It’s been awhile since I’ve been out shopping, but I had to run into Costco on Sunday to pick up a few things. Whoa! Somehow, I failed to realize that the Christmas season was upon us, but there it was on every aisle. Obviously, I need to pick up the pace, and get with the program. It is only beginning to feel like summer is over...what happened to fall?
With Christmas on the brain, I turned to write this week’s reflection on another woman to whom we might relate off the pages of Scripture. Obviously, I thought of Mary, but remembered that in Jesus’ genealogy as documented by Matthew, there were a total of five women honored (Matthew 1:3, 5, 6, 16). So, over the next few weeks leading into the first part of December, we’ll focus on these gals (I’ve already written about Rahab, the prostitute, so we’ll substitute her with Mary’s “Auntie” Elizabeth). Today, our attention turns to the other Tamar. You’ll read her unusual story in Genesis 38. This is yet another “soap opera” that will leave you wondering, but in order to understand it, we have to reflect back on the covenant of the Lord to Abraham.
· God promised a Messiah-to-come, right after Adam and Eve rebelled in the garden - Genesis 3.
· God promised Abraham descendants that couldn’t be counted – like the stars in the sky, or the sand grains on the shore (Genesis 12).
· It was out of these descendants that the line of the Messiah would come.
· Out of Abraham’s descendants God continued to pick one line from which the Messiah would come – that was passed to Isaac (the only true heir of Abraham), then to Jacob (Israel), and out of Jacob, this line would continue through Judah...
Judah, however, was less than stellar in his reputation. While he was a little “better” than his brothers, who plotted to kill their younger brother, Joseph (Judah convinced them to “sell” him to some traveling traders instead), his character was shady, nonetheless.
Family conflict has a way of dividing the core unit. So, Judah left the remaining brothers and moved in with a friend, until he took a Canaanite wife. This, in itself, was a no-no according to God’s commands. Judah’s wife bore him 3 sons. When the oldest was of marrying age, Judah found him a wife (Tamar). However, Judah’s son was wicked in the eyes of the Lord, and the Lord took his life. Tamar was left widowed and childless. So, according to Levitical Law (Deuteronomy 25:5) and the customs of that time, if the deceased had brothers of a marrying age, they were to take the sister-in-law in as their wife and produce offspring in the name of the brother who had died, so that the inheritance would be passed on. The second brother took Tamar as his wife, but refused to give her a child. He, too, was wicked in the eyes of the Lord and God took his life. Now, Judah had lost two sons. He had one remaining son, who was not yet of marrying age. He sent Tamar back to her father’s house (an extremely disgraceful thing to do), and promised when the boy was old enough he’d honor the law.
After losing two sons, Judah looked at the one common denominator (Tamar), and backed out on his promise. So, Tamar took matters into her own hands. She deceived Judah, by pretending to be a prostitute. He fell for her lure, and as a result Tamar became pregnant. This was a gutsy, risky, and deceitful thing to do, but Tamar realized that she had no other option for receiving what was rightfully hers, and to produce an heir for the family line. When the truth became known, all Judah could respond was, “She is in the right (or, more righteous than I), since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah (Gen 38:26).
Here’s what God is not teaching in this passage. 1) He is not applauding deceit. 2) He is not calling wrong, right. 3) He is not saying that it is right to use ungodly means to justify an end. Please do not assume that God nodded his head in approval of Tamar’s actions.
However, the Lord is teaching that sometimes it is important to take a stand for what is right. Sometimes we must take a risk on behalf of immorality. Sometimes, it is critical that God’s covenant promises, and moral law, be taken into consideration on behalf of the future good of a nation. I believe God did nod his head in approval of the intent of Tamar’s heart. As a result, she became only one of five women honored in the genealogy of our Savior.
Question: Is God calling you to take a stand for something that is not right, and perhaps take a risk that is outside of your comfort zone? This is something to be considered during the week of elections - don't forget to vote!