What is the simplest way to misunderstand another person?

I realize there are many ways to misunderstand people. I realize that it is much harder to understand a person than it is to misunderstand him or her. The probability is high that in the privacy of your own thinking and emotions you are convinced that no one really understands you. Certainly you would say that a few individuals understand you better than the majority of people. Yet, some people do not understand you at all. But does anyone truly understand completely your thoughts and feelings?

Back to my original question. What is the simplest way to misunderstand another person? My emphasis is on simplest. A suggestion: the simplest way to misunderstand another person is to fail to listen to him or her. If I do not listen to the person, I mistake my misunderstanding for understanding. When I do not listen, I am convinced that I have the person "figured out" so accurately that he or she needs to listen to me.

What is the simplest way to misunderstand God? Again, I realize that many different routes lead to a misunderstanding of God. However, the simplest way to misunderstand God is to fail to listen. When I do not listen, I easily conclude that I have God accurately figured out. "If you do not understand God, you do not need to listen to God. You need to listen to me because I have God figured out."

In the last two lessons we focused on God's ways being different from human ways. We looked closely at the meaning of Isaiah 55:8,9 when Isaiah speaking in God's voice declared that God's ways were not our ways. We looked at God's use of Abraham's family. We noted that we would not use those kinds of people to create the perfect means for saving people. We just would not do things the way God obviously did them.

