Judah and Tamar

Daily Reading – Genesis 38

There are many avenues for widows to make it on their own today, but that was not the case in ancient mesopotamia. Widows found themselves in a very difficult predicament, especially those without family.

However a merciful custom was in place to provide for widows at this time in history. If an older brother died, the next unmarried brother would take his brother’s widow as his wife and sustain the family.

Tamar finds herself in limbo in the story today. She was married to Judah’s firstborn son, but he dies. Onan is then called upon to take responsibility for his brother’s household, but he selfishly pursues sexual gratification without accepting the responsibility. His selfish sexual act displeases the Lord and God strikes him down.

Then Judah promises Tamar his younger son, but he does not follow through on his promise. Tamar gets crafty and Judah mistakes her for a prostitute. Tamar gets a threefold witness against Judah that the child conceived belongs to him.

When Tamar begins to show, Judah acts the hypocrite and condemns her for sexual impropriety. After seeing his belongings, he is humbled and realizes she is more righteous than him.

There is a lot of sin in this passage that caused a lot of pain and brokeness, but the plan of God proceeds unchecked. Like the other heroes of the Old Testament, Judah’s sinful nature is exposed in the record of history and he is humbled as God refines him.

Judah is guilty of a long list of sins, but he will become the man the Jewish nation is named after.

And God does not choose us because of our worth or lack of sin.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. (1 Cor 1:26)

It does not depend, therefore, on man’s desire or effort, but on God who shows mercy. (Romans 9:16)

God saves horrible people like Judah, humbles them through discipline, and redeems their story.

Look at how Judah’s life ends:

  Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
    your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
    your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
  Judah is a lion’s cub;
    from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
 He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
    and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
    and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Genesis 49:8-10)

Tamar’s story is also one of redemption.

A look at the genealogy of Jesus shows that any person can become part of the story. Like Rahab, Tamar was without hope and excluded from the covenants of promise until she united herself with Judah and became part of the family of Christ.

And like Tamar, God can exalt us, who are as sinful as Judah and as hopeless as any Canaanite widow, to the status of members of the family of Christ.

The Emmaus Trail is a devotional study that explores the theme of God reconciling himself to the world through the redemption of his Son which is found in all of Scripture. 

Luke 24

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 

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