Hallmark Cards advertises that 133 million cards will be exchanged on this Mother’s Day. Hallmark.com will address, stamp and mail your Mother’s Day cards for you. Approximately 65 percent of Mother’s Day cards sales occur during the five days prior to the holiday. Hallmark offers nearly 1,000 different cards for Mother’s Day. Some are serious and others are not.
For example, one such card has three moms pictured on the front. These women are sitting together, bragging about their grown sons. The first one said to the others, “You should have seen what my son did for me on Mother’s day. He threw a big party at a fancy restaurant and even hired a big band to come and play.”
The second woman said, “That’s nice, but my son gave me an all-expense-paid cruise to the Greek islands.”
Then, inside the card, the third woman said, “That’s nothing! For the last three years, my son has been paying a psychiatrist one hundred dollars an hour, twice a week – and the time he talks about no one else but me.”
There are no perfect moms. I read this list of lessons learned from these less than perfect moms. Listen and remember if you ever heard some of these lessons.
My mother taught me the value of a clean home when she told my brother and me, “Listen, if you’re going to kill each other, do it outside, I just finished cleaning up.”
My mother taught me the value of passionate prayer when she said, “You’d better pray that will come out of the carpet.”
My mother taught me logic when she said, “If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you’re not going to the store with me later.”
My mother taught me about consequences when she warned, “You keep crying, and I’ll give you something to really cry about.”
My mother taught me about the circle of life when she said, “Listen, I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.”
My mother encouraged me to learn contortionism when she said, “Will you look at all that dirt on the back of your neck?” or “Didn’t you see all that dirt in your ears?”
My mother taught me that love has boundaries when she said, “When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don’t come running to me.”
My mother taught me the value of stamina and perseverance when she said, “You will sit there until all that spinach is gone.”
I say again, there are no perfect Moms. And nowhere is that better illustrated than in Jesus’ family tree recorded in Matthew one. There are four very imperfect mothers listed in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew one. Though very imperfect these mothers were still greatly used by the Lord. The fact that women are listed at all was highly unusual because fathers more often are named because it was the father’s name and inheritance that were passed on from generation to generation.We are not surprised to find in Jesus’ family tree Jewish men like David, Israel’s greatest king or Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, or Solomon who was the wisest of all men in Israel.
Matthew is presenting Jesus as the Old Testament predicted Jewish Messiah who is legitimately related to Abraham and David.
Yet even these leaders had some dark chapters in their lives. Not only are all mothers imperfect but so are their husbands, all fathers and all children. So if you find yourself on a shrink’s couch, be sure to include yourself in the conversation.
Nor would we have been shocked to read about some of Israel’s Jewish matriarchs such as Sara, or Rebekah or Rachel. But Matthew included four Gentile mothers who had been either prostitutes or outcasts or adulteresses or misfits.
The four most unlikely to spiritually succeed mothers who brought us the Messiah are Tamar (1:3), Rahab (1:5), Ruth (1:5), and Bathsheba (1:6). None of these would have been voted Mother of the Year or Wife of the Decade.
Matthew doesn’t just list these women, which was abnormal in itself, he emphasizes these four mothers along with Mary, the fifth mother in Jesus’ family tree. He highlights these mothers by breaking the pattern in the family tree. The normal pattern is “So-in-so begat so-in-so.” For example, “Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judah and his brethren.” So there is the pattern. But in the next statement the pattern is significantly broken: “and Judah begat Phares and Zara by Tamar.” For the first time in the family tree the mother is mentioned. And then the pattern resumes.
The same breaking of the pattern will happen with Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. The pattern is most importantly broken with Mary. After saying 39 times that this father begat this son, in 1:16, Matthew did not record “and Joseph begat Jesus.” Matthew broke this pattern and did not write, “and Joseph begat Jesus.” Because Joseph was not the father of the virgin born Jesus. But rather Matthew wrote, “Of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
Matthew doesn’t just name four very imperfect mothers, he spotlights them. These four mothers, though not supermoms, because of God’s forgiveness, became great influences in their families. They helped bring Jesus to their families and to you and me.
1. Tamar the Mistreated Mother (Matthew 1:3)
In Genesis 38, Tamar was lied to and mistreated by her father-in-law, Judah. At this time in Judah’s life he is at his lowest point spiritually. He agreed to kill his own brother Joseph and when that did work out he consented to sell him to travelling traders.
Judah then married a Canaanite idol worshipper and had three sons. The oldest Er also a Canaanite idol worshipper married Tamar. Er dies because of his wickedness. As was the Jewish custom, the next brother, Onan, was to marry his brother’s widow. Onan refused and God judged him for his disobedience. Judah promised Tamar that as soon as his last born was old enough, Shelah, he would marry Tamar. But Judah lied never intending to give Shelah to Tamar.
Tamar finally took matters into her on hands. When Judah was returning home from a long trip, Tamar dressed as a prostitute along the roadside where Judah passed and Judah took his one night stand with Tamar. When Judah later found out that Tamar was with child he intended on burning her for her sin. But when Tamar produced the evidence that Judah was the father, Judah repented and said, “She has been more righteous than I” (38:26).
This was a turning point in Judah’s life. Later, Judah is willing to stay in Egypt, so Benjamin can go back to their father Jacob. Judah unselfishly is willing to become a slave in Egypt so his father Jacob does not grieve himself to death over Benjamin. Eventually, Judah is chosen as the tribe through which the Messiah will come according to Genesis 49.
The twins mentioned in Matthew 1:3 were born from the incestuous relationship of Judah and his daughter-in-law. Had Tamar not intervened, Judah would not have produced any descendants. Judah by his sinfulness almost cut off his family tree, the family tree which would later include Jesus (Genesis 49:10).
Sadly too many mothers are mistreated. But God can use them to bring repentance to the very ones who mistreat them as Tamar was used of God in the life of her father-in-law.
George Sweeting writes of “a young lady who ignored the claims of Jesus Christ. She laughed at her mother’s prayers and turned her back upon her mother’s God. She seemingly was headed in the wrong direction. There came a day, however, when she was moved to pen these words:
I grieved my Lord from day to day, I scorned His love so full and free. And though I wandered far away, My mother’s prayers have followed me. I’m coming home, To live my wasted life anew, For mother’s prayers have followed me, Have followed me the whole world through.” (#1 Special Sermons For Special Days page 68).
In Part Two, we will look at three other imperfect mothers that God used.