  2. After the men of the family all died, Ruth chose to stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi, instead of returning to her own family.
  3. Ruth accompanied Naomi back to Bethlehem despite the challenges of being a foreigner in a new land.
  4. In Bethlehem, Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz, a wealthy relative of Naomi’s late husband.
  5. Boaz showed kindness to Ruth and instructed his workers to leave extra grain for her to collect.
  6. Ruth followed Naomi’s advice and approached Boaz during the harvest festival, expressing her desire for his protection and care.
  7. Impressed by Ruth’s loyalty and virtue, Boaz agreed to act as her kinsman-redeemer, a role that involved marrying her to protect her and her late husband’s family.
  8. Boaz negotiated with a closer relative to relinquish his right to redeem Ruth, clearing the way for Boaz to marry her.
  9. Ruth and Boaz were married, and they had a son named Obed.
  10. Obed became the grandfather of King David, making Ruth an ancestor of Jesus Christ according to the genealogy in Matthew.

The story of Ruth and Boaz is one of the most charming love stories in any literature. Ruth was a foreigner. She was a Moabitess, a member of an accursed race—Moab was one of the two sons of incest of Lot and his daughters. And so in Deuteronomy 23:3, the descendants of Lot were forbidden to enter into the congregation of the Lord.

But God’s grace turned a curse into a blessing for Ruth who not only entered into the congregation of the Lord but also into the family tree of Jesus (Deuteronomy 23:5)!

You are not doomed because of the sin of your ancestors. You may come from generations of drunkards in your family, but you can be filled with the Spirit and not with wine. Immorality may run like water in your family, but you can be pure because you have been bought with a price. We are all children of Adam, and therefore we are all under the curse of sin (John 3:18). But you can find grace in the eyes of the Lord!

It’s time for us to stand up against the lies of generational curses and determinism and say, “What defines me is not what has happened to me but Who’s inside of me. I am what I am by the grace of God.”

It’s only God’s mercy, and it’s only His grace!

4. Bathsheba: the adulteress mother

In 2 Samuel 11, King David stayed back from battle and saw Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David succumbed to temptation, leading to her pregnancy. To conceal his sin, David tried to involve Uriah by bringing him back from the front lines, hoping it would cover up the pregnancy’s true paternity. When Uriah refused to enjoy the comforts of home while his comrades were in battle, David arranged for his death by placing him in a vulnerable position in battle. After Uriah’s death, David married Bathsheba. However, God was displeased with David’s actions, and Nathan the prophet confronted him, leading to David’s repentance. Nevertheless, the child from that tryst was taken from them.

Thankfully that’s not the end of the story!

We see next that the Lord blessed them with another child—Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24). And the Lord loved him. The name Solomon means “peaceable.” But notice in verse 25, God called his name, “Jedediah—beloved of the Lord.” 

The story of David and Bathsheba shows us that God’s grace is manifested in full and free forgiveness upon confession (Psalm 51; I John 1:9). Every time they looked at Solomon, they were reminded that God forgives and restores.

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Psalm 32:1

When they tried to cover their guilt, it made matters worse. But when God covered it, what a blessing—guilt and condemnation were all gone!

Only four women are listed in the genealogy, and each one had a checkered past. However, Jesus is not ashamed to have them in His family tree.

They were all the objects of God’s transforming grace.

They knew the transforming power of the grace of God themselves, and then they passed it on to their children—a legacy of grace!

I pray we all will stand in awe of His amazing grace. May we never doubt it—may we never get over it!

thoughts taken from “Four Mothers in the Genealogy of Christ” from Pastor Bob Vradenburgh on May 14, 2017.

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Our purpose is to make much of our Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel through the preaching of His Word and the making of disciples. At Friendship Baptist Church (FBC) we teach the Bible in order to facilitate spiritual growth in all of God’s people and to provide opportunities for Christian fellowship. God has graciously used Friendship to further His work both locally and across the globe since 1965.