If I could ask you to close your eyes, I would. But it’s kind of hard to read that way, huh? Either way, I’d like to paint you a picture. The perfect one….
No time to read right now? Busy cleaning up wrapping paper and dishes? Yes, this is “a bit” longer than what I would usually post…. But on December 7th, I was humbled and honored to be able to share this message at the Crossway Community Church Ladies Brunch. Several people asked where they could hear or read it if they missed it….
So if it works better for you, feel free to listen online by clicking below:
Or you can always go to Crosswayonline.org, click on Resources, then Women’s events, and finally “Chosen and Redeemed.” You can even download the audio and listen later…
And, as always, if the Lord uses this post in your life, I’d love to hear how!
Merry Christmas — Today….and for the rest of the year!!
The perfect picture:
On a peace-filled night: serene, quiet, gentle …. Cattle lowing, lambs baaing.
Yes, in a stable, and laid in a manger, but with that brilliant light sparkling down from the heavens, highlighting Him; angels proclaiming Him; shepherds and wisemen alike, worshiping Him. And His mother “pondering all these things in her heart.”
This perfect baby. Perfect in every way. Not just in fingers and toes, but in soul and spirit.
We celebrate this picture every year. Sing quiet, sweet carols, put up twinkling, soft lights. Frustrated with the rushing around for presents and money, we crave hushed evenings at home where we can light candles, snuggle in blankets, read the story of the first Christmas, and celebrate peace.
This perfect baby, with his sweet mother, still untouched by men; a young woman chosen especially by God. It’s a beautiful story!
But you know,
as I look at this picture, it can seem so ethereal. So perfect, almost like a Hallmark movie or a Thomas Kincaid painting. So sweet that it’s easy to pack it all up at the end of December and get back to the reality of life with all my “not-there-yet…” and “mother-of the-year” stuff.
I mean, here Mary is with this baby born from a perfect, magnificent royal lineage all the way back to Sarah and Abraham, parents to the entire Jewish nation… Can you imagine the Family Tree?
Sarah, a woman who left her family and home in a busy city to follow her husband into the wilderness, all without any registered complaint. The perfect matriarch for this glorious line!
Alright, yes….Sarah was a bit older than your normal first time mom. Okay, a LOT older. Over 90, to be exact. And up until then, she’d been barren; unable to have kids. In fact, when the Angel of the Lord told her husband she’d have a baby, she laughed at Him… And before that, when the Lord first promised Abraham and her, children, she got impatient; pushed her handmaid on Abraham as a surrogate mother. And when that handmaid had Abraham’s child and rubbed it in Sarah’s face, Sarah’s jealousy got the best of her; she kicked both the mother and child out.
Well, at least her daughter-in-law, Rebekah, did better, right? Because Abraham’s Sarah, yes, older than 90, finally DID have a boy, Isaac, and he married the beautiful, gracious, Rebekah, mother of Jacob, who would later father the twelve tribes of Israel! Then again, Rebekah’s Jacob wasn’t an only child. He was a twin. Jacob and Esau. And because Rebekah played favorites and decided to trick her husband into cheating one son, Esau, out of his birthright for the other, Jacob, pitting brother against brother, Jacob ended up having to run for his life…
Jacob’s wife? Well, he had two. At the same time. His first, Leah, the one who ended up in Jesus’ direct lineage? Jacob didn’t even love her! He was tricked into marrying her. When he really wanted her sister, his second wife. Who Leah spent the rest of her life competing with…
Leah had Judah. He grew up, had his own sons, and married the oldest one to a woman named Tamar. After a series of family tragedies, Tamar was set aside and forgotten.
But God didn’t forget her! In fact, He didn’t forget any of these women, even in the mess of their lives: whether old and jealous, picking favorites and causing family discord, unloved, set aside and forgotten, each of these women was still given a special, chosen spot in Christ’s lineage. What’s more, Sarah and the sons or grandsons of these women ended up in God’s “Faithful List.” What is that? A list of people the Bible says were faithful. And God said, “[He] is not ashamed to be called their God.”
Makes you wonder, huh?
Maybe it was because they were all Israelites? God’s “chosen people”?
