Read: Matthew 1
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David. (Matthew 1:5-6a)
Matthew 1 tells two stories of kinship. The second is most familiar, from the Christmas nativity stories I sing in carols and read in cards. This version – and I’m paraphrasing here – gets the headline: “Pregnant Mary in disgrace almost gets dumped by her fiancé Joseph before angelic messenger intervenes.” So the basic facts of Virgin Mary, Faithful Joseph and Baby Jesus/Immanuel are well known.
The earlier kinship story in Matthew 1 is actually a multitude of stories. These stories are less well known, but they still interest me, especially the verses I’ve quoted above. Matthew edits and crops Jesus’ genealogy here, truncating roughly 300 years of history into two lines. (So Rahab and Naomi were not contemporaries.)
Boaz married Ruth, acting as kinsman-redeemer to Naomi’s foreign daughter-in-law, and they had a bouncing baby boy, Obed. This is the story from the book of Ruth in the Old Testament, just after the book of Judges. One key moment in this story occurs when widowed Ruth tells her bitter, also-widowed mother-in-law Naomi, “Your God will be my God.” By herself, Naomi has nothing to offer Ruth; but Naomi’s God is the Lord of All.
The previous line, however, tells a rather different story, which has to be pieced together from events in the beginning of the book of Joshua: It stars Salmon, valiant man of Judah, one of the invading, immigrating swarm of Israelites led by General Joshua. In a surprise move, Salmon marries Rahab of Jericho, a woman whose murky past life is now buried in the rubble that is all that remains of her city’s wall. Was Salmon one of the spies, who earlier hid on Rahab’s roof at the top of that wall? How did they deal with a cross-cultural marriage as Israel grew more and more powerful within the promised land and overthrew other cities and cultures? I don’t know, but I wonder. One thing of which I am sure: it was God who made a way for these two people to meet and marry across a cultural and religious divide, by opening Rahab’s eyes to his glory.
The family history of Jesus Christ was no accident; it was the handiwork of God.
LORD God Almighty,
Father in heaven, you are sovereign over births, deaths and marriages.
You intervened when Rahab needed your help to begin a new life with the people of Israel, when she placed her trust in the God she had only heard about through gossip of plagues and miracles.
You interceded when Ruth needed your help, when she was living as a destitute widow among her mother-in-law’s people, determined to surrender to her mother-in-law’s God.
You involved yourself in Mary and Joseph’s lives when their relationship was on the rocks as they both struggled to live faithfully to you and your plans.
LORD, intervene in my life too. Mould me into a woman whose faith in you is unshakable even in terrible times, because I have witnessed your work in my life, in my family, in my church, in my community, in the pages of my Bible. Build me up in Christ, I pray.