Let me suggest four things that I think we see in this.
Even though Jesus, Himself, was perfect and never sinned, He fully identified Himself with sinful humanity. He became a man. He became fully human, even though He is also fully divine. Romans 8:3 says that God sent his Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” The genealogy of Jesus Christ is a painfully vivid demonstration of this truth. What an ugly history is so many ways! What a shameful heritage! But that’s our heritage. That’s who we are. And it’s such a gracious thing that Jesus condescended to become one of us.
The Inclusion of the Gentiles
Jesus, of course, was a Jew, but these four women listed in his genealogy were all Gentiles. We know that Rahab was a Canaanite and Ruth was a Moabite. Tamar was most likely a Canaanite, and Bathsheba was most likely a Hittite, since she was married to a Hittite. The men in Jesus’ genealogy were Jews, but the inclusion of these Gentile women is an indication of God’s plan for all the nations. The salvation that Jesus purchased is not just for the Jews, but it is for all the peoples of the earth. And even long before Jesus’ birth, we can see Gentiles included in God’s plans.
An Encouragement to Us
These stories should be an encouragement to us when we think that our lives our so messed up God could never use us. Don’t despair. God can change anyone, and He can use anyone in His great purposes. These sinful individuals were also individuals who came to trust in God. And God forgave their sins and allowed these women and men to be included in the lineage of the Messiah. What an awesome testimony to God’s grace! God’s powerful grace! His grace that changes sinners. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, God can save you. If you repent of your sin and turn to Jesus Christ in faith, then you will be forgiven, and you’ll be included in the family of God.
God’s Sovereign Plan
As mysterious as it may be, and as distressing as it may sound, God planned the incident between Judah and Tamar, and He planned that Rahab would be a prostitute, and He planned the adultery between David and Bathsheba, and even though He did not approve of those things, it was part of His great plan of redemption. In the same mysterious way, God planned the most evil event of all of history—the crucifixion of the perfect Lamb of God. And today we rejoice that Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan, because it’s through His death that we have life.
Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah. The next time you read Matthew 1, don’t just skim over all the names, but think of the lives and the stories and the sins that are part of Jesus’ lineage. It’s a story of hope. A story of God’s grace, and a story of God’s sovereign plan of redemption.