March 21, 2017
So You Have a Past
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
Friend to Friend
The New Testament begins with the book of Matthew and showcases more drama than a Hallmark movie. The book starts off with a genealogy trail that leads from Abraham to the birth of Jesus. This list of names might make you yawn, but it’s actually really important - and even exciting. (Yes. You read that right!) It’s fascinating because it gives evidence to a family line that shows Jesus was a descendent of both Abraham and King David, thus fulfilling what the Old Testament predicted about the lineage of the Messiah.
Scandal steps onto the page in verse three of Matthew chapter one when a woman’s name shows up. (Traditionally, only the names of men appeared in these family lineages.) But this wasn’t just any woman, it’s one from the shady side of the family tree … Tamar. She had a past, and any Jewish scholar worth their salt would know about it. She was used and abused by men that should’ve loved, protected, and provided for her. Once scorned, she schemed for revenge and ended up having twins to her father-in-law. One of the twins, Perez, is an ancestor to King David.
As the list goes on we see a few more eyebrow-raising names…
Rahab’s name is listed. Remember her? She was the prostitute who “turned good” when she helped Joshua and the Israelites capture Jericho. Bathsheba’s on the list too, but they don’t even mention her by name. She’s recorded this way, “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.” (Matthew 1:6) Nice. Archived as the woman who had an affair with King David while she was married to a soldier named Uriah.
All three of these women were known, but not necessarily for cleaned up good things. Seeing these women listed among the relatives of Jesus seems very… messy. It seems to me that historians would want to hide those names, not put them out there for everyone to see! But that’s not God’s way. He doesn’t sweep things under the rug and pretend they aren’t there.
And strangely enough, I’m encouraged by the presence of these women in the lineage of Jesus. Why? Because they are powerful displays of His grace. They are proof that God does not require perfection from us in order for His will to be done through us. The apostle Paul summed it up nicely in his second letter to the church of Corinth. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
So you have a past. So did Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba. I do too. Who doesn’t?
So you have a few people in your family with rusty reputations. So do I. So did Jesus.
So you have some shame or pain regarding things that were done to you… things that were or are beyond your control. You’re not alone.
God’s mercy reaches beyond the muck and mire of our pasts to recreate us in the grace and love of Jesus. He lifts fallen heads, purifies rebellious hearts, and places slippery feet on solid ground. Nothing about having a “past” or “complicated associations” can keep you from walking out the freedom and hope of Jesus. God always uses the broken to showcase His beauty. Believe it.
Dear Lord, Thank you for grace… for not holding my past against me… for declaring me a new creation in Christ. Please help me to trust you with my past and with my future.
In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Now It’s Your Turn
Read Isaiah 41:8-14. What does this passage tell you about God? Where do you sense He is leading you today? Talk to Him. Seek His help, healing, and direction. Then click over to my blog and post a prayer of response or post a prayer need.
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Gwen Smith is a speaker, worship leader, songwriter, and author of the new book, I Want I ALL, which includes a Bible Study Guide right in the back of the book; no extra purchase required. I WANT IT ALL it’s easy to read yet contains compelling and challenging content. You'll connect with the stories, probably dust off a few heart dreams, think bigger thoughts of God, laugh and smile a lot, search your soul, and even cry a little ... because each page lovingly directs you to the personal grace and truth of JESUS.
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Originally published Tuesday, 21 March 2017.