Advent and Missions: Part 1

The Heart of God for the Nations and the Grandmothers of Jesus

The modern missions movement has emphasized reaching those who have little to no Christian witness in their community. These people are often referred to as unreached. For centuries, communities like this have been locked into false religions worshiping false gods with no light of the truth in their midst.

Our heart here at iGO is to break into these communities with the light of the Gospel, but this is not original to us. The idea of reaching the unreached and bringing those outsiders (Gentiles who worship false gods) into faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is something we get to witness in the story of Jesus’ ancestors.

Matthew, the disciple of Jesus, begins his book with the recording of the ancestral line of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. For those of us familiar with the Christmas story, it is easy to glaze over the names and fathers of fathers recorded in the Gospel of Matthew but details matter. The ancestral line of Jesus is no exception. If we pay careful attention to verse 5, there is something to be learned about the heart of God for the nations.

Matthew writes in verse 5, “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab…” If that last name rings a bell, that is because she is the same Rahab in the book of Joshua who helped the spies that had entered the city of Jericho. The Israelites spare her life in return for the protection she gave them, and she turns from her Canaanite gods to worship Yahweh, the God of the Israelites. We are not told the entire story of Rahab, but here in Matthew we find out that she married an Israelite man named Salmon who was the father of Boaz.

The next phrase in verse 5 brings us to our second significant name, “Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth…” Ruth, unlike Rahab, has an entire book of the Bible dedicated to her story, so we know much more about where she came from and what happened to her. She was a Canaanite from the land of Moab, which is modern-day Jordan. Ruth goes with her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, back to the land of Israel after both of their husbands die. This is the beginning of Ruth’s story where she eventually meets Boaz, an Israelite, who becomes her husband. They have children, and she becomes the great-grandmother of King David, as well as a member of the messianic line of Jesus.

Why does Matthew mention these two Gentile women in his recording of Jesus’ lineage? There are several reasons why, but the one that stands out with relation to missions is that they are a vivid reminder, written into the story of Jesus, that God loves all people. God’s heart on full display in the stories of Rahab and Ruth is that those who do not yet worship Him and have not yet heard about His love, mercy, and grace would come to know and experience Him. This is what was lost at the garden and which Jesus came to restore. This is the heart of God for the nations that we as believers are called to follow as we reach those who have never heard.
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