Genesis 39:11-20 Before God uses a person, He assesses not his abilities, but his integrity

Genesis 39:11-20  Before God uses a person, He assesses not his abilities, but his integrity

Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the household was there inside. 12 She caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside. 13 When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to make sport of us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I screamed. 15 When he heard that I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled and went outside.” 16 So she left his garment beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she spoke to him with these words, “The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came in to me to make sport of me; 18 and as I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled outside.” 19 Now when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, “This is what your slave did to me,” his anger burned. 20 So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail.

Background

Joseph’s efforts in resisting the woman’s advances brought him humiliation before men, but elevation before God. Joseph chose the narrow path of humiliation for he has determined that it is better to suffer for doing what is right. A true son whom God uses is one by virtue of his unwavering integrity towards God and men. Thus, before God uses a person, He assesses not his abilities, but his integrity.

Observation

She caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me!”

When the woman realised that her tactics were ineffective with Joseph, she began to lose patience. One fateful day, when no one was around in the house, the woman seized the occasion and grabbed Joseph’s garment. “Grab” implies that the woman was in fact using physical force to rape Joseph. It is probable that a tussle occured where Joseph managed to wriggle free and fled leaving her holding his garment. Her masculine tendencies is mind boggling as much as it is unique in scripture. Normally, a man uses force to violate a woman while a woman employs seductive words.

See, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to make sport of us.

Joseph’s escape brought unintended complications which she was determined to put to rest. Joseph’s garment appears as credible evidence against him because it is hard to argue how a woman who being weaker is able to pull the garments off a man. By playing the victim, she elicited sympathy from the men of the household. She cleverly identified herself with the slaves by accusing her husband for bringing Joseph into the household to insult them. When her husband returned, she insinuated that Joseph in attempting to rape her had disrobed. And at the sound of her screams he fled while leaving his garment beside her. Although she put the full blame on Joseph, she implicitly accused her husband for acquiring a sexual menace deliberately to harass her, ”The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us… this is what your slave did to me.” Potiphar’s household was so steep in manipulation and deception, a fair trial for Joseph is almost impossible.

So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail.

The woman’s account proved effective in turning her husband against his trusted aid landing him in prison. However, the punishment was unexpected because convicted rapists of those days were executed even as free citizens. And Joseph, as a slave would certainly not escape the deathly retribution. Joseph’s reprieve from the death penalty was possibly attributed to a degree of doubt that Potiphar cast over his wife’s account; he knows her character too well.

Truth

Before God uses a person, He assesses not his abilities, but his integrity

Joseph, though a slave was not enslaved by deceit and darkness. In contrast, Potiphar and his wife being imperial subjects were slaves of deceit, infidelity and manipulation. A son is evident not by his material possessions, social status, or abilities. But a true son is one by virtue of his unwavering integrity towards God and fellow men.

Joseph was well aware of the dangers should he miscalculate his response towards the woman’s advances. He must not alienate the woman or her husband since slaves have little chance of getting a fair trial. At the back of it, he had to contend with his own desire for sexual gratification. Three options are open to him:

A. Concede to her demands. In so doing, he does not alienate the woman while taking the pressure off him. As exposure brings no benefit to either party, each can be relied upon to keep their affair secret. Anyway, what is a little fling between two consenting adults!

B. Keep resisting the woman’s advances and ignore her mixed signals of threats and endearments. However, with the woman showing no signs of backing off but has instead become increasingly unpredictable, it inevitably presents a time bomb.

C. Tell Potiphar everything what her wife has been doing. This is a mindlessly risky proposition; should he fail, it will be tantamount to sabotaging their marriage. Even if Potiphar believes him, for the sake of his marriage, he might still sacrifice Joseph for his wife.

Option A may seem like a no brainer for most, but Joseph, being a man of integrity will have none of it. Since option C is outright suicide, option B seems to be the right path. By choosing to do what is right despite obvious threats to his life, Joseph has proven to be a true son. Here, he refused to betray his master’s trust, he refused to bring sin into their marriage, and most importantly, he refused to sin against God. Proverbs says,

Many will say they are loyal friends,
but who can find one who is truly reliable?
The godly walk with integrity;
blessed are their children who follow them. Proverbs 20:6-7

What happened is in fact a test meant to reveal who Joseph really is. When God assesses a person, He test not his ability, but his integrity. Integrity is the bedrock on which God’s kingdom and ministry stand. We also learn that whenever there are no viable options out of a fix, choose to do what is right. And all will be fine.

