Summary: A study of 5 people in Jesus’ genealogy who had tainted reputations illustrates that none of us have to be chained to our past.


I recently became interested in family genealogy.

I found some ancestors who intrigue me, like the civil war veterans and the Baptist preacher who was shot in the back during the Civil War.

(I don’t know if he wore the wrong color coat or if his sermons where that bad.)

I also found some men whose lives disappoint me.

Since they lived around the time of the Civil War, I know very little about them but what I have learned is their behavior was ungodly.

All families have some black sheep in the family tree.

As you listen to 40 names from Jesus’ family tree, try to identify the black sheep.

You will have to listen quickly because there are several.

Matthew 1:1-17 - 1This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of King David and of Abraham:

2Abraham was the father of Isaac.

Isaac was the father of Jacob.

Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.

3Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (their mother was Tamar).

Perez was the father of Hezron.

Hezron was the father of Ram.[1]

4Ram was the father of Amminadab.

Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.

Nahshon was the father of Salmon.

5Salmon was the father of Boaz (his mother was Rahab).

Boaz was the father of Obed (his mother was Ruth).

Obed was the father of Jesse.

6Jesse was the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon (his mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).

7Solomon was the father of Rehoboam.

Rehoboam was the father of Abijah.

Abijah was the father of Asaph.[2]

8Asaph was the father of Jehoshaphat.

Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram.[3]

Jehoram was the father[4] of Uzziah.

9Uzziah was the father of Jotham.

Jotham was the father of Ahaz.

Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.

10Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh.

Manasseh was the father of Amos.[5]

Amos was the father of Josiah.

11Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin[6] and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon).

12After the Babylonian exile:

Jehoiachin was the father of Shealtiel.

Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel.

13Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud.

Abiud was the father of Eliakim.

Eliakim was the father of Azor.

14Azor was the father of Zadok.

Zadok was the father of Akim.

Akim was the father of Eliud.

15Eliud was the father of Eleazar.

Eleazar was the father of Matthan.

Matthan was the father of Jacob.

16Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.

Mary was the mother of Jesus, who is called the Messiah.

17All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to King David, and fourteen from David’s time to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.

I’m not sure who deserves a standing ovation the most, Mick for reading all that or you for listening attentively to what is generally considered the most boring part of the Bible.

Did you notice some of the black sheep?

Abraham - lied about his wife and put her in a compromising position.

Judah – commits incest

Adulterer – David

Polygamist – Solomon

Rehoboam - Despised God’s people

Abijah, Rehoboam’s son – “walked in the sins of his father”

Joram – “walked in the ways of Ahab”

Ahaz – idolater

That’s just the guys in the story! Where the story really gets interesting is with the women in the family tree.

The inclusion of women in a Jewish genealogy is a rare thing.

If you were going to include women in a Jewish genealogy you would want to include the 4 matriarchs: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah, the wives respectively of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The 3 patriarchs are all there, but not their wives.

Matthew gives the church 4 new matriarchs and all of them preach the gospel of the mercy of a gracious God.

Let’s look for a few moments at 5 women in Jesus’ family tree and try to learn at least one spiritual truth from each of them.

One great abiding truth rings through all 5 stories: “Your past does not determine your future, your choices do.”

TAMAR – “Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (their mother was Tamar).” Matthew 1:3

The message in this woman’s life is, It is always a mistake to decide God needs you to make His will happen.

Have you ever considered that we would not be at war in Iraq today if Abraham had not decided God was incapable of keeping his promise to give him abundant offspring and decided to take matters into his own hands?

That is also the story and sin of Tamar.

She is a young, childless widow, the daughter-in-law of Judah. Judah’s son, Er, is wicked and God has him put to death, leaving Tamar a widow. Judah follows the custom of his day and asks his 2’nd son to marry her. He refuses and God has him put to death. Judah then offers his 3’rd son to Tamar, but she will have to wait many years until he is old enough to marry. She panics, fearing she will never have children in a culture where a woman’s value is based primarily on her ability to bear children.

She hears about a trip her father-in-law is going to take. It’s sheep-shearing time, which was payday for those in the sheep business. Money flowed and people partied. Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and waits along side the road. Judah sees her, does not recognize her and asks to purchase her services. He offers one goat for her services but she demands a deposit until the goat arrives. Judah gives her his signet ring, his cord, and his staff. The result of the encounter is Tamar becomes pregnant with twins and Judah goes home none the wiser.

When the news came that Tamar was pregnant, Judah threw a fit, accusing her of disgracing the family and demands she be burned to death. As she is being dragged into the public square, she calmly identifies the father of the twins by producing the ring, the cord, and the staff of Judah. Judah is humiliated and has to admit, “She is more righteous than I.”

That sounds like something out of National Enquirer. (It the story was a new T.V. show we would protest to the sponsors who make such immoral stories available.)

