“Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day the older daughter said to the younger, ‘Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.’”– Genesis 19:30-32
It’s no surprise that this is one of those Bible passages that preachers actively avoid. It’s appalling. It’s difficult to read. And it easily surfaces the pain and fear rooted in various forms of abuse that is all too prevalent in family histories. As I mentioned in Monday’s devotional, it’s the kind of story that makes one wonder why it’s included in the scriptures at all.
The scriptures do not give us easy answers for the innumerable uncomfortable questions. The ancient rabbis scoured the text looking for answers and found Lot more culpable than a literal reading of the story implies. While the passage does not allow us to escape with a happily ever after, it does give us an interesting detail. It says that the elder daughter named her son, Moab and the younger daughter named her son, Ben-Ammi. These names do not try to hide their origin, in fact they make it plain. Moab means “from my father” and Ben-Ammi means, “Son of my people.”
Quite often, our first response to shame is to hide. The power of shame comes from being unspeakable. Shame expands in the dark and its messages about our lack of worth grow louder in silence.
I do not know why those two boys were named Moab and Ben-Ammi but I do know that this story would have been very easy to cover up or revise through the centuries. They could have had different names and contrived back stories. And yet, the stark story remains.
For me, it remains as a testimony. It encourages me to not allow myself to be bound by shame that so easily entangles. Our scriptures repeatedly call us to be truth tellers. We are to give voice to our weakness (for in it God’s grace is revealed), to confess our sin (for through confession the power of God’s forgiveness is seen), and to humble ourselves (for by our humility God’s strength shines).
The story continues for Moab who became the father of a people despised by the Israelites. The Moabites lived on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea, the area known today as Jordan. The Israelites considered the Moabites to be their enemies and often treated them as subhuman. It is this desire to distance themselves from the Moabites that makes the genealogy of Jesus interesting.
In the Gospel of Matthew, there are only five women tied to Jesus as his ancestors. One of those women is Ruth, the Moabite.
Our shame is never the end of our story. We celebrate and praise and follow a God who redeems all things, all things for good. When we bring our shame into the light we’re better able to see the beauty God brings from brokenness. Praise be to God.