Did you know…

We’ve started a new year of BSF…and the study is on the Book of Matthew this year. I’ve done this study before so it’ll be cool to see what I remember from eight years ago, as well as what has changed in my growth since then. We started with a look at Jesus’ genealogy…which is pretty amazing in itself:

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
….[skipping some names]….
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.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
….[skipping some names]….
Matthan the father of Jacob,
and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary,
and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Notice anything unusual about the genealogy? Hint: I’ve bolded and changed the color of the text. When was the last time a historical genealogy in a patriarchal society include WOMEN in it? And of the five women, only Mary was Jewish. And only Mary didn’t have a colorful history worthy of modern-day tabloids.

Tamar (Click on her name for the Biblical account) – The father of her child is also her father-in-law. She was a Canaanite woman who used the means she knew how (i.e. dressing as a prostitute with whom Judah, her FIL, had drunken relations with) in order to be part of the family that received a great promise from God.

Rahab – A local prostitute in the city of Jericho. She helped the Hebrew spies escape the city on promise that she and her family would be spared because she believed in their God.

Ruth – A Moabite, basically an enemy of the Hebrews, widow who chose to leave everything she knew behind her in order to follow her Hebrew mother-in-law back to her country. She desired that Naomi’s God also be her God and gave up her best chance at remarriage and having her own family.

Uriah’s wife aka Bathsheba – The mighty King David spied her bathing one night, sent for her, and knocked her up. And then when he couldn’t cover his tracks, he had her husband, Uriah, killed in battle, and then he married her.

Mary – Unwed, virgin, teenager…who becomes pregnant by the Holy Spirit. How do you tell that to your Dad? Or to your fiance??

And these were the women so honored to be recorded in Jesus’ genealogy. Pretty incredible. Some of them literally could have been killed for what they did…but they had faith in the God they heard about. And they wanted to belong to Him. Do I have that kind of faith? I can only hope. But certainly knowing these women and their colorful stories are included in Jesus’ family line gives me, and hopefully all, hope that it really doesn’t matter your past…and it certainly doesn’t matter what your “pedigree” is. If you seek to be included into God’s family, you will be.

(Image not mine) I also totally recommend reading “A Lineage of Grace” by Francine Rivers which paints a picture of how their stories might have taken place as informed by the Bible.

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Sculpted

(Image not mine)

Consider God as the Master Artist…Master Sculptor. When he requests a block of marble to be cut from the quarry, he can see into that blank/flat/rough form the masterpiece has in mind to create. “Normal” people looking at the raw stone might not even realize its value as marble. We just see a block of raw, rough useless stone.

In the studio, the Master takes a large mallet and chisel and knocks large pieces of stone to the ground. Again, to the onlooker, it still doesn’t look like much. Nothing is recognizable. After a time, he takes a smaller mallet and smaller chisels to remove smaller bits of stone. Bit by bit a figure starts to emerge. A hand. An elbow. The bend of a knee. The Master exchanges his tools for an even finer set. The details start to become apparent. Fingers. Nostrils. Hair tendrils. The fold of a garment. The tools become smaller and smaller and then he reaches for some rough material to sand the stone to smoothness. He reaches finally for other materials to polish the stone. It’s complete. A masterpiece!

In a similar fashion, we’re being sculpted by God. At the start we can’t tell from our raw form what our purpose or design will be. Often we feel useless. But God has lovingly selected us to complete His good work in. He starts with chiseling away what seems to be large significant parts of our lives. It hurts a lot to have so much broken off or taken away. But it’s not neededHe continuously chisels the smaller pieces off. It still hurts, but wait, we’re starting to take shape and it’s kind of exciting to see how God might shape us. The pieces chipped off grow smaller and smaller…and then the sander is applied to smooth out our roughness. The most irritating sander. Like people or situations that really get under your skin or rub you the wrong way. By the end, it’s just some polishing and a few touch ups here and there. His good work will be complete. A masterpiece!

What’s also amazing is that each slab of stone usually has flaws in it. There might be a weak spot or a hole or a crack. But the Master Sculptor works with and despite those imperfections to create a masterpiece regardless! I believe this is God’s specialty, taking the broken and flawed and turning us into masterpieces. With different purposes for certain. But GOOD purposes every time. What’s hard is that *this* walking piece of stone doesn’t enjoy being under a chisel. And I squirm. I am challenged to be still, hear the Master’s voice and surrender to His vision for my life. Whether He breaks off large chunks and it really hurts, or whether He’s sanding me and I’m feeling irritated. I pray I will always choose to surrender to the work He is doing and allow grace, compassion, mercy and patience to form in my life. Smoothing the roughness away.

No trust in my bow

The lands of Egypt, Jordan and Israel was part of the Exodus Tour we went on May of this year. It’s fascinating to see evidence of Egypt and Israel being interconnected so many thousand years ago. From a tiny nomadic tribe that became a nation when they made the great exodus from Egypt to the conflicted nation that still stands today. It’s amazing to consider that while great empires like that of the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and Ottomans have each taken their turn in holding the Israelites in some form of bondage or another…they have nearly all ceased to be the nations they once were. Even though Israel seemed to be wiped off the earth at one point, it miraculously became a nation again. How has such a tiny people group managed to survive? Is it advanced technology? Cunningly masterminded battle strategies? An infallible 5000 year plan on how to survive exile and assimilation attempts by conquering nations? All the answers are “no”.

Psalm 44 provides some answers.

With Your hand you drove out the nations and planted our ancestors; You crushed the peoples and made our ancestors flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your face, for You loved them.

I put no trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but You give us victory over our enemies, You put our adversaries to shame.

We’ve seen these verses play out in Jewish history as well:

You gave us up to be devoured like sheep and have scattered us among the nations. You have made us a reproach to our neighbors, the scorn and derision of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations; the peoples shake their heads at us. I live in disgrace all day long, and my face is covered with shameat the taunts of those who reproach and revile me, because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.

It was God who sustained them through millenia. Because He promised He would. And for His name’s sake alone He upholds His promise. Even when the Israelites lived in rebellion, worshipping other gods, rejecting God’s prophets and even God’s own Son, bringing God’s hand of wrath and judgement on them, God still kept His promise and sustained them. Such incredible mercy and grace.

But the lesson from Psalm 44 is for me to learn…that any kind of “greatness” I might seem to achieve is by God’s hand alone and not by my “intelligent” schemes or plans. I boast only in God. And by the same token, anything taken away from me (well, it was never mine to begin with) is out of love and discipline. With the purpose of restoring me into a right relationship with God.

To give me humble view of who I am. And the right view of who God is.