I’d like to tie something in with a sermon I heard John MacArthur giving on the radio on Matthew 1. (I believe it was John MacArthur. It sure sounded like him.) He was speaking on the genealogies in Matthew and the birth of Christ and he mentioned the women that are found in there. Let’s look at them.
First off is Tamar. You know her story? It’s in Genesis 38. She tricked her father-in-law Judah into thinking she was a shrine prostitute and slept with him and bore two sons. One of those sons was Perez and the lineage of the Messiah passed through him. Hardly a lady of character.
Second is Rahab. If you remember the conquest of Jericho, you remember her. She was more of a lady of character as she was faithful to the God of Israel, but when she was found, she was a prostitute running a brothel. She converted though to follow the God of Israel and is included in the lineage of the Messiah.
Third is Ruth. Things are getting better now. This was a Moabitess who left her people behind to follow Naomi back to the land of Israel and embrace Naomi’s God as her God. Ruth is seen as a noble figure in the book and the book of Ruth ends by pointing out that king David came from the lineage of Ruth.
Fourth on the list is Bathsheba. Now we all know the story of David and Bathsheba. Ravi Zacharias once said that if you made a documentary of the Sermon on the Mount and played it one Sunday night, you would only get a few Christian viewers. If you made one of David and Bathsheba, everyone would be watching. It’s obvious why!
This was the girl that David got pregnant and then had her husband killed in order to explain the pregnancy and save his own hide. He later married her after he did this, but the Lord was not pleased. To her credit, Bathsheba is a heroic figure later on as she takes a stand and gets Solomon on the throne.
Last though is Mary. Mary is seen as the most blessed of all in that she gets to be the mother of the Messiah. Now I don’t hold Catholic doctrines in that Mary remained a virgin or that she was sinless, but I think every Protestant should affirm that Mary does deserve a place of honor.
Why am I saying this? Because it seems to be the view in Christianity that women are downplayed. The skeptical worldview does not take kindly to the treatment women get. However, women were elevated by Christianity. The OT law placed them in a higher position than existing laws of the time. Now we may say that their witness didn’t count in NT times, and that was true, which makes it astounding that women get to be the first witnesses of the resurrection and thus, the embarrassment criteria lends credibility to the account, but it is Christianity that made it so that wouldn’t always be so.
When Paul wrote that a husband was to love his wife as Christ loved the church which would mean dying for her, the listening audience would have been stunned. This was an extraordinary new concept. When we see that there is no male or female in Christ, we realize how far this has gone. (By the way, he’s not saying male and female don’t exist as we are in Christ now and male or female. He’s saying there’s no favoritism.)
When we look at church history, we see this played out. Pliny the Younger talks about Deaconesses in the church and Paul sent his letter to the Romans by Phoebe. Theodora, the wife of Justinian, was an empress and Bathilda, the wife of Clovis II was venerated as a saint and helped free the slaves long before the New World.
Now today in America, we believe in the equality of men and women. We mean by that that they are both fully human. We do not mean that men are women or that women are men. Please note though that this idea we have of equality makes no sense apart from what we see in Scripture. We see it in Genesis 1:26-27 and we see it in Galatians 3 with Paul reaffirming that concept in Christ.
This year, when you celebrate Christmas, think of how much the world changed as a result of that baby coming. Christianity has been a huge blessing to the world. If you’re a female and you enjoy the liberties you have today, then thank Christ for them. It is through him that they have come.