Stories of Grace
December 16, 2007
A while back I was pulled over on the highway by a highway patrolman for speeding. My life felt intercepted by that black and white car. This is not a confession, just a story. The patrolman came up to my car door and asked me where I was going in such a hurry. I said I was going to seminary for a conference. I asked him if I was speeding. I actually didn’t think I was speeding. I apparently missed the speed limit sign about a mile back where the speed limit was reduced before entering into a small town. He asked me if I was a pastor and I said yes. He asked what denomination and I said, “Baptist.” He walked back to his car to finish filling out the ticket or whatever they do in the car, probably laugh at the groveling attitude I was exhibiting. He came back to the car and told me to be careful, that he was a Baptist, and that he was giving me a warning. That was mercy. I didn’t get what I deserved. Do you know what would have happened if grace was also applied to the situation? The officer would have said, “This time of day can be busy on the highway and Dallas traffic can be rough. How about I give you an escort to seminary?” Then he would have proceeded to give me an official escort to seminary. That would have been grace. Grace is favor. Mercy and grace can create some wonderful stories.
Remember last week we talked about the sovereign story of God proclaimed in the genealogy of Matthew. For generations, stories of people’s choices filled history but nothing could stop what God had planned. No matter what anyone did or did not do, God was sending His Son into the world. God’s plan would happen and did happen because God is sovereignly in control of everything. Nothing surprises God and nothing thwarts God’s plans. Jesus came and was born in a manger, lived a holy and sinless life, died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose again from the dead according to the predetermined plan of God. At the fullness of time Jesus came, the Redeemer and Savior. God’s story is the bigger story in which each one of us lives.
God’s story is still unfolding to the day when the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And all those who trust in Jesus will be taken to be with the Lord forever. Like a thief in the night Jesus will appear to steal away his people and to end this story and start the story of eternity. That is God’s plan and nothing can stop it.
There is only one way to be ready for that day. You need a story of grace, a story of God’s favor, a story of God intercepting your life.
I am going to read the beginning of this genealogical list in Matthew again this morning for us.
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
I. God’s story – a story of grace seasoned by grace. Matthew didn’t have to write it like this. He could have simply said, Judah the father of Perez, Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Jesse, David the father of Solomon. But he didn’t. He mentioned each of these women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Why? Grace. Because they are stories of grace, stories of God’s immense favor, seasoning the story of the gospel of grace.
A. Tamar and Judah - Gen. 38 – Tamar was abandoned and neglected. Both her previous husbands were ungodly and yet she remained faithful. Her father-in-law was not willing to take care of her but abandoned her to widowhood. She was without hope. She tricked Judah. In the midst of her deception, God intervened with grace. He gave her twins, one of which who would be in the lineage of the Messiah. God stepped into this deception and sin and brought forth one in the line of the Messiah – that is grace.
B. Rahab and Salmon – Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho, the city that God told his people to destroy. She was a prostitute. She did not deserve to be saved. She had spent her life worshipping false gods and living a life of ungodliness. But the spies came to her house. For some reason she believed in God, she asked for deliverance, she offered her help, she chose the side of God, for some reason she trusted the Lord. The reason was grace. The favor of God. Then Rahab found a husband in Israel. Salmon found in Rahab a beauty that she had probably thought lost. Salmon chose her. Then God blessed them with a child named Boaz. What a special man Boaz became under the parenting of Salmon and Rahab. Why? Grace. It was God’s grace that transformed this prostitute into a follower of God, a faithful wife and devoted mother. Grace.
C. Ruth and Boaz – A man named Elimelech took his wife and two sons and left Bethlehem because things were too hard. He was going to an easier place. He went to Moab. An Israelite had no business in Moab. Elimelech died there in Moab, where things were supposed to be better. Naomi was left with her two sons. They took for themselves Moabite women for wives. These Israelite men had no business taking Moabite women for wives. God didn’t want his people marrying foreign women who worshipped other gods. After about ten years living in Moab, both of those sons died leaving Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws. Naomi decided to go home alone. Ruth would not be stopped. She would go where Naomi went and would take Naomi’s God as her own. She was going home with Naomi no matter what. Ruth goes home with Naomi, a foreigner, come home with as a widow responsible for taking care of her widowed mother-in-law. She began her efforts to care for them by going into the fields to gather grain left over for the poor. She happened to end up in a field that belonged to Boaz. Happened to end up there? Grace. It’s grace. Ruth was from Moab. She spent her life worshipping false gods. She married a disobedient Israelite. She was now a widow who left her home to live in a foreign land as a widow who has to take care of her widowed mother-in-law. And God pours out grace on her. She meets Boaz who becomes her kinsman redeemer. He redeems her and marries her and Ruth finds only what grace provides. Ruth’s great grandson is David. How does a woman outside of Israel who worships foreign gods end up in Bethlehem worshipping the one true God becoming the great grandmother of King David, one after God’s own heart, establishing the Kingly line of the Messiah? How? I will tell you how. Grace. God’s unmerited favor. Grace.
