Thursday, March 14, 2019

Tamar's Story

We don't often think about the women who were in Jesus' family line. So, I decided to write about them during this season of Lent. Some of their stories aren't easy to understand because the culture and laws of their day were so different than ours. However, their stories can still help us understand the depth of the Lord's compassion towards women and the graces He extended to those who are broken and bruised by life's events and circumstances. This week we are looking at Tamar whose story is found in Genesis 38.

Her story begins with Judah who had taken a Canaanite woman's daughter as his wife. She bore him three sons--Er, Onan, and Shelah. As was customary, Judah arranged for Tamar to be the wife of Er. But, Er was wicked and the Lord put him to death. It was also customary for the patriarch to send a second son to raise up children for his dead brother. Onan, knowing the children Tamar would conceive by their union would not be his legal children, spilled his seed on the ground, leaving her barren and her husbands lineage unfulfilled. So, the Lord put him to death as well. Judah was afraid that giving Tamar his third son could result in his death as well. So, he sent her to live in her father's house as a widow, telling her he would send for her when Shelah grew up.

Tamar lived as a widow, hoping Shelah would come for her. However, as time passed and Shelah had grown, Tamar realized her father-in-law had no intention of fulfilling his word. Her grief over becoming a young widow was compounded by the hopelessness caused Judah's actions. She knew the withholding of his last son from her meant her longing for companionship, love, and children would never be fulfilled. She felt forgotten, overlooked, rejected, and betrayed by a man who held her future in his hands.

More time passed and Judah's wife died. Tamar heard that after his period of grieving that Judah was going to Timnah to shear sheep. Having grown tired of life as a widow, she took matters into her own hands. She removed her widow's garb and put on the garments of a cult prostitute, which included a veil. She waited at the entrance of a city on the road to Timnah. Judah approached her and did not recognize her because of the veil. He propositioned her with a goat for her "services" and agreed to leave her his signet, cord, and staff to hold onto as a good faith promise for the goat. She conceived a child by him and returned to her father's house to her widow garments.

Judah sent the goat to Tamar through a friend, but she was nowhere to be found. He was unable to pay her the goat and unable to obtain his things from her. He dropped the matter as he didn't want anyone to think he was foolish for what he had done. But, three months later Judah received news that his daughter-in-law was pregnant. Assuming she had been immoral, Judah ordered his men to bring her to him so she could be burned for her sin.

Tamar came prepared to plead her case. She handed his things to him and told him the man to whom the things belonged was the man who had fathered her babies. Judah recognized his things and announced she was more righteous than him because he had failed to give Shelah to her. I find myself a little irritated that he acknowledged his failure to keep the custom of giving his third son to her, but didn't outright own the moral failure of hiring a prostitute.

When I was younger, I judged her quite harshly, thinking I would never do what she did, no matter the circumstances. But, if we were really honest and took a good look at our own lives I don't think any of us could stand. What did we do when we experienced the pain of unmet needs and unfulfilled longings? What did we do when we felt forgotten, overlooked, rejected, and betrayed? Maybe we didn't try to meet our needs with an act of prostitution or use the same type of deception Tamar did. But, I bet many of us have employed manipulation at some point to get what we wanted. Many of us have tried to fill longings with things that were never meant to satisfy. And, many of us have just simply numbed our longings and our desires and began to live life depressed and/or bitter. But isn't dealing with life these ways that are apart from our Creator, our Savior, our Provider forms of spiritual adultery? Isn't that just as wrong as what she did?

I wish I could ask the Lord a thousand questions about Tamar's story. But, I know that what He wants us to learn from Tamar's story could be lost in too many details. Maybe God placed Tamar in Jesus lineage to show us He is the Redeemer of those who have felt like outsiders looking in. Maybe God put Tamar in Christ's family line so we would know He is the healer of those who feel forgotten and rejected. Maybe God placed her there to show us He is the lover of the unloved, the rescuer of the betrayed, the acknowledger of those who were set aside, and the host to those who felt uninvited. Maybe He put her there to remind us that Jesus is even Savior to those who take matters into their own hands, using deception and sin to try to find what only He could give. Maybe, God put Tamar in Christ's family line so we would know there is more to the story we are living than we see right now.

Just as God placed Tamar into Jesus' story and into His family, by faith we have been placed into His story and into His family. Tamar reminds us of that that. You and I--we are loved, we are called by His name, we have been placed into His family, and our futile lives and be given significance. Jesus's family is a family full of broken, forgotten, loved-starved people just like Tamar, just like you, and just like me. It is a family full of people who are lavishly loved and in desperate need of God's grace.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!