Summary: Instead of seeing them for who they were, Judah blames Tamar for their deaths. Because he blamed her, he outwardly played the respectable father-in-law part for society but he inwardly and secretly deceived his daughter-in-law. Judah doesn’t want to admit what a mess his family is.
We begin a short series designed to make room in your heart to worship Jesus, entitled The Mothers of Jesus. This isn’t going to feel like a Christmas series, but I promise you it is. I want to tell you a story a messy, gritty story about injustice, sex, and cover-up. It’s the story of a baby’s birth but it’s not immediately the story of the child born in Bethlehem. It’s also a story of grace in the midst of a mess and finding your way when all seems hopeless. And in the end, it’s a ripping good yarn as our friends from Britain like to say. There are two main characters in our story: Judah and Tamar.
In the course of time the wife of Judah, Shua's daughter, died. When Judah was comforted, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13 And when Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14 she took off her widow's garments and covered herself with a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she had not been given to him in marriage. 15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17 He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” And she said, “If you give me a pledge, until you send it—” 18 He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet 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 went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.
20 When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite to take back the pledge from the woman's hand, he did not find her. 21 And he asked the men of the place, “Where is the cult prostitute who was at Enaim at the roadside?” And they said, “No cult prostitute has been here.” 22 So he returned to Judah and said, “I have not found her. Also, the men of the place said, ‘No cult prostitute has been here.’” 23 And Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, or we shall be laughed at. You see, I sent this young goat, and you did not find her.”
24 About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” 25 As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” 26 Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.” (Genesis 38:12-26)
And you thought your family had issues.
Christianity is a religion the appeals to those who are down and out. While at times, Christianity has been the religion of the upper classes, Christianity has been embraced by people who are hurting and disenfranchised. In light of the news of our recent days, where rioters and looting have plagued the city streets of the predominantly black community of Ferguson, Missouri following the controversial officer shooting of Michael Brown. A great deal of anger and frustration has grown in both whites and blacks over the incident. African-Americans feel the case is simply one more incident in a series of cases where justice plays out differently based on the color of your skin. Our story is going to set up the Christmas story in a unique way for us today. It will serve us as a call for justice for those who have none and an appeal for grace.
You’ve got to be patient with this story to see how God brings it back full circle.
1. A Frightened Teenager
She’s the hero in our story and she takes a great risk. She’s probably a teenager in the story and is twice a widow. Few people serve as more vulnerable than a defenseless teenage woman in biblical times. They had little to no rights at the time and men often walked right over them.