  1. Tonight I want us to focus on Jesus' genealogy found in Matthew 1 to note that God's ways are not our ways.
    1. Evidence within the gospel of Matthew suggests that this gospel was written to Jewish people to verify that Jesus was the Christ.
      1. As this gospel begins, Matthew notes a basic evidence that had special significance to the Jewish people: Jesus was a descendant from Abraham through King David.
      2. In declaring Jesus' lineage, Matthew mentioned five women, four of whom we today would not expect to see in the lineage of the Messiah (Christ).
        1. If you and I selected just four women to be mentioned in our family's history, we would not select four women like these.
        2. The four represent incidents that we would rather forget than remember.
      3. The first woman Matthew mentioned was Tamar (Genesis 38).
        1. Tamar's story is one that we would want to forget if she were in our family tree.
        2. Judah, one of Jacob's twelve sons, had three sons.
        3. The oldest son (Er) married Tamar, but he was so wicked the God killed him.
        4. Judah told his second son (Onan) to perform the custom of levirate marriage through which Tamar would have a child, and that child would be considered the child of his dead brother.
        5. Onan refused to honor his responsibility because he knew the child would not be considered his child, and God killed him.
        6. After Onan died, Judah told Tamar to allow his third son to mature, and the third son would perform the function of levirate marriage.
          1. While she waited for that time to come, Tamar was to return to her father and live as a widow.
          2. Time passed, and Judah forgot his promise.
        7. After Judah's wife died, Judah made a trip to check on his flocks.
          1. Tamar knew where Judah was going and when he would make the trip, so she dressed as a temple prostitute and took a position on his route.
          2. Sure enough, Judah saw her and propositioned her.
          3. When he approached her, she asked what he would pay, and he promised her that he would sent her a baby goat the next day.
          4. She asked for a pledge to keep until she received the goat, and she took his ring, staff, and the cord men wore around their waist.
          5. The next day when Judah sent the goat to reclaim his ring, staff, and cord, the temple prostitute did not exist.
        8. Three months later Judah was informed that Tamar was pregnant, and he said, "Bring her out and let her be burned!"
          1. She sent Judah his ring, staff, and cord with the statement, "The man who owned these is the father of my child."
          2. Judah recognized his possessions and said, "She is more righteous than I am."
      4. The second woman Matthew listed was Rahab (Joshua 2).
        1. When Israel prepared to invade Canaan, Joshua sent two spies to Jericho.
        2. The spies found lodging at Rahab's (a prostitute) house.
        3. When their presence was discovered in Jericho, Rahab hid them and saved their lives.
        4. In exchange for a promise for safety when the invasion occurred and Jericho fell, she helped them escape.
        5. Matthew noted this woman, a prostitute, not an Israelite, was an ancestor of Jesus.
      5. Third woman Matthew listed was Ruth (Ruth 4).
        1. Economic conditions were very bad in Israel, so an Israelite man (Elimelech), his wife (Naomi), and his two sons (Mahlon and Chilion) moved from Bethlehem in Israel to the country of Moab.
        2. The Israelite man died there.
        3. The two sons married Moabite women, and they died in Moab.
        4. The Israelite woman, Naomi, left Moab and returned to home to Israel.
        5. One of her daughters-in-law, a Moabite (Ruth), left her country and her family to follow Naomi to Israel, and she worked with Naomi in Israel.
        6. In time Ruth married Boaz, and they were the great-grandparents of King David.
        7. Matthew noted this Moabite woman as an ancestor of Jesus.
      6. The fourth woman Matthew listed was Bathsheba who had an affair with King David while she was married to Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11).
        1. King David initiated a sexual encounter with Bathsheba.
          1. Bathsheba conceived from that encounter.
          2. David tried to cover the pregnancy by having Bathsheba's husband send home from the war front.
          3. Uriah came to Jerusalem, but he would not go to his house and be with his wife.
        2. As an end result, David issued orders to the commander in charge of his troops to have Uriah placed in a position were he would certainly be killed in battle.
          1. Then, after an appropriate period of mourning, David married Bathsheba in an attempt to cover his affair.
          2. Months later, after Bathsheba had his son, Nathan (God's prophet) condemned David for his wicked acts.
          3. Among the consequences of his wickedness was the death of the child.
        3. But David was allowed to keep Bathsheba as a wife.
          1. By Bathsheba David had a son he named Solomon.
          2. 2 Samuel 11:24 states that God loved Solomon from birth.
          3. Solomon, David's son by Bathsheba, became the next king of Israel.
        4. That is not the way we would do God's business.
          1. We would not let David keep Bathsheba for a wife.
          2. We would not let a descendant of David and Bathsheba be the next King of Israel.
    2. Why list those four women as Jesus' ancestors?
      1. I do not know.
      2. Many have discussed possible reasons, but no reason is the obvious reason.
        1. The fact that this gospel was intended for a Jewish readership makes Matthew's inclusion of these four women the more unusual.
        2. Jewish attitudes toward women and the values of female virtue in the first century makes the inclusion of these four women the more unusual.
        3. Why not use women who were honored as virtuous, dedicated Israelites?
      3. The fifth woman included on that list was Mary, the mother of Jesus.
        1. We look with great respect and favor on Mary, her faith in God, and her devotion to God as a godly woman.
        2. Could it be that when Matthew wrote Mary was not held in as high esteem among Jewish people then as we hold her now?
        3. Could it be that many Jews rejected the explanation of Jesus being born of a virgin as ridiculous?
        4. Could it be that the typical view of many Jews was Mary had a child when she was not married and was sexually unfaithful to the man to whom she was engaged to marry?
        5. Could it be that Matthew reminded them that God made unexpected use of women in His work by recalling Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba--a woman who seduced her father-in-law, a prostitute who was not an Israelite, a woman who was a Moabite, and a woman who had an affair with their greatest Old Testament king?

  2. Whatever the reason, Matthew's genealogy of Jesus certainly reminds us that God does not do things the way we do them.
    1. To me, there are some important lessons to be understood from Matthew's inclusion of the first four women.
      1. Be very careful when you come to the conclusion that you have God "figured out" and know what God would do; you may be deceiving yourself.
      2. God measures righteousness by different standards than do most of us; we need to place our faith in his standards and not our own.
      3. God can make use of anyone to accomplish His purposes if that person places his or her faith in God in a dependent relationship.
      4. Through His forgiveness, God often uses His power to value those we would reject.
      5. Our greatest challenge is to grow in understanding of God instead of functioning as judges as did the Pharisees.
    2. To me, the greatest lesson of all is accepting this truth: God's ways are not our ways.

As Christians, may all of us have the goal of allowing Jesus to teach us God's ways. No one ever understood God as completely and correctly as did Jesus. No one ever modeled the physical behavior that God wants and honors as did Jesus. May our understanding of God's will and purposes always begin with Jesus.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 6 May 2001
previous next in series

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell