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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Grace for the Misfits

Pastor Shim's sermon for December 26, 2010.

A military officer was confined in a Vietnam prison, the Hanoi Hilton. He was given some candies that he ate. Using the wrapping he made a star, representing the star that let the wise men to Bethlehem and Jesus. The officer remembered that the Bible says Emmanuel means “God with us,” and realized that Jesus was also with him. He said that was the best Christmas ever—he had nothing, but he had Jesus with him.
The Gospel of Matthew lists Jesus’ ancestors. Abraham is the one through whom all Jews trace their ancestry, and King David was the one through whom Jesus’ royal lineage is traced. Matthew listed all of Jesus’ ancestors because he hoped to, in this way, show that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah promised by the prophets, the Son of God born of a virgin, called Emmanuel.
The coming of Jesus introduced us to God’s abundant grace. As John put it, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
The grace of God manifested in Jesus was all-inclusive; no one who wanted the saving grace of God in Jesus was rejected. In His lineage were some misfits, four women who didn’t fit in with the rest of the crowd.
Tamar (Genesis 38): Tamar’s husband, Er the son of Judah, died young. When he died, Judah followed the Jew’s tradition of giving the widow to the next son to raise up a son for the first husband’s inheritance, so Judah’s second son, Onan, married Tamar. Onan died, too, and Judah thought Tamar was jinxed and so didn’t want his only remaining son to marry her. So—Judah send Tamar home to live with her family, saying when the younger boy was old enough to marry, he would send for her. But he didn’t. Eventually, Tamar got tired of waiting and deceived her father-in-law into thinking she was a prostitute, slept with him, and later bore twin sons. One of the twins, Perez, is in Matthew’s list.
Rahab (Joshua 2 and 6): Rahab, a prostitute, lived in Jericho. When Joshua sent two Jewish spies into Jericho to spy out the city, they were almost caught, but Rahab hid them and told the soldiers that the spies had already escaped the city. She pointed the soldiers in the wrong direction, and when they were gone, she let the two Jewish men down from her window. She is also in Matthew’s Royal List.
Ruth (the Book of Ruth): Ruth was not even a Jew. She was one of the hated Mobites. Naomi and her husband Elimelech went to Moab during a famine in Israel with their two sons. While they were there, their two sons married Moabite girls, Ruth and Orpah. Tragedy struck, and all three men died. Naomi decided to go back to Israel, telling the two Moabite girls to go home to their parents and let their parents find them new husbands. Orpah did, but Ruth refused to leave Miriam, instead following her mother-in-law back to Israel. After they got there, Ruth married Boaz, the son of Rahab; therefore, Ruth is also in Matthew’s list.
Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11): Bathsheba was bathing on the roof of her house when King David saw her. He sent a man to bring her to him, and she got pregnant. David tried to trick her husband Uriah into coming back from the war to sleep with her to cover up their sin, but he wouldn’t leave his soldier buddies. David sent Uriah back to the war with a note for the commander to put Uriah in the front of the battle, then have the troops withdraw from him. Uriah was killed, and King David married her. Their baby died, but their next child was Solomon. Even though David and Bathsheba sinned greatly, they remained in the list.
We can clearly see that God’s grace is for all people, the misfits, the sinners, and the so-called honorable people. Jesus’ birth brought us grace and God’s love. We are invited to experience God’s amazing grace through Jesus Christ. Grace breaks down all barriers—between Jews and Gentile, between male and female, between saints and sinners. The grace of God transforms misfits into saints. That’s God’s Christmas gift to all who accept His Son as their Savior!
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