Application

Are you accustomed to looking for practical solutions as opposed to doing what is right? Although both are not mutually exclusive, it is wise to do what is right even if it meant an immediate loss. God sees your integrity and will bless you greatly. The apostle Peter said,

Keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 1 Peter 3:16-17

Joseph did what is right and suffered for it. But he has in return gotten God’s favour which later gave him tremendous advantage in the royal palace. As God blesses Joseph for his life of integrity, God will likewise bless you if you will do the same. Do not flout laws or participate in the evil activities of others lest you be numbered with them. But ask God for wisdom who will give it liberally so that we may prosper without resorting to lawlessness. The apostle James said,

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8

God reveals His wisdom without ambiguity to those who are determined to obey Him despite losses. Therefore, before a man receives divine wisdom, he must first resolve to love God above self.

Dear Lord, I am resolved to walk in your ways even though it may lead to losses. Strengthen my heart to love your truth and to be victorious in all my dealings. Bless the works of my hands so that I may be blessing to others. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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Love Never Fails – Ps Gabriel Chan

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Genesis 39:6-10 The man who fears God, fears nothing

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. 9 There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” 10 As she spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her.

Background

Joseph faces threats from the rich and powerful trying his resolve to fear God and to do what is right. Joseph’s fear of God protects him from the persistent advances of Potiphar’s wife that breathes harm if he does not concede. The devil loses in his bid to enslave Joseph under his dominion of sin and darkness. Today’s devotion teaches us that the man who fears God, fears nothing.

Observation

It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph

When things start looking up, danger is at the horizon. What is supposedly for Joseph a blessing (handsome in form and appearance) becomes an avenue through which temptations come. The woman’s advances are bold and domineering targeting the male’s craving for power and lust. Joseph’s rejection of the woman’s advances comprises three reasons: it is an abuse of trust (he has put all that he owns in my charge); it is a sin against her husband (because you are his wife) ; and it is a great sin against God (How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?). Joseph’s cogent responses show his moral excellence and fear of God at the back of wide spread abuses among slaves in those days. Joseph fears nothing in the face of threats and oppression.

As she spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her.

The woman does not take well to rejection, she tries to wear him down. She moderates her demands from "lie with me" (sexual intercourse) to "be with her" (be alone with her) hoping that he may accede to the first step. However, Joseph maintains clear boundaries, refusing even to be found near her in any circumstance.

Truth

The man who fears God, fears nothing

The man who fears God, fears nothing because he is confident that God will preserve him. On the other hand, the man who does not fear God, constantly fears the worst. He is perpetually worried about financial security, his health and being attacked by others more powerful than him. Proverbs says,

”What the wicked fears will come upon him. But the desire of the righteous will be granted.” Proverbs 10:24

Joseph does not fear the consequences of offending Potiphar’s wife because he fears God. He does not compromise or concede to the rich and powerful because God is His protector and provider.

The fear of God is unlike that which comes at the face of tyranny and oppression. It is an appropriate response to the Creator God who is infinitely loving, wise and powerful. Therefore, the fear of God keeps the righteous from defying His laws. As they walk with Him, they are assured of His protection. Many churchgoers claimed that they had no such assurance not because they do not know enough of God’s promises. But because they do not fear God or respect His commandments. Hebrews says without exception that those who distant themselves from God’s rule will expect judgment:

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment.” Hebrews 10:26-27a

Perhaps, that is one reason why many despite Christ’s sacrifice are still being terrorised by the prospect of punishment. Unless they turn back from their self-seeking ways and fear God, Christ’s sacrifice will not be effective towards their forgiveness. And their conscience constantly bearing witness to an impending judgment… until such a time when their conscience being seared cease to speak.

That said, those who fear God are fearless and feared by all.

