Unlikely foremothers – vividly brought to life

A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers

5 Stars

Illicit sexual relations, duplicity, disdain, brutality – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary each experienced most of these indignities, in some cases hatched through their own scheming. And yet these five women, three of whom were not even Israelites, were chosen by God as forebears of the promised Messiah, His Son Jesus!

Based closely on the biblical sources, Rivers very realistically fantasizes and elaborates these women’s social environments and challenges, bringing them to life in a masterful way. Suddenly they are no longer names in a list, but real people with fears, yearnings, wounds, and conflicting aspirations, with a growing sense of divine calling and a desire to serve the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, even if they have very little personal knowledge of that God.

The story of Bathsheba probably impressed me most. A beautiful young woman who, from early childhood, admired, nay loved the handsome, brave warrior and later King David, is married against her will to the much older, elite but rather boring soldier, Uriah the Hittite. One day, while her husband is away fighting and elderly King David relaxing in his palace, the incident occurs which leads inexorably to a complex mixture of joy and blessing on the one hand, and untold misery, remorse and multiple deaths on the other: he sees her bathing, summons her to his bedchamber and commits adultery with her.

This character – as are all the others – is portrayed with a full palette of strengths and weaknesses, emotions, regrets and hopes. It is a sobering – but also an encouraging – thought to see how God chooses to use unholy, socially unacceptable people to accomplish His ends, forming them on the way into devoted people of faith.

Full marks to Francine Rivers for this outstanding work of prose.

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