Summary: The inclusion of Tamar in the genealogy of Jesus demonstrates that, even when we find ourselves in a sinful situation because of our desperation, God is still willing to include us into His family line.
Let me start by reading Matthew 1:1-3
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Isn’t that nice!! In a day and age when only the men get a mention in genealogies Matthew acknowledges this woman. For her to be mentioned she must have been someone very special. Well let’s find out by turning to Genesis 38:1-30 (Read)
That is not the kind of story you would ordinarily expect to be associated with people who end up in such a prestigious family as the Saviour of the world … is it. But here it is in all its raw honesty.
We start with a man called Judah.
Just a quick bit of history for you. About 2000 years before Jesus God revealed Himself to a man called Abraham – God did this because He wanted to have a special relationship with Abraham and Abraham’s descendants.
Abraham and his descendants are called Israelites.
The special relationship between God and the Israelites is called a covenant.
The family expands.
Abraham has a son called Isaac.
Isaac has a son called Jacob – whose name is later changed to Israel.
Jacob – or Israel – has 12 sons.
The names of the 12 sons are the same as the names of the 12 tribes of Israel.
That is how the nation of Israel started. And the fourth son in the line ... his name is Judah.
Judah is a rebel. How do we know?
If we go back just one chapter we read the story of Joseph. Joseph was the favourite son of Israel so Israel make a special richly coat for Joseph. As a result all the brothers were jealous and when they get a chance they sell Joseph to some slave traders. Guess whose idea it was to sell Joseph to the slave traders?
Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?
Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
At a time when families stuck together Judah is more than willing to sell-out his own brother and cause immense pain to his father.
But that is not all. Judah is also selling out on his religion.
At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her.
It was against the religion of the Israelites to marry Canaanites. Canaanites had a pagan religion which distracted the Israelites. Judah’s spiritual life at this time is not in tune with the God of Israel.
But that is not all. Judah is also selling out on his moral convictions.
Why did Tamar dress as a prostitute? The plan make no sense … unless Judah was the sort of person who habitually used such services.
The fact that it was so easy for Tamar to predict the actions of her father-in-law even years later demonstrates what kind of person Judah was.
And when we look again at verse 16 and read that it is Judah who goes to Tamar and says Come now let me sleep with you.