King David sang,

The Lord is for me; I will not fear;
What can man do to me?
The Lord is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in man. Psalm 11:6-8

And even their enemies are compelled to make peace with them. The psalmist said,

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7

God made the God-fearing Abraham a promise of perpetual protection,

And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. Genesis 12:3

Sin makes no promises

The only thing that sin promises is absolute destruction. But the one who fears God possesses the promises of eternal riches and glory. When the devil wants to bring a man down, he causes him to make a practice of sinning. In so doing, he becomes enslaved to the devil being subject to his dominion. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” John 8:34.

Therefore, man must not fear poverty or sickness, but fear enslavement to sin and losing God’s protection as a result. For without the favour and protection of God there is no restoration or reprieve. If God is not with us, we are under the mercy of the devil whose sole purpose is to see to our total destruction.

The devil wants to bring Joseph down but not without first causing him to sin so that he may lose God’s favour and protection. Sending Joseph to jail barely cause a den to his career but sin destroys. Hence, the devil strategises and targets the inherent weaknesses of man: lust and power. Proverbs goes to great length to warn us to keep away from seductive people,

My son, give attention to my wisdom,
Incline your ear to my understanding;
2 That you may observe discretion
And your lips may reserve knowledge.
3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey
And smoother than oil is her speech;
4 But in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
Sharp as a two-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death,
Her steps take hold of Sheol.
6 She does not ponder the path of life;
Her ways are unstable, she does not know it.
7 Now then, my sons, listen to me
And do not depart from the words of my mouth.
8 Keep your way far from her
And do not go near the door of her house,
9 Or you will give your vigor to others
And your years to the cruel one;
10 And strangers will be filled with your strength
And your hard-earned goods will go to the house of an alien;
11 And you groan at your final end,
When your flesh and your body are consumed;
12 And you say, “How I have hated instruction!
And my heart spurned reproof! Proverbs 5:1-12

There are churchgoers who comfort themselves that there will always be opportunity to turn back from their sinful lifestyle. But the truth is many have become so deeply embroiled in sin, they find it almost impossible to break free. Such are like Lot’s wife, who turns back towards the burning city preferring to die than to part with that which she loves (see Genesis 19:26). Therefore, sinners must turn back when it is still possible. By taking small steps daily while building upon them, they will eventually overcome.

Application

Are you often fearful of many things. It may be a sign that you have not have committed your life fully to fear God and to serve Him. There is a part of you that want God’s protection and salvation, but you are not willing yield to His plans and direction for your life. You are afraid that His plans may not bode well in your favour or with your desires. However, God promises,

He will bless those who fear the Lord,
The small together with the great.
May the Lord give you increase,
You and your children. Psalm 115:13-14

As you allow God to rule over you, you will experience divine peace and assurance of salvation.

Are you trapped in the pleasures of sin and unable to divorce yourself from it? God promised the blood of Jesus has secured for you a place in His kingdom if you do not give up. Therefore, we must approach God not by the merit of our moral condition but by the blood of Jesus (see Hebrews 10:19). In so doing, the blood and the Spirit cleanse our conscience and bodies from evil inclinations (see Hebrews 10:22). We approach God by reading and meditating on the Word diligently. Having done so, be vigilant to rebuke the evil spirits and send them to hell the moment they come knocking at your door.

Dear Lord, I commit myself unreservedly to serve you and obey your directives. I believe that you will take care of my needs and my future. I renew my allegiance towards you and will have no dealings with the things of darkness. I denounce my allegiance with the devil and his sinful passions. I cast you (the spirit of lust, greed, hatred and pride) into hell and I command you to stay there. I fear God and I will no longer fear men or any evil circumstances. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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Finding Our Purpose & Calling In Life – Bro Melvyn Lim

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The Golden Rule – Ps Tony Tan

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Genesis 39:1-6 Success necessitates the dual elements of human faith and divine providence

Genesis 39:1-6

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. 3 Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge. 5 It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field. 6 So he left everything he owned in Joseph’s charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate.

