In my last Article titled, “Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice” the story of Abraham and Isaac, the lesson taught was of how Abraham showed faith by obedience in offering his only son Isaac unto God as a sacrifice. Abraham trusted that God would provide His sacrifice in place of Isaac. Because of Abraham’s great faith God provided a ram in the thicket to replace Isaac on the Altar.
Today’s account is of Isaac’s grandson Judah. Isaac and his wife Rebekah bore Jacob, and Jacob and his wife Rachel, bore Judah. Judah had three sons Er, Onan, and Shelah. A woman name Tamar married Judah’s son Er, but then Er died, leaving Tamar a widow. In those days it was required that the next of kin care for a brother’s widow. Therefore, Tamar was given to the next brother, Onan, but he died also. The last living brother was Shelah, but he was still a boy and could not marry Tamar. So, Judah asked Tamar to return to her father’s house and wait until Shelah was grown up. However, once Shelah was old enough to marry, Judah did not honor his promise to Tamar.
In the meantime, Judah’s wife died, and he was comforted, he went down to his sheepshearers in Timnath. Timnath is the place were Samson met Delilah. Timnath seems to be a very popular place for a certain type of women. This had to be true because Tamar went there disguised as a prostitute, and having covered her face, she tricked Judah and got him to sleep with her (v. 16). He promised her a kid from his flock, he gave her his signet ring, a bracelet and his staff as a pledge of payment for services rendered. (I can hear the voice of Stevie Wonder singing, “Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours!”)
Now after the deed was done, Tamar went from playing the harlot back to the grieving widow. In the meantime, Judah sought the prostitute to pay her and regain the items that he had pledge to her. “But she was not there.”
And it came to pass about three months after the affair, when the pregnancy of Tamar began to show. Tamar being with child, obviously had been observed by family members and neighbors who knew that she did not cohabit with Shelah, who according to customs should have been her husband. They told Judah that Tamar was with child, that she played the harlot.
And Judah said, “Bring her forth and let her be burned.”
The sense of the matter seems to be that Judah as Patriarch, being a man of credit and esteem had influence. He motioned that Tamar be brought out of her father’s house and taken before the civil magistrates and sentenced to prison until she delivered the child. This is according to the laws, that after giving birth she would be burned to death (Deut. 22:20-24; Lev. 20:14; 21:9). But, in defense of herself, Tamar revealed that her father-in-law was the father, and Tamar had the DNA test to prove it! The signet ring, the bracelet, and his staff was the proof of his promise to fulfill his agreement for payment until she received the kid. He had broken his previous promise to her, but this time the she could not be denied. She received the promise of a child in the families blood line.
Tamar bore twin sons named Perez and Zerah. We would expect the twin sons of Judah’s incestuous union with his daughter-in-law to be an outcast, hidden away, or perhaps not even mentioned. Why are there unpleasant stories included in Scripture, and why are the people involved, people who hurt others, even their own family members, granted the privilege of being included in the Messianic line? I believe that may be simply to show us that God’s purpose and His will shall be done, despite man’s unrighteousness.
However, surprisingly, the Messianic line continues through Tamar’s son Perez. It seems a wonder that of all Jacob’s sons, and our Lord should spring from the tribe of Judah, (Heb. 7:14). But God will show that his choice is of grace and not of merit, and that Christ came into the world to save sinners. Also, that the worthiness of Christ is of himself, and not from his ancestors. (Amen!)
As I read the details of this Judah and Tamar, in a sense, I was reminded of the Virgin Mary, who was accused of having relations with a man though she was espoused to Joseph. Being found with child she shamefully had to explain to her fiance Joseph, her family, and their friends of how the Angel Gabriel brought good tidings of God favor with her. Gabriel announced that she would have a Son. After hearing Mary’s news Joseph was ready to stone her along with the towns people. They wanted to stone her to death. But the Angel of the Lord visited Joseph one night, and explained that this “holy thing” was God’s plan. Joseph lined up with the will of God, he married Mary, and he accepted Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
It was God’s plan since the beginning of time!
My purpose of sharing this story with you is to bring to your attention that God uses the least likely of persons to fulfill His will. He always has a purpose for every plan. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. No one knows the mind of God except the Spirit of God (Isa. 55:8; 1 Cor. 2:11). Man’s plan cannot change the will of God. He has the final word in every situation and His plan stands forever.
If you feel as though you have made mistake, after mistake, after mistake, please know that our God is a forgiving God. He is a God of many chances. You can never make Him fall out of love with you. He will never gives up on us. In spite of your limitations, God is limitless. He will take the little that you give Him and use it for your good and His glory. God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34); what He does for one He certainly does for all of His children. Remember that you too were born for a reason and you have a purpose.
In your leisure time read the entire account of Gen. 38, and discover for yourself the miraculous ways that God uses ordinary people to bring about His eternal purpose for salvation through Jesus Christ. I leave you with this Scripture to remind you to trust in God always, even when you don’t understand His plan. He makes all things for your good and His glory.
“For I know that plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” (Jere. 29:11).