The gospel of Matthew starts with Jesus’ genealogy, and it probably seems like a very strange place to start for most modern readers. This trail of families leading to Jesus, however, is Matthew’s subtle way of pointing out the frail, sinful people who would have been considered a ‘black mark’ on his family tree.

Not only that but these genealogies include four notably women’s names that readers of the Old Testament would immediately recognize. Most genealogies in the Bible don’t include women, so why did Matthew include these four?

These women all had desperate, painful stories. Tamar was widowed then abandoned by her husband’s family until her father-in-law, Judah, slept with her. In the midst of this messy family drama, God saw her vulnerability and provided twin sons who would care for her (see Genesis 38). Rahab was the prostitute in Jericho who hid Joshua and the spies and was spared as a result, eventually marrying into the tribe of Judah. Her son would go on to shelter and marry another foreigner named Ruth who had lost everything and left her homeland (See Joshua 2 and Ruth 4). Bathsheba was required by royal decree to have sex with the man who killed her husband, and yet God promised that her son would rule Israel and build the Temple (see 2 Samuel 11).

Within each story of sorrow and abuse runs the thread of God’s redemptive work. He cared for each one of these women. He linked them into the linage of Christ. Their lives were being woven into a poetic declaration of God’s willingness to enter into the brokenness of this world.

God welcomes the weak, broken and abused into the Kingdom. Perhaps you’ve been made to feel ashamed of your family. Maybe others have judged you because of your past and the mistakes made. Remember that Jesus quite literally welcomed outcasts and sinners into his family. He has the power to restore and redeem anyone’s life, no matter what we’ve done or what has been done to us.

“You have seen it; yes, you note trouble and grief to requite it with your hand. The unfortunate commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless” (Psalm 10:14, AMPC).