Know what? I’m not picking a “favorite” verse out of Genesis 38. I want to talk about the whole story. It’s a doozie. There’s not a trashy soap on the planet that can match the family drama that unfolds here. But it’s not the trash that fascinates me… it’s the treasure.
By the Law, Judah’s sons did wrong by Tamar, and they died for that sin. Here’s Judah thinking he can put her off for a few years and have her “wait” for his youngest son to grow up. Secretly, he’s thinking she’ll forget or move on or… something. He lets time pass and never contacts her to fulfill the duties he is supposed to fulfill. There’s one strike.
Then he decides to hire a prostitute. A prostitute he doesn’t realize is his daughter-in-law Tamar. Strike two.
And THEN, when he hears she’s pregnant, he immediately calls for her death. Uhm, dude? You slept with a prostitute. How are you any better? It’s only when she produces his seal and cord that he realizes he’s the father… and he’s the bad guy here for not doing what he was supposed to do in the first place.
This is one messed up situation. Sons refusing to obey the Law and their father, who disgrace Tamar and die. A father who connives to keep his other son from her, then has sex with her because he thinks she’s a prostitute. A woman pregnant by her own father-in-law. It ain’t pretty. If this was a movie at our local theater, we’d probably boycott it.
So why does God include it in the Bible?
I think it’s because of what happens later. Much, much later. This isn’t the first time this family has royally messed things up. It won’t be the last. There’s a long line of sin here. But generations later, from Judah’s line, a child is born. Wonderful. Counselor. Mighty God. Prince of Peace.
Lion of Judah.
From Judah’s line comes Jesus Christ. A direct descendant of Judah through Joseph. So why did God include this story? To show what an awesome God He is. He can take the most disgustingly twisted situation and bring beauty and redemption. From a line of sin, the destroyer of sin. From a heritage of imperfection, the pinnacle of perfection. That’s what God does. He does the thing that turns the world upside down and makes it completely different than we thought it should be.
He uses totally whacked out, messed up people like me to do His work. He makes us new. Because let me tell you, no matter what sins you’ve done, I’ll bet they can’t come close to some of the things Judah’s family managed to do. And God totally turned that all on its ear.
You’ve got to love that.