Roots – We are all heirs through Jesus

Published 10:00 am Saturday, December 30, 2023

By Michael J. Brooks

Alex Haley grew up in Henning, Tennessee where his grandfather taught him about his ancestry, including “the African”—an ancestor rumored to have come to America as a slave. Haley spent 10 years researching and discovered this mysterious ancestor. Kunte Kinte was abducted in 1767 at age 17 and brought to the American colonies.

Haley published “Roots” in 1976. His story became the very first television mini-series the next year, riveting the nation.

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The gospel writer Matthew began his narrative with a look at Jesus’ roots, beginning with Abraham and concluding with Joseph and Mary. It’s unusual that he included five women in this ancestry. Mary we know, but perhaps the other women we know least.

Tamar’s story is in Genesis 38. She was widowed, fearful and vulnerable, and she disguised herself as a harlot to seduce her father-in-law Judah. She was about to be stoned as an unmarried woman with child but used something of an ancient paternity test to show that Judah was the father. Their eldest son, Perez, was included in the lineage of the messiah.

Rahab, likewise, had a shameful past. She was the harlot of Jericho who had a premonition that the Hebrews would prevail in the upcoming battle. She hid Joshua’s spies and made a pact with them that she and her family be saved. She married a Hebrew and was included in the lineage of the messiah.

Ruth, from Moab, was widowed and determined to return to her mother-in-law’s native village, Bethlehem. There she met and married Boaz, the son of Rahab. Ruth and Esther are honored as the only women in scripture to have books named for them.

And Matthew obliquely mentioned Bathsheba as “Uriah’s wife.” King David, the man after God’s own heart, “loafed, looked, lusted and lied” as Baptist preachers are wont to say. The child of this illicit union died, but the second child, Solomon, was included in the lineage of the messiah.

Matthew’s story has at least two lessons.

The first is that though Ruth was righteous, all four women were sinners, as are we all. God must use dirty vessels in his work since these are the only vessels available!

The second is that two of the women, Ruth and Rahab, weren’t native Hebrews, but were included in the Hebrew messianic lineage.

The apostle Paul argued that the death of Christ brought Gentiles (non-Jews) into the Hebrew family, allowing both to share the promises made to Abraham. We are “Abraham’s seed” and “heirs” of the promise. In Christ, all are invited to God’s family (Galatians 3).

As Pastor Rick Warren said, “No matter what your background is, the ground is level at the foot of the cross.”

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.