Judah was confronted with the truth. This was a man who had quickly passed judgment. This was a man who had used a double standard. "It's OK for me to have sex outside of marriage, but not for you!" He was taken up short by the revelation of his own sin.
Judah acknowledged that she was correct, and that she "was more righteous" than he, since he would not give her his son, Shelah. He confirmed that she was acting according to the law.
Tamar insisted on her rights, and showed Judah that he was in the wrong; the Bible tells us that she was blessed with not one child, but two. These twins were fighting for position even before they were born, as another set of twins earlier: Jacob and Esau. The midwife saw one of Tamar's boys thrust out his hand while she labored to deliver them, and she tied a red cord on the little wrist. The first tiny body that appeared had no thread on his wrist -- they named him Perez, which means "breaking out." The other little one was born, and they named him Zerah, meaning "scarlet," since it was he that had the red cord on his wrist.
Perez was recognized as the first born, and it was through his line that King David, and eventually our Lord Jesus, would come. Judah had shown very little concern for the continuation of his name and his line. Tamar, shamed by her barrenness and determined to find justice, ensured that the tribe of Judah would not only continue, but that one day the "Lion of Judah" would be born to a sinful world. Her actions were unorthodox, but saved Judah from doing what was wrong, and kept the line alive.
Tamar's story might make us uncomfortable. We might not like to think of the details of her prostituting herself, and we might want to look away, and read a different passage. But our God is a God of surprises. Our God can take the unfit, the sinful, the sordid parts of lives and use them for His own purposes. Tamar may have been completely unaware of God's working in her life. She may have been solely focused on her situation, and on her sense of being wronged and seeking justice. Nevertheless, God was at work, bringing good out of tragedy. He blessed less than respectable events with using them for His own purpose.
It is His power to bring positive things from negative, even sinful events of our lives (and the lives of others) that we celebrate in this study. He is just as much in the business of working in human lives today as He was then. We might not see it, or understand it, but we can trust Him to do what He enjoys doing -- bringing blessing to us in spite of ourselves!
Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those
who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Let's celebrate today and praise Him that He can help us to avoid being like Judah, and using a double standard to judge others. He can heal our hearts and show us how to avoid being judgmental - to realize that we, too, have sinned.
And then let's praise Him that He can use even the sinful events in our lives for His purposes. He can use everything and everyone to bring about the results that He has planned.
Yes, we see Tamar in Matthew's list of Jesus' ancestors. God promised the Hebrew people that they would continue through many generations; He also promised them that a Messiah would come. God's plan unfolded through the unorthodox methods of a woman determined to get justice.
I learned a lot in this study; I hope you did, too. Please leave a comment to tell your insights from Tamar's story.