No Matter Your Past, God Still Has a Plan for Your Life
“You haven’t seen what I’ve done…”
“You don’t know where I’m from…”
“You can’t imagine how terribly I’ve been treated or how badly I’ve behaved…”
“…God couldn’t possibly use me.”
If you’ve ever had thoughts like these (who hasn’t?), don’t be so quick to disqualify yourself.
True, I don’t know anything about your life. I am, however, painfully familiar with my own past and remember exactly what brokenness, bitterness and utter foolishness Jesus rescued me from.
It’s often said that we are our own worst critics. Yes, we may have made more than our share of bad decisions, but Satan is the one who fights to keep us mired in our past. The reason is simple: the devil knows how detrimental we could be to the kingdom of darkness if we just understood who we really are in Christ.
Christian speaker, teacher and New York Times best-selling author, Lisa Bevere, puts it this way in her book, Girls with Swords: “…the attacks on your life have much more to do with who you might be in the future than who you have been in the past.”
Satan is the accuser. But, Jesus is our Redeemer, and He has a plan for your life, no matter how broken, bruised or misused you may feel.
The Genealogy of Jesus
The New Testament opens by outlining the earthly genealogy of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, in Matthew 1:1-17. It makes sense, seeing as how Matthew was a Jew writing to a Jewish audience to whom genealogies were incredibly important. (Don’t believe me? Have a look at Genesis 11 or Ruth 4…or, the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles.)
The gospel writer begins with Abraham, the father of our faith (see Romans 4:1). From there, he works his way through the patriarchal line through 42 generations, including familiar names like Isaac and Jacob, famed kings David and Solomon, and all the way down to Christ’s earthly father, Joseph.
42 Generations counted…
39 Begot’s listed…
39 Fathers named…
But, there are other names, too, quietly tucked in among the patriarchs. Women’s names. Five women to be exact:
Let’s take a look at these notable women of the Bible whose sullied stories might sound similar to your own. We’ll see how each of these broken vessels was instrumental to God’s plan of redemption—just as you could be.
Tamar—A Woman Betrayed Who Became the Matriarch of Messiah’s line
Verse 3: “Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar”
The first woman mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy, Tamar became the matriarch of the house of King David, the line from which the prophesied Messiah would come. As far as being used by God goes, it doesn’t get much more notable than that.
But, Tamar’s story wasn’t all sunshine and roses. In fact, it’s the stuff that would make a soap opera writer blush.
Tamar’s story began when she married into the family of Judah, one of the 12 patriarchs of Israel. Judah himself, the head of the tribe, was her father-in-law. (Perhaps you’ve heard Jesus called, “The Lion of Judah”? That’s because He came from Judah’s tribe—starting right here.)
Tamar married Judah’s eldest son, Er, but Er was “wicked in the sight of the LORD” and died (Genesis 38:7, nkjv), leaving Tamar a childless widow. In accordance with Old Testament levirate law (see Deuteronomy 25:5-10), Tamar then was given to Er’s brother, Onan, as wife, but Husband #2 refused to consummate the marriage fully: “he spilled his semen on the ground” (Genesis 38:9, niv) rather than giving his deceased brother an heir. Displeased by this, God took Onan’s life as well.
Now twice widowed, Tamar dutifully waited for the youngest brother, Shelah, to come of age and marry her. Alas, when the boy had grown to manhood, Judah wasn’t about to risk the life of his only remaining son by allowing him to marry this seemingly cursed woman.
Determined not to die a childless widow, Tamar took matters into her own hands. Disguising herself and waiting by the roadside where she knew Judah would pass by, Tamar was soon mistaken for a harlot and propositioned by her father-in-law.
Judah promised to pay for her services with a goat and agreed to leave his signet, cord and staff as a guarantee until he could return with the animal. These elements of his pledge would shortly prove his downfall, for when he sent the agreed-upon goat, the supposed harlot could not be found.
Months later when it became apparent that Tamar was pregnant, Judah hypocritically declared she should be put to death. That is, until the mother-to-be produced the collateral he had left behind, proving that Judah himself was the father of her unborn child. Judah acknowledged his guilt, and Tamar gave birth to Christ’s ancestor Perez, along with a twin brother, Zerah.
Read Tamar’s story in Genesis 38.
Rahab—The Pagan Prostitute Who Introduced Passover to the Gentiles
Verse 5: “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab”
When Joshua became leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses, God tasked him with taking the people across the Jordan River and into their Promised Land. The nations already living there weren’t keen on being displaced, though, and the first major obstacle Joshua and company would encounter was the great walled city of Jericho.
Before committing troops to battle with the Canaanites, Joshua sent two men to spy out Jericho and the land. Though the names of the spies have been lost to history, the name of the woman who helped them is forever memorialized: Rahab.
Rahab was a pagan prostitute living in Jericho who welcomed the two men into her home, knowing full well they were spies sent on behalf of the Israelite army that would soon overtake her city.
Whether she was smart, shrewd or simply moved by the Spirit of God, Rahab recognized that the little-g gods she had served all her life were no match for the awesome might of the Almighty God of Israel.
