Ever feel like you’ve been sidelined? Everyone else’s life is moving forward and you’re stuck in what feels like perpetual waiting?
That was Tamar.
Today we’re starting with the first of five women named in Jesus’ family tree. If you missed yesterday’s introduction, you can catch it here.
Yesterday we saw that in a list of patriarchs, fathers and sons, Matthew named five women.
We saw that Jesus not only came to a world fractured and hurting, but fractured and hurting was right there in his own family tree.
Today, we’re looking at the the scandal of Tamar in Jesus’ family tree.
Who was Tamar?
We find her all the way back in Genesis 38. Judah and his Canaanite wife had three sons: Er, Onan and Shelah. Er married Tamar, but was he so wicked, God killed him.
In keeping with cultural levirate mandates, Judah instructed his second son to marry Tamar, to produce children for his older brother, Er. But again, Onan was so wicked that God killed him.
Hmmmm. Two boys down and one to go. At this point, Judah was concerned about his last son, Shelah, and rather than provide for his daughter-in-law, Judah told her to go back to her father’s house and he’d call her when Shelah was old enough to marry. Cultural mandate or not, Judah had no intention of having Shelah marry Tamar.
The unthinkable had happened. Tamar, once a new bride, was now a young widow not once but twice. She had no provision or protection and because she was intended for Shelah according to ancient levirate custom, she wasn’t free to marry anyone else.
Years passed. Tamar waited. Shelah grew up and still, Judah never sent for her.
Ever been stuck in what feels like perpetual waiting?
Maybe today, we think. Maybe this week or tomorrow it will come through for me.
Faith isn’t hard at first. But when days turn into months and stretch into years, faith can wear thin.
It’s at this point we’re most vulnerable to go ahead of God and take matters into our own hands.
That’s exactly what Tamar did.
We’ll never know what God would have done had Tamar waited. We’ll never know how God would have rescued Tamar because Tamar walked ahead of God.
Even when things look hopeless, especially when things look hopeless, wait on God.
We don’t have to manipulate our circumstances or resort to our own ways or grab what we can while we can. God is always, only faithful and He WILL fulfill His promises in His timing, sparing us much pain.
Tamar’s story doesn’t teach that we’re rewarded for taking matters into our own hands. Tamar’s story teaches us God is sovereign over our own stupidity.
Back to Tamar.
Judah’s wife had died and hearing that Judah was headed to town for the sheep shearing festival, Tamar dressed as a prostitute and positioned herself on the road to the festival.
She’d be sidelined no more.
Sure enough – as her father-in-law passed by, he noticed Tamar veiled as a prostitute. After some negotiation, Judah slept with Tamar. She became pregnant and when the news reached Judah, he ordered her burned. Until he learned that he was the father.
And I inhale in shock that this is in the Bible, let alone in the lineage of Jesus.
Tamar, not closeted away or whitewashed over, but brazenly called out by name in Jesus’ family tree.
“Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar…”(Matthew 1:2-3)
Why would Matthew call out Tamar by name? And why would God include such scandal in the lineage of Jesus?
Maybe because scandalous sin needs scandalous grace.
It shocks us to see Tamar – and Judah – in Jesus’ family tree because we think position should be earned. Deserved. That good conduct, not bad, is rewarded.
This isn’t just bad conduct. This is scandalous behavior. A firstborn so bad he’s killed by God. A second-born so evil he’s killed by God. A father-in-law so callous he refuses protection owed his daughter-in-law, frequents prostitutes and a young widow so desperate she plays the harlot.
The only answer for scandalous sin is scandalous grace.
God’s grace is shocking. It’s offensive. It’s completely unmerited and undeserved. It’s outrageous, preposterous, excessive, unlimited.
Grace covers my scandalous sin and yours.
Maybe we’ve forgotten how scandalous our sin really is?
Or maybe we think our scandalous sin keeps us from God?
Tamar reminds us the baby in the manger came to pay for our scandalous sin.
And instead of inhaling in shock that Tamar would be included in Jesus’ family tree, we exhale in relief that Jesus came to deliver sinners like us.
We need only look so far as Jesus’ family tree to see the hope of Christmas – that the babe born in Bethlehem came to cover our immoral disgrace with His immaculate beauty.
God’s grace “means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make God love me less. It means that I, even I who deserve the opposite, am invited to take my place at the table in God’s family.”