Except, then there’s Rahab. She wasn’t from Israel. Wasn’t a Jew. Rahab was an Amorite from the city of Jericho, a place that laughed at the Jews; their enemies from WAY back. And she was a prostitute. But not only did she make it into Christ’s family tree—she made it into the “Faithful” list!
And later, her daughter-in-law, Ruth, wasn’t a Jew either. She was a widow from Moab, a tribe started from incest between a man and his daughter. Ruth re-married Rahab’s son and became the grandmother of the Great King David, “a man after God’s own heart!”
Of course, David’s wife was Bathsheba, gorgeous, but an adulteress, one who allowed herself to be manipulated, and one who tried to manipulate others.
Boy, it makes you think. Was there anyone innocent in Christ’s lineage?
Ahhh, there’s Mary. The sweet, pure, virgin Mary. The angel even said, “You have found favor with God.” Of course, she was poor. She wouldn’t have thought she was anything special. And later, we see her as a normal mom, impatient and worrying. Angry with her son when she couldn’t find Him, “Where have you been?! Why did you treat us this way?” Gossiping to Him at a wedding, even expecting Him to act on her timetable: “Jesus, they’ve run out of wine.” Harping on Him for what she thought should be His priorities: “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for You.”
Wow. The perfect picture looks a bit different now. A bit more like a soap opera…And Yet God chose to use each of them in His lineage!
If this is what Christ’s royal lineage looks like, maybe they’re not so different from me after all, huh?
Ø I mean, honestly, on my best days, I can be riddled with pride: “I’m not so bad…Not like her!…”
Ø On my worst? “How could Christ love me? I’m such a mess!”
And I’m left praying, “Thank you, Lord, for loving me in spite of the ‘me’ part!!”
In fact, all those evenings that I just want peace and quiet at home, I’m just as likely to find myself arguing with my children, complaining to my husband because the tree isn’t perfectly straight, or worrying about getting everything done that I want to get done.
Can you relate?
So, what hope is there for me? for any of us? As people?….as women?
Takes me back to Eve, the first woman—where it all started. Where we all started. Genesis, the first book in the Bible, tells us she was created special. With a purpose. And in the image of God. Not just boy/girl camel, boy/girl duck, boy/girl man….Yes, God created a male and female of each animal, but when it came to humans, His last creation, He created Adam alone.
Like He wanted Adam to realize the difference. And then God said, “This isn’t good. He’s alone.” So He put him to sleep, took out one of his ribs, and created a very special type of person, perfect for Adam. Not lesser. Not like Adam’s servant, but a part of Adam himself; “bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh.” Also created in God’s image—Eve. Just as God breathed into Adam, that same breathe coursed through Eve.
Genesis 1:27: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” And then vs. 31, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” He CHOSE to create Eve very deliberately, honoring her, giving her a special place in creation.
Of course, the story of what happened has been well told. Both Adam and Eve were naked and together, and were not ashamed. They had everything they could possibly want, with only one small rule. And then they chose to break that rule. To follow the devil who tempted them. To be rebellious, choosing their own way over God’s, choosing a way of death rather than life. And suddenly, they were searching for leaves to cover their disgrace.
By now, I’m thinking we’re all blinking. We were talking about the peaceful birth of a sweet baby. How’d we end up here?
Well, with Adam and Eve’s actions, they basically told God to “stuff it.” So as God came down to remove Adam and Eve from His paradise, to send away these two that He’d chosen to create in His own image, chosen to breathe His own breath into, He could have wiped them out for good. But He still chose them. Chose to promise a way of salvation, a way of saving them both, with Eve having a special part in it: her “seed.” A baby. She would have a son, and that son would conquer the devil, their sin, and the death that their sin had brought on.
Do you wonder what she was thinking when she birthed Cain, her first son? Did she think he was the one promised? Or maybe it would be her second son, Abel?
And then, what of the day the one son, in a fit of jealousy, killed the other? Did she wonder if God had forgotten them?
But He hadn’t!
How do I know? Because of the Family Tree. Because of the Royal Lineage. Because Eve HAD another baby, Seth, and so began the “begats.” Seth begat Enosh, and Enosh begat Cainan, and Cainan begat Mahalaleel who begat Jared, who begat Enoch, all the way down to Noah, who begat Shem, on down the line until Terah begat a boy by the name of Abraham. Who begat a baby, Isaac, with his 90-year-old wife, Sarah. And looking at these lists of names, there’s not a doubt in anyone’s mind that mankind saw it as a man’s world.
