Summary: Narrative preaching of the story of Judah and Tamar
JUDAH AND TAMAR
I’ve been a Christian for 20 years now and I want to say that I have never heard the story of Judah and Tamar preached or taught.
Every story and major character of this first book of the Bible is taught - from the stories surrounding Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to Joseph, but not this one.
This to me is rather surprising, as anyone who has read the book of Genesis will be able to tell that this story is sandwiched in the middle of the very exciting story of Joseph’s life.
Logically, to avoid this passage is to miss out on the fuller lessons the Bible has to teach us.
I believe that the story of Judah and Tamar is one of many stories and teachings in the Bible that is avoided by many people because it disturbs us.
Frankly, if you take a hard look at the passage, it can be considered by some as bordering on pornographic material.
It’s about sex, and more sex, about prostitution, incest, and illegitimate children.
But I would like to stress this morning that this passage is part and parcel of Holy Scripture and is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correction and training in righteousness.
To avoid passages that disturb us is a foolish thing to do.
For educators will tell us, and quite rightly, that we are best in the position to truly learn when we are faced with something that shakes us out of our comfort zones.
Technically, they call it “disequlibrium”
Disequilibrium happens when we receive input into our lives that we are unable to handle or process.
It’s like a mini paradigm shift, where we have to adjust our understanding to assimilate the new input.
Disequlibrium, as the term suggests, throws us off balance and it’s not a nice feeling
BUT it is necessary for growth.
for if we persist long enough in our struggle to understand the disturbing input, then we end up coming to a better understanding and thus acheive a new equilibrium.
- that is what growth is about.
It was John Stott who rightly commented that we often come to the Bible looking for some wonderful (i.e. nice things) but often God wants to show us disturbing things.
God is a realist! He knows what life is about and he doesn’t shy away from so called “disturbing things”.
Having said that, let us get now into the passage.
And if there are feelings of initial disequilbrium, let us persevere and follow through.
And as this a long story ...
Let’s just concentrate on one main character, namely Judah.
Judah is quite an ordinary fellow.
He had eleven brothers and at least one sister that we know of.
He is not the number one son, nor the second or third.
He is the fourth.
He is not his father’s favourite - his eleventh brother was.
What else do we know about him?
He was a devious fellow - unscrupulous and unfeeling
He had little compassion and would do practically anything for a quick profit.
Now wait a minute, some of you may say ... isn’t that a little harsh?
Take a look at chapter 37:26
It was Judah who suggested selling his own brother for a profit.
And if you read the text carefully, you will know that it is not because he felt sorry and didn’t want to kill Joseph.
For those who don’t know the story of Joseph, his brothers (Judah included) were jealous of him because he was their father’s favourite.
I can almost here him say, “Killing him is too good for him. If we sell him, the pampered brat will suffer before he dies. And as an added bonus, we get 20 shekels of silver.”
That’s a pretty cool amount of money - about 230 grammes of silver.
If that fact is not convincing enough, let’s read another portion of chapter 37.v.31-35
What a devious plan he either thought up or agreed upon.
And when his father became so distraught, he kept up the charade.
Do you know his father mourned and suffered for 20 years thinking Joseph was dead? 20 years is a long time! When you read the rest of the story of Joseph, you will know that time did not heal his father Jacob’s broken heart.
And there’s more ...
He was also a coward.
He couldn’t keep up the charade and was racked with guilt, so what did he do?
Did he go and confess?
Did he try to find his brother and buy him back?
No! No! He ran away ....
and that is how we get this story in chapter 38.
So here we find Judah, a coward running away from his problems, abandoning his brothers and fellow conspirators...