Updated: Dec 4, 2020
The Grace of God revealed through Tamar
Read Genesis 38
“Judah recognized them and said, ‘She is more righteous than I.”
The grace of God is manifest when our failures are most evident. In Genesis 38 we find a remarkable story of betrayal, seduction, manipulation, and vindication. With the promise that God would make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation still ringing in our ears, we find his descendants acting and living completely opposite of those designated to be called the people of God. While the offspring of Judah would be the leaders of the nation, at the start his line was threatened by his own sin and lack of leadership in his own home. Instead of being a godly leader, Judah’s legacy for his sons would be one of deceit and sin. They would learn from his example, becoming driven by their own sinful passions. His firstborn, Er, would be so bent towards evil that God would take his life, thus leaving his widow childless and alone. Judah’s second-born, Onan would selfishly refuse to perform his culturally mandated obligation to marry the widow and sire an offspring to carry on Er’s name. As a result, he too would be put to death by God. Sensing a pattern, Judah then deceptively refused to allow his third son, Shelah, to marry Tamar. After the months passed on to years, Tamar figured out that Judah was reneging on the promise to have his third born, Shelah, become her husband.
Becoming desperate, she then played the part of a temple prostitute to seduce Judah when he was on a business trip. Since he did not have the cash to pay for his interlude, he gave her a pledge of his staff until he could send his payment for “services rendered.” When the servant arrived the “temple prostitute” was not to be found. Dismissing the whole event, Judah went one his merry way. However, three months later he was informed that Tamar was pregnant with an illegitimate baby. Since the law demanded that an adulterous be put the death, Judah, with an air of self-righteousness, pronounced the verdict, only to be informed that he himself was the father, with the proof being his very staff.
A sordid story that seems unworthy of pages of Scripture. But the story takes an unexpected turn, for it was through this illegitimate child that the Kings of Israel would arise, and the Messiah would come. This gives us a glimpse into the power and grace of God. God can take our worst failures and sins and not only forgive us but redeem the event itself. What we see as our failures, God sees as an opportunity to display his grace by transforming into his eternal purposes. When we surrender our life to Christ, no matter what we did in the past or what sins we committed, God can redesign them into his redemptive plan for us. Rather than those events negating God’s grace, they become the avenue through which his grace is revealed. Do you have events in your past that you regret and wish you could go back and change? Are there sins that haunt your soul and you think are unredeemable? Christ’s grace overcomes our greatest failures and his infinite power transforms them into his purpose. This is what Paul affirms in Romans 5:20-21, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Today rejoice in the surpassing grace of God.
Come, though Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, calls for songs of loudest praise.
-Robert Robinson, Come Though Fount of Every Blessing.