D. Bathsheba and David – The Hittites were living in the land of Canaan and were one of the groups of people that God had told his people he would drive out and destroy (Ex. 23:28). They were enemies of God’s people. We don’t know how Uriah the Hittite became involved with David but somehow Uriah did become vitally connected to David. Uriah was one of David’s mighty men, men who regularly laid down their lives for David, who were his friends and loyal warriors. Uriah was pledged to David, proven through many battles and sacrifices. These mighty men helped establish David as king. When Saul was chasing David to kill him, the mighty men were there. When David was facing wars that threatened his life and kingdom, the mighty men were there, risking their lives for their king. Uriah was one of those men. He was a Hittite become protector of the king of Israel. His wife’s name was Bathsheba. She was a beautiful woman. She was all he had. He was not rich and famous, capable of having anything he wanted. He was a simple warrior who had found the love of his life. He was like a poor man who had but one little ewe lamb which he had bought himself. He raised that little lamb and it grew up with his family and would eat from his table and lie in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. Then a rich man came and took his one little lamb and killed it and fed it to some of his guest because he didn’t want to use one of his own lambs from his flocks of thousands. David took Bathsheba from Uriah and then had Uriah murdered. Bathsheba’s life was totally sabotaged. She lost her marriage. She lost her husband. She lost her dignity. She lost her child. She lost everything. But God intervened and gave her a son named Solomon, one whom God loved. God loved her son. He would be King in the lineage of the coming Messiah. How does a Hittite woman become the target of adultery by the king Israel, lose her marriage and her husband and then become the queen over Israel and the mother to the next king who would be the wisest king in Israel? How did she respond to David and all that happened in such a way that he promised her that her son would be king? Grace. It is grace.
E. All four of these women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba were also Gentiles. That is just one more picture of grace. God folded into the genealogy of the Messiah four Gentile women. God’s grace knows no boundaries, no lives are too far removed from God, no one is beyond the grace of God – no one.
II. There were also other stories of grace within this list.
A. Abraham was a liar. He lied about his wife several times because he was afraid. God had told him that he would take care of him and curse those who curse him. He had nothing to worry about and yet on several occasions he chooses to lie instead of trust. It was Abraham that God credited with righteousness because he believed, the man who couldn’t believe and chose to lie about his wife to protect himself. How does a liar become the father of all those who believe? Grace. It’s the unquenchable favor of God. Grace.
B. Jacob was a deceiver. He didn’t trust God. He didn’t even really care about God. He was going to get things his own way. He robbed his brother of his birthright and his blessing through deception and lies. He ran away from his brother. He was a coward and a liar. Jacob was not the kind of guy you would want as a friend. But God came to Jacob and called him and gave him a promise that He would be with him. Jacob said that if God would take care of him that the Lord would then be his God and that he would faithfully follow the Lord and would give him a tenth of all he had. Jacob the deceiver got a new name. He wrestled with God and God gave him the name Israel. He is Israel from whom came the twelve tribes. He is the father of the tribe of Judah from whom would come the Messiah. How does a deceiver become a worshipper of God? How does one despises the God of his father become the father of the twelve tribes of Israel established in worshipping the one true God? Grace. The unstoppable favor of God. Grace.
C. Once more let me remind you of Manasseh. Manasseh was the most wicked king in Judah’s history. God spoke to him but he paid no attention to God. The Lord promised wrath upon Judah for their evil. The king of Assyria captures Manasseh and takes him to Babylon in hooks and chains. In his suffering that he brought upon himself, Manasseh called upon the Lord. He called to the Lord for grace (2 Chron. 33). God heard his prayer and rescued him, brought him home and established him on this throne and Manasseh then knew that the Lord was truly God. How does the most wicked king in all of Judah’s history come to know the Lord and get rescued from just wrath upon his life? Grace. The unfathomable favor of God. Grace.
III. God’s story, the story of Jesus Christ is the story of grace, seasoned with stories of grace, meant to draw you into grace.
A. All the stories of God’s grace through history point in one direction. They all point to Jesus Christ. Through out history God was able to overlook sin (Tamar’s sin, Rahab’s sin, Ruth’s sin, Bathsheba’s sin, Abraham and Jacob) and pour out grace because of Jesus Christ. The only way God could over look sin is because of Jesus. Jesus died for sins. He took the punishment of my sin and your sin. Every story of grace is meant to point you to God’s story of grace, the story of Jesus Christ so that you might see His grace and be drawn in to God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
B. And when anyone trusts in Jesus Christ, he becomes a story of grace. I am a story of grace – rescued from an illegitimate birth, redeemed from a broken family, saved from my own sin, given a life of more joy and purpose and hope than I could have ever imagined. Grace. If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are a story of grace. Rescued from your sin. Redeemed from your mess. Delivered from your hopelessness. Saved from yourself. Made God’s own child. Grace. Lavished with the undeniable favor of God. Grace. We who are trusting Jesus Christ are stories of grace weaved into a history of stories of grace so that the people around whom we live might see the story of grace, the story of Jesus.
IV. Stories yet to be…
A. I have a friend who is not a Christian. I can see a story. I can imagine his new life. I can see his marriage saturated in grace. I can see him full of eternal joy. I can see a story that is yet to be. Do you see stories? What about that coworker who is drowning in his sin and finding that the emptiness of this world has nothing else to offer? Can you see a story of grace that is yet to be? What about that spouse or child or father or friend? Can you see a story of grace that is yet to be?
B. Tell your story of grace. Tell other stories of grace, stories of prostitutes, tax collectors, idolaters, murderers – all redeemed by the grace of God. Remember, the Lord is not slow in fulfilling the promise of His return. Jesus is coming again but God is patient toward us. He does not want any to perish but that all should come to repentance becoming a story of grace for the glory of Jesus Christ. Won’t you trust God with your story? His grace is waiting.