As a Type A individual, I do my best to make sure things play out the way they should. I try to think ahead to what could go wrong and then make sure that it doesn’t go wrong. I hate the idea of messing something up, or failing. More than that, I hate the idea of being the one at fault when things go wrong, because if I’m the one who’s dropped the ball, then I’m all out of options. If I can’t even keep my own stuff together, then I’m doomed, right? As long as I can find someone else to blame, then there’s still a chance that I can trust in myself, and that makes me feel secure.
Speaking of blame, this chapter of the Bible is full of it. It’s a pretty dramatic story, as if we didn’t already have enough drama. Judah, Jacob’s fourth son, gets married and has three sons. They grow, and the oldest, Er, gets married to a woman named Tamar. Er soon dies, and as is custom, Tamar is handed off to the second oldest son, Onan, for him to continue his brother’s line by procreating with the widow. Onan completes the first part of this – he doesn’t back down from having sex with Tamar. Getting her pregnant, though, is not something he wants to do, so he pulls out. This avoidance of responsibility is a sin in God’s eyes, and He puts Onan to death for it.
Now Judah is starting to feel weird. He’s suspicious and concerned about this woman, this Tamar, because it seems as soon as she touches his sons, they die. She seems worthy of blame, so he blames her. He keeps his sole remaining son, Shelah, from Tamar and sends her back to her father’s house. Tamar is now a burden to her parents: failing to provide for herself by keeping a husband, she must leech off of family until Judah comes around.
But he doesn’t. So Tamar gets tired of waiting and takes things into her own hands. She somewhat ingeniously tricks Judah into having sex with her (gross), even making sure to extract proof that he was the one who did it, in the form of Judah’s seal and staff. This comes in handy later when Judah discovers Tamar’s pregnancy and threatens to kill her. She sends the staff and seal back to Judah, revealing that he was in fact the father of her children (she is pregnant with twins). Judah is immediately humbled. He realizes who is truly to blame for Tamar’s condition and takes responsibility, something his son Onan never did. Tamar, a woman tried and subverted, who has finally won her battle against the patriarchy, gives birth to Perez and Zerah, the former of whom is the ancestor of Jesus Christ Himself.
The Treasures Within:
Whose Fault Is It Really?
Judah blamed Tamar for his son’s deaths. He blamed Tamar for getting pregnant out-of-wedlock. Yet all along the true fault lay much closer to home. The Bible straight up tells us that God killed both Er and Onan because they were wicked (verses 7, 10). And it was Judah’s two sins – one of kicking Tamar out when he should have given her to his youngest son, and the other of sleeping with who he thought was a prostitute (verse 15). What Judah experienced in the end is what one of my friends likes to call “face dirty”. He messed things up royally and in the end it was his face that was dirty for all the world to see.
Judah isn’t all that different from us, though. I can certainly relate to him – I prefer to point fingers at other people before I point one at myself. One of the People it’s easiest to point fingers at is God, because half the time it seems logical to blame Him. He is the One in control. He could stop certain things from happening or lend a hand when necessary, but He didn’t, so it’s His fault, right?
But was God the One to blame in this story? I mean, if Judah and his sons had actually listened to God, wouldn’t things have turned out much better? God never forces us to do anything, but He does teach us. God taught Judah a huge lesson in this chapter, one that it looks like he took to heart. The lesson is, namely, that we hurt ourselves, hurt others, and generally mess things up when we decide to ignore God. But if we decide to trust God and obey Him, if we decide to love Him, then we won’t need to blame anybody. We’ll see brighter days and more hopeful tomorrows, as we move from hopeless catastrophe to peaceful contentment.
Phoenix From The Ashes
The birth of the twin boys at the end of this chapter seems rudimentary, almost. Yet it whispers of hope and of the great things God can do in our lives. From the ill-begotten union between Judah and Tamar descended the Son of God. From the deceit and lies and evil and pain came the Son of God. What can be too gross for God to get in the midst of and heal, if this situation wasn’t? God is a healer. God is a fixer. God can take all of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into and make something beautiful. Stop blaming others. Stop blaming Him! Turn your situation and your life over to God and watch Him work miracles.
God’s Message To Us:
“Let Me work in your life.” You know God actually wants to help us? Over and over in the Bible He eagerly explains to us the blessings He is ready and willing and able to pour into our lives. He talks to us about His power and His love. He gives us glimpses of the plans He has for us. We don’t need to make a bargain with God to get Him to help us. He isn’t angrily ruining our lives as payback for the bad things we’ve done in the past. He loves us. He wants to wow us, to blow our minds, to change our lives. The only person standing in His way is us. He won’t force us. We must decide. Choose Jesus.
What do you think? What do you think of Tamar’s story? Do you forgive Judah? Why, in your opinion, did God include this chapter in the Bible?