But! If we take a look at the first book in the New Testament, the book of Matthew, the book with the main purpose of showing Christ’s royalty, we will see, in the names of Jesus Christ’s royal lineage, specially chosen by God, specifically named BY name, were Four Women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Mary; the forgotten one, the prostitute, the widow, the virgin.
And I could see each of them, plus Sarah, and Rebekah, and Leah, and Bathsheba, repeating the words of Luke 1:25 with another woman: “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when He looked on me, to take away my disgrace among people.” (ESV)
“MY DISGRACE”—have you ever felt that way? Ever wished someone could take that away for you?
For these women, He chose in spite of their backgrounds, in spite of their situations, in spite of their sins, redeeming their lives that to the rest of the world looked worthless and lost; used up.
He gave them a purpose and claimed their lives for Him. He gave them a part in the Life He would bring in the world: a perfect little baby who would start out humbly in a manger in a stable, but who would grow up to be the Savior of the world.
Because this little baby was not like any other. Millions of other babies had been born throughout the centuries, but all of them had the same issue. They carried with them that sin of Adam and Eve. This little baby? Was God coming to earth in human flesh, through the royal lineage that He handpicked Himself; to rescue us from ourselves and our lost lives. To sacrifice Himself. To crush the head of the devil and lead us to life. To redeem us unto Himself by paying for all the sins that weigh us down. To die instead of us, bearing both our sin and our shame on the cross if we will only believe and trust in Him.
In the words of Mary, herself, singing to the Lord as she realized who the baby was in her womb,
“The Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.” Luke 1:49 (NASB)
But she knew, it wasn’t just a momentary improvement: Not something that would be packed away at the end of the month.
It was a life-changing, eternal redemption; a changing of her life from the inside out:
“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” Luke 1:46-47 (ESV)
Mary knew, the peace that filled the stable that night when she birthed baby Jesus had nothing to do with the perfect setting or cozy feelings. And it had nothing to do with what she had done. Or who she was.
The peace came from God, loving us so much, choosing us, redeeming our lives, and paying for our sins as He came as a baby, grew up, and died on a cross for us so that we could live forever at peace with Him.
I know last year about this time, this message came home to me in a way I never expected. Suddenly, everything I touched seemed to crumble, disintegrating into dust. Nothing I did worked. Nothing was safe. For months! My talents and abilities, my health, my kids, my reputation, the work I’d put my heart into for 13 years…were all attacked. I was left feeling barren, infertile, useless, a complete failure.
And I felt about as worthwhile as a dirty washrag. With dog hair all over it. That had been left to sit and sour. What a pretty picture, huh?
I found myself standing here, sobbing, “God, I’m sorry. I’ve got nothing. I’m worthless.”
And His response? “Elizabeth, child, I did not choose you for your worth, but for Mine. I give you worth, not because of what you do, but because you are created in My image. I gave you worth because I gave My life for you. I gave you worth because I have adopted you into My family. You are Mine!”
And I knew, without a doubt, that no matter what happened around me in the world, my heart was at peace with Him.
So what about you? Are you older, a widow, unloved, forgotten, jealous, manipulative, impatient, foreign, used, abused, or just feeling lost?
I know for me, I could repeat the words of Romans 7:19 everyday: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want, I keep on doing.”
And yet He is saying, “Come as you are. Like Sarah, Leah, Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Mary. Come to Me. I have chosen you. I want to redeem you unto Myself that where I am, there you may be also.”
“you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (ESV)
He is there for you. He is waiting for you to accept His offer. His invitation. He wants you as a part of His family. He knows my name. He knows your name. He loves you. He has a plan for you. A Purpose.
And His hand is outstretched.
During this season, it might look like a small, infant hand, waving over the manger, reaching toward the star shining down from the heavens.
But truly, it’s a picture of a promise come true. The promised seed from Eve. Breaking the curse of sin’s rebellion. God’s hand with the scar of a nail…pounded there for you. Wanting to paying your debts. To make you whole. To graft you into His family tree…. To declare you “Chosen and Redeemed.”