It is Mother’s Day and all over the Christian world preachers are pointing this morning to the mother we have come to call the “Proverbs 31 woman.” What a lady. This wonder woman gets up before dawn and stays busy until the early hours of the next morning. We have developed a mental image of her. She has the looks of a movie star, the domestic abilities of a master chef, the stamina of a world-class athlete, the intellect of a professor with a PhD, the tenacity of a political operative, the wisdom of a godly missionary, the sensitivity of a Mother Teresa, the business sense of a Fortune 500 executive, the grace of an etiquette expert and the spirituality of the Virgin Mary. Wow. No wonder so many mothers leave church feeling down on Mother’s Day!
Can any of us measure up to this standard of perfection? She is certainly a worthy goal for which to aim but we are all in a process here. If it is the church’s intent to reach her city for Christ, then she must begin to deal with men and women where they are and not simply where each of us should be.
In preparation for this Mother’s Day message, I asked myself a question, “If the Lord Jesus was in my pulpit Sunday and preaching audibly what would He say?” I am convinced He wouldn’t simply speak trite platitudes or read a sweet poem or two. I believe He would do exactly what He did in scripture. He would leave the ninety and nine and go after that one who is hurting and lost. Perhaps, it is the woman today who has never borne children. Or, the one who aborted her child in the past. Or, the mother who birthed a child and loved him so much that she entrusted him to someone else to raise and wonders, today, what he looks like and where he lives. On this Mother’s Day let’s allow our Lord to speak to each of us at the very point of our need.
While the woman in Proverbs 31 is a worthy example to emulate, she is not among those listed in the lineage of our Lord. But two women in Matthew 1:5 are listed there for all posterity to see. Who are these two mothers? They must be paragons of faithfulness to be in this righteous list. Not really. One is Rahab, the prostitute of Jericho. She was the madam who ran the house of ill repute in that ancient town in the Jordan valley. The other mother listed is Ruth, the godless Moabite. She was raised in a heathen environment worshipping pagan idols and gods. But something wonderful happened to each of these two mothers. Their experience with the living God caused them to be converted into two of the godliest mothers in the Bible and they live on in history and in heaven today.
Rahab and Ruth were mothers who overcame their circumstances. Like many modern moms they were torn between work and childcare. Many moms are divorced today; others may be remarried and they are dealing with incredible adjustments and the struggle of divided loyalties. Others live with all sorts of unspoken heartaches in the home and are making the best of very difficult situations. Still others have husbands who cannot be trusted.
Rahab is listed here in the genealogy of Jesus to show us that there is hope for those who have been engaged in sinful pleasures. Ruth joins her in this list to show us that there is hope for those who have been engaged with societal pressures. Both of these women are remembered forever as virtuous women. Let’s look at them and learn from them on this Mother’s Day.
Rahab shows us we can overcome sinful pleasures
Who is this mother, named Rahab, listed here in Matthew 1 in the genealogy of Jesus? Her story is told in the second and sixth chapters of the book of Joshua. Here we find a lady with a reputation that was far from spotless. She was quite popular with the men who stopped in their caravans while journeying through the oasis city of Jericho. Everyone knew where her house was located. The local kids would point to it as they passed by. Five of the six times she is mentioned in scripture the word, “harlot,” is placed alongside her name as if it were glued to her. When her family members are listed in Joshua 2:13, there is no mention of a husband or children. She was a lady who was involved in sinful pleasures.
When the Israelites sent spies into her city as they were about to begin their conquest of Canaan, she took them in. Interestingly, she had not heard what they had done for God during their march to the Promised Land, nor how well trained their armies had become, but what struck this harlot’s heart was what the Living God had done for them and through them (Joshua 2:10).
She becomes a beautiful example of how one can overcome her sinful pleasures to become a godly mother. Listen to her testimony in front of the Israelite spies, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things our hearts melted; neither did there remain any courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:9-11). Here are the words spoken by one with a repentant heart—“He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.”
There is an interesting insight found a few verses earlier. She took the spies up on her roof and hid them under “the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof” (Joshua 2:6). Why was there flax on this woman’s roof, neatly and orderly laid out? In the ancient world flax was gathered by industrious women, dried out and used for spinning and weaving. The presence of such a large quantity of it on her roof may well indicate she had experienced a change of vocation. Interestingly enough, it is said of the Proverbs 31 woman that “she seeks wool and flax and works willingly with her hands” (Proverbs 31:13).
Not only did this woman of Jericho repent, but there is good evidence that she placed her faith in the living God (Joshua 2:15-21). When the spies went on their way with a promise to return, they told her to hang a scarlet thread out the window of her home so that when they came to conquer the city, her home would be spared. She replied, “According to your words, so be it. And she sent them away…and she bound the scarlet cord in the window” (Joshua 2:21).
When Rahab said “Yes,” to the God of heaven and by faith hung the scarlet cord out her window, an amazing thing happened. God in heaven knew about a coming cross of which she was unaware. The blood was shed on that cross before the foundation of the world. God saw that cross and the salvation it so freely offered and looked down on her faith and saved her by His own blood. And, as a celebration of her faith, she hung that scarlet thread out her window, so that when judgment came and the walls came tumbling down, here was one obvious part of that wall that judgment could not touch because of the scarlet thread. Here is a beautiful picture of salvation tucked away in the Old Testament.
