Recently I was with the Retherford side of the family. My grandfather and his brothers were given a book from 1958. It was my great-grandmother Getrude’s funeral book. It was stashed away in someone’s attic and was rediscovered and passed on. I never got to meet my great-grandmother. She died tragically when my dad was only four years old. As my dad and flipped through the funeral book’s pages, it was full of guests who signed the book. I recognized a few of the names, particularly those of my grandfather and his brothers. Most of the names, I didn’t know. What I did notice was the names missing from the book. My grandfather’s sisters names were not present in the book. 1958 was a different time for sure. It’s not their names weren’t important. They just weren’t present. I’d like to take the next few minutes to consider another list of names that has the inclusion of female names.
Matthew chapter one opens with a long list of names. I think, if we are honest with ourselves we tend to skip over the genealogical sections in the Bible. Who wants to read a list of names? Names we can’t even pronounce. Names from stories of a history long forgotten in a land that we’ve never been to. But the list of names in Matthew chapter one are different. Normally, ancient genealogical records omit women. So, when we open the Gospel of Matthew we should take not almost immediately that this list seems different. We find such recognizable names, as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Boaz, Jesse, David, Solomon,Zerubbael, Joseph, Jesus. We know these names. We know their stories. But look once again, we also find Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (Uriah’s wife Matt 1:6), and Mary. Five women. I know we aren’t fans of lists of names. However, this is no ordinary list. This is an invitation to peer once again into God’s unfolding story. This is in an invitation to see God at work in the world then and now. God isn’t bound by gender limitations, ethnic, racial, or language barriers. He has always used the underdog, the underprivileged and the overlooked to carry out his plans.
Tamar was a foreigner, and she was a barren widow. She played the part of a prostitute to have a child (Gen 38). Rahab, a foreigner in Jericho had a reputation as a prostitute and hid the spies (Joshua 2). Ruth, Moabite women would be the great grandmother of king David (Ruth 1 and Matt 1:5-6). Bathsheba isn’t even mentioned by name in Matthew 1. But you know her story! She was the mother of King Solomon. Mary, a Jewishteenage girl betrothed to Joseph the carpenter was told she would carry the Christ child, the son of God, the long awaited hope of Israel (Luke 1). These women aren’t just thrown into the story for dramatic effect, or to be politically correct. These names are included because both men and women are crucial to what God was doing in the world. These names are included as a perpetual reminder that God can and does work in and through situations that seem hopeless and bleak. If God can make the barren fruitful, if God can take prostitutes and turn them into providential protectors, think of what he might could do in your life?