Salmon was the father of Boaz (his mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (his mother was Ruth). Obed was the father of Jesse. — Matthew 1:5

Not long ago it was customary for families to record their family’s history in a special family Bible. Births, deaths, marriages, and other notable events were noted, and this information served as a great and accurate resource for establishing a family tree.

Unfortunately, with the demise of family devotions in many homes, old family Bibles have gone the way of the dinosaurs. So genealogies are harder to research and preserve.

In ancient times, however, the maintenance of genealogical records was a matter of great importance. This becomes obvious when we read the biblical records. For instance, Ezra the scribe was identified as “son of Seraiah, son of Azariah,” with no less than 14 other “son of” statements linking him to Aaron, the first high priest (Ezra 7:1-5). There was to be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Ezra was a valid member of the priestly fraternity.

Similarly, the genealogies of Jesus found in the gospels are the most important in the Bible—and, in some ways, the most surprising. Matthew traced Jesus’ earthly family all the way back to Abraham and David, while Luke traced the Savior’s human origins all the way to Adam. Matthew was anxious to show that Jesus belonged to the royal line of David, while Luke, with his emphasis of Jesus being a descendant of “Adam [who] was the son of God” (Luke 3:38) is much more universal in outlook.

But perhaps the most striking thing about either genealogy is Matthew’s inclusion of women.

Women rarely appeared in Jewish genealogies, yet Matthew included four of them! Not only that, the four women he included were probably considered Gentiles in their day, and each of them had characteristics that made them less than desirable to traditional Jews. Both Tamar and Rahab were prostitutes, Bathsheba was an adulteress, and Ruth was a Moabitess.

We can only speculate why these four women were included. Perhaps Matthew wanted to demonstrate that God uses the most unlikely people to work out His plans. Remarkable!

As Paul explained to the Corinthians, God “chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important” (1 Corinthians 1:28).

In the case of Ruth, while she may have come from a despised race and may have been disregarded by many people in her day, she demonstrated a nobility of character that was extraordinary and both a faithfulness and a selflessness that were exemplary.

Surely what God looks for is a person whose heart is right before him, regardless of race, class, or even one’s past!

For further study: Matthew 1:1-17

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.