So, Rahab hid the Israelite spies under stalks of flax on her roof when the king’s men came to demand she surrender them. Then, she threw the soldiers off their scent by telling them the men had already left the city and encouraging them to pursue. Finally, she helped the spies escape by letting them down from her window by a rope and advising them on how best to avoid the soldiers.
In return for her assistance, Rahab asked that the men spare her and her family when their army came to destroy the city.
The men agreed, and their terms for the salvation of this Gentile woman and her family hearkened back to those of the Israelites’ first Passover some 40 years before, as well as forward to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
|Israelites in Egypt||Rahab at Jericho||Jesus on the Cross|
|The Requirement||The blood of a lamb painted over the doorpost||A scarlet cord placed in the window||The blood of the Lamb, Jesus, poured out on a cross|
|The Result||The angel of the LORD would see the blood and spare those inside.||The Israelite army would see the red cord and spare those inside.||God will see the blood of Jesus and spare those who believe in Him.|
|The Redemption||The Israelites escaped destruction of the firstborn, as well as slavery in Egypt.||Rahab’s family escaped the destruction of Jericho.||We escape slavery to sin and enjoy eternal life with God.|
Rahab’s contribution was deemed so significant that the New Testament mentions her a second time, in what we refer to as “The Hall of Fame of Faith.” Hebrews 11 lists important Bible characters whose lives were marked by great faith, and thus were pleasing to God. Among such heroes as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, we find in verse 31: “It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”
After the conquest of Jericho, Rahab married an Israelite named Salmon and later became mother-in-law to the next lady on our list, Ruth.
Read Rahab’s story in Joshua 2.
Ruth—An Outsider Rejected as a Liability
Verse 5: “Boaz begot Obed by Ruth”
Like Rahab, Ruth was a foreigner, a woman from the country of Moab, not the nation of Israel. Like Tamar, Ruth found herself a childless widow. And, like both of her predecessors, Ruth’s story was redeemed by God’s sovereign hand.
Ruth’s story begins thus. A man from Bethlehem named Elimelech took his wife, Naomi, and their sons to the land of Moab to escape a famine in Israel. There, the sons took wives, with the elder son, Mahlon, marrying a Moabitess named Ruth. After some time, Elimelech and his sons died, leaving Naomi and her daughters-in-law to fend for themselves.
Despondent over her loss, Naomi decided to return home to Israel, instructing the young women to go back to their fathers’ houses and blessing them in the name of the LORD. Ruth, however, begged her mother-in-law not to send her away. Insisting that she would stay by Naomi’s side all the way back to Bethlehem, Ruth declared, “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16).
Once in Bethlehem, Ruth went out to glean during the barley harvest so that she and Naomi might have food. While gleaning, the hard-working Ruth came upon a field owned by Boaz, a kind and wealthy man who happened to be a close relative of Elimelech. When Naomi learned of this turn of events, she set about matchmaking Ruth with this potential kinsman-redeemer.
Though Ruth had already caught his eye, the honorable Boaz insisted on offering the right of redemption to the one man who was a closer relation than he. As the closest living relative, the kinsman-redeemer had the right and responsibility to purchase all that had belonged to the deceased, as well as to perform the levirate duty of marrying the widow.
The relative agreed to purchase the land, until he discovered that he would also have to marry the Moabitess. At this revelation, the relative retracted his commitment, declaring, “I cannot redeem it,” and claiming Ruth would be a liability to him. He thereby relinquished his right of redemption to Boaz who gladly took up the honor.
So, Boaz married Ruth, and God blessed them with a son whom they named Obed. Just two generations later, Ruth became the great-grandmother of one of the greatest kings who ever lived—King David, whose own story intersects with that of our next matriarch, Bathsheba.
Read Ruth’s story in The Book of Ruth.
Bathsheba—The Beauty Summoned to the King’s Bedchamber
Verse 6: “Her who had been the wife of Uriah”
Most Bible translations avoid using her actual name, Bathsheba. Instead, Matthew 1:6 refers to this ancestress as, “her who had been the wife of Uriah” (nkjv, nasb), a woman who “had been Uriah’s wife” (niv), or my least favorite: “David begat Solomon, out of the wife of Uriah” (blb).
With this phrasing, we see Bathsheba represented as a woman defined by what had been done to her, rather than who she was in light of God’s redemptive plan for her life.
If you’re not familiar with the story of King David and Bathsheba, I will share a brief overview.
This tragic story is overwhelmingly regarded as King David’s greatest moral and spiritual failure. 2 Samuel 11:1 tells us that at the time of year when he should have been off at war with his army, King David had stayed home at his palace in Jerusalem.
As is the case when we’re not where we’re supposed to be doing what we’re supposed to be doing, David grew bored and restless. Taking a walk late one night, he saw a beautiful woman bathing, and rather than walking on, he let lust overtake him.
Even though David knew this woman was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of his most distinguished soldiers, the king commanded that she be brought to him so that he could sleep with her. With her husband away at war and no recourse to deny the most powerful man in Israel, Bathsheba acquiesced to David’s despicable demands and soon found herself with child.
