Luke 1: 26—27:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man of the House of David whose name was Joseph.
The virgin’s name was Mary.
(Read, too: Matthew 1: 1—16, especially verses 3, 5, 6, 16)
IN the Greek, this twenty-seventh verse is the only place in all Scripture where one might read that Mary is “of the house of David.” In many places Joseph is clearly identified with the lineage of David. It’s likelier that his wife was born a Levite, like her kinswoman Elizabeth.
Nevertheless, if not by blood and birth, then by grace and by character this woman joins the genealogy of the Messiah!
Hebrew genealogies almost never mentioned women. Yet Matthew names four in the ancestry of the Christ. Not one of them is here by birth. Each becomes a matriarch of Jesus, rather, by her character and by God’s grace. This is the sisterhood that Mary is about to enter.
And these are models—both for Mary, who shall carry Jesus in her womb, and for us, who carry him in our hearts and our behavior.
- Christian, in a world both careless and unkind, be cunning and courageous (Gen. 38)!
When Tamar (a Canaanite) married Er, the eldest son of the patriarch Judah, she married sorrow. Er was evil and died young. By law, then, Tamar was required to bear a child by Judah’s second son. But that fellow was no better than the first. He refused his duty. So Judah sent Tamar to her father’s house, there to live as a widow until his third son grew up.
But she languished at her father’s house. Judah forgot her. Tamar would have remained a widow forever, except that she became as “wise as a serpent, as innocent as the dove.” (Matt. 10:16).
When one day she learned that Judah was traveling nearby, she put off her widow’s weeds and veiled herself and sat where the man might see her. He saw her. He thought her a harlot, and bargained for her body.
“What do you want?” he said.
“As a pledge for your future payment,” said she, “your signet ring, your cord, and the staff in your right hand.”
Consider now the passion of mighty men—and the cunning of women who must remind them of righteousness: Judah gave her all these.
When Tamar became pregnant; when Judah learned that his daughter-in-law had offended the family by “playing the harlot”; when he commanded her to be burned, that bold woman appeared before him and said, “By the man to whom these belong, am I with child.”
Oh, what a perilous game she played, now placing before Judah his own signet, his cord, and the staff of his right hand.
But he said, “She is more righteous than I.”
2. Christian, our second matriarch defines what we with Mary must become: “room,” the real inn and lodging place for the Savior. For that’s what Rahab’s name means: “room” (Josh. 2)
Rahab was a citizen of Jericho. Yet when Joshua sent two men to spy inside the enemy walls, she chose against her culture, against her own world, and gave these men “room” of the highest kind, a safe place, protection for their lives. The king of Jericho sought to kill them. But this woman of Jericho hid them on the roof of her house, that they might lead Israel over Jordan into the Promised Land.
Even so Mary shall keep Jesus in her womb, her home, and her heart. And so may we keep him in our behavior, that he, Jesus, might lead the whole world over Jordan into the Promised Land.
3. Ah, what gentle fidelity our third matriarch models!
Ruth was a Moabite. Nevertheless, to Bethlehem she traveled when her husband died, because she stayed faithful to her mother-in-law, Naomi. How obedient she was to the woman who called herself bitterness. How gracious to Naomi’s kinsman, Boaz.
How beautiful the story of their love.
And how blessed Naomi, when she could finally shed bitterness and take up joy again; for a son was born to Ruth, the one who became the father of the father of David the King.
Likewise, Mary shall be both faithful and obedient to God, the Father of her son. And can we be any less? Of course not. Fidelity in us should likewise make a beautiful story.
4. Finally, Bath-sheba joined the ancestry of the Messiah as Tamar and Ruth did, through suffering and loss (2 Sam. 11 and 12).
Bath-sheba, raped by the king who next killed her husband.
Bath-sheba, under the cruelty of men to grieve the death of her firstborn son.
Bath-sheba, who witnessed the change in David from strutting sinner, to downcast penitent, to the one anointed by God—for this is the power of forgiveness, even to transfigure the human heart.
Bath-sheba, torn between the meanness and the majesty of humankind, for her second son rose to rule the kingdom when his father David died.
Bath-sheba: she signals the paradox for all who carry the Lord into the world. Mary shall find both cruelty and majesty in the crucifixion of her son. And we shall be torn, for Jesus’ sake, between suffering and grace, since his name draws hatred, yet his is the forgiveness that transfigures the heart.
O Christian, then let this be your striving:
With three to make your heart bold and spacious and faithful; and with the fourth matriarch to learn forgiveness.
But with Mary, now, let this be your prayer:
That the Lord would enter you spiritually, as bodily he entered her; and that daily he might through you enter the world as once he was born from her.