Measuring Success As God Does
2 Samuel 12:24-25
Dr. Jim Denison
The Pythagorean theorem in mathematics can be stated in 24 words. The Model Prayer takes 66 words to recite in English. Archimedes’ Principle requires 67 words. The Ten Commandments (in the King James Version) comprise 179 words. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was composed of 286 words. The Declaration of Independence was written in 1,300 words. And United States government regulations on the sale of cabbage require 26,911 words.
But if you had to pick one word as your favorite, the one word which creates in most of us the strongest emotional reaction, the greatest immediate warmth and gratitude, you would likely pick “mother.”
It has been so for a long time. Mother’s Day was first celebrated in ancient Greece. In the 17th century, England began “Mothering Day.” Mothers who worked as servants lived in the homes of their employers, but were allowed to go home to their families on this one day. Most mothers would still say they work as servants in the homes of their employers. Not much has changed. But the rest of us are grateful.
In our David series we have watched his greatest victory and greatest failure. Today we’ll consider his greatest legacy. Here’s the one simple point of the message: God measures our success as parents by our faithfulness to him. Not by our society’s definitions of our children’s achievements. By our faithfulness to our Father.
Here’s why: our children typically become what we are. For some of us, that’s not necessarily good news. But God can redeem anyone and any family who will measure success by faithfulness to him. We’ll prove it today.
The story of Bathsheba
No one names their daughter Bathsheba. Last week we revisited the sin with which her name is most frequently associated. Today let’s take a moment to remember the rest of her story.
After her first child with David died, the Lord gave her a second son they named Solomon. But the Lord gave their baby a second name, “Jedidiah,” meaning “loved by the Lord.”
And indeed he was. Through his life and work, Israel reached its zenith of significance and wealth. Through the family line he continued, the Messiah would one day come for all of humanity.
After bearing Solomon, Bathsheba would later save him. His older brother Adonijah tried to claim the throne. If successful, he would have killed Solomon and any other threat to the crown. But Bathsheba alerted the dying king David, and he guaranteed Solomon’s ascension (1Kings 1).
According to Jewish tradition, Solomon later wrote the beautiful Proverbs 31 in honor of his mother. This text, so often read from Mother’s Day pulpits across the land, closes with words which are ironic, given Bathsheba’s earlier story: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (vs. 30-31). Despite the way her story began, her son knew her to be “a woman who fears the Lord.”
No matter how our story reads today, this is how it can end. And should.
Others in the family line
Now, let’s continue the story of mothers in the family of David. Matthew’s genealogy gives us four others, each worth remembering on this Mother’s Day.
Here is the first in his list: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar” (Matthew 1:3). Her first husband was put to death by God for wickedness, as was his brother, her second husband. When the third son grew to marriageable age, Judah was afraid for his boy’s life and refused to give him to Tamar. So she pretended to be a prostitute and slept with her father-in-law. The result was twin boys, Perez and Zerah, children of incest. But she’s in the story.
Second comes “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab” (v. 5a). Rahab was the town innkeeper and prostitute in Jericho. You already know her story.
Third is “Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth” (v. 5b). While her courtship with Boaz is a story of romance and beauty, her heritage was anything but.
Ruth was from the Moabite race, located east of the Dead Sea. Moab was the son of Lot (Genesis 19:36-37). Lot’s daughters got him drunk, and became pregnant by him. Moab’s name sounds like the Hebrew for “from father,” a perpetual reminder of the incestuous beginnings of this nation.
Later the Moabites led the Jews into sexual and spiritual immorality, so that 24,000 of Israel died in the wrath of God.
The Jewish people never forgot what Moab had done to them: “No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation” (Deuteronomy 23:3). Further, the Jews were to remain perpetually at war with them: “Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live” (v. 6).
And so we find in David’s family line a woman whose history should have barred her forever from such inclusion. Imagine a German descendent of Hitler as the mother of the Jewish prime minister, and you’d have a situation no less shocking than this. A woman forbidden by her race and history from ever entering into the worship of God, now an ancestor to the very One we worship.
Last we read, “Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (Matthew 1:16).
She is today the most famous mother in all of history, but things certainly did not begin that way. Mary was a young teenager, a seventh-grader if she were alive today, when Gabriel called her to be the mother of the Messiah. The Jews had taught their girls to pray every night that they might be chosen for this honor. But they all expected the mother of the Messiah to be chosen from the royal family in Jerusalem, or the powerful among the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Sanhedrin. No one would have expected a peasant teenager living in the country hills of Galilee.