One of the big differences about my life in Florida is that I have really come to enjoy reading. The book that I just completed was big and huge and if I could travel back in time a year ago and tell the old me “you just read a Francine Rivers novel,” the old me would have laughed out loud!
The book I just completed was actually a compilation of 5 different books. It contains mini-novels about the lives of the 5 women who are mentioned as part of the lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1.
Tamar – betrayed by the men who controlled her future (Judah and his sons), she fought for the right to believe in a loving God and for the right to claim what society offered her in those days. Tamar was the sister-in-law of Joseph, the daughter-in-law of Judah and the mother of Perez.
Rahab was a harlot who lived in the walls of Jericho and held the ears of the King and other men of great importance. She hid the Israelite spies, who promised to protect her when they returned. A Canaanite by birth, her society worshipped false gods. But she trusted God and became part of the Israelite nation. Rahab was the mother of Boaz.
Ruth was a Moabite by birth. She came from a society that was wealthy and worshipped pagan Gods and yet when she was given the choice by her mother-in-law to return to the easy life, she chose to stay with her mother-in-law, live a life of poverty and follow her God. Ruth was the wife of Boaz and the grandmother of King David.
Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam, one of King David’s elite warriors and the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Even though she was married, she gave her heart to King David and became pregnant with his child. In his desire to cover his sin, King David sent her husband to the front lines where he was killed. After Uriah’s death, David took Bathsheba to be his wife. Bathsheba was the wife of David and the mother of King Solomon.
Mary was a young virgin with a heart for God who said “Yes” to being part of God’s plan not knowing all of the pain and suffering it would bring. Or the joy. Mary was the mother of Jesus.
Joseph, Judah, Boaz, King David, King Solomon, Jesus…..those are all pretty big names in the Bible. They were all men who changed the course of history, but what about the women who God used to make all of this happen?
A couple of observations about them:
- They had very little control over their lives – women in the Old Testament had marriages that were arranged by their fathers or other male relative. They were married as soon as they were able to get pregnant and if for some reason their husband preceded them in death without children then the rules of society called for them to marry the next eligible male relative. These women may have held respect for the man they were required to marry, but I’m sure love, happiness and happily ever after were not part of the initial equation. If that did happen, it would come over time.
- God used these five women despite their mistakes – these women were far from perfect in the eyes of society. All of them fail the social standing test. Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba failed the sexual purity test. Ruth, as a Moabite, was an outcast in Bethlehem. All of their marriages and family relationships had significant challenges that might have made them eligible for a reality TV show.
But God used all of them in His big picture and plan, despite their imperfect lives.
I think sometimes as Christians we believe that God uses people who are perfect according to the rules and laws spelled out in the Bible or in society. These people manage their money perfectly, never yell at their kids, don’t have strains or stress in their family relationships and are blessed with good jobs and marriages that make them ecstatically happy.
And if we can just do the right things to get ourselves into the right job or relationship then God can use us to make a difference for Him.
The lesson for me in this book is the exact opposite. I need to be less concerned about making everything perfect in my life and more focused on how God wants to use me right where I am. I’m not the perfect daughter, wife, mother or friend. I have made plenty of mistakes in my life and I continue to do so every day. I try, but I fail because sometimes my flesh is stronger than my faith and most of the time my heart is stronger than my head.
In fact if I took all the time I spent thinking about my past mistakes and worrying about what others thought of me and instead focused that time in prayer about how I can be part of God’s future plan, I can only imagine what He could do in my life.
In this book, Francine Rivers does an incredible job of showing us how each of these women stepped above the judgment of others to be used by God.
Sometimes when others judge us (or we judge ourselves), it is easy to get paralyzed by that judgment and give up on believing that God can use us as part of his plan. But the lesson of these five women is to step above the judgment of others, to accept God’s forgiveness and grace and to never give up on the work that God is doing in our lives.