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Advent 2007 -1- God Makes a Way - Tamar: A Way Out of a Mess

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Reading: Genesis 38:24-30
As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.” Genesis 38:25 (NIV)


4 women included in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba. This is remarkable. We’ll look at each of them during our 4 weeks of Advent. Each time we’ll see how God makes a way, when there seems to be a dead end.

I.   Judah’s big Mess

     A.  Post–sin Separation

           1.  Context: Reuben, Simeon & Levi

                 a.  Simeon/Levi killed men of Shechem (ch 34)

                 b.  Reuben (35:22), slept with Jacob’s concubine

                 c.  Leaving Judah as rightful heir of Jacob

           2.  Context: Joseph just sold into slavery

                 a.  Jacob’s dream made them hate him

                 b.  It was Judah’s idea to sell him as a slave

           3.  Judah now voluntarily leaves his family

                 a.  Out of shame? He couldn’t look his father in the face?

                 b.  Common response to hidden family sin

                 c.  Events of 38 happen while Jos grows into his position in Egypt

     B.  Living with the Pagans

           1.  He goes to live in Adullum (SW of Jerusalem)

                 a.  Adullum: a Canaanite city SW of Jerus.

                 b.  Stays at a man’s house named Hirah (1)

           2.  Tho warned not to take Canaanite wives

                 a.  Abraham for Isaac in 24:3
I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, (Gen 24:3)

                 b.  Isaac for Jacob in 28:1
So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him and commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. (Gen 28:1)

           3.  Judah “met...married” lit. “saw...took”

                 a.  As Eve saw the fruit & took it

                 b.  As Shechem saw & took Dinah

                 c.  No parental involvement! (cf. v.6)

     C.  Two Bad children

           1.  Two evil children: Er & Onan (3rd: Shelah)

                 a.  Er=alert; spelled backwards=evil (7)

                 b.  Onan=manly; but he acts cowardly

                 c.  Shelah=asked; (tho not answered!)

           2.  The Lord kills Er & Onan

                 a.  Er: we don’t know why. He was evil (7)

                 b.  Onan refuses to fulfill his duty; tho he sleeps with Tamar, so God kills him (10)

           3.  Judah’s life has become a huge mess!

II.  Tamar in Distress

     A.  An unfulfilled Promise

           1.  Tamar has no children by Er or Onan

                 a.  She is a Gentile (Tamar=date palm)

                 b.  Raises question of infertility

           2.  Judah sends her home to wait

                 a.  She is technically betrothed to Shelah

           3.  Judah has no intention of doing right by her

                 a.  Tamar : bad luck or a black widow (?)

     B.  A Cunning solution

           1.  The center of our story: deception & lust

                 a.  Tamar’s motive: a progenitor for Er (?)

                 b.  This is not exemplary moral behavior!

           2.  The setting is the entrance to Enayim

                 a.  Means: opening of 2 eyes/fountains

                       (1)      2 eyes: Judah sees & doesn’t!

                       (2)      2 fountains: Jew/Gentile merge

                 b.  Tamar tricks the son of the “Trickster”

                 c.  Judah’s dubious morality exposed

     C.  Identity secured

           1.  Tamar gets Judah’s goat

                 a.  Jacob deceived Isaac w/ goatskin

                 b.  Judah deceived Jacob with goat’s blood

                 c.  Tamar’s deception uses the whole goat

           2.  As pledge: his passport & credit card

                 a.  These are his “identity papers”

                 b.  They are completely unique to him

                 c.  He entrusts his identity to this prostitute

           3.  Interlude: sin always takes our identity!

III. Through this we are Blessed

     A.  Extermination avoided

           1.  She discloses her identity & Judah’s

                 a.  She shows who she is, & who he is!

                 b.  Judah now sees her morality & his own

           2.  Tamar is not killed for her immorality

                 a.  As an adulteress, she deserved death

                 b.  Both put to death under Lev 20:12

                 c.  Tamar’s unborn children aren’t killed

           3.  Judah’s line (Jesus’ line) is preserved

                 a.  Thru Tamar’s bold deception!

                 b.  W/o her his line would have died out!

                 c.  Thru her actions, Judah’s line preserved

     B.  Blessed with Twins

           1.  Just like Judah’s father & twin brother

                 a.  Parallel’s birth story of Jacob/Esau (red)

                 b.  Jacob born holding his bro’s heal

                 c.  Tho Esau was 1st, God chose Jacob

           2.  A double blessing

                 a.  Till now she was infertile

                 b.  One time w/ Judah &result: twins!

           3.  Perez, second, but still first

                 a.  This graphic story told for a purpose

                 b.  Perez passes up his bro to take 1st place

     C.  The Covenant continues

           1.  The covenant traced thru Abraham

                 a.  Thru him all nations would be blessed

                 b.  Carrying out the plan included gentiles!

           2.  God continues the covenant thru Judah

                 a.  The 4th son of a 2nd born twin!

                 b.  God deliberately picks the unexpected

Read: Genesis 49:8-12

           3.  Jesus’ family tree isn’t a perfect tree!

                 a.  The sordid story here isn’t a-typical!

                 b.  The true Christmas tree has sin on it

                 c.  But God uses even people’s sin in His Salvation plan!

The Bottom Line:

We Thank God that even in the Messiness of our lives, He is Faithful.


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