Rahab is listed in the lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1:5 to show all posterity that there is hope for any and all who trust in the living God.
What ever happened to her? Did she ever find a husband? I’ll say she did. She lived among the Israelites and fell in love with a prince by the name of Salmon. God blessed their union with a son whose name was Boaz, who became the Kinsman-Redeemer. This former harlot of Jericho became the mother of Boaz, the Lord of the harvest, who became the husband of Ruth.
Look at Rahab. She is remembered today on this Mother’s Day to remind us there is hope for those who may have once lived in sinful pleasures of various types. And today, she lives on in history and in heaven as a good and godly mother who imparted the same qualities to her own family.
Ruth shows us we can overcome societal pressures
Who is this other mother listed in Matthew 1:5 in the lineage of Jesus? Her name is Ruth. She was a Moabitess. Her obstacle was not that of sinful pleasures but of societal pressures. She was raised in a godless home, not unlike many in the western world today. She was raised in a pagan, anti-God culture. All the influences of her childhood were against her coming to know the living Lord.
She was a member of a race that actually began in incest (Genesis 19:30-37). Lot slept with his own daughter and she bore a son named Moab. The Moabites did not worship the Lord God. They worshipped the pagan god, Chemosh. They offered human sacrifices to him. They were a degenerate people who resorted to all types of licentious behavior.
As a pastor for decades I have noticed that of all the strongholds, the religion of our childhood is the most difficult to break. It seems to have a hold over people. While Satan comes against those in sinful pleasure with accusations, he comes against those with societal pressures with obligations. Ruth is listed here in Matthew 1:5 as a godly mother to show us all that there is hope for those with societal pressures and a sense of false obligations to the religion of childhood.
How did Ruth become an overcomer? She saw her mother-in-law, Naomi, repent and set her face back to Bethlehem and away from Moab. Ruth began to cling to her with these words, “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God; where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17). If you want to witness an Old Testament conversion, there it is.
Ruth found a new determination. “Entreat me not to leave you.” All influences were against her. The religion of her childhood was against her. Orpah’s example (she kissed Naomi and “went back to her people and her gods”), was against her. Naomi’s insistence that she stay in Moab was against her. But faith brought a new determination in Ruth.
Ruth found a new direction. “Wherever you go, I will go.” Ruth was determined that following the God of Naomi would become her new life’s direction.
Ruth found a new dependence. “Wherever you lodge, I will lodge.” She was saying that she would trust the Lord and Naomi for her basic needs.
Ruth found a new desire. “Your people shall be my people.” Ruth knew that if she took the God of the Bible to be her God, then she would take His people as hers also. It did not take me long as a new believer to understand that if I was truly going to go God’s way, then I had to do so in the company of His people.
Ruth found a new devotion. “Your God shall be my God.” The interesting thing about this to me is that all she knew of Naomi’s God was a God of suffering and sorrow. Naomi’s husband had died, her two sons had died and her heart was filled with grief. But Ruth watched Naomi and knew her and her living testimony brought a new devotion to Ruth.
Ruth found a new dedication. “Wherever you die, I will die.” Ruth was saying, “This is for life. This is a life decision. I am not coming back if things do not work out just the way I think they should.”
Finally, Ruth found a new destiny. “Where you are buried I will be buried.” I believe Ruth was saying here that “not even death will separate us.”
What happened to this formerly godless Moabite woman?
Did she find a husband? I’ll say she did. Did she become a godly mother? Did she ever! Matthew 1:5 tells us the story. She returned to Bethlehem with Naomi. She married Boaz, the Lord of the harvest. You remember Boaz. He was the son of Rahab. Boaz and Ruth had a son whose name was Obed who had a son whose name was Jesse who had a son whose name was David. Yes, King David, the shepherd, the Psalmist, the king. I am sure this trust in the Living God was transferred to her great grandson for later he would write, “I have been young and now I am old, but I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).
No more fitting tribute has ever been paid to a wife than when Ruth’s husband said, “All the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman” (Ruth 3:11). Look at Ruth. She stands there in the lineage of Jesus to show us that no matter what our past we can become virtuous through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, if our Lord were here this Mother’s Day physically and speaking audibly to us, I have no doubt he would leave the ninety and nine and come to each troubled, lonely or lost heart in order to impart and impute His righteousness to all who would believe so that it might be repeated that “all the people of our town might know that you are a virtuous woman.”
It was not common in the ancient world to list women in a genealogy tree. In fact, in the entire listing of those in the line of Jesus which consumes most of the initial chapter of the New Testament only four women are mentioned. One might think they must have been some kind of virtuous women. But a closer look reveals an interesting truth. One is Tamar. She dressed as a prostitute, seduced her own father-in-law and had an illegitimate baby. The next is Rahab, the harlot, followed by Ruth, the Moabitess. Finally, we meet Bathsheba. She is the one who lived in adultery with King David. What do you suppose our Lord is trying to tell us on this Mother’s Day? I think He is reminding us all that “if anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things are passed away, and all becomes new”(2 Corinthians 5:17). The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the Good News of hope for any and all on this special day.