Background

Joseph's sale to Egypt is no accident, for God will not allow the righteous to suffer without purpose. Joseph's tenure in Egypt will in time provide a way of refuge for Israel. God's sovereign hand that planted Joseph in Potiphar's house has resulted in much pain and injustice for the young boy. But it nevertheless honed within him faith and resilience while he makes a beeline towards the royal palace. Today's devotion teaches us that success necessitates the dual elements of human faith and divine providence.

Observation

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt

The idealistic, spoiled but charismatic and noble boy suddenly finds himself as a slave in a foreign land. His plight must be seen in the light of his dramatic humiliation from heir to slave, from riches to abject poverty. Providentially, Joseph is sold to Potiphar, the captain of the Egyptian royal guard.

The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man.

Joseph’s resilience is impressive, having survived the initial shocked, he went on to become the head servant of Potiphar. The narrator’s description of Joseph as a “successful man” here when he is still a slave is unusual. It throws light on how the Old Testament tradition defines success. Nevertheless, the narrator makes explicit the reason behind Joseph’s success: the Lord was with Joseph. The question remains: Is Joseph’s success fully attributed to the Lord’s favour? Or does Joseph’s virtues and effort play a part? Very distinctly, Joseph found favour with Potiphar having gained Potiphar’s complete trust. Thus, Joseph was made overseer over the affairs of his house, his estate and business.

The Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph

Unmistakably, Potiphar’s unreserved trust in Joseph paid off leading to great blessing for himself. It is evident that the blessing on whom the Lord finds favour with can overflow to foreign people of different race and religion. It began with Potiphar himself witnessing how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. And he followed up with entrusting Joseph with his entire estate. The text went as far as to describe Potiphar as being unconcerned about anything except the food which he ate, an idiom for “his private affairs”.

Truth

Success necessitates the dual elements of human faith and divine providence

Joseph is considered by the narrator as successful because firstly he gained his master's unreserved trust through which he was promoted. Secondly, his master was greatly blessed on account of Joseph. While the former is a virtue that stems from human effort, the latter is an act of God. Thus, we can say that success requires a human and a divine component. While man does his part in exercising faith, it requires divine providence for success. Human faith and divine providence are analogous to oxygen and blood, male and female, heat and light,… the dualities that are essential to life.

However, some work as if success rests entirely on their efforts alone. Hence, they leave nothing to chance, and trusting no one, they carry the world on their shoulders. Yet some do not work at all and choosing to stand by their misinformed faith, they punt for success. But should the worst happen, they expediently attribute their failures to divine causes.

How then should believers work? Believers should work out of good faith, while entrusting the outcome to God. And to work out of honesty and sincerity of intention is good faith. In so doing, a man builds trust with God and with others. However, one who builds trust with people apart from God is manipulative and God is not with him. One who endeavours to build trust with God apart from people is naive because God works through human structures and authority. Therefore, man must first build trust with God by loving Him supremely. And from that supreme love flows goodwill and sincerity of service towards others. God is with Joseph because he loves God supremely and put his master's interest before his own. Thus, no matter where Joseph goes, the favour of God follows.

The world because of its evil is sliding towards destruction, but God is searching the earth for men and women whom He can trust to turn the world around. And on their account, He would not destroy the world but bless it. The prophet Ezekiel said,

I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. Ezekiel 22:30

God has chosen Joseph because he can be trusted to uphold truth and integrity under all circumstances. As we will see in the later chapters, Potiphar's blessing on account of Joseph is indeed a precursor to Israel's blessing.

Application

1.  Are you a positive change agent in your family, community and workplace? Are you one whom God can depend on to uphold justice and righteousness? An agent of God brings righteousness and trust into the community, not lies and strife. God's blessing always flow in the direction of righteousness and truth. Therefore, believers are first upholders of righteousness, then workers to generate profit for the company. The psalmist said,

For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord,
You surround him with favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:12

2.  Are you a blessing to your organisation or are you just riding on the bandwagon? Do people trust you to deliver what you have promised? Does your boss feel at ease in what is entrusted to you? Make up your mind to love God supremely. Be confident in discharging your responsibilities for God is with you. Be uncompromising in issues pertaining to principles but be flexible in issues of human preferences. Remember that God is your ultimate master who will evaluate our work and who will reward us accordingly. Therefore, work heartily as to the Lord who will judge without partiality. The apostle Paul said,

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. Colossians 3:23-25

Dear Lord, cause me to be a positive influence in my family and workplace. I resolve to uphold what is true and to put the interest of the organisation before my own. Help me to build trust among my colleagues. Bless my family and organisation on account of me. In Jesus's name I pray. Amen.

