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Drawn Out By Grace

Sun, Jul 27, 2014

Featured, Hope

Drawn Out By GraceThree Old Testament women are honoured in the Gospel of Matthew: Tamar, Rahab and Ruth.  These women were mentioned by name in the genealogy of Jesus, detailed in Matthew 1, even though it was customary for such genealogies to only include the men. Why these particular women are singled out is not explicitly stated, and not immediately obvious.

Tamar’s story is set out in Genesis 38, Rahab’s in Joshua 2 & 6, and Ruth’s – well, in the book of Ruth.

One could see how Ruth might fit the bill of ‘exceptional woman deserving honourable mention’ – she was loyal to her mother-in-law, hard working, faithful.  And even though Rahab betrayed her city and lied, she did show kindness to the ‘good guys’ (the Israelite spies) and feared God.  The case for Tamar, however, is somewhat more problematic.

Tamar had been greatly wronged by Judah, her father-in-law.  She had married Judah’s eldest son, Er, but when both Er and his younger brother Onan died, law and custom required that Judah give his youngest son Shelah to Tamar as husband.  Afraid that Shelah would somehow suffer the same fate as his brothers, Judah did not carried this out, despite a promise to do so.  So Tamar proceeded to trick Judah into sleeping with her by disguising herself as a prostitute.  And from that immoral act, she gets pregnant with twins – one of whom becomes an earthly forefather of Jesus.

So good deeds is not a common factor in these women.

Instead, the one notable thing about all three women is the hopelessness of their situations.  Tamar was a widow (twice over) without any children, who couldn’t marry again because of a broken promise by her father-in-law.  And while Tamar pretended to be a prostitute, Rahab actually was one, in a city (Jericho) God had marked for utter destruction by the invading Israelite army and from which there was to be no escape.  Ruth the Moabitess was also a widow without children, and would have faced great prejudice living in an Israelite community which outlawed Moabites assembling before God with everyone else.  (Deut 23:3)

Each woman’s circumstance should have meant a rather unfortunate life.  In the Old Testament, when strict laws and harsh punishments abounded, it was difficult enough for an Israelite man to reach God, let alone for these foreign women to see God’s goodness.  But that makes God’s grace all the more apparent in their stories, and the happy endings all the more amazing.  Like Jesus turning water into the finest wine, just when all the wine’s run out, God turns despair into triumph just when all hope seems lost.

For their part, there’s something of an incredible boldness in these women, who didn’t accept their circumstances as limitations on their destinies.  They sought for more – and found God’s grace.

— Joey

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    A Question of Law

    Fri, Apr 12, 2013

    3 Comments

    In a dispensation of grace, what kind of law – including penalties and punishments – should Christians apply among themselves?

    And with the separation of Church and State, what kind of law should Christians promote for their country, that would govern both Christians and non-Christians?

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