Sadly, being raped and becoming pregnant by her abuser were only the beginning of her troubles.
Desperate to hide his sin, David called Uriah in from the battlefield, got him drunk and arranged for him to go home where he would presumably sleep with Bathsheba. The plan didn’t work, though, as the honorable Uriah refused to enjoy the comforts of his bed and wife while the rest of his men were sleeping in tents.
Frustrated with this failure, David planned to have Uriah murdered, under the guise of a casualty of war. As Uriah prepared to return to the battle, David penned a letter instructing the army commander to put Uriah in the hottest part of the fighting and then withdraw from him so that he would be killed. If that weren’t cruel enough, David had Uriah deliver his own death sentence to the commander.
After an acceptable amount of time had passed for the wife of Uriah to mourn his death, David took the pregnant Bathsheba as his wife. Sadly, their child died shortly after birth. In Bathsheba’s mind, I’m sure things couldn’t have gotten much worse—but God was still working in her life, and the best was yet to come.
2 Samuel 12:24 tells us that “David comforted Bathsheba his wife” over the death of their child. As a result, Bathsheba became pregnant again. This time, she gave birth to a son who would grow up to be the world-famous King Solomon, the wisest man who had ever lived and a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ.
Read Bathsheba’s story in 2 Samuel 11.
Mary—Unwed and Pregnant, She Was Chosen to Be the Mother of Jesus
Verse 16: “Mary, of whom was born Jesus”
At last, we come to the final name on our list: Mary, the mother of Jesus. Now, this young woman had no scandalous backstory. In fact, the only details given about her in the Bible are that she was a virgin from the town of Nazareth who was betrothed to a man named Joseph (Luke 1:26, 27). We also learn from Luke 3:23-38 that Mary’s own lineage traced back to King David, the prophesied Messianic line, through her father. And, when the angel Gabriel visited her, he called her “highly favored” and blessed among women (Luke 1:28).
That’s quite an endorsement! Surely no privilege could have been as great as the one bestowed upon Mary—to bring forth the Christ Child into the world! But, this incredible honor would not come without difficulties.
Mary’s pregnancy could stay hidden only so long, and when it became clear that she was with child before the wedding, Joseph considered breaking off their engagement. Thankfully, an angel appeared to him in a dream, explaining the truth about the Child, and instructing Joseph to take Mary as his wife.
Thus was Jesus born to Mary, begotten of the Father, foretold by the prophets and destined “to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, nkjv).
Read Mary’s story in Matthew 1:18-25.
You—What Will Your Story Be?
Did You See Yourself Reflected in These Stories?
Have you felt like Tamar, damaged and dismissed by those who were supposed to care for you? Could you relate to Rahab, recognizing that your old ways and beliefs were impotent in the face of the presence and power of Almighty God? Have you been in Ruth’s position, marginalized and looked down on as an outsider? Did you empathize with Bathsheba, a victim of other people’s cruel choices? Or maybe, like Mary, you’ve been talked about and viewed with suspicion by people who know nothing of your real story.
If you can relate to their brokenness, I pray that you would also see the hope their stories bring to your own situation.
One of the things I find most fascinating in all this is that out of the 42 generations between Abraham and the birth of Jesus Christ—from 42 pairs of fathers and mothers—God chose to highlight these five specific women…five specifically and significantly broken women whom He used as integral parts of His plan for the redemption of mankind.
Intersecting Lives through the Blood of Jesus
It’s also interesting how these women’s lives intersect with one another within the earthly bloodline of Jesus. As the first woman named, Tamar sets the stage. Later, Ruth marries Rahab’s son and becomes great-grandmother to King David. And, of course, King David marries Bathsheba.
Did the fact that Boaz’ own mother, Rahab, was a Gentile ease his decision to marry a woman from Moab? How might Rahab have counseled her daughter-in-law, Ruth, as a fellow foreigner? Did an elderly Ruth console Bathsheba and even meet baby Solomon? My own great-grandmother was still alive when my first son was born, so it certainly could have been possible.
How might your own story of brokenness and redemption to impact someone else’s life for Christ’s kingdom? The Apostle Paul shows us that we are meant to do exactly that, saying, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4, nlt).
So, when the devil harasses you with reminders of your past, turn that torment into a testimony that helps someone else overcome. “And they overcame him [the adversary, the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11, nkjv).
When we appropriate salvation through the blood of Jesus and then share our story of redemption to help others, God will take what the devil meant for evil and turn it for good.
Jesus is our Redeemer, and He will redeem your story for His glory and the good of others.
Father God, I thank You for Your redeeming work in my life. Thank You that no matter what lurks in my past, You have a plan for my future. I come boldly before Your throne of grace to claim the promise You made through Your prophet, Jeremiah, that Your plans for me are to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me a future and a hope. I receive Your forgiveness through the precious blood of Jesus and ask that You would use my story to help others overcome their hurts and find redemption in Jesus, as well. In the beautiful name of Jesus I pray, Amen