Despised Mothers of the Church

Commentators often give special attention to two women listed in the genealogy of Jesus: one a Canaanite prostitute, the other a cursed Moabite: “and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse” (Matthew 1:5).

But Rahab is far from the first despised woman in Jesus’ heritage.

 Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”
…So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years. When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.
…And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.
Genesis 29:16-18, 30-31, 35

Leah, Rahab, and Ruth are of the blessed despised. They are mothers of the church. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

God chooses the foolish of the world, like Ruth. A young widow leaving her homeland to follow a mother-in-law to a foreign land where there would be no hope of finding a husband. Except the God of all hope…

God chooses what is weak in the world, like Leah. Poor weak-eyed Leah and her beautiful sister Rachel: how great the shame of knowing her husband was duped into marrying her. Her husband resents her and her sister mocks her. But God settles the solitary in a home…

God chooses the low and despised in the world, like Rahab. A cursed people, a surrounded city, a forbidden occupation. Darkness is her future. But the Lord reveals his righteousness in the sight of the nations…

Are you a child of God? Then “in the world” you will be foolish, weak, low and despised. Despair not. So was your mother.

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The Grace of God in motherhood

Matthew 1:5 must be one of the most grace-filled verses in all of Scripture:

and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab,
and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth,
and Obed the father of Jesse,

Rahab the harlot, citizen of Jericho: a woman living a condemned lifestyle in a condemned city.

Ruth, the Moabite. Living under the Law of Moses, “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever” (Deut. 23:3).

Yet both women are mothers of the Messiah. Two cursed Gentile women are forever linked to the redemption of mankind. What grace God demonstrates to his people! The first promise of the redeemer was that he would be the seed of the woman. The birth of Jesus to a Virgin is not the only aspect of the fulfillment of that prophecy. Rahab the harlot and Ruth the Moabite are included as well.

The grace of God in Christ not only redeems humanity, it redeems motherhood. God’s grace exceeds our sinfulness; it is greater than our ancestry. Mothers as sinful as Rahab; mothers as hopeless and cast off as Ruth; are welcomed into God’s family. They are forgiven. They are accepted. They are graced.