THEY STILL SPEAK
by Aline Edson
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Out of the pages of sacred history step four very unusual ladies, each important in her own right, and sharing a common bond. Each seems an unlikely link in the lineage of our Lord: Leah, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary.
Leah lived about seventeen hundred years before Christ was born. She was the unloved (and perhaps physically unlovely) wife of Jacob. That she was a wife at all was the result of her father's sly trickery. But she kept hoping with the birth of each son to gain the love of her husband; but there is nothing in Sacred Writ to indicate that ever happened. The pages palpitate with her hurt. Her pretty sister, Rachel, whom Jacob loved with all his heart, grew irritated at not being able to bear children and stormed out at Jacob that she would just die unless she could become pregnant. But Jacob asked her, also stormily, no doubt, if she thought he was in God's place? But he continued to love her anyway. And when she finally did bear children (Joseph and Benjamin), they were his favorites over all his other children. Leah just simply lost out, continuing to pine over unrequited love. But in the course of time, she gave birth to Judah who would be head of the chosen Tribe through whom the Savior would be born. Do you think that down through the stream of time she might have smiled quietly at the turn of events? She at last had assurance that God loved her whether her husband did or not.
About three hundred years later during the time of the Judges, a man named Elimelech and his wife Naomi and their two sons left Bethlehem in Judah because of famine. They migrated to the land of Moab. There Ruth, a young pagan woman, became the wife of one of their sons. Moab was an idolatrous nation, and Ruth probably had never heard of Jehovah until she married into the family of Elimelech and Naomi. But Naomi's life must have been eloquent witness to her faith in the One God because after ten years and the death of Elimelech and his two sons, Ruth wanted nothing more than to be with Naomi, to share her faith and her life. She gladly and eloquently left home and family to pursue that dream. Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem where the beautiful love story of Ruth and Boaz came to pass with Naomi's intervention and blessing. From this happy union sprang Obed who became Jesse's father who became David's father. Ruth, a pagan Gentile, was David's great grandmother! And David was the Chosen Family through whom the Savior would be born many generations hence in this very same little town of Bethlehem. Ruth is one of only three women listed in Matthew's genealogy of Christ. Tamar is also listed. She pretended to be a harlot and gave birth to twins by Judah after his wife died.
The other woman listed is "she that had been the wife of Urias." When David was king, the beautiful roof-top sun-bather, Bathsheba, became in a manner his lowest point and eventually his highest point. He couldn't--or didn't--resist his desire for her, and when subterfuge failed, he caused her husband to be killed in the front line of battle. He then took Bathsheba as his wife. The gut-wrenching 51st Psalm reflects David's guilt over this. The first child born of this union didn't live, causing David great heartbreak, but they later became the parents of Solomon who built the great temple that his father had aspired to build. And Bathsheba is securely entrenched in the lineage of our Lord--the right person in the right place at the right time? Or God's plan working regardless of human frailty?
Twenty-eight generations slip away, and there is an unpretentious little peasant girl in Nazareth, Mary by name, whose only credential, seemingly, was her pure heart. And what a heart it was! This "most highly favored among women" gave birth to the Savior in Bethlehem, the City of David. The great plan was done, the promise kept: the Lord had come!
There may be many valid conclusions to be drawn from the lives of these very different women, all prognitors of our Lord, but some are very clear. It would seem that God has a plan for every soul way beyond human sight and individual life span. Also He uses us in whatever condition He finds us. If we lend outselves to His use, we are blessed. If we don't, we'll be used anyway as many examples in Scripture attest. It must be that way, I suppose, because He has only flawed human beings with whom to accomplish His purposes. Somtimes when God gives people assignments, they do not graciously accede. When He told Moses to go tell Pharoah to let His people go, Moses protested his lack of speaking ability. Elijah ran and hid in a cave. Jonah had to spend some uncomfortable time in the belly of a big fish before he obeyed. Baalam had to be reprimanded by his donkey. But not Mary. When the angel told her his astounding news, she said, "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord. Be it unto me even as you have said." No questions, no doubts, no protests. And later over at Elizabeth's house, she uttered the most magnificent poem of praise and thanksgiving to God for this signal honor. And you can just feel why she was chosen.
But we make a mistake if we relegate the ones who have gone before to the status of paper people out of a vague and distant past. They were real people in a real world--had lives even as you and I. They might have been our friends and neighbors had we been born in a different era. They became a significant part as the mighty drama unfolded. But no, the drama is still unfolding, and we are part of the Plan even as they. We need to be careful to listen for His voice, lend ourselves to His uses and so fit in with the wonderful Design. There is more going on, and always has been, than meets the eye, unless it be the eye of faith. Jesus' admonition not to worry could well be based on the sure knowledge that God's will WILL be done. People step out of the pages of history and richly illustrate that fact, and we are encouraged. And to those who will listen, they still speak.
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Aline, You have really hit the nail on the head this time. We don't, and won't, know the usefulness of our lives until we see it through the timeless eyes of the Lord. As time bound creatures with a finite time on this earth, our perception is myopic. The only thing we can do is attempt through prayer to discern the will of God and then exhibit the courage to do it!
"the drama is still unfolding, and we are part of the Plan even as they. We need to be careful to listen for His voice, lend ourselves to His uses and so fit in with the wonderful Design." --- Aline, this is a masterpiece, and the part I quoted above is such a thrilling thought and hope. Thank you for sharing this. May God continue to bless you, and I keep getting good reviews on your articles on my web site. Thomas