What do we learn from Tamar being listed in the family tree of Jesus?

God can make something good out of the worst parts of our lives.

I know a man who was once a terrible drunk. I cannot tell you how many terrible drunks I have sent to him over the last 30 years because he has a heart for helping them into recovery.

I know a man who was so deeply involved in heroin use he was shot 6 times and left for dead beside the road. He devoted the rest of his life to helping young people get off drugs.

God can make something good out of the worst parts of our lives.

If God can work through a family fraught with deception, incest, and prostitution, couldn’t He work through you?

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. – II Corinthians 5:21

RAHAB – “Salmon was the father of Boaz (his mother was Rahab).” – Matthew 1:5

Rahab is mentioned 8 times in Scriptures. In 6 of those occurrences, her name is found with the noun, “prostitute”.

Her story is told in the book of Joshua when she protects the spies who have entered the Promised Land and need a safe place to hide.

In the process of the story she turns from idolatry and to Jehovah.

What do we learn from Rahab being listed in the family tree of Jesus?

In spite of what I’ve done, the Lord can renew me.

“But now you belong to Christ Jesus. Though you once were far away from God, now you have been brought near to him because of the blood of Christ.” – Ephesians 2:13

I wonder if you would pray this prayer, “God, I know you have a list of sins you refuse to forgive and I know Jesus died for most sins but not my big one, so I guess I’ll quit praying to you because grace doesn’t cover my kind of sin.”

Learn the lesson of Rahab, the prostitute: In spite of what I’ve done, the Lord can renew me.

RUTH – “Boaz was the father of Obed (his mother was Ruth).” - Matthew 1:5

Ruth’s problem was not of her own making. She just had the misfortune of being born a Gentile.

Through the influence of a godly mother-in-law, Ruth determines to follow Jehovah as Lord. Her speech is so exemplary it is common to hear it in weddings, "Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” – Ruth 1:16

What do we learn from this Gentile woman being listed in the family tree of Jesus?

With the help of God’s grace I can turn my back on my old life.

You are not too old to start over!

You have not been around the block one too many times for a second chance!

God is not only the God of the 2’nd chance, He is the God of 70 times 7 chances!

With the help of God’s grace I can turn my back on my old life.

BATHSHEBA – “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.” – Matthew 1:6

Bathsheba committed adultery with David, the king of Israel. The story ends tragically with the death of her husband, Uriah and the baby, conceived in her affair with David.

What do we learn from this adulterous woman being listed in the family tree of Jesus?

You have not committed the unforgivable sin.

When your sin results in the untimely death of your spouse and the death of a precious baby, that sound pretty unforgivable to most of us.

When David reflected on this sin he may very well have been speaking for both himself and Bathsheba when he said, “A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Let me put this as plainly as I know how. God forgave a woman who had an affair, and then married the man who killed her husband.

Listen to the word of God, “God is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven.” – Ephesians 1:7

You have not committed the unforgivable sin.

MARY – “Mary was the mother of Jesus.” – Matthew 1:16

When Gabriel tapped her on the shoulder that day, Mary was greatly troubled.

“Pregnant?!! – What? How? But I’m engaged.”

Engagement in Mary’s culture was as serious as marriage.

To end an engagement required a divorce.

To become pregnant by someone other than you espoused during the engagement was a capital offense, punishable by stoning.

As she contemplates the announcement she hears from Gabriel, lots of thoughts could have run through her mind in addition to, “Virgins can’t have babies.” She could have dwelt on: “What was God thinking when He sent me such a preposterous message?” “What kind of life will an illegitimate child have?” “What will Joseph think? How can I explain this to him? What will Joseph do? Am I a stone’s throw from death?”

She chose to respond with one simple comment, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true." – Luke 1:38

What do we to learn from this pregnant-out-of-wedlock woman included in the family tree of Jesus?

I can say “YES” to God.

As long as your eyes are on your circumstances you will never say “yes” to God.

You will content yourself with, “Why me, God?”

When you get you eyes off your circumstances and lift them up to God, you will find it much easier to say, “Yes, Lord.”

I can say “YES” to God.

Jesus came from the line of:

A woman who slept with her father-in-law while pretending to be a prostitute.

A woman who was a prostitute.

A woman who was a foreigner and whose people served other gods.

An adulterous woman whose husband died as a result of her sin.

A woman who became pregnant prior to marriage.

Your past does not determine your future, your choices do.

Ernest Hemmingway tells a story of a father and his teenage son who had a relationship that was strained to the point of breaking. Finally the son ran away from home. The father began a journey in search of his rebellious son. Finally, in Madrid, in a last desperate effort to find him the father put this ad in the newspaper: “Dear Paco. Meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father.” The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office, 800 “Pacos” showed up.

God is just waiting for you to show up.

There is no reason for you to be chained to your past.

There is no reason for you to feel left behind.

Show up. God is here and waiting for you.