Last week, I mentioned that we were starting an Advent Series at City Church that highlighted four of the women who are mentioned in the Genealogy of Christ found in Matthew chapter 1. The first of the women mentioned is Tamar. Her story is both strange and amazing at the same time. It is filled with sexual depravity and social injustice to be sure but by the end of the narrative in Genesis 38 we see lives restored and a future secure to the point that Tamar, Judah and their son Perez are woven into the genealogy of Christ.
In summary, the story goes like this. Judah promised Tamar (who is a widow by now) that she could marry his youngest son. As the father-in-law to the widow Tamar, Judah had a legal responsibility to be her protector and provider. But Judah, harboring bitterness against Tamar, goes back on his word and will not give his son for Tamar to marry. In order to receive justice, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute. Unbeknownst to him, Judah sleeps with Tamar and from this sexual depravity they bear a son, Perez. As the narrative unfolds it is revealed (through Tamar no less!) that Judah is as guilty as her in terms of sexual sin. But Judah is also guilty of social injustice by not caring and providing for this widow (Psalm 146, Isaiah 1, Hosea 4:14). He even affirms this to be true with his public admission of guilt: Judah said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again. (Genesis 38:26).
What is amazing though, isn’t that Judah and Tamar demonstrate such incredible sinfulness but rather they are included in the genealogy (the ancestral line!) of Jesus Christ! How could God in His providential plan use such social and moral outsiders to bring about the birth of His Son in order to save the world? Do you understand the significance of this? You see if you were living in the first century and you wanted to recommend yourself you wouldn’t hand someone a list of achievements / credentials you would show them your genealogy. Your genealogy would list the people you were most proud of and you would leave off the names of the people who embarrassed you.
In the genealogy of Christ, the document that recommends Jesus, he lists Tamar and Judah! He’s claiming them as his own! He says they belong to me. Do you know what that means for the rest of us? It doesn’t matter how good or how bad / how rich or poor / no matter what you’ve done in life. When the Grace of Jesus Christ breaks through your heart and mind it will cover you like nothing else. For Tamar and Judah this is true: sexual sin and social injustice—forgiven in Christ! But you see that’s the whole point of why we celebrate Advent and Christmas. The reason why Jesus came was to live and die and be resurrected for such big sinners like Judah and Tamar. Big sinners like – you and me!
Are you beginning to see why the Gospel is good news and not good advice? Who amongst us hasn’t felt like Tamar or Judah? The Grace of Jesus Christ can and does cover you! Allow the Gospel message of grace to break through in your life and as it does you will be transformed from the inside out from this time on and forever.