Shadows of Greatness
By DANNY MINTON
When asked who you view as the important people of the Bible, most men will likely name Jesus, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Noah, David, Paul, Peter, among others. On the other hand, women will probably add Sarah, Esther, Mary, Ruth, and a few others. All of these men and women attained a high level of respect as significant people in the history of Israel and Christianity.
Society today notices those people who achieve levels as we define success. We tend to remember people of history by the great things they did. People’s importance becomes primarily measured by some notable accomplishment. Unfortunately, as is often the case, some influential people tend to “fall through the cracks.”
As I read through the Bible, a few names stand out to me as women we know about but usually are not the names that first come to mind. However, there are three women that we all read about and recognize by name. These three women have one thing in common that makes them unique.
Tamar was the daughter-in-law of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. The story of Tamar, found in Genesis 38, tells a tragic tale of how God took her husband’s life due to his evilness, leaving her childless. She was given to the second son who did not want a child through her, resulting in God taking his life, again leaving her childless. Judah refused to give her to his other sons, and thus she lived in shame since she had no children. When Judah’s wife died, Tamar dressed as a prostitute, covering her face and seduced Judah. As a result of the union, she bore twin sons, Perez and Zerah.
The second woman made her living as a prostitute. Her name was Rahab, and we recognize her name as the woman who lived in a house along the wall of Jericho. In the second chapter of Joshua, spies are sent to Jericho and told to go to her home and stay there while spying out the land. She hid the spies and helped them to safety when the king of Jericho found out they were there.
The third woman, known through the films and stories often told in Bible classes, is Bathsheba. In Second Samuel chapter eleven, we read where King David seduced her into committing adultery. Today, the story could easily be a TV movie with adultery, deceit, lying, and murder plots against an innocent man. She would eventually become the mother of King Solomon.
All three of these women did things that would make their character suspect to most people. Some things were by choice, and others came from a situation where the woman had little or no control. Many people today would likely refer to them as “black sheep” of the family, at least for part of what they had done.
So what do they have in common? Fast-forward to Matthew chapter one. Here we find the genealogy of Jesus. Among the list of names, we see Ruth, a highly respected woman of faith and devotion. But also, among the names of those in Jesus’ family past, we find Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba. Despite their past faults, three mothers become recognized as part of the lineage of the “King of Kings,” the Messiah.
History is full of men and women who have done great things for humankind. There are great stories of bravery and even facing death for right. Their names find their place in history books and documentaries, and rightfully so.
At the same time, some women are the shadows of greatness. Some are mothers who rear sons and daughters who move on to be significant figures of history. Some are teachers who inspire young people to dream dreams and change the world. They are mothers, sisters, teachers, and mentors who make a difference by shaping the lives of some they may never know.
As I read of Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba, I’m also struck with the realization that God can use anyone to fulfill his vision for the world. The faults of our past do not define who we are today. Everyone has failures in their life, and we all have things that we would like to forget. Everyone, no matter who we are, can make a difference. We may not be in the history books, but we may find ourselves being the shadow that stands behind someone who changes the world.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