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