Read: Genesis 38:1-30, Matthew 1 Over and over in Scripture, we see God choosing to use broken people with broken stories. We even see Him do so in the family lineage of Jesus Christ, His own son! Genesis 38 tells us Tamar’s broken story… a story of mourning, grief, embarrassment, and shame; but also a story of boldness and hope.
When we meet Tamar, she has been chosen to marry Judah’s firstborn son, Er. Er was wicked in the Lord’s eyes, and died. She was then given to Er’s brother, Onan. Onan was wicked in the Lord’s eyes, and died. (Do you see the pattern here?) Judah then said that he would give Tamar to his third son, Shelah, when he was old enough to marry. So she went to her father’s house to grieve as a widow and wait until her third husband was old enough for marriage.
Tamar is now the widow from two marriages, childless (which was a big deal at that time), and is living out her days in her father’s house… hoping and praying that her father-in-law would follow through on the promise he made. When he doesn’t, she takes matters into her own hands. Tamar disguises herself, allows her father in law to sleep with her as a prostitute, and gets pregnant by him. Can you imagine the amount of grief, embarrassment, and shame that she must have felt at that point?
When Judah realized his sin and that his daughter-in-law had tricked him, he simply replied, “She is more righteous than I…” (Genesis 38:26). Tamar bore twin sons—one who would be an ancestor of David, and of Jesus Christ.
I question Tamar’s methods. I wonder if the way in which she sought justice was actually the most righteous way to go about seeking justice. And I wonder why God chose to include that part of her story. He could have left that part of her story out. But He didn’t. He included her story. He chose to include her story because He chooses to include us… broken people with broken stories.
Tamar made a lot of bold choices. I am struck by one bold choice in particular. Tamar chose to believe in her own value. She chose to believe in God’s opinion of her rather than Judah’s opinion of her. There is such power in that belief! Often times we see our broken selves with our broken stories—stories of mourning, grief, embarrassment, and shame—and we sit there. We forget to see the boldness and hope in our stories as well. God sees past our brokenness. He redeems our brokenness. If we choose to believe in God’s opinion of us rather than someone else’s opinion of us (including our own), there is power!
“From highly embarrassing beginnings emerged a lovely picture of redemption. Tamar was welcomed into the lineage of Christ despite her questionable methods… God accepts the unsightly edges… We make mistakes. We operate out of fear and selfishness. We make decisions we wish we had back. We leave people in the wake of our agendas. We make a general mess of things. Then we see that somehow, in some miraculous way, God manages to accomplish something good no matter how undeserving we are. Being on the receiving end of grace is always surprising. If we, like Tamar, are startled to find our names in the family tree of Jesus, adopted into this holy community in spite of everything we’ve done to disqualify ourselves, it’s further proof that God’s love is so deep and unshakable that we cannot comprehend it this side of heaven.” —Jen Hatmaker, Ms. Understood (emphasis added)
Abbie Abbott is Summit's 33rd Street Ministry Coordinator.