Summary: This story of Judah and Tamar reminds us that God’s grace comes in spite of our sin - even through our sin. Grace overcomes the mess that we make of our lives and provides us with something that we could never provide for ourselves.
There are many passages in the Bible that are difficult to preach.
Genesis 38 is right up there at the top of the list.
It’s not BORING
It’s not DEEP THEOLOGY
It’s not IRRELEVANT
Simply put, it’s TOO RACY!
But the story must be told, because it’s an amazing story about GRACE.
The story concerns JUDAH and TAMAR.
To understand the story, we must chart out the relationships in a family tree structure.
This sermon will review eighteen events that are described in Genesis 38, and the important lessons that we can learn from them. So you might say it’s a nineteen point sermon! But don’t worry, because the events of chapter 38 are simple to understand, and the salacious account will keep your attention!
(Thank you Phillip Yancey for the great title of your book, "What’s So Amazing About Grace." This sermon makes use of Yancy’s title)
1. The FIRST part of the story begins with JACOB, our patriarch. His fourth son was JUDAH, whose mother is Leah. Judah is the main character in Genesis 38.
2. From the very beginning, Judah is a COMPROMISER, getting himself into trouble by having a very close friendship with Hirah, the Adulamite. Genesis 38:1 "At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah." Hirah was a Canaanite, and Judah breaks the family tradition of marrying from within his clan and staying away from the Canaanites. The results are devastating, as Judah soon adopts the practices of the Canaanites, and engages in prostitution.
3. Judah marries a Canaanite woman, the daughter of Shuah. Genesis 38:2 "There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and lay with her;" Her name is not given in the text, other than “Bath-Shuah” (the daughter of Shuah).
4. Judah and Bath-Shuah have a son, whom they name Er (Gen. 38:3).
5. They have another son, whom them name Onan (Gen 38:4).
6. Their third son is named Shelah (Genesis 38:5).
7. Furthering his connection to the Canaanites, Judah gets a wife for his firstborn son, Er. Her name is Tamar, and she will become an important part of this story. Genesis 38:6 "Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar."
8. Er is wicked and the Lord takes his life (Gen 38:7). The fact that the Lord takes his life might sound hard for us to understand, but this is a time in God’s plan where He is working directly through the descendants of Abraham to establish a new nation of people through whom his blessings will flow to the world. God’s methods were very direct and unmistakable at this point in the history described in the Bible.
9. Judah is now left with the childless daughter-in-law of his oldest son. Judah is without an heir, and he is responsible for the care of Tamar. According to the customs of the day, Judah requires Onan, his second oldest son, to take responsibility to provide finances for Tamar and to give her a child. This custom, called Levarite marriage is “from the Latin levir, “husband’s brother”. Through this law of marriage, the second son, Onan, was to marry Tamar, the widow of his brother, and raise up offspring for his brother”. (Allen P. Ross, "Genesis", The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985). 88.)