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Genesis 38:12-30  God blesses those who take to the extremes to obtain the promises

Genesis 38:12-30

12 Now after a considerable time Shua’s daughter, the wife of Judah, died; and when the time of mourning was ended, Judah went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13 It was told to Tamar, “Behold, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 14 So she removed her widow’s garments and covered herself with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in the gateway of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah had grown up, and she had not been given to him as a wife. 15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, for she had covered her face. 16 So he turned aside to her by the road, and said, “Here now, let me come in to you”; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. And she said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17 He said, therefore, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” She said, moreover, “Will you give a pledge until you send it?” 18 He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” And she said, “Your seal and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19 Then she arose and departed, and removed her veil and put on her widow’s garments.

20 When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite, to receive the pledge from the woman’s hand, he did not find her. 21 He asked the men of her place, saying, “Where is the temple prostitute who was by the road at Enaim?” But they said, “There has been no temple prostitute here.” 22 So he returned to Judah, and said, “I did not find her; and furthermore, the men of the place said, ‘There has been no temple prostitute here.’” 23 Then Judah said, “Let her keep them, otherwise we will become a laughingstock. After all, I sent this young goat, but you did not find her.”
24 Now it was about three months later that Judah was informed, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the harlot, and behold, she is also with child by harlotry.” Then Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!” 25 It was while she was being brought out that she sent to her father-in-law, saying, “I am with child by the man to whom these things belong.” And she said, “Please examine and see, whose signet ring and cords and staff are these?” 26 Judah recognized them, and said, “She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not have relations with her again.

27 It came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb. 28 Moreover, it took place while she was giving birth, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29 But it came about as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out. Then she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” So he was named Perez. 30 Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah.

Background

After Onan's passing, Tamar was relegated to her father's house and forgotten. Judah has not given Shelah to Tamar as husband for fear that he may die like his brothers. Tamar, in refusing to accept her predicament obtain the seed of Judah by trickery. And she was honoured as an ancestor of Jesus Christ despite her highly irregular ways. Today’s devotion teaches us that God blesses those who take to the extremes to obtain the promises.

Observation

Now after a considerable time Shua’s daughter, the wife of Judah, died.

Tamar, having caught wind of Judah's plans to visit his sheepshearers at Timnah, capitalised on the occasion to tend to unfulfilled promises. Her scheme was to bear his descendants while posing as a prostitute. Tamar's scheme was considered legitimate given Judah's wife had passed on and that getting a husband for her remained Judah's sole responsibility.

Since the text said nothing of Judah being a promiscuous man, it takes more than physical appeal to catch Judah's intention, let alone consorting with a prostitute. Hence, Tamar would need divine providence in order to succeed.

As adultery incurs the death penalty, she would require collaterals of some sort to prove that Judah was indeed the man who impregnated her. Since Judah was fully responsible to find her a husband, it would be legitimate for Judah to father her children. Nevertheless, getting Judah to part with his personal articles as pledge takes more than a prostitute's persuasion. Tamar came away not only with Judah's seal, cord and staff but also his seed.

Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the harlot, and behold, she is also with child by harlotry.

When Tamar's pregnancy came to light, she was hauled into the open. Tamar was betrothed to Shelah and would incur capital punishment if she had sexual relations with anyone. The epiphany came when Tamar produced Judah's seal, cord and staff. And that undeniably proved that she was pregnant with Judah's seed. Judah was quick to condemn her for harlotry when he himself consorted with one. And in sentencing her to death, he had in the same breath condemned himself to the same end.

Judah’s confession is significant in that he admitted: inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah, he was forcing her to take this path. Tamar is righteous in that she was motivated by the calling to perpetuate the lineage of Abraham. Through her extraordinary resolve to fulfil her calling by bearing children, she secured for Judah the honour of fathering Jesus (though not literally as Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit through the Virgin Mary).

It came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb.

The detailed birth record sheds light on the manner which God chooses and appoints the blessed. This account mirrors the birth of Jacob and Esau (see Genesis 25:24-26). In both cases, the twins compete to be first-born and God chose contrary to the tradition of man. Zerah stuck his hand out and was marked as the firstborn. But Perez surprisingly emerged first, and hence, he was named “Perez” or “break through”. Perez was a man held in high regard: In Ruth’s marriage to Boaz (who is a descendant of Perez), the elders declared a blessing,

“Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the Lord will give you by this young woman.” Ruth 4:12

Truth

Righteousness and courage begins with acknowledging one's wrongdoings.

Judah's confession goes beyond the admission of which that resulted from his momentary weakness. When the scandal came to light, he recounted the promise that was left unfulfilled. By saying that Tamar was more righteous than he is, he legitimised her children as belonging to him. And through his courageous confession, Judah overcame his sinful tendency towards deception and oppression. For he thought that Tamar, being a widow could be easily suppressed and silenced.

Many try to appear righteous and courageous by doing great exploits. They stood against formidable opponents to wield great influences over the land. But they cannot admit to their shortcomings and go to great extents to cover them up. Such do not build their righteousness and courage upon truth but on falsehood. As a result, they fall from their lofty heights when their closets are discovered and opened. They immediately lose all composure and shrink back in shame once their secrets are exposed.

Righteousness and courage begin with facing who we really are and to receive God's forgiveness. God does not expect us to be perfect, but to come to Him as we are. It is here where we are adopted as His sons, and considered righteous. Through the blood of Jesus, God beckons us so that He may cleanse our conscience of sinful inclinations and bondages (see Hebrews 10:22).

God blesses those who take to the extremes to obtain the promises.

Tamar’s first husband died on her and the second, after defaulting on his marital duty died as well. She was subsequently relegated to her father's house, accursed and forgotten. But Tamar, upon realising that Shelah would not be given to her as husband arose single-handedly to perpetuate the holy lineage. Knowing that Judah's wife was dead and that he was solely responsible to provide her a husband for descendants, Tamar acted decisively from faith. Her selfless concern for the perpetuation of Abraham's lineage justified her unconventional ways.

Given Tamar’s circumstances, no one will recognise her as the blessed of God. For how can God permit the blessed to live through such tragedies? And how can God allow a woman with a potentially scandalous marriage union participate in the holy lineage? The fact is: God looks at a person’s heart while giving zero attention to his racial background or moral condition. Tamar, no doubt employed trickery in her approach to bearing Abraham’s descendants. But she was justified by her faith and was honoured as an ancester of Jesus Christ. The four women in the genealogy of Jesus Christ: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba, all came from nations that are considered evil and each have highly irregular marriages and moral conditions.

Some churchgoers are misled into thinking that the road to blessedness is effortless for believers’ prosperity is already secured by Christ. Some may even consider tragic ones like Tamar as faithless and accursed. On the contrary, God blesses those who despite their dire circumstances demonstrate faith to obtain the promises. Hebrews 11 lists in the hall of faith those who take to the extremes to overcome their respective predicaments.

Application

Are you accustomed to hiding your mistakes by a cloak of falsity? For you fear that you may be despised should your sins come to light. On the contrary, if you would humble yourself and be forthright concerning your weaknesses, you may gain true respect from others. God does not require us to perfect, but he does require us to be true to ourselves. In so doing, we will receive grace to overcome our sinful inclinations and weaknesses.

Are you mired in a tragic situation supposing that God has abandoned you? As God shows no partiality, what God has done for Tamar, He will likewise do for you. How your future will play out is entirely dependent on your response to God’s promises. For He said,

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Arise and take authority over your state of despair and cast them out. Be unconventional and put your grit to work for the hand of God is with you.

Dear Lord, I thank you for accepting me as I am. I am no longer afflicted by people’s perception of me. I will also not put on a false front of righteousness and courage. I believe that your plan is to bless me. And my future is fully dependent on my response to your promises. Imbue me with the strength and